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Exploring Finland: Food, Shopping + More

Back in 2018 my parents took the Ancestry DNA test and discovered that we have Finnish Heritage, 20% to be exact! My mom is from Estonia and my dad is from Newfoundland, so to find out that both of my parents shared Scandinavian/Finnish ancestry was pretty cool.

I decided I wanted to travel back to my home country Estonia to explore and visit family. Since there is no direct route to Estonia, travellers often have to stop in another country beforehand to switch airlines or to take a boat. I pitched the idea to mom that we should go to Finland for a few days and explore the country before taking the ferry that crosses the Baltic Sea to Estonia. She agreed and we booked our tickets!

Visiting Finland has been on my to-do travel list for a while now and I was so excited when we booked our trip. During our 5 days in the country, we explored the coastline, Helsinki city as well as a few smaller towns and islands.

In today's post, I wanted to share my travels through this unique country, what I did and suggestions on places to eat, shop, explore and more! Be sure to watch my Finland Travel Vlog for more details and fun moments!

Discover Helsinki
Helsinki was such an interesting city and I can see myself heading there again for some more exploring. With Soviet-era architecture, the city is almost all cobblestone roads with large square terraces. The vibrant seaside city has a cool laid back vibe with lots of green spaces, bars, cafes and restaurants. Easy to explore on foot, Helsinki has some amazing shops like famous designer Marimekko as well as boutiques like Moko. The city is bustling but keep in mind that places often close early to make time for eating, drinking and chatting with friends in the evening.

Day Trip to Porvoo
The second oldest town in Finland is notable for its colourful river-lined houses, local artists and delicious food. With medieval cobblestone pathways winding through coloured house-lined streets, Provo is a perfect day trip outside of Helsinki. We took a bus to the town and spent the day walking through the town, stopping in at cafes, thrift stores and shops. The food in Porvoo was excellent, I highly recommend eating at Zum Beispiel. Scattered throughout the town are little sweet shops - my mom bought some sugar donuts and we also stocked up on some crunchy chocolate treats. Between the residential area and the town's main courtyard is a beautiful old church that I highly recommend going to if you're an architect junkie (like me).

Explore Sea Fortress Suomenlinna
This 3000-year-old UNESCO heritage site is the perfect day trip. Easily accessible by the ferry, located near the docks in Helsinki, the island is a walkable slice of history with preserved catacombs, cannons, fortress walls and heritage museums. Suomenlinna is also a residential area with working artists and other civilians. We walked the entire length to Kings Gate and had a pizza lunch in an underground cafe.

Stop for a snack at Cafe Regatta
Cafe Regatta is a cute little waterside cafe. Painted red with eccentric design choices, the cafe offers up warm drinks, desserts and some salty snacks. On our first evening in Finland, we stopped in here after exploring the Töölö neighbourhood in the warm evening. If you want something salty ask for a sausage - you get to grill it yourself over the outdoor fires!

Restaurant Mestaritalli
About a 30-minute walk from Regatta is Mestaritalli, a simple restaurant with a deck that overlooks the water. Since we had left our apartment so late, we decided to eat dinner here before heading out to the city to explore. The staff are all friendly and the food was beautiful, fresh and colourful. I had the smoked chicory root with lentils and my mom and sister had salmon (the bread was delicious).

Grab a coffee at Espresso House
Their version of Starbucks but better; this coffee house chain offers all your caffeine must-haves as well as dairy-free milk alternatives. My go-to was an oat milk latte or matcha latte. Oat milk is the new everything.

Rent an Airbnb near The City and Sea
We loved our little apartment in the Töölö area with close distance to both the city and the waterside. I think it's always good to stay in apartments since it helps you feel like a local, you get a better travel experience and the option to cook your own food. This two-room apartment was a 10min tram ride from the city centre and I highly recommend it and the area to anyone.

Stroll through the Farmer's Market
Down by the docks and the ferry boarding lies the lovely Helsinki Farmers Market. The vendors sell traditional Finnish treats, handmade goods (I bought a hat), artisan crafts and accessories as well as more traditional souvenirs. Farmers also sell their fresh produce (get the peaches) while the pop-up eateries serve hot plates and take-away meals.

Have dinner and go for a walk at Birgitta Hernesaari
Located on the Baltic Sea, this rustic restaurant serves up simple food made well. My sister and I had the caesar salad with salmon and my mom had a burger. We shared a bowl of potatoes and I highly recommend you do the same, they are a salty crispy delight. We took the bus from our apartment and spent the evening eating and walking by the sea. It doesn't get dark in Finland until about 12am, so people are out and about enjoying the slow-setting sun and warm weather.

Kulma Cafe
Located in the Design District, Kulma is an excellent place for food, drinks and a break at any time of the day. This two-story cafe is light and airy with fun hammock-style chairs on the upper level. The cafe serves amazing open-faced sandwiches (I recommend the avocado and kale pesto sandwich) and offers vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options; I would say almost all of the places we ate offered vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options.

In the end, Finland was more than I ever expected. From delicious food and coffee to stylish shops and interesting architecture. My mom, sister and I made so many memories and also a few bruises LOL. Thanks for reading everyone, stay tuned for my Estonia blog post coming soon!


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