Always hate the return trip from an unbelievable holiday? Do nothing but sleep through the short overnight layover you’re forced to make on your way back? I thought the same as we planned to make our 18-hour layover in Helsinki, but I ended up falling in love with this city. Gorgeous Neoclassical architecture epitomizes it, with a sense of historical modernism that seeps through, sometimes almost transporting you to a different time. One of the growing foodie capitals of the world, Helsinki needs to be on your list – April-May and September-November are the best times to go to avoid the Summer crowds and December rains.
After landing in Helsinki, we headed straight to the hotel in the centre of town to settle in and run out to grab some dinner before the restaurants closed. However, Saturday night in Helsinki was absolutely buzzing, and we hit up Putte’s Bar & Pizza for some delicious thin crust pizza (try the specials – THAT’S what they’re known for), surprisingly good for those looking for a vegan option. Grab a glass of house red or white and some pizza before descending to the club downstairs for a fun night out with every young local in Helsinki.
The next morning, get out as early as you can, heeding the fact however, that a lot of the city doesn’t wake up on a weekend before 9am. First stop – coffee. While coffee shops are increasingly trendy across Europe, with boutique standalones taking all the glory, nobody does cafes like the Nordics.
We headed out to the harbour, exploring a decent chunk of the city as we went (Helsinki is small and super walkable!) before landing at Johan & Nyström in Kanavaranta. Artisan coffee with gorgeous decor and delicious pastries, this team has set up in a particularly nice part of town, with benches overlooking the water for those lovely Summer days. They are situated along a row of restaurants by the harbour, including the popular Helsinki spot serving up seasonal fare, Shelter.
After you’re sufficiently out of your morning stupor, walk on to Senate Square, stopping to explore the stunning Russian Orthodox Cathedral on your way. If you’re here in December, you’ll walk straight into the Christmas market on the square, with local, homegrown stalls, mulled wine, and carousels.
If you’re still feeling peckish, hit up Sandro for an interesting twist on Middle-Eastern brunch (a local favourite) or Ekberg Café for another share of pastries (a 20 minute walk from Kanavaranta passing Senate Square, so ideal for some exploring along the way).
And there you have it… take the next available layover in Helsinki if you can, and if you aren’t rushed for time, try and spend a few more days to explore what this gorgeous city has to offer. Have I missed any of your favourite spots in Helsinki? Comment below and let me know!