I am Eevi. I’m a Finn loving to explore. Finnish Travel Blog is exactly what it is called: a photography travel blog born out of my passion and enthusiasm for travel, photography and the world in general.
Helsinki is in global limelight at the moment. Media is live broadcasting 24/7 and Helsinki is hosting thousands of journalists as presidents Trump and Putin are having a summit at our presidential palace on Monday 16. July.
Without editorializing the politics of these two heads of state, I’m excited to have all the journalists in Helsinki conveying the beauty of our capital across the globe. Allas Sea Pool, right in the heart of the city and across the street from the presidential palace, is the venue for US morning show reporters on Monday and the spot couldn’t be more brilliant. I strongly urge everyone to also check out the sauna at the pool, or the sauna on the ferris wheel on the backyard of the sea pool.
So to all you representatives of media, I hope you fall in love with our country and capital even a little bit and spread the word of this peace loving, eccentric, northern state with free speech and press. You are unusually spoilt with the weather at the moment. Enjoy a cool beverage after sauna and “cheers” (“kippis”) is really easy to say in Finnish: it is pronounced “Keep Peace”.
Presidential palace seen from the roof terrace of Allas Sea Pool
No, this is not the North Pole. This is downtown Helsinki and a perfectly appropriate means of transportation in -15 degrees.
Some call it Beast from the East, we call it perfect winter (or your ordinary Wednesday as a meme on social media stated). Nevertheless, after a long stretch of -20 temperatures the sea has finally frozen solid enough for us to make the most of it in southern Finland as well.
It’s pretty convenient, when you think of it. Imagine how much more square footage we just got in the city, how many more kilometers of outdoor fun, all the shortcuts when you can just cross the waters and you don’t need to walk all the way around it and, above all, the scenery you get. Of course some of us love the water more than ice so they just cut a hole in the ice to be able to swim.
So from time to time, when the winter gets good enough, we have plenty of new ground to cover. And lets face it, it’s pretty cool when you can say it’s perfectly ordinary for us to walk (or cycle, ski or skate) on water.
(Just as long as you remember to be careful. Because there is water under the ice and you don’t want the ice to crack. So don’t go out too far, avoid spots where no-one else has walked and have company.)
Have you ever wondered where winter wonderland is? Let me tell you, it’s in Lapland. Lapland is our gem. It’s nature’s haven with a hint of magic. I have always loved exploring the globe and there are many places and countries in the world I love, but I must say Lapland is right at the top of my list of travel destinations on this planet. Let me tell you why.
Lapland is where you find winter wonderland. The first snowfall usually comes in October and the landscape suddenly becomes untouched. Snow stays on the ground long into the spring months and the first of May is usually the last day the ski resorts are open.
What more can I say? Fjelds, snow, sky, pure wilderness as far as the eye can see.
They say Polar night in Lapland is dark. I beg to differ. The colors are magnificent, even if it’s just one color at a time.
Who wouldn’t love these fellas? You might even come across one on your ski trip.
A husky safari is a lot of fun for the entire family. The dogs can’t wait to get out and run and kids fall asleep in the sleighs.
6. Winter sports
Downhill, uphill, cross country, you name it they have it. Skiing in all forms. You could also try fatbikes, snow mobiles, snowshoes, diving in the snow after sauna, after-ski dancing on tables and much more.
The gorgeous nature that you can explore – perhaps even with a horse.
8. Santa Claus
You did know Lapland is the home of Santa Claus, right? This alone makes Lapland the perfect holiday destination for everyone with children, and without.
9. Fresh air and room to breathe
When you get to Lapland from the hustle and bustle of cities, the first thing you want to do is to take a deep breath. Personal space is something Finns value greatly and Lapland is a perfect place to have no-one else in sight.
10. Northern Lights
Northern lights never cease to amaze me. If the weather is clear and cold enough, you should be able to spot northern lights in Lapland almost every night at some point. If you want to photograph them you should find a spot with no artificial light. Roaming in Lapland in the middle of the night with the moon and aurora borealis lighting your path is something you’ll never forget.
+1 Culture and heritage
The Finnish and northern culture and heritage is present everywhere: in the people, houses, food and way of life. There’s also a hint of mystique in the atmosphere.
Wednesday 6. December 2017 is a significant day for us Finns as it is the day that marks the 100th anniversary of our independence. It is the highlight of our year that has been filled with celebrations to mark the occasion.
There are many great things I love about this country, one of the biggest being how this is one of the best places in the world to have a family. My daughter will get practically free medical and dental care, free top level daycare and education all throughout primary school, high school and university. It’s a wonderful country to be a mother in.
