While traveling post-Covid has nearly felt like it’s “back to normal” this summer, we thought it would be the time for another How to: destination. This time, we visited Helsinki, a cozy Nordic capital by the Baltic sea. Beyond the coldness and the darkness, here are some insights shared by the locals of their small but vibrant home city.
Best website/app/crystal ball to use when you are looking for a place to live?
Alisa: A website called Oikotie.fi. I have found all my previous and current apartments there.
Otto: Probably Oikotie.fi or Vuokraovi.fi.
Reino: Some Facebook groups are good. Otherwise, probably Oikotie.fi.
Which tourist attraction is actually worth it?
Alisa: Suomenlinna. It has history, beauty, and nature. It’s amazing.
Otto: Easily Suomenlinna!
Mikaela: My favorites are Löyly, Suomenlinna, The Market Square, and Käpylä old town. But if you want some excitement go to Linnanmäki amusement park and try the new Taiga rollercoaster.
Reino: I used to work in a hotel where I would always recommend tourists to visit the Lapinlahti area and Hietaniemi beach. It is one of my favorite areas in the city, and walking there always reminds me of how cool it is to actually live here.
The easiest way to save some money like a true Helsinki local?
Alisa: Buy an annual museum card or a day ticket on public transport. And actually, the real saving hack is to buy your own drinks for a night out and go to a park! Alcohol is famously expensive. Also, check out the public sauna called Sompasauna. It’s free!
Otto: Do your groceries in Lidl or use ResQ Club-app where you can find good deals in restaurants for waste food.
Mikaela: Walk everywhere and make your meals at home.
Reino: Most social gatherings always take place in some public venues, so if you are on a budget, I would say eating at home and staying in are the key things locals do to save up money.
A Helsinki local would never be seen…
Alisa: Standing on the left side of the metro escalator. Always stand on the right side.
Otto: Praising other cities in Finland.
Reino: In Vantaa (sorry!).
Best place to escape to if the city gets a bit much?
Alisa: The archipelago on the Helsinki coastline. At its best, if no one else shows up, you can get an entire island for yourself for a day with a few euro water bus ticket. Also, day trips to Tammisaari, Hanko, or Porvoo are always lovely.
Mikaela: There are amazing islands next to the city center like Vallisaari, Mustikkamaa, and Pihlajansaari. For more urgent escapes, go to Hietaniemi or Kaivopuisto.
Otto: Some cities with a minimum of three hours bus ride from Helsinki. That is far enough to feel you are out of the city.
I wish people would have told me… about living in Helsinki
Alisa: That it is expensive. But I guess I already knew that.
Mikaela: After living abroad for the past years, I can say that Helsinki is a very cold and small but cozy Nordic city! It can be challenging to get to know Finnish people at first, but if you break the cold barrier, you will have a lifelong friendship. Finnish people are incredibly loyal.
Otto: The best kebab places. There are kebab places all over the city, but only very few are actually good.
Helsinki politics are…
Alisa: Pretty even mix of green-leftist environmentalism and liberal-right enthusiasm.
Mikaela: Striving to be sustainable and efficient.
Otto: Following the lives of exciting and spine-tingling individuals.
How (and where) to flirt like a Helsinki local?
Alisa: Not sure about how, but definitely takes place in the newest wine bar in Kallio.
Mikaela: Helsinki people are often perceived as cool and calm, but I would say this illusion is broken during the weekend. Flirting definitely happens in bars after a few drinks. Some bars where young locals often head are Siltanen, Kuudes linja, Holiday bar, and Ääniwalli.
Reino: Honestly, Tinder is still used a lot. Of course, you can approach someone in person, but I would say approaching someone online is much more common.
Otto: In Helsinki, approaching people is quite easy, but there are limits to what is considered to be done with “good taste.” There are kind of unwritten rules about it.
Which stereotype about Helsinki locals is actually true?
Alisa: Hipsterness. It’s funny, but you can recognize a Helsinki local style from afar. Also, Marimekko tote bags!
Mikaela: Probably that making friends is rather difficult. People prefer to stick with their old friends. However, most locals speak great English and are always happy to help tourists – so I still would not be scared to approach a local – haha!
Otto: Kallio and (hipster) people who live there.
If Helsinki were a person, who would it be?
Reino: Sanna Marin.
Mikaela: Emma Watson. Educated, beautiful, progressive, private, young.
Alisa: Career-focused freelancer who enjoys the spend their free time relaxing in nature and archipelago. Also interested in environmental topics, equality, and local traveling. Only goes out to eat during weekends and special occasions.
Otto: If it doesn’t have to be a living person, then definitely, Jean Sibelius.