Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Visiting Helsinki, Finland

The first place we stopped in Europe was Helsinki, Finland... I know, it's up there, right?
We weren't sure what to expect - but we were really charmed by this place.
The people are very friendly, the city is beautiful, and being so close to the Baltic Sea gives it a cozy feeling.  We got pretty lucky with the weather... it only poured rained on us the very first morning we were there.  
The rainy morning gave me a little time to visit one of the coolest department stores I have ever been to... Stockmann!  (It's a close second to Harrods, ladies!)  They have a huge variety of items and unique areas of the store.  They also have a massive grocery store at the bottom.  The "S" in Stockmann has a unique logo to look like an escalator because they had the first ones in Finland.  It's a historical place as well - and definitely worth a visit if you go to Helsinki.

They eat reindeer, I tried it!  Wasn't too bad.  We spent a lot of time in Esplanade Park and a beautiful restaurant that is at the end of it (next to the harbor).  They had live music, festivals, and lots of reindeer souvenirs.  The harbor offered lots of food options, and was a covered street fair everyday we were there.

One of the funny things we learned while we were there was the obsession the Fins have with saunas.  (It's understandable with how cold that place gets!)  We had several of them in our hotel, and on our tour we learned that they even have important government meetings in saunas sometimes.  It was odd, but you can tell it's an important part of their culture.  Of course, we got in one a few times while we were there :)

It's a great place to visit.  We got the impression that they like tourists and have a lot of pride in their city.  It's a special place and we are so glad we went.

 Side streets off the main drag.  We ate dinner here on our first night.
 The very rainy first morning there. Stockmann is behind me.
Reindeer mania everywhere.  Wasn't a fan of these skins, they freaked me out!
 Loved all of the colorful buildings and flags.
 The street fair vendors in the harbor.
 A huge art exhibit went up in Senate Square and brought the crowds.
 The Rock Church - built completely of rock - worth a visit if you go!

We thought it was odd that nothing happened early in the morning in Helsinki - none of the coffee shops opened earlier than 8am.  This is a shot of our last morning there... it's only 7:30 or so and completely empty.  But it was neat to see the city so raw.

If you are going to Helsinki or are thinking of going, let me know if you want some tips.
It was a great place to kick off our adventure.


Hannah said...

I'm a little late, but Happy Anniversary! Your trip looks like it was amazing. I've been to Istanbul and absolutely loved it. I can't wait to see your other pictures.

Sister Kamille Amy Clifford said...

Oh awesome! I'm actually moving to Finland around February. Looks lovely. Thanks for sharing.

Jess at Just Rainbows and Butterflies said...

Such a fun post! I would love to go to Finland someday!

Unknown said...

What an experience! Love your photos. So proud of you for trying reindeer. I won't tell Santa. ;)

Katie-K said...

Isn't Finland beautiful? And so clean too! We tried reindeer and my brother had a sauna in his apartment. Looks like you guys had a great time!

Anonymous said...

Great photos! How crazy about the Political/Important meetings in the Saunas!

Caroline said...

Beautiful but I'm a little freaked out by the skins too. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous pictures ! Looks like a great time !!
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Kristin said...

ohhh love the pictures!

Jax said...

Love these! And also love the obsession with the reindeer! haha! Fantastic! You're brave to try it! And meetings in saunas? Yes, please! Also... loving your coat with the hood. I am seriously so confused about what I need to bring to London when I go in October. We're side tripping to Venice and I've read that I need to be ready for rain. Problem: I have no coats with hoods. Crap.

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

Beautiful pictures! The city looks so pretty and very, very clean!

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

I love that the city is obsessed with reindeer! It looks like it was a great time!

Stephanie Pham said...

I am heading to Finland in the morning. Where should I go try reindeer and by their fur?