Another big love of mine in this land is the nature. I have therefore selected postcards from Finland, from me to you. Happy birthday, Finland, enjoy. The day is yours.
Everyone knows Finland is the promised land of saunas. Not only do we have them in a great volume (about 3 million in a country with 5,5 million people) but we also have them in great variety. See, even though some might consider Finns reserved and serious, we go crazy with our saunas. We have floating saunas (also called a sauna raft), caravan saunas, tent saunas, smoke saunas, trailer saunas, barrel saunas… You name it, we have it.
But the most impressive sauna I’ve been to was on a Ferris wheel in downtown Helsinki. Yes, you got it right. Ferris wheel. And one of the booths or compartments, or whatever you call the little boxes you travel in a Ferris wheel, was made into a sauna. What a perfect way to combine Finnish scenery and culture!
Sauna traditionally plays a crucial role in Finnish bridal showers and bachelor parties and this summer, as a friend of mine was about to get married, we decided to take the bridal sauna to a whole new level with Skysauna. That’s why we had the rose pedals and the bunch of birch branches.
Now what’s the procedure exactly?
Well, first you book it for an hour or two, or three at Skysauna.fi. With the booking you have access to indoor showers, dressing rooms and an outdoor hot tub with views over the harbor. You are given a walkie-talkie to check when the sauna is approaching and to let the staff know you are ready for some steam time. You hop in, enjoy the steam and views (the windows do tend to go foggy, haha) and when you’re for the hot tub and refreshments, you grab your walkie-talkie again and ask the people to let you out. Don’t forget to take the radio phone in the sauna with you or you’ll end up going round and round before someone realises you want to get out.
Brilliant, I reckon. So for something unique and different, Skysauna definitely worth experiencing.
Summer – so beloved in Finland we even have a soup called Summer Soup.
Now is the time to enjoy season’s vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, spring onions, cauliflower and peas. Put all of these in a pot with some milk and processed cheese and boom, you have yourself a delicious food called kesäkeitto – summer soup.
Of course to be accompanied with a glass of cold milk, the proper Finnish way. Yummy, healthy, and even my 1-year-old toddler loves it.
Wanna try it? Here’s how.
(for best taste make sure all veggies are as fresh and local as possible)
600 ml water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
5 (500g) potatoes
3 (250g) carrots
1/2 (250 g) cauliflower
125 g processed cheese (or more if you prefer your soup even creamier)
1/2 liter of milk
ground white pepper
50 g spring onions / scallion
Peel and cube potatoes and carrots, carrot cubes should be smaller than potatoes.
Bring the water and spices just to the boil.
Add potato and carrot cubes in the boiling water, cook for about 5 minutes
Add processed cheese, milk and fabricated cauliflower in the soup. Let the soup boil for another 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.
Chop the spring onions with the stalks and add to the soup.
Ah, the Finns. Nation with people unlike anywhere else in the world. Are we really so eccentric? If you agree with any of the following statements then I say congratulations, there’s a little Finn in you as well.
You think it’s perfectly OK to form sentences with just one word, such as “no” followed by no explanation.
You only talk when you have something to say.
Greeting people with hugs and kisses is just awkward.
You use the indicator when driving even if it’s in the middle of the night and there are no-one else around in a 5 km radius.
You never cross the road as a pedestrian if there’s a red light. Even if there are no cars around.
You hate it when a stranger sits next to you in public transport when there are plenty of seats available elsewhere.
You think it’s perfectly OK to say nothing in company.
When someone says “how are you?” you reply with at least a semi-profound summary of your recent doings and feelings. As what’s the point of asking if you don’t want an answer?
You have no problem showering naked in public spas and gyms
Yet you hate it if a neighbor you sort of know but not really, drops by and sticks around.
You rush into an elevator before anyone else and hit the “close the doors” -button to avoid having to chat with your neighbor for the whole 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can also stall and lurk around the corner and wait for your neighbor to go first.
You hate it when a shop assistant asks if they can help you.
You get raw chicken in a restaurant. The waitress asks if your food was OK and you reply “yes it was excellent”.
You think honking the horn in traffic is the same as flipping the finger.
Someone is sitting on a seat reserved to you in a train. Instead of asking them to move you go and find an empty seat elsewhere.
You fall over with a bike and break an arm. A stranger asks you if you are OK and you say you’re fine.
You hate it if the person behind you in a queue to the checkout counter is so close you can feel their breath in your neck. They have violated your personal space.
You have booked an hour for a meeting but everything is decided in 30 minutes.
You find it incredibly annoying when someone is 2 minutes late.
