Finland, Travel blog

3 Days Helsinki stopover

Northern Europe evokes an unparalleled magic: wild forests, many lakes, snow, colorful cities and the epic Northern Lights. These are just a few of the many gems this part of the world has to offer!

Few weeks ago, we flew again to Helsinki with Finnair as guests of the stopover program (Read our past articles : 1 day in Helsinki and Behind the scene of the Finnair business class menu)

This time, we spent 3 days in Helsinki and experienced the local food and famous spa scene, danced at Flow Festival, and took a day trip to the divine island, Lonna.

Around the Design District of Helsinki

Day One: Helsinki in the summer is perfect. Warm days (23degrees) and very long nights make it particularly pleasant. 

On the longest day, the sun sets just a few minutes before 11pm, while in the Northern part, like Lapland, it even never sets! Something definitely to experience once in a lifetime! It is a relatively small and young capital with a population around 500K, and the majority of the monuments and buildings date back to around 1800 and 1900.

Like all the Northern Capitals, Helsinki is very pretty and wildly colorful, especially around the Lutheran Cathedral. Is also a very green city, full of parks and fresh air being close to the sea. There are a few important sights and museum but Helsinki is really a city to live and experience the day-to-day life between restaurants, cafés and second hand shops.

The trendier neighborhood is the Design District, with countless design shops and fashion brands. No wonder that Helsinki has been awarded World Design Capital in 2012. Near Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi, the two parallel streets, you will discover the well known high-quality Finnish brands like Artek, Littala, Marimekko, Makia as well as international names.

First things first: Dinner. Familiar with Sikke Sumari? She is the very well-known Finnish chef and television personality who recently opened Sikke’s. Her menu takes inspiration from Italian and French together with native Finnish dishes. The highlight of the menu is undoubtedly the tartare, the fresh whitefish from the Lake Inari in watercress sauce with peas and cucumber and the Martini Espresso paired with Darjeeling-tea ice cream!

Tips for Helsinki:

Getting around: Bikes are the best way to move in this city. One particularly unique path is along the Löyly Sauna and out to the sea for the panoramic view of Tyynykivi (Pillow Stone). Don’t miss Huvilakatu Street, probably the most colorful street in Helsinki.

Second Hand Shops:

Relove Freda, lovely second had shop with a café inside; 

PrèPortè, a little bit more expensive since you can find high fashion brands like Balenciaga, Chanel;

UFF, with very cheap price.

Rooftop bars and restaurants:

Savoy-teatteri, rooftop restaurant with amazing view all over Helsinki

Yesyesyes, vegetarian restaurant with a very fancy dining atmosphere

Pizzeria via Tribunali, reale pizza from Napels

Màs Rootop Bar, situated on the 8th floor of a mall, it is also a restaurant. Open Fridays and Saturdays 16-23

Teuratsamo district and Flow Festival

Day two: Lunch @ B-Smokery, a restaurant with a rustic charm and a fantastic BBQ menu (they also have vegetarian options! ☺). It is located in Teuratsamo, a new urban area Northeast of the city center.

The area has its own vibe set in a former abattoir from 1933. Today the area hosts a few bars and restaurants. Picnics, grills, and many events throughout the year are held here due to the large green areas. A mandatory stop in Teuratsamo: Helsinki Distillery. Don’t leave without trying their “Long Drink”, an original Finnish drink with Gin and grapefruit soda.

After lunch, we headed to Flow Festival, a 3 days music festival. It is the largest in Finland with nearly 84,000 attendees and a lineup of over 140 international artists (Djs and bands) on 10 different stages! This is one of the few festival in the world to be located in the heart of the city. This allows people to attend without the need to camp.

The festival is held in a former power plant area with huge converted gas holders, which is quite the spectacular at night given the lighting and décor. There is music for everyone at Flow Festival: Rock, Hip Hop, Jazz, Pop and  the Techno stage, curated by Resident Advisor. Undoubtedly, one of the most diverse festivals. 

