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We travelled to Helsinki, Finland last Memorial Day weekend and were very happy with our choice. We had originally planned to go there in February, but realized it would be cold… very cold, so we put it off until May. It was a great plan! We stayed in an apartment in the Katajanokka neighborhood which was very close to all of the sites and reminded me a lot of Beacon Hill in Boston, my favorite place I have lived. Built around 1900, the neighborhood was a mix of beautiful residences, small businesses and a waterfront home to several ports including an icebreaker fleet! Our apartment, like many others in the neighborhood had a courtyard and plenty of street parking outside so it was awesome for our two year old to have a place to run around away from the traffic of the city.

Art Nouveau architecture in Katajanokka

We first walked from our apartment to see the Uspenski Cathedral, it only took about five minutes and it was well worth it! The outside is very striking, and the inside… wow, worth carrying the stroller up a few steps to see it.

 From there, the Helsinki Market was just another block away, this market is very nice; including lots of seagulls by the food stands as we had read ahead of time, but clean and very well organized. However, we found the prices to be pretty high. If you want Helsinki souvenirs, it’s nice and has lots of variety, if you want well priced wood items and other things – go to Tallinn. You can read about our ferry ride there HERE and it really is much less expensive for some of the common items. It was a great experience though and we really enjoyed walking around and would recommend it. It was even open seven days a week already for the summer (we live in Germany, anything open on a Sunday is a highlight for us!).

Our second day was a little rainy so we started off our day by driving the 45 minutes to Porvoo, the second oldest town in Finland. It was a great little town and helped us feel like we weren’t just seeing the city of Helsinki. (Cities are great, but when it is our first time in a country I always want to venture away from the capital to see more of what the country is really like.) A famous feature of Porvoo is the distinctive red houses, said to have been once painted for King Gustav of Sweden.  The tradition stuck, the houses are still red, and the tourists sure take pictures.  We had a delicious Finnish lunch and enjoyed the shops, while our highlight was an awesome coffee shop that had snacks and even toys for our two year old to play with!

Porvoo Old Town

Red houses in Porvoo

After heading back to the city we decided to do the Finnair Ferris Wheel, it was relatively inexpensive as far as big city ferris wheels go, and we had a blast! They let us go around four times and our daughter loved it! The views are great and it really gives you a good feel for the city.

Finnair Ferris Wheel

on the Ferris Wheel

The Helsinki Cathedral is also very pretty and of course a tourist must see. It is very near the shopping district as well and made for a nice afternoon walk. We didn’t go in as it seemed crowded and I’d had my fill of churches for the trip, but it was certainly made for picture taking.

Helsinki Cathedral 

Another highlight of our trip was one restaurant… we ate there three times… and we were only there three nights. The Everest restaurant on Luotsikatu in Katajanokka is amazing. Very friendly, well priced and delicious food. We had found it online before we went and actually made reservations for our first night when our hostess at our apartment recommended it for dinner and after our experience we went the second night because I needed more of the mango chutney in particular. Our third night we were exhausted from a day in Tallinn and when we couldn’t find a delivery pizza place we both agreed we needed it once more.

I hate food pictures, but it was really good

Helsinki was a great trip for a long weekend with a day trip to Tallinn thrown in- I have always loved Scandinavia and Finland certainly did not dissapoint. With more time you could also visit the Suomenlinna fortress, Helsinki Zoo, or one of the many other islands; we found that the ferries are always running.   For us, a long weekend was perfect to see just enough and we highly recommend it!

Helsinki from the ferry