You are afraid of speaking a foreign language because you’re worried you might make a grammatical error.
We are wonderful, really. You get to know us and you’ll love us.
So how did you go, is there a little Finn in you? If yes, go check out Finnish Nightmares for some peer support.
Today is the longest day of the year. This means midsummer is here. At the moment people are packing their bags, running to collect groceries and getting ready to enjoy the midnight sun. For Finns, this celebration is close to sacred. It is beloved, cherished and always longed for. And it always involves a big discussion about the weather which everyone would love to be gorgeous but more often than not tends to be cold and rainy. Let’s see what we get this year.
For me, midsummer is
a summer house and the smell of birch leaves
Small Finnish towns with cute little cafes
A LOT of fantastic food, such as open fire crepes and bbq
Sauna and swimming, for multiple hours
sometimes wearing all the clothes you can possibly find since it just gets so frigging cold even though it’s midsummer
the sun that you can see almost all night long…
…and watching it with a glass of sparkling wine..
…for as long as I manage to stay awake.
For those of you visiting Helsinki this weekend, staying in the city doesn’t mean you don’t get to experience midsummer as there are plenty of activities on offer. The sauna part you can do either at Löyly, which is open, or at Allas Sea Pool which offers free entry on Friday afternoon. You can take a sightseeing cruise from the market square on Friday to admire all the bonfires from the sea. You can also check out the bonfires at Seurasaari open air museum or in Kaivopuisto park near Cafe Ursula.
Visiting Helsinki but would like to experience some of the idyllic small Finnish towns as well? I listed 5 of them for you to choose from, all doable in a day whilst based in the capital city.
In the top3 of oldest towns in Finland, Porvoo (founded in about 1380) has not lost it’s charm over the years. The town has 50 000 inhabitants and the most gorgeous riverside area with old timber houses, little boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Picturesque at all times, especially summer and Christmas. How to get there? Bus, rental car or boat. Distance from Helsinki: 47 km. The buses go every 30 or 60 minutes, the trip takes about 60 minutes one way and costs 8-9 euros. For more bus info check out Matkahuolto. You can also make a cruise of it and and catch m/s J.L. Runeberg through the archipelago right into the heart of Porvoo. Definitely a viable option on a pretty summer day! For more info, timetables and fares check out m/s J.L.Runeberg. What to do? Take a stroll in the old town, stop for cafes, restaurants and shops and feel the atmosphere of the town. Check out the view from the bridge. What to buy? Local Brunberg Chocolate, handcrafted souvenirs and coffee from Porvoon Paahtimo cafe/bar/roasting factory. Eat & Drink The cutest cafe is Helmi (location: Välikatu 7, Porvoo), best place for beer and river views: Porvoon Paahtimo and for food you should try Gabriel 1763. More infoPorvoo
2. Fiskars and Billnäs
Fiskars is a small ironworks village in the town of Raseborg. It is not a whole lot more than a street, but all the more idyllic and charming with old buildings, parks and a creek. Its history rests on the traditional Finnish company Fiskars, which was founded in 1649 and is one of the oldest western companies to date. Billnäs is only 10 km from Fiskars so you are best visiting both whilst there. Billnäs is also an old steelworks village, nowadays an idyllic place to visit and find hand crafted souvenirs and lots of old antiques and treasures. How to get there? Rental car or bus. Distance from Helsinki: 87 km. Bus connection is rather slow, though, so I’d recommend a rental car. What to buy? Fiskars products for cooking, gardening and crafts, Desico candles, local arts and crafts and antiques Eat & Drink Fiskars Wärdshus More info Raseborg: Fiskars and Billnäs
Ok, I am a bit biased with my tips. I grew up in Hämeenlinna so I do have a special relationship with it. However, I do still believe it is definitely worth visiting for a day trip from Helsinki not only for all the lakes around town or the medieval castle but also for the gorgeous park of Aulanko and the village of Iittala, the home of our most prestigious and exported glassware. You could do both Hämeenlinna and Iittala in a day or if you prefer a more peaceful pace, spend the night at Aulanko hotel by lake Vanaja and relax in the spa in the evening. How to get there? Train (check out VR for tickets and timetables), bus or rental car. Distance from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna: 100 km. Distance between Hämeenlinna and Iittala 23km. What to do? In Hämeenlinna, if you are visiting at summertime, start the day with a cup of coffee at the marketplace. Visit Aulanko natural reserve and climb the tower for great views. Check out the medieval castle in town. If you are into golf, there are several golf courses to choose from. In Iittala take a stroll around the Iittala glass factory premises, visit an art exhibition, browse through the little shops and enjoy the feel of arts and crafts. What to buy? Glass and tableware, chocolate Eat & Drink Hämeenlinna: for lunch or dinner I recommend Piparkakkutalo (Finnish for ginger bread house, named after the appearance of the building). For coffee (in the summer): the market place, the little cafe by the Aulanko tower or Tiirinkosken tehdas which is also an interior design shop just outside town but kind of on your way to Iittala. More info: Hämeenlinna and Iittala
The official capital city getaway and sailor town, Hanko is quiet in the winter but very vibrant and full of life in the summer. Beaches, old timber houses, sailboats and parties, the southernmost town in Finland gets you in a holiday mood. Definitely a nice contrast to Helsinki. Doable in a day if you have a rental car but if you like the atmosphere or take the bus or train down, do spend a night as well.
