Coming from a tropical country, I come to love the winter in any destination – so when the Helsinki Tourist Board invited me to stay for a week in their wonderful city during the ‘white’ month of February, it wasn’t hard to say yes! (Helsinki Winter Itinerary) Right then and there, I started daydreaming about all the possible things I was going to do…but when I asked about my itinerary, the tourist board said it was a “secret” and that I’d know why once I got there. Sure enough, it was a cunning way to build the suspense inside me. Feb 22 – I landed in Helsinki and they finally revealed why we weren’t given a travel plan at first. Apparently, it was because they were collecting a lot of sponsors until my arrival, and with the free ticket package they got for us, I could then have the freedom to plan my itinerary for a week! They slowly spread all these goodies on my apartment table – invitations from many attractions, tour providers and restaurants all over town – and I couldn’t help but feel like it was Christmas all over again! You bet I had a hard time planning my activities at first (there were so many cool things to do!). In the end, I was able to squeeze all the important things I wanted to do into my 7 day stay. Here’s how it went for me! »Quick Travel Planning Faroe Islands Itinerary» Day 1 After a two-hour flight, I checked into my secret residence in Helsinki for a week: Aallonkoti’s apartment, which was located in the heart of the city. It was easy to fall in love with this space because even though the room was modernly furnished with a touch of artistic ‘weirdness’ it still retained the comfort and warmth of ‘home’. I especially liked how there is also a huge balcony which gave me a clear view of the city skyline which was wrapped in white velvet snow. In fact, I spent some time resting on the balcony enjoying how fortunate I was to have been able to start my winter Helsinki itinerary in great shape! Then I proceeded to chart my itinerary for the following days as I happily flipped through all the tickets that were given to us. Since it was already nighttime at this point, I decided to take a fun walk around town as I went to dinner at a restaurant that wanted free meals under Helsinki’s secret scheme. I felt like eating “comfort food” and so I chose a restaurant called: Naughty BRGR… OMG the burgers and fries were great!!! Lots of Finns were also crowding this place out, so it really seemed to be one of those places frequented by locals. If I had to give you a tip, be sure to order the sweet potato fries because they were wrongly good. After the hearty meal, I proceeded to wander the city during the night and was completely amazed at how beautiful and wonderful Helsinki is. In all honesty, I expected the city to be old; And although it still retains its old infrastructure, it was easy to see how the city has a unique and lively atmosphere with all the modern architectural wonders, café culture and bustling crowd. You are definitely off to a good start! – – – »Day 2 Since I’ve been a fan of the outdoors, today’s agenda has been to go hiking in the Nuuksio area. The Helsinki Tourist Board provided me with a thicker jacket for my entire stay on this winter Helsinki itinerary, and it was a sure savior of the cold! I took a bus for an hour first to the Haltia Nature Center where I learned more about the flora and fauna of not only Helsinki but the whole of Finland. I learned here that northern Finland that is above the Arctic Circle usually doesn’t have any sun (only a few hours of twilight at noon) for a month or more during the winter. He is commonly referred to as a polar knight as the Finns call him “kaamos”. (I seriously can’t imagine not having the sun for months!) Once I filled up with information, I looked for a nearby walking path. The staff at the nature center told me that there is one that runs through Lake Pitkajarvi. As I set out on this adventure, every step I took in the snow made me realize how I might prefer hiking during the winter rather than other seasons because the surroundings seemed incredibly magical and mysterious – and best of all: I don’t sweat! On my trail, I came across a place where several other hikers would eat or take some warmth from the fire. Later I found a roadside inn which I enjoyed to myself! But at some point, I ended up going in the wrong direction. The trail was supposed to be on the other side of the road over a forest of trees, and so I had the idea that I could just cross it until I ended up on the path I wanted. It seemed like a great plan – but as I walked in, I couldn’t help but laugh as I failed to take into account that there would be tons of fresh snow piling up. So imagine that every step I took would make my feet sink straight through the ice, and the effort it took to move my feet felt like I was walking around in the water! In short: he was a little tired. Fortunately, I was able to pass and get on the right track. Although it was fun and “adventurous”, I should never do it again. *laughs* Just before the trail ended, I reached a viewing platform which gave me a great view of the lake, and definitely took my time enjoying the beautiful scenery. It was really amazing and when I stood there I could clearly feel how slowly I was falling in love with Helsinki. After that, I drove to the bus station, and here I suddenly remembered how I had never made my own snowman! You made use of this ‘free time’ as you set out to build a little white guy – isn’t he cool?! Come at night, I headed out to dinner at Kappelli to try Finnish dishes. This restaurant was conveniently located