A few of my favorite acts were The Cure, James Blake, the Finnish singer Robyn, the Finnish hip hop band Earl Sweatshirt and Modeselektor. Other names from past lineups have included Nick Cave, Kraftwerk, Bjork and M.I.A. and Bon Iver. There is more than music at Flow, as the festival also supports various forms of art : from visual installations, talks, design and film screening, to art displays.

The catering service also is excellent. The quality food area provided a variety of street food trucks offering vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and a wide range of diet options. By far, this was the healthiest and most presentable food for a festival that I’ve experienced.

Let’s not forget that Finland hails from the land of sustainability, rooted in protecting their beautiful land. So it is no surprise that even the Flow Festival used green electricity, recycled and reusable materials, and offered water refill stations instead of selling bottles (btw, tap water in Finland is one of the most pure and clean in the world). Top it off with having all ticket sales giving you the option to donate for reforestation project or to decrease the pollution in the Baltic Sea.

That’s all the words for now. Music on and get into the Flow! 

Löyly Sauna and the peaceful Lonna island

Day three: on our third and last day, we have been at two special places: Löyly Sauna and Lonna Island.

I was very excited to try a Finnish Sauna and Löyly fulfilled my expectations!

Löyly opened in 2016 and is owned by the Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen 

Beautiful location and unique architecture; the structure is made by 4,000 wooden planks which create a relaxing atmosphere playing with lights and shadows. 

There is a big terrace to hang out at sea level, a restaurant and three saunas (a traditional wood-burning sauna, a smoke sauna which is smaller and darker and a private one for small group of max 12 people). 

Very common is a dip in the sea in between sauna sessions, even on winter time!

From mid June till late August, is also possible to take a yoga class every Wednesday and Saturday morning.

Wearing a swimming suit is mandatory, reservation is recommended at  Löyly Sauna website 

Layover in Helsinki Löyli

In the afternoon, we headed to Lonna Island, one of the 330 little islands around Helsinki.

About 15 mins far from the city, this little piece of paradise is a perfect escape from the city. What to expect? Flowers, trees, swans, delicious food at Lonna restaurant, a coffee shop, a sauna and just a couple of private holiday houses.

The restaurant is a real gem! All dishes are prepared with a great caring for quality with Finnish seasonal ingredients from local producers. Fish from the Baltic Sea, local vegetables and fruits, Finnish cheeses, and handmade jam, paired with local wine. A 100% Finnish taste experience.

Menu changes according to season.

Our fixed menù included:

  • Tomato soup (fresh tomato soup, pickled and marinated tomato, zucchini pyree, grilled and marinated zucchini and thai basil oil, fresh herbs)
  • Whitefish with fennel and elderflower, served with three season sides (pan fried whitefish, fresh fennel salad with fresh herbs and elderflower oil)
  • Strawberry and basil dessert (basil marinated strawberries, basil almond cake, buttermilk sorbet)

Lonna restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from 12pm till 8pm; reservation is recommended especially on summer time: Lonna restaurant

To learn about other islands of the Helsinki Archipelago check VisitFinland website

Where to stay in Helsinki

We stayed at Hotel Lilla Roberts. This beautiful boutique hotel is located in a calm nonetheless very central street. Lutheran Cathedral and the Market Square are at walkable distance.

It rises on a former police station and electrical substation and maintains an elegant old-fashioned style. Black and white colors as well as the checkered theme are predominant in the whole building and rooms.

We had a comfort king room which is very specious and absolutely silent with a big bathroom with shower and Noir toiletries.

Price for this room is about 145 euro in low season and 225 euro in high season.

On site there is a gym, a restaurant, a bar, free bikes service for the guests. 

Thank you to Finnair for the invite! A huge thank you also to the Hypement Agency guys, Matti and Jan, Petra and Kriselda from YesGirl, Laura and Daniel (@dansmoe) for the perfect organization of the weekend and giving us a deep dive in the Finnish culture and lifestyle! Definitely, you showed us many good reasons to fly to Helsinki!