Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Peninsula Promenade
For a breezy, salty seaside walk, consider this promenade around the Kaivopuisto Park
peninsula. Allow 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace. From Market Square, wander past the old
brick market hall and Tallink Silja terminal (with its huge ship likely at the dock) and fol-
low the shoreline pedestrian path. The first island you come to, Valkosaari, hosts the local
yacht club—NJK—the oldest in Scandinavia, with a classy restaurant (daily 17:00-24:00).
The next island, Luoto, is home to the posh Palace Kämp by the Sea restaurant (with
shuttle boat service). During a typical winter, the bay freezes (18 inches of ice is strong
enough to allow cars to drive to the islands—in the past there was even a public bus route
that extended to an island during the winter). The fortress island of Suomenlinna is in the
distance. The hill you're circling (on the right) is home to several embassies; ahead, Ursula
Café, with its fine harbor views, is good for a coffee break.
Around the corner, the next island, Uunisaari, belonged to the military until the 1980s.
Its unique plant life (much studied by local students) is believed to have hitched a ride all
the way to Finland from Siberia on the boots of Russian soldiers. The odd-looking pier
nearby is a station for washing rugs (those are not picnic tables). Saltwater brightens the
rag rugs traditionally made by local grandmas. While American men put on aprons and do
the barbeque, Finnish men wash the carpets. After the scrub, the rugs are sent through big
mechanical wringers and hung on nearby racks to dry in the wind. The posted map shows
11 such stations scattered around Helsinki. Buy an ice cream at the nearby stand and watch
the action (best in the morning).
In the distance looms Helsinki's big new West Harbor port, hosting 300 cruise ships a
year. From here you can follow Neitsytpolku street back to the town center, keeping an eye
out for fun Art Nouveau buildings.
Near Helsinki
Porvoo, the second-oldest town in Finland, has wooden architecture that dates from the
Swedish colonial period. This coastal town can be reached from Helsinki by bus (one hour)
or by excursion boat from Market Square.
Turku, the historic capital of Finland, is a two-hour bus or train ride from Helsinki.
Overall, Turku is a pale shadow of Helsinki, and there is little reason to make a special trip.
It does have a handicraft museum in a cluster of wooden houses (the only part of town to
survive a devastating fire in the early 1800s), an old castle, a fine Gothic cathedral (this
was the first part of Finland to be Christianized, in the 12th century), and a market square.
Viking and Tallink Silja boats sail from Turku to Stockholm every morning and evening,
passing through the especially scenic Turku archipelago.
Naantali, a cute, commercial, well-preserved medieval town with a quaint harbor, is an
easy 20-minute bus ride from Turku.
Shopping in Helsinki
The Esplanade: The Esplanade is capped by the enormous, eight-floor Stockmann
department store, arguably Scandinavia's most impressive (Mon-Fri 9:00-21:00, Sat
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