The blog has been quiet for another week now, but it doesn’t mean that anyone had died this time, luckily. It’s been just a very busy week workwise. Which I don’t mind at all, exactly the opposite. I am finally living the dream, after all! Also, I was asked to write a guest blog post giving some travel tips for a few days in Finland. More specific, things to see, do or taste in Tampere and Helsinki. As it was my very good friend John from Continental Breakfast Travel blog, of course I did what he asked. And I thought why not to give the same tips on my own blog as well. So here they are, a few tips for a city break in Tampere and Helsinki (see the original post by following Ask CBT: a week in Finland).
Finland is known as ‘the country of a thousand lakes,’ but did you know that this phrase is seriously underestimated? The actual amount of lakes is close to 190,000! The beauty of Finnish nature is definitely the best part of this small country, offering so much to see and do. But if you are planning a short city break in Finland, you will most likely end up either in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, or Tampere, which is the biggest inland city in the Nordics.
Either way, you won’t miss the miracle of Finnish nature, it will always be close to you wherever you go. Even inland, Tampere is a beautiful city located between two lakes. This time of the year the weather is a bit chilly, but if you are brave, you can still enjoy the stunning lake views by kayak, Jet Ski ride or boat trip.
The absolute must do in Finland is obviously to try Finnish sauna and dipping into a lake or the sea, no matter how cold it is. You will get the most from the experience during the winter when the water surface is frozen. Yes, we make a hole in the ice and dip ourselves in the 0 degree water below the ice or roll in the snow half-naked. Sounds crazy? Don’t worry, you will have a 90 degree sauna to warm you up! And I can guarantee that nothing beats the feeling you’ll have afterwards.
The main attraction and the main landmark of Tampere would be Näsinneula, the observation tower located at Särkänniemi amusement park by the lake. The amusement park itself is already closed (sorry, Angry Birds Land will be closed too), but Näsinneula, Aquarium, Planetarium, Dolphinarium and Sara Hildén Art Museum will be open. And stay alert, there might be some extra events at the end of October as schools are closed for autumn break.
Another observation tower can be found in Pyynikki, where you can also try abseiling from the tower. And if you are really into high places, a new Moro Sky Bar was just opened on the 15th of October right in the city centre. The new sports bar located on the 25th floor of the Sokos Hotel Torni at the central railway station offers panoramic views over the whole city. What a lovely place for a refreshing drink.
Wondering what to eat? When in Tampere, you must taste the local specialty called “mustamakkara”, a black sausage with lingonberry jam. The locals say Tammelantori, a market square located a few hundred meters east from the central station, offers you the best mustamakkara experience. It might look disgusting but tastes absolutely delicious. And do not leave Finland before enjoying reindeer stew with lingonberry jam and potato mash. This traditional Finnish dish is available in many restaurants all over the country.
When in Helsinki, make sure you visit Suomenlinna, a fortress which was once built to defend Finland. The sea fortress located in an island is also listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. If you want to learn more about the history, guided walk tours are organized in English.
For museum lovers, you might want to check at least Ateneum Art Museum and Natural History Museum. Unfortunately Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art, is closed until March 2015. Also the Cathedral of Helsinki and Temppeliaukio Rock Church excavated into solid rock are worth visiting.
If you have several days in Helsinki and you want to experience something a little bit more, you can easily visit Tallinn, the stunning capital of Estonia. Tallinn is only a 2 hour boat trip away from Helsinki and the old town is definitely worth visiting, in case you haven’t yet done that. (Prices are a bit friendlier as well, compared to Finland.)
Ok, I admit that this one probably wasn’t a very “I’m a proud Finn” kind of comment, but it’s a good tip. Tallinn is a must see destination in case you have never been there. From Helsinki, Tallinn is very easy and cheap to visit.
In general, you don’t need to worry about any language barriers as English is well spoken in Finland. As you probably know, Finns like to drink, so be prepared to see some drunk people, especially during weekends. And when it comes to drinks, if you are feeling a bit chilly, you should definitely try a tasty hot drink called “Minttukaakao”. It’s made of strong peppermint alcohol, mixed with hot chocolate and cream. Absolutely fantastic, especially on cold autumn evenings when you need something to warm you up.
And last but not least, make sure you keep your eyes on the sky! Even though the Northern Lights, a.k.a. Aurora Borealis are more common in Lapland, during the past few weeks they have been visible in the South as well. You never know, maybe you’ll get lucky!