Helsinki: Big Ships, Small Islands, Moomins + The Best Coffee

5 September 2014

In my last post I shared images of our 'base camp' in Finland. It was, as the photographs show, in the middle of nowhere and a rental car was pretty much essential. Despite it's romote idyllic location we were only a 30 minute drive away from the images you see here: Helsinki. It really was the best of both worlds. Helsinki didn't disappoint as far as capital cities go. It is spotlessly clean and well maintained. There is some striking architecture, family-friendly museums, great places in which to eat and drink and the harbour with its gateway to all Helsinki's beautiful little islands. It's a very special place.

We took a boat trip to a near island, the price of which was included in our travel pass.

And we were mesmerised by the giant ships that came and went.

When visiting any city overseas we like to try out the public transport. Helsinki station was a stunning building both inside and out.

Helsinki isn't vast, and we managed to cover most of it during our time there. The Design Museum was a highlight. The proud Finns consider good design a part of everyday life. The local supermarkets all stock Iittala, Arabia & Marimekko kitchenware - in fact they don't really stock many other brands. But then why would they?

We took a trip out to the 1952 Olympic stadium and visited the fantastic Tove Jannson centenary exhibition which celebrated the fascinating life and work of the novelist, painter, illustrator and, as she is best known, author of the Moomin books for children. Did you know that the Moomin stories go back as far as 1945? Moomin's are very much loved in Finland and there are two Moomin shops which Lily and Arthur both took a shine to.

Helsinki is great for food and drink. Then there was the coffee. It was seriously good. Helsinki has lots of independent coffee shops, including Johan & Nyström by the scenic harbour. Not only did they serve the best coffee, but they also provided an excellent stock of design magazines and cookbooks to flick through. 

We ate at falafel cafes and a restaurants that offered a vast vegetarian buffet where you paid for your meal by weight (the plates, not yours). We had liquorice & lemon ice cream (devine), blueberry chocolate, rye breads in every shape and size, nordic berries and chanterelles and of course, there was always room for a cinnamon bun. 

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