A BTSB Guide to Helsinki

BTSB offers you a guide to its home town. Welcome to Helsinki. You’ve heard good things about this town and most of what you’ve heard is true. Just like most of what you’ve about the Finns being shy and quiet is true. But it’s all a crock if you don’t know where to go and who to meet.

So, welcome to the only guide to Helsinki you will ever need. The following is written by a foreigner who has been living in Finland for four years. These are the places that he keeps going back to:

Kallio – Are you a “somebody”? Want to impress people? Then don’t come here, because they don’t care. Lying just north of the central train station, Kallio was once considered the bad part of town. It still is. But everybody knows it and everybody goes there. Basically, it’s a great place to have a great time. The prices are at least half of what they are anywhere else and there’s something for everybody – shopping, cafes, theatres, restaurants, parks, bars, and an amusement park. It’s hard to say what makes this place so special, but Kallio is one of those rare places that defy the impersonality common to most cities.

Tennispalatsi Art Mueseum – This art museum is not the Modern Art Museum (Kiasma), nor is it the Finnish National Gallery (Ateneum). This museum is smaller and better. It sits right downtown next to the new shopping mall and bus station in Kamppi. The variety of exhibits is as vast as the variety of movies in the fourteen-screen theatre downstairs. But the quality of the exhibits does not mimic the movies. Everything from famous photographers to unknown wax sculptures to classic Finnish films have been on display here. And it’s free on Fridays.

Suomenlinna – An island off the coast of Helsinki, this is the epitome of Finnish foreign relations. It’s a military base that was never used. It simply never needed to be. So, out of commission before they were made, the guns and forts are just part of the scenery. The rest of the island contains cafes, restaurants, beaches, schools, churches, a brewery, and the Finnish Naval Academy Officer School. The other guides will tell you the amazingly boring history of this island. What they won’t tell you is that, when you go, you should take a blanket, food, and some refreshing drinks. Have yourself a picnic. If it’s winter time, take a sled.

Asematunneli – If you’re in Helsinki, and especially if it’s winter time, you will go through Asematunneli. It’s the area under the central train station. It allows you to travel underground, where it’s warm in the winter, through a big area in downtown Helsinki. You’ll find things you like (grocery stores, film shops, musicians) and things you don’t like (bums, teenagers, musicians). But every place, and everyone, caters to foreigners in there. And so it’s the easiest place to go when you need something.

Food – Finland is still trying to make a name for itself in the culinary world. So, stay away from the downtown places labeled with nationalities such as “Mexican” or “Italian”. The food at these places, while edible, is a far cry from what they claim it to be. Enough said. Here are two places you can treat yourself to: the first is Kosmos (Kalevankatu 3). It’s a bit pricey but it is worth it. Most of the dishes are Finnish or Russian and some are even named after famous Finnish movie stars and directors, as Kosmos was their hangout. The second place is more for those in the mood for something light. Bar Tapasta (Uudenmaankatu 13) is a tapas restaurant with great food and a great atmosphere for a group.

Helsinki is a great city and now you’re ready to get a small taste of why the Finns love their capital so much.

[tags]Helsinki, city, guide[/tags]

Arttu Takalo

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