Last month my husband and I visited Finland for the very first time and we split our weeks stay between Lapland and Helsinki. From what I could gather there weren't any direct flights from London to Lapland, with the majority going via Helsinki, so this was a perfect excuse for us to spend some time in city after our adventures further north.
On the way to Lapland we enjoyed one overnight stay at the Clarion Hotel directly next to Helsinki airport. This was the perfect place for us after arriving into Helsinki quite late and with an early flight to Lapland the next morning. It's a brand new hotel which is very contemporary in style and has a great breakfast buffet.
When we came back to Helsinki after our adventures in Lapland we checked in to Hotel Indigo for one night and after having spent some time researching online this seemed to be the best choice for us. This hotel is in the middle of the Design District and just a short 15 minute walk from the centre of the city.
We only had about 30 hours in Helsinki before flying back to London so I made sure I had an itinerary of all the places I wanted to visit before we arrived. This included a mix of sightseeing, shopping and of course vegan eateries.
We spent our first day walking around the city and taking in all of the major sights. I was impressed by how easy Helsinki is to walk around but they also have a pretty efficient tram system for when your legs get tired or time is running out.
It was bitterly cold whilst we were there in February but compared to the -18 temperatures we had experienced in the North it was far more bearable. We were also blessed with clear blue skies the whole time we were there which made a welcomed change for us after barely seeing any sunshine during our stay in Lapland.
A favourite area that we visited was the harbour side by the Kauppatori market square. It was a really great viewing point and it was fun watching all the boats and ferries coming into dock and breaking their way through the thick ice that covered the water. It was also the perfect spot to take some photos and get sight of the Sky Wheel which sadly we didn't have time to go on. My husband also got some great drone footage from the pier here which you can view in his vlog (23:06).
An area that I had read about and really wanted to visit was the vibrant Kallio district. It was a little further out so we took the tram to get there but it was well worth the visit and getting away from the hustle and bustle of the main city centre to have a more relaxed mooch around the neighbourhood. In the East side of Helsinki, Kallio is an area that is popular with the youth and entrepreneurs. It's full of quirky vintage and second hand shops and lots of little cafes. It's also home to Bear Park which is a local meeting point and home to a lovely outside cafe during the Summer time. It's was more like an ice rink when we visited!
Another highlight of our trip to Helsinki was a visit to Kamppi Chapel, also known as the 'Chapel of Silence'. From the outside it's a really beautiful piece of architecture which stands out amongst all the other urban buildings. It's purpose is to offer a place where people can enjoy moments of silence in one of the busiest parts of town. When we went inside I was amazed by how silent it actually was in there! It was as if all the commotion of the outside world had been muted and it struck me as a place that positively promoted wellbeing, calm and taking some time out to yourself away from all distractions. I think every city could really benefit from a chapel of silence.
The first place we stopped at for food in Helsinki was the cafe Zucchini. After reading many positive reviews I was excited to try this place out for myself. It's a great option in the centre of Helsinki and although it's a vegetarian cafe they also have vegan options too.
The menu here changes daily and from what I understand there's usually a choice of 3 or 4 main dishes which you're welcome to go back for more of once you've finished your plate. I wouldn't say it's a buffet as it's quite small and they serve you up the food at the counter, but it certainly has some similarities. Everything was in Finnish which made it quite difficult to understand but thankfully the waiter explained everything to us in English which we were really grateful for.
I don't really know the name of what it was that we ate but it's a veggie / vegan take on a traditional Finnish dish which reminded us of a pasta bake. It was very tasty and filling and exactly what we needed after walking about in the cold for so long.
We were so tired on our first night in Helsinki after a pretty full on day of exploring on foot so we decided to stay in at the hotel and order a takeaway to our room. My husband discovered the Finnish equivalent of Deliveroo, Foodora, and we ordered some falafel and chips from FaFa's which was already on my hit list. I was impressed that this worked with no hiccups and within half an hour we were enjoying our dinner on the comfort of our bed! The only downfall for me was that the food was a bit cold and probably would have been better enjoyed at the restaurant but in any case it was exactly what we needed at that point in time.
Another place that was high up on my vegan hit list was the cafe Cargo. We headed here for a late breakfast on our final day and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Cargo is a vegetarian and vegan only cafe which I believe is quite new on the scene in Helsinki. So many people had recommended that I try it so I knew it was going to be a hit even before we got there.
First and foremost I love the design of this place and that it's basically a converted cargo container, hence the name. Inside the cafe is so cool and it just oozes Finnish style.
My husband enjoyed a veggie friendly croissant and a soya cappuccino whilst I went in for a vegan chia pudding, a slice of vegan cake and an amazing fruit smoothie. It was all delicious and if I was ever back in Helsinki I would definitely go back here.
My favourite dining experience in Helsinki came whilst we were exploring the Kallio neighbourhood where the veggie / vegan buffet restaurant Silvoplee is situated.
As soon as we stepped inside Silvoplee I knew I was in heaven. A huge buffet counter of plant based food laid out in front of us and we couldn't wait to dive in. It reminded me very much of Tibits in London and works in a similar way in that you are charged by how much your plate weighs.
Everything I liked the look of was vegan friendly which was amazing and, from what I could see, the vast majority of everything on offer was vegan. I loaded my plate up and all I can is that it was all absolutely delicious! Everything was so tasty and well flavoured. It was a really hearty and healthy meal and after having veggie burgers a few days in a row in Lapland I finally felt that I was fuelling my body properly again with all the right things.
Whilst exploring Kallio I noticed this cafe Just Vege which looked amazing but sadly we had just eaten so it wasn't the right timing for us. After looking at their menu online though this is definitely somewhere I would like to visit if we ever went back to Helsinki.
I also spotted this Vegekauppa shop in Kallio which was full of vegan food.
If you find yourself in the centre of Helsinki and near the Forum shopping centre then Kippo is another great option for vegan eats. It mainly looks like a lunch time spot with a variety of vegan sandwiches and smoothies on offer.
There are some pretty amazing shops in Helsinki but be warned - most things are eye wateringly expensive! Helsinki seemed way more expensive than anywhere else i've been to be honest and this definitely meant that my shopping was quite restricted. I lusted after so many Moomin things but I really couldn't bring myself to spend £25 on a small soft toy.
My favourite shops in Helsinki to mooch were the homeware ones which gave me lots of inspiration for my new house. Artek in the city centre was a real highlight and although I didn't buy anything it was still fun to window shop.
I think my favourite shop we visited was Craft Corner which had lots of amazing handmade artefacts and clothing all made in Finland. So many things caught my eye in this shop and it really did give me a great insight into Finnish design and style.
A real lust worthy shop within the Design District is Granit which had me cooing from all corners! I could have easily bought so much in this shop and I just loved the style of all the contemporary homeware.
Somewhere you should definitely make time to visit when in Helsinki is the Hakaniemi market hall. We loved exploring all the stalls in this vast hall which is split over two levels. There's everything and anything here including food produce, souvenirs and hand crafted goods.
I've mentioned the Kallio neighbourhood a number of times already but it's well worth visiting if you like exploring vintage and second hand shops. The main streets we found worth walking around were the ones surrounding the Bear Park leading up to Helsingkatu & Vassankatu.
If you'd like to see more of my adventures in Helsinki you can watch the vlog here!
Next stop Copenhagen!