At last, the journey I have been waiting for to share to you guys, the Scandinavia Travel Journal! It seems surreal that last autumn marked my first time visiting Europe and also first time solo traveling! It was just a crazy spontaneous decision. I even got my visa 1 day before my flight! Yes, what an epic journey. Let’s kick-start this series with Helsinki Travel Journal, shall we?
Alright, before anyone kills me, I do aware that Finland does not count as Scandinavia. But, I was in Scandinavia for the majority of the time hence it seems appropriate. But we can call it “Nordic Travel Journal” or “Scandinavia + Helsinki Travel Journal” or whatever suit your preference. Everyone cool? Okay, I’ll finnish now…
For you who do not have a clue what I have been talking about then read this :
The term Scandinavia is commonly used for Denmark, Norway and Sweden. While the term Nordic is used unambiguously for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, including their associated territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands).
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Finland or you’re looking for an opportunity to rent your property for travelers try HomeAway. It’s a recommended booking platform.
Welcome to cold/cold Helsinki!
Welcome to the capital of Finland, the cool Helsinki! Talking about both the weather and the vibes of the city. Also known as “Daughter of the Baltic” for its location in the tip of the Baltic Sea, it is a city packed with its own charms. This city was awarded City of Design status in 2014 by UNESCO which I can understand why. The modern design mix with the old town architecture.
The first impression, it’s freezing here! I thought the weather will probably get just a bit chilly because of it still autumn, right? WRONG! I know, for some of you who lives in the other sides of the world, it might seem ordinary BUT I come from a tropical country which currently as I am typing the weather was 29°C. But then again, it is Finland we are talking about. #shouldhaveknownbetter
Glimpse of the Town
Our less than 24hours in Helsinki started by arriving at the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. I am not sure if it is because I was going there with a group or what, but the immigration took almost 1 hour! Which sucked because the moment we went out from the airport the sun was already setting. Double the suck because it was the only sun I see for the whole time there. Why your autumn soo gloomy, Finland??
The journey from the airport to the city center took about 30 minutes. Once we arrived, first things first, food before anything else. Because food is life. And being the typical Asian that our group was, guess what we were having for dinner? Exactly, Chinese food. In Helsinki. Yup. But while in the state of weather-shocked, I kinda understand their choices. It almost seems like a comfort food in the chilly weather.
After dinner, we didn’t really have much time before we need to check-in at Scandic Grand Marina Hotel. So while the others doing some shopping (typical Asian groups), I went ahead and stroll around. Lucky that the Helsinki Central Railway Station was around the corner, so I can have a glimpse of one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations according to BBC.
Full-Packed City Tour
We only have less than half a day in Helsinki before we need to catch our cruise to Stockholm so this was an actioned-packed day for us. But the places we visited are actually located in around the center so it is possible to catch ’em all during our half day tour. See the map on the bottom!
First thing in the itinerary was to visit Senate Square. It is a unique place where they combine political, religious, scientific and commercial powers all in one place. It has the famous Helsinki Cathedral one side, Government Palace on the other, main building of the University of Helsinki, and the Sederholm House which is the oldest building in the city.
The square is picturesque! You have all this majestic building all in the same place plus the beautiful fountain in the middle of the square. Not to mention about the vibe of the surrounding with the buildings and the bikes and the trams. Oh, soo Helsinki!
Going with a group, we had only 15 minutes in this place. Mainly for the sake of photo-taking. I just wish I have more time in the square alone, just to enjoy the atmosphere and maybe to take the proper photos. There will always be someone taking selfies of the Helsinki Cathedral. But regardless of the touristy side, I highly recommend going to this place!
Just a walking distance from the square is the market square. It is an open air market located in the South Harbour which is one of the main tourist attraction in town. The stalls were selling a variety of stuff, from treats to souvenirs. It is definitely touristy indeed marketed for tourist so do not expect to get your best bargain here.
The peak season will be around summer time which I can imagine in the summer with the sun shining, people are out and about in the market. But even in the autumn there still are some stalls open. It just seems more “dead” compared to what I expected. But even so, the surrounding itself was still beautiful. Now I just need to come back at summer time.
Even if shopping for souvenirs is not my thing, I did manage to get some magnets that were hand-painted from this lady which seems more authentic than just a moose key-chain. My point is that they got something for everyone here. But even if shopping is not your things at all, you will still be able to enjoy and appreciate the surrounding and the mood of the market.
Sibelius Park and Monument
Straying a bit from the center was the Sibelius Monument. The monument was made to honor Jean Sibelius whose a Finnish composer (1865-1957). The sculpture was unveiled 7 September 1967, made by Eila Hiltunen. It consists of more than 600 hollow steel pipes, formed in a wave pattern which also looked like organ pipes. On the side is also the bust of the composer. The monument is located in the park named after the composer itself.
After done with all the photo taking of the monument, we were given free time to enjoy the park. You think we will stroll around eh? Nope, it was photo session time. 😂 I couldn’t help myself, there is something about the fallen leaves and the shades of orange that so captivating for the eyes.
Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church)
As the name suggests, this church was built directly into the solid rock. The building was completed in September 1969 and famous for its special architecture. From the outside, it looked almost like a cave. The inside walls are the rough exposed rock walls with a coppered dome. I think the design is something we all can truly appreciate.
Having an exposed rock walls made an excellent acoustics which made this church a popular concert hall. When I arrived here, there was a performance / a worship session with the priest who sang and played an acoustic guitar which I think demonstrates that point pretty well.
Another thing to mention is this is still a functioning church, so you can have a moment of prayer here. Even if you are not, then please remember to respect the other by keeping your voice low inside. They do permit us to take a picture freely inside if there aren’t any services going around at the time.
Last Glimpse of the City
Unfortunately, the church was our last destination for the city tour. Before we were heading to the port to board the cruise, we were given time to shop for souvenirs. Around the church, there were couples of shops selling souvenirs. I think around the area it was actually easy to find a souvenirs shop, so worry not for all you shoppers!
But it was also marked my last glimpse of the city. Too bad I had such a short amount of time in this city. Now I definitely craved for more, especially the street view! The small lane with the trams and all the building, you just need to see for yourself…
That was all the time I have in Helsinki, a rather short one I know. I think that’s the thing with only able to visit a certain place in short amount of time, you were left wanting for more. Do you have any recommendation in Helsinki or places to visit in Finland? Let us know in the comment and also check out our social media button below. Remember, sharing is caring. 😉
But for now, look forward to the next post as I can’t wait to share more of the series with you guys! For the mean time, you can read our Ipoh, Vietnam, and Israel Travel Journal to keep that wanderlust feels burning. At least, let’s end this with the most Finland thing I could find and until next time, see ya!
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