Matt's Guide to Helsinki... Part 3

Finnish trains are clean and comfy

There's never any reason to be bored in Helsinki as there's so much to do.  Here's my pick of things to see and do when you're out and about in Helsinki during the day:

  • I'm not really one for modern art, but I took a punt on the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art one day and I was quite surprised.  There are a number of exhibitions on throughout the year and some of the items in there will make you question reality.  My advice: go with an open mind and bear with some of the more complex pieces - you'll come away with a lot more from the experience. 
  • The Finnish Museum of Photography, located in the old Nokia Cable factory (take the metro to Ruoholahti and walk from there) has a rotating schedule of exhibitions throughout the year.  On my last visit I saw a moving exhibition by Dorothée Smith and had the chance to meet her.  An added bonus of this museum is that within the same building you can immerse yourself in the Theatre and Hotel/Restaurant museums which occupy separate floors.  
  • Helsinki's Botanical Garden and Glasshouses are best viewed during spring and summer, although the glasshouses will offer respite from the cold weather at other times. Located towards the rear of Kaisaniemi Park behind the station, you will need to exit the park onto Kaisaniemenranta to re-enter via a dedicated entrance. The giant lillypads are breathtaking. 
  • Linnanmaki is a theme park situated to the north of Helsinki for adrenaline junkies.  Admission to the park is free and you can pay per ride, or get the better value wristband for unlimited thrills and spills.  If you do nothing else, take a ride on Vuoristorata, their wooden roller coaster held on entirely by friction and operated by a brake-man on the car itself!
  • If you're interested in the trams that trundle all through Helsinki, the Tram Museum's a good place to learn more about them. Although very small, there are a number of historic vehicles here which you can look inside, and there's a nice cafe too.
  • The Temppeliaukio Church (also known as the Rock Church) is truly breathtaking and well worth a peek.  More or less carved out of the solid rock, the church looks like a UFO has landed from above, and capitalises on light and acoustics to leave you speechless. 
  • Suomenlinna is a sea fortress located just off the coast of Helsinki on a small group of islands. Steeped in about as much history as you can get, some big guns and a killer hot chocolate from the cafe, this is well worth a day trip on the ferry from Market Square.  
  • Kauppatori (Market Square) is a good place to people watch and get some fresh fruit, veg, fish or baked goods.  Nearby you'll see the old indoor market hall which is worth a peek, but my preference is the one in Hakaniemi (take the metro to Hakaniemi station) which is cheaper, bigger, and in my eyes, better. 
  • Why not soak up some sun with a coffee or an ice-cream on the Esplanade Park? If you like s troll, other open spaces include Kaisaniemi Park behind the railway station and Kaivopuisto Park overlooking the harbour and the restaurant islands. 
  • An oddly enjoyable walk is that from the Marian sairaala tram stop through to Hietaniemi beach.  Admittedly there is a slightly dark side to the walk as it takes you through a graveyard, but it is so well kept, and the waterside footpath make it a very pleasant stroll... and yes... Helsinki has a sandy beach!
  • For shoppers, Aleksanterinkatu, Forum, the Kämppi Centre, Sokos and Stockmann should keep you and your credit card busy. 
  • Finally, if you just want to sit back, relax and watch the workd go by, the Number 2 "Tourist Tram" will take you round a number of areas in a figure of 8 pattern. 

Clearly this is just a sample of things to see and do in Helsinki during the day.  If you have any other ideas, tips or recommendations, drop me an email at matt@hazza.net or comment below! 

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