1 Week Travel Guide (Finland)
Coming from a tropical country, I’ve come to love the winter season in any destination — so when the tourism board of Helsinki 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 that I would be doing… but when I asked about my itinerary, the tourism board said that it was a ‘secret’ and that I would know why once I get there. For sure, it was a crafty way of building suspense in me.
22nd of February — I landed in Helsinki and they finally divulged why they didn’t give us a travel plan at the start. Apparently, it was because they have been amassing a lot of sponsors up until my arrival, and with the pack of free tickets that they have acquired for us, I can then have the freedom to plot my own week-long itinerary!
They slowly sprawled out all these ‘goodies’ on my apartment’s table — invitations from various attractions, tour providers, and restaurants all throughout the city — and I couldn’t help but feel that it was Christmas all over again!
You bet that I had a tough time plotting my activities at first (there were just far too many awesome things to do!). In the end, I managed to squeeze all the top things that I desired to do in my 7-day stay. Here’s how it went for me!
» Quick Travel Planning
Faroe Islands Itinerary
» Day 1
After a 2-hour flight, I was ushered into my Helsinki Secret Residence for the week: an Aallonkoti apartment that was located in the heart of the city.
It was easy to fall in love with this space because though the room was modernly furnished with a touch of an artistic ‘quirk’ as it still retained the coziness and warmth of “home“.
I especially loved how there is a huge balcony as well that gave me a clear view of the city skyline that was wrapped in white velvet snow. In fact, I spent some time resting on the balcony as I savored how lucky I was to have been able to start off my Helsinki winter itinerary on a great note!
Afterward, I proceeded to plot my itinerary for the next days as I joyfully flipped through all the tickets that were given to us. Since it was already nighttime at this point, I decided to take a leisurely stroll around the city as I went off and grab dinner in one of the restaurants that wanted to offer complimentary meals under the Helsinki Secret scheme.
I felt like eating ‘comfort food’ and so I picked a restaurant called: Naughty BRGR… and OMG their burgers and fries were divine!!!
A lot of Finnish people were also crowding up this place so it really seemed like one of those places that locals frequent to. If I have to give you a tip, make sure that you order their sweet potato fries because these were sinfully good.
After the hearty meal, I proceeded to stroll around the city during the night and I was absolutely blown away by how picturesque and ‘hip‘ Helsinki was.
In all honesty, I expected the city to be olden; and though it still has its old infrastructure, it was easy to see how the metropolis has such a unique and energetic vibe what with all the modern architectural wonders, cafe culture, and bustling crowd.
I was definitely off to a good start!
– – –
» Day 2
Since I’m an outdoor buff, my agenda for the day was to go and hike through the area of Nuuksio. The Helsinki tourism board provided me with a thick parka for the whole of my Helsinki winter itinerary stay and it was a sure lifesaver for the cold!
I took an hour-long bus first to Haltia Nature Centre where I got to learn more about the flora and fauna not only in Helsinki but the whole of Finland.
I learned here that the north of Finland which is above the Arctic Circle usually doesn’t have any sun (only a few hours of twilight around noon) for a month or more during winter. It’s typically referred to as a polar knight in which the Finns call it as ‘kaamos’. (I seriously can’t imagine having no sun for months!)
Once I had my fill of information, I sought out a nearby hiking trail. The staff at the nature center told me that there was one that passes through Lake Pitkajarvi. As I set off on this adventure, every step I took in the snow made me realize how I might actually prefer hiking during winter instead of the other seasons because the surroundings looked incredibly magical and mystifying — and best of all: I don’t sweat!
On my trail, I chanced upon a spot where several other hikers were eating or taking up some warmth from a fire. Later on, I even found a lodge by the side of the road that I savored for myself!
At one point, however, I ended up walking in the wrong direction. The trail was supposed to be on the other side of the road over the thicket of trees, and so I had an idea that I can just traverse through it in order to end up on my desired trail.
It sounded like a brilliant plan — but as I walked through it, I couldn’t help but start laughing because I failed to take into account that there would be tons of fresh snow piled up. So imagine, every step I took would make my feet plunge right through the ice, and the effort it took to move my feet felt like I was threading through water! In short: it was a bit tiring.
Thankfully, I managed to go through and get on the right trail. Though it was fun and ‘adventurous’, I should never do that again. *laughs*
Right before the trail ended, I made it to a viewing platform that gave me a great view over the lake, and I surely took my time savoring the picturesque landscape. It was really spectacular and as I stood there, I distinctly felt how I was slowly falling in love with Helsinki.
Afterward, I headed off to the bus stop and it was here that I suddenly remembered how I have never built my own snowman yet! I took advantage of this ‘free time’ as I proceeded to build a small white guy — isn’t he adorable?!
Come night time, I headed off to dinner at Kappeli in order to try Finnish dishes. This restaurant was conveniently located in one of the big parks in the city and it was an elegant establishment. I ordered a classic tattikuorrutettua or reindeer fillet and it was a superb dish with a very gamey taste. (I was a bit apprehensive at first about eating reindeer meat; but I thought, once should be enough! I’m glad nonetheless that I tried it.)