How to get there? Rental car (quickest), train or bus. Or a boat Distance from Helsinki: 124 km. What to do? Beachlife and boutiques. Eat & Drink You can pick pretty much any of the restaurants in the harbour and you are good. For both food and drink. More info Hanko
On your way to Hanko it is definitely worth your while to stop for a stroll in the old town of Tammisaari. Charming timber houses in a relaxed seaside town, accompanied with good food and nice cafes. How to get there? The same way you get to Hanko, Tammisaari is en route. What to do? Take a stroll in the old town, admire the seaside views and have a picnic. Eat & Drink My fellow travel bloggers recommend Cafe Gamla Stan for a cafe and Albatros and Knipan for restaurants. More info Tammisaari
Photo credit: www.travelloverblogi.fi / Annika
Photo credit: www.travelloverblogi.fi / Annika
Photo credit: www.travelloverblogi.fi / Annika
Photo Credit: www.travelloverblogi.fi / Annika
Have you been to any of these towns? Have any recommendations? Want to know more? The comment box is yours!
187 000. According to Statistics Finland that is the number of islands in Finland with an area of at least 100 square meters. For a country our size that is a lot. This includes both the islands in the Finnish archipelago along the south and west coasts and all the islands in the 188 000 lakes that we have.
Now I have fallen in love. The targets of my infatuation this summer are the islands in front of Helsinki and Espoo – and most probably in Raasepori as well as soon as we get round to visiting them. Over the years I had only visited a few of the more accessible islands in Helsinki, such as Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and Uunisaari, but now, with having brought our boat out to the sea instead of a lake for the first time, we have been able to visit places we had never heard of. And they are right around the corner from mainland.
If you feel like breathing in the fresh sea air and soaking in some gorgeous scenery, I listed a few simple tips for you.
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Having just advertised the smaller and lesser known islands, I still have to list Suomenlinna Sea Fortress as number one. Why? Because it is easy for everyone to access (just hop on the ferry from the market square), it has stunning views both out to the sea and into the city, plenty of spots for picnic, an excellent pizza house (Pizzeria Nikolai of Restaurant Walhalla) and exciting tunnels to explore. It’s the Finnish equivalent to hobbit land. (More info: Suomenlinna)
This island is a fairly recent attraction in Helsinki since it was only opened to the public in 2016 after being deserted and closed for years and years. The nature on the island is almost completely wild has been untouched for decades. Therefore it makes for a surreal experience to enter a place where time stands still and you have stunning views to our capital at the same time. The island has a history closely linked with war and it stills hides old ammunition. Due to this and the unique nature, visitors are forbidden to step outside the marked trails. However, you can access these out of bounds areas with a guide.
Vallisaari is also easily accessed from the market square with ferries going regularly from May through to September. (More info: Vallisaari)
Dinner cruise in the Eastern Helsinki archipelago
The eastern part of Helsinki is full of islands mostly accessible to private boaters or kayaks, but a really nice way of accessing the area is on a brunch, lunch or dinner cruise from the market square. You sit back and relax with a nice meal and a drink and soak in the scenery. (More info: Royal Line, IHA-Lines)
Gåsgrund in Espoo
The islands in Espoo have some gems among them. In June, July and August they can be accessed by a scheduled boat service leaving from Otaniemi, Haukilahti and Matinkylä. I have fallen in love with the island of Gåsgrund: a definite pearl on the outskirts of the Espoo archipelago. Couldn’t get a hotel booking with a sea view? Not to worry, this island will give you 180 degree marine views from your studio that is a tent. Gåsgrund is perfect for camping with rugged cliffs and more sheltered areas. There are two excellent cooking shelters and outhouses. And better yet, there’s even a sauna with a beach. This is the best archipelago experience you can get with the least amount of effort.