in one of the city’s large parks and was an elegant establishment. I ordered the classic tattikuorruttettua or reindeer fillet and it was a great dish with a very nice taste. (I was a bit apprehensive at first about eating reindeer; but I thought once should be enough! I’m glad I tried it.) Typical Finnish sauna experience. Did you know? The Finns have a great love for the sauna! It has become a huge part of their culture – not as a luxury but more of a necessity. So it is necessary to go to Finland. Apart from the private saunas found in hotels and apartments, there are also public saunas scattered across the country. – – – »Day 3 On this day of my winter Helsinki itinerary, I went for a city tour. I’ve been to places like Rock Church (Tempeliaukio Church), Sibelius Garden and the Finnish Museum of Natural History. »Read: Top 10 free things to do in Helsinki, Finland Come in the afternoon, I went to Helsinki Radio for an interview about my experience in the city – yes. You read that right! I did a radio interview and it was my first time doing something like this. It was done live and you can’t imagine how nervous I was! I was sure I was going to beat my words or say something incredibly stupid on air. To make the story short: All went well. But boy…you were a bunch of nerves! And because I’m too shy, I won’t share the interview link – ha! As if that wasn’t enough, the next day, the Helsinki Secret team called me and asked if it would be appropriate for me to do another interview with another station, Radio Suomi. I didn’t want to do anything else again, but I didn’t want to be rude so I said yes. Fortunately, this interview was much better than the first. Unfortunately, it’s not registered… boo! – – – »Day 4 On this day of my winter Helsinki itinerary, I went to the classic café in town: Ekberg. I had some pastries for take out and then ventured into the rest of the must-visit places in Helsinki: Senate Square, Old Market Hall, Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral, Kiasma Museum, Ateneum, etc. » READ: Things to do in Helsinki, Finland When I snuck in at night and used my free tickets to see a music show at the Helsinki Music Center (Musiikkitalo). – – – » Day 5 Unfortunately, today is the day to experience the snowmobile safari of our winter Helsinki itinerary! I was glad about this because I had never tried a snowmobile – or any winter activity for that matter. I wrote about my experience with this in detail and you can read about it here: »Read: Experience a Snowboard Safari in Helsinki For dinner, I ate the free food offered by Meripaviljonki, which is apparently a ‘floating restaurant’ on the banks of the river. Since I can’t get enough of tattikuorrutettua, I ordered this dish again overnight. When I returned to the apartment, I noticed the outdoor ice rink in Kallio. In time, it also started snowing at that time, so I thought, “I’ve never skated at an outdoor ice rink while it snowed…Now isn’t that a bucket list to check?” Needless to say, I went to rent skates and had fun! – – – »Day Six Have you heard of the Baltic states? They are three underrated destinations in Europe – hidden gems if I may say so myself considering they are some of the least visited countries on the continent. So when the Helsinki Secret team gave me round trip cruise tickets in order to get to Tallinn, Estonia in just two hours from Helsinki, I took the opportunity to do so! Come read about my adventure in Tallinn here: »Read: A day trip to Tallinn, Estonia: a short cruise. In short: the city was a dream and I definitely plan to explore more of Estonia in the future, as well as explore the other two Baltic states: Latvia and Lithuania. You should too! – – » Day 7 This was the last day of my winter Helsinki itinerary, and before I jumped on the return trip to Brussels, I went to the Suomenlinna Maritime Castle to see this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site considered one of the largest sea castles around the world. Truly a special place in Helsinki, this is an itinerary activity that you should not miss! Rest assured, I easily discovered this place on foot so it can be easily done in eg one hour. (You can always take a guided tour to learn more about the castle and its history.) • • • Other FAQs about Helsinki What is the tipping policy in Finland? As a rule, the service is already included in your bill when you are in Finland. As such, tipping is neither mandatory nor expected in the state; However, they also don’t mind tipping if you’re feeling generous. What power socket is used in Finland? Finland typically uses two types of plug: Type C (round pins) and Type F (round pins with two ground sections) and operate on a supply voltage of 230V at 50Hz. What are the current travel restrictions and quarantine policies in Finland? Please check their latest Travel Warnings page. Want a detailed Helsinki travel guide? For more information on the best months to visit, how to get around, etc. – come and read this Helsinki guide! ••• Overall from my seat on the plane back home, I looked fondly at Helsinki as it slowly dissipated from my view. I’ve probably written many times now about how I fell in love with the places I’ve visited on my travels – and it will always be true. I fall in love with all over the place, and Helsinki is one of those. But as Fitzgerald said, “There is all sorts of love in this world but never the same love twice” and surely the way I fell in love with Helsinki as I stayed there for a week was a unique kind of love that I will cherish forever.
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