To cap the night off perfectly on my Helsinki winter itinerary, I went on to try a typical Finnish sauna experience.
DID YOU KNOW? Finns have an immense love for saunas! It has become a substantial part of their culture — NOT as a luxury but more of a necessity. So it’s a must-do should you ever head to Finland. Apart from private saunas that are located in hotels and apartments, there are also public saunas spread out across the country.
– – –
» Day 3
For this day of my Helsinki winter itinerary, I went off to tour the town. I visited places like the Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Church), Sibelius Park, and the Finnish Museum of Natural History.
» READ: Top 10 FREE Things To Do in Helsinki, Finland
Come afternoon, I went on to Radio Helsinki to be interviewed about my experience in the city — YES. You read that right! I did a radio interview and it was my FIRST time doing such a thing. It was even done LIVE and you cannot imagine how nervous I was! I was pretty sure that I was going to trip over my words or say something incredibly stupid on air.
To cut the story short: it went fine. But boy… was I a bundle of nerves! And because I’m extremely shy, I will not share the link to the interview — ha!
As if that wasn’t enough, on the next day, I was called by the Helsinki Secret team and they asked if it’s alright for me to go through another interview with a different station, Radio Suomi. Every fiber of my being didn’t want to do another one again, but I didn’t want to be rude so I said yes. Thankfully, this interview went a lot better than the first. Regrettably though, it was not recorded… boo!
– – –
» Day 4
On this day of my Helsinki winter itinerary, I went to the city’s classic cafe: Ekberg. I grabbed some pastries for takeout and then I ventured into the rest of Helsinki’s symbolic must-sees: Senate Square, Old Market Hall, Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, Kiasma Museum, Ateneum, etc.
» READ: Things To Do in Helsinki, Finland
When the night crept in, I used my free tickets to watch a music show at Helsinki Music Centre (Musiikkitalo).
– – –
» Day 5
Alas, the day has arrived for my snowmobile safari experience in this Helsinki winter itinerary! I was ecstatic about this because I have never tried riding a snowmobile — or any winter activity for that matter.
I’ve written about my experience with this in detail and you can read about it here:
» READ: Helsinki Snowmobile Safari Experience
For dinner, I took up the free dining offered by Meripaviljonki, a seemingly ‘floating restaurant‘ by the river. And since I can’t get enough of tattikuorrutettua, I ordered this dish yet again for the night.
As I headed back to the apartment, I noticed the Kallio open-air ice skating rink. Timely, the snow just started to fall too at that time so I thought: “I’ve never skated in an open-air ice skating rink while it’s snowing… Now ain’t this a bucket list that needs to be checked off?“
Needless to say, I went on to rent skates and had my fun!
– – –
» Day 6
Have you heard of the Baltic States? They are 3 underrated destinations in Europe — hidden gems if I may say so myself given how they are some of the least visited countries in the continent. So when the Helsinki Secret team gave me roundtrip cruise tickets in order to reach Tallinn, Estonia in just a matter of 2 hours from Helsinki, I jumped on the opportunity to do so!
Come read about my adventure in Tallinn here:
» READ: Day Trip to Tallinn, Estonia: A Short Cruise Away
In short: the city was a DREAM and I’m definitely planning on exploring more of Estonia in the future, as well as exploring the other 2 Baltic countries: Latvia and Lithuania. You should, too!
– – –
» Day 7
This was the last day on my Helsinki winter itinerary, and before I hopped on to my flight back to Brussels, I went on to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress to witness this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site deemed to be one of the biggest sea fortresses around the world.
Truly an iconic place in Helsinki, this is an activity in your itinerary that you should not miss!
Rest assured, this place I easily explored this on foot so it could be easily accomplished in just an hour for instance. (You can always take a guided tour in order to learn more details about the fortress and its history.)
• • •
Other Helsinki F.A.Q.
As a rule, service is already included in your bill when you’re in Finland. As such, tipping is not mandatory nor expected in the country; however, they also don’t mind being tipped if you’re feeling generous.
Finland typically uses two plug types: type C (two round pins) and type F (two round pins with two earth clips) and they operate on a 230V supply voltage with a frequency of 50Hz.
Please check their latest travel advisories page.
Want a detailed Helsinki travel guide?
For more info about the best months to visit, how to get around, etc. — come and read this Helsinki guide!
• • •
From my seat in the plane back home, I looked over fondly at Helsinki as it slowly dissipated from my view. I’ve written for probably so many times now about how I’ve fallen in love with the places that I’ve been to in my travels — and that will always hold true. I DO fall in love with every place, and Helsinki is one of those.
But as Fitzgerald would put it: “There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice” and sure enough, the way that I fell in love with Helsinki as I stayed there for a week was a unique kind of love that I will forever cherish.