Helsinki city guide

I recently heard about a hilarious conspiracy theory about Finland. The whole story is pretty long but I’ll try my best to downsize it. Apparently, Russia and Japan made Finland up following the Cold War. Japan always had activists on their ass because of the extensive tuna fishing. We all know how they love their sushi. So, they came up with a fake country located in Eastern Sweden. Now they could harpoon all they want and no one would bat an eye. All the fish were then transported through Russia under the cover of Nokia products, a company owned by the Japanese. Russia would get its cut in fish because they were starving back then. Think about it. Fin-land? Fish-Fin-Land? It’s all obviously a very much over-the top joke. We live in a day and age where even the dumbest things seem normal. That would also mean that Helsinki is a cardboard capital. Suspiciously enough there aren’t that many tourists aside from the Japanese. And there aren’t that many tunas around either.

Green Suomenlinna sea fortress Helsinki

Suomenlinna sea fortress in Helsinki is a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Finland

You leave your plane and you see a sign saying: “Welcome to Hel”. Sounds like a joke but it still makes you anxious. Let’s face it: if I had to come up with a capital city it would need a few essentials. The first ingredient would be something historic. Suomenlinna will do the trick. This 300-year-old fortress has served three different nations through both World Wars. It’s an awesome site to explore with kilometres of walls and tunnels. Almost a thousand people live and work on that island. It’s a bit of a cross between a town and an open-air museum. There’s a traditional café called Piper where they serve some epic cinnamon buns. Yes, those are a Finnish invention. An imaginary country couldn’t come up with a godsend treat like that.

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum is another interesting place close to Helsinki. It’s a very well preserved traditional Finnish settlement. Actors on-site re-enact the lives of previous generations. The best part is the Midsummer celebration towards the end of June. They do the whole drug-fuelled pagan bonfire and dancing shtick. Just like Ari Aster’s Midsommar, but without the human sacrifice I hope. Flowers, drinks, maypoles, magic mushrooms; old Finns knew how to party. Temppeliaukio Church is a place of different worship, carved into the bedrock in the centre of Helsinki. It’s huge and it doesn’t feel like much of a church. Thousands of tourists visit it annually praising its unique looks and acoustics. The Kamppi Chapel is its polar opposite, located in the busiest part of Helsinki. It’s more of a meditative refuge for stressed-out yuppies than an actual chapel.  

An old ship in Katajanokka harbour, Helsinki and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the distance

Katajanokka: a charming and vibrant neighbourhood in Helsinki but also a busy harbour. Here is situated the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe (Uspenski Cathedral)

We’ve covered a bit of past, what else does a real capital need? A future, I guess. Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art is where it’s at. Kiasma, as its short name goes, began building its collection in the 1990s and is currently home to works of over 8000 artists. Contemporary art is an acquired taste. I believe nothing screams “FUTURE” like a sculpture of an ass sticking out of a wall. There’s even a functional Bad Boy statue of a kid urinating on a sidewalk. We’ve all been the Bad Boy; it’s so relatable. Especially the face it makes. It’s funny, but also terrifying like the giants from Attack on Titan.

The remaining part would be the “present”. What do people do in Helsinki? How do they spend their free time? Locals like to spend their weekends outside of the city. Finland has some truly magnificent nature and they do take care of it. They don’t call it the “Land of the Thousand Lakes” for nothing. Rent a lakeside cabin, grab a fishing rod and fridge full of beers and you’re set. The city itself gets pretty wild during the weekends, in case you prefer that to the forests and lakes. Finns are very open-minded; there are dozens of gay clubs and bars in Helsinki. DTM or “Don’t Tell Your Mother” ( is possibly the largest in Scandinavia. Teatteri ( is one of the oldest clubs in Helsinki and aims for the more mainstream audience with deep pockets. Bear in mind you can’t buy hard liquor just anywhere aside from bars and clubs. Alko are the only government-ran stores where you can buy proper booze. There’s nothing better than a sauna after a night out. Visit Sompasauna, a community-driven DIY steam room open to everyone free of charge.

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