Ah! The end is nigh! This post hopefully offers a little more for the common foodie amongst us; some tempting looking market stall photography at the very least (I hope anyway! I’ve also tried to give some actual useful tips just in case I’ve persuaded you to book a trip and check Helsinki out for yourself! Be sure to let me know if you do and I can talk your ear off some more!
The Finns love a market and there are 3 proper old market halls to explore as well as numerous stalls scattered around and the main outdoor market near the harbour area.
Hakaniemi Market Hall is over in the Kallio district (about 20/25 minute walk from the main harbour square) and is an L shaped affair that mostly sells food etc on the ground floor and then Finnish crafts on the upper level. There is a large Marimekko stall and various other small outlets including what look like bric-a-brac stalls although these are belied by their prices. Nothing to buy in Finland is cheap, not even the second hand goods! There is also a market square outside which has a number of other food/fruit veg and flower stalls. In late august, local mushrooms, wild blueberries and other berries were in abundance – the stalls were far too Instagram-able! On the last Sunday in August there was a flea market outside also but I don’t know how much of a regular thing – it seems to be their version of a car boot sale so I have a feeling they are weekly/regular at least.
The Old Market Hall is next to the Market Square right in the heart of Helsinki. The recently restored and reopened hall contains more local food delicacies than you can shake a stick at and a branch of the government run Alko store – the only place hard liquor is sold in Finland. The market square has eating places and gifts galore 7 days a week. I think this is the best place to grab a €10 plate of Reindeer meatballs or if you’re a picky git like me, a plate of substandard veggie pad thai :(.
Finally the Hietalahti Market Hall is a little walk over to the west which I didn’t visit on this occasion but have checked out on a previous visit. Its quite similar to the other halls to be honest so on a quick trip, I wouldn’t recommend heading over there.
Helsinki is pretty small and has great public transport comprising of trams, buses and a metro line. If you stay centrally, you can easily have a long weekend and not need to use any of them. I did find on this trip however that whilst Kallio wasn’t overly far from the centre, adding a 20 minute walk on top of all the usual walking each time I went to/from the apartment, really ate into my time in the city so a 3 day all transport pass for €16 was purchased. Transport is very reasonably priced in Finland! And this also includes the ferry to Suomenlinna. Some of the metro station entrances and platforms were really quite spectacular from a design point too.
I believe that there is now an option to get to the city centre by train from the Airport but I stuck to using the Finnair City Bus service which departs every 20 minutes from right outside the terminal and drops you at the side of the central train station. A return ticket is around €11 and the trip takes about 40 minutes.
Thus far I have flown with British Airways, Finn Air and Norwegian Air. All excellent. On this occasion I flew with flights at nice easy times from Gatwick with Norwegian and luggage allowance for about £150.00 return.
I also flew Norwegian to the Costa Del Sol last year and for a sort of cheapish airline, I think they are superb, the seats are very comfortable, service is excellent (albeit you pay for food and drinks) and you get wi-fi. Yup wi-fi in the air. And its quite good too. You also don’t have to pay extra for legroom seats!
Since starting my draft of this post, BA have announced that they are now no longer going to be supplying complimentary food and drink on their short haul flights. I now cannot see literally any reason to fly with BA over any of the other medium budget airlines unless the times or availability is better or they work out cheaper (I’m not a masochist so I don’t do Ryanair or Easyjet).
Where to Stay
I’ve stayed in two hotels on different ends of Helsinki and on this trip, went for an Airbnb apartment.
All three options offered something different but all included an option to have a cheap filling breakfast – important in my eyes when holidaying where the food is so pricy – got to pre-empt the hangry.
Radisson Blu Royal was my first hotel 4 years ago, its at the edge of the central shopping and entertainment district of Kamppi and in walking distance of nearly everything – we barely used public transport at all when staying here. I got an excellent breakfast included deal through a package booked through Ba.com. I’d more than happily stay here again but I’ve never been able to find such a great price as it is a premium hotel.
Due to the price issue, my second stay was at Hotel Katajanokka, a converted former prison on the Katajanokka (Cat-yan-knocker) peninsula which juts out from the main market place area. Its supposed to be a premium hotel and whilst the novelty of residing in a former jail cells (rooms are several cells knocked together) and the breakfast was passable if not a little limited, I wouldn’t return here. The receptionists didn’t really care and it felt like a dank 3* hotel at best, we had to move room twice just to get a room that was passable. It also was not great bargain. The location was however pretty decent and handy for the main attractions. There is a tram stop outside so we had an option to get home easily if we were tired of walking. There is a bicycle hire place around the corner too.
The super friendly Larry provided our airbnb apartment on this trip. As I’ve mentioned before, I stayed in the Kallio district which is supposed to be the lively party district but to be honest I never really found the party. We rented a two bedroom flat in a residential building which featured the rarely found two double bedrooms with a double bed in each. Ideal for two friends travelling together. It was a little bit odd in that is was clearly an Ikea furnished holiday rental but had a whole bunch of odd nik-naks hanging around along with a few struggling house plants, some of which had given up the ghost entirely and some which were fake but covered in an inch of dust. I’ve been looking to link to the apartment because despite this I would recommend it. It worked out at £33 pppn which was a bit of a bargain for our location over a (British, not Finnish) bank holiday weekend in August. Alas I think it may not be listed anymore as I can’t locate it, not even through my booking confirmations. For my first Airbnb experience, it was great and I’d certainly try the service again.
There are places to stay in Helsinki for all budgets – there are plenty of hostels and cheaper budget hotels as well as numerous premium options including all of the major chains etc.
And so I’ve run out of things to stay so keep tuned and I’ll try and most some more recipes and food photos soon!