Finland is a land of coffee. But if you look around in Helsinki, you can find some amazing oases of tea as well. Teen ystävät ry (Friends of Tea Association) has compiled a list of tea shops in central Helsinki. They have appropriately dubbed this area the “Tea District”. The area stretches from Kamppi in the west to Katajanokka in the east, with most of the chosen tea shops congregated in this corridor.
I’m a huge fan of tea and thus living proof that a love of coffee and a love of tea can happily coexist. Below I’ve gathered three of my favourite tea shops/tea rooms in Helsinki.
Sometimes when cities expand, the rapid growth is a two-edged sword. On one hand, thriving industries and healthy populations of residents are great. But when many new buildings are made at a quick pace, the end results tend to favour function over form. What you’re left with is a concrete jungle of grey boxes, devoid of colour and life.
This is where street art can play a huge part in bettering a city. When cities allow – or better yet, commission – artists to paint murals on their grey concrete boxes, so much character is added. Art makes both private and public spaces so much more inviting. It can totally change the vibe of a neighbourhood for the better. Below are two cases of street art doing just that in the Helsinki area.
This week the backstory of my post is deeper than just sharing my favourite places. I’m still sharing some of my favourite places, but all of these places have an important connection. This week, I will share cafes in Helsinki which contribute to good causes. This contribution can be in the form of donations to charities that the owners are passionate about, or a philosophy that they weave into their business model. All of these cafes show in some way that they value much more than just personal profit.
The inspiration for this post comes from a very important event that I participated in recently. On 24th March, there were hundreds of March For Our Lives protests held around the world. As you likely know, March For Our Lives is a movement for gun reform in the United States. A Sustainable Community organised a protest in Helsinki on the 24th. We marched in solidarity with the hundreds of other protests happening around the world. Helsinki might be thousands of kilometres from the United States, but we hope that every little bit of support helps bolster the efforts of the movement.
Click the link above to read the article on The Culture Trip’s website!
This week has been a whirlwind for me, with many endeavours going on in my personal life. So I haven’t been able to devote enough time to exploring the city and researching for a new article. But fear not! What I have done recently is finish a guest post for The Culture Trip, a wonderful culture blog based in London and New York. The Culture Trip hosts articles written by hundreds of contributors from around the world. These contributors offer insights into the niche aspects of their local cultures.
I decided to dive into the contemporary circus scene in Helsinki. I’ve been fascinated by the subject for a long time, and recently had my interest reignited through my visits to Suvilahti. Cirko – Centre For New Circus has its premises in Suvilahti. I’ve walked by the building several times, my eye always catching on the bright “Cirko” sign that stands out among the old factory buildings. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to share Helsinki’s contemporary circus scene.
There’s something so intriguing about vintage and antique shops that just draws me in. Of course, my love of history and retro aesthetics contributes to this intrigue. But even still, there’s something about seeing items that have existed for far longer than you have, undoubtedly connected to hundreds of stories from their many past owners. I love looking at vintage photographs – such as this collection from the Helsinki City Museum – and I enjoy listening to my father’s stories about his adventures from decades ago. Going into a vintage shop with this kind of mindset prepares you for a brilliant experience.
There are quite a few antique shops in Helsinki. Many of them are small, owned and operated by one person or family. You can also find some great retro and vintage items at Helsinki’s flea markets if you shop around! The basement of one of my favourite self-service flea markets, Punavuoren Patina, is a wonderland of antiques. Even chain thrift stores such as UFF stock vintage garments. UFF’s vintage pieces are conveniently separated from the contemporary stock in every store, often taking up their own room.
But if you’re keen to see stores full of decades-old merchandise of all kinds, the three below are amazing places to start.
This post will be a little bit different than what I usually do, but I’m so happy to write it! I wanted to shine a light on some Finnish female entrepreneurs in honour of International Women’s Day (on which I’m starting my first draft of this post). More specifically, female fashion designers who have their flagship stores in Helsinki. Finland has long been one of the world’s best countries for women to work in. Finnish women gained full political rights in 1906, and we had our first female president in 2000. This year, Helsinki topped a list of European cities for equality!
In the fashion world, Marimekko has long been Finland’s best-known brand. Armi and Viljo Ratia founded Marimekko in 1951 and the company has since empowered female designers such as Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Maija Isola. The latter is the creator of Marimekko’s iconic “unikko (poppy)” print.
Today, there are many more Finnish fashion designers gaining international attention, and many of them are women. I visited the flagship stores of three fashion brands headed up by women, and I’m eager to share them with you below!
When I started this blog I had to remind myself to not make every week’s post about cafes. Because honestly, I probably could. Cafe culture is going strong in Helsinki, perhaps fuelled by Finns’ insatiable thirst for coffee. Reviewing all of them might get a bit stale for all involved, so I’ve only done a couple of posts about cafes so far. But now, I can’t resist sharing a few cafes which I’ve fallen in love with in the last few years.
These cafes are not just ones where you drop in, grab a latte, and drink it on the go. You’ll want to order a bit to eat, curl up in a nice corner with a magazine or phone, and relax. You might even want to join the crowd of digi-savvy students and entrepreneurs who sit for hours and work on their laptops. These cafes have an indescribable ambience that keeps you there and makes you come back. Is it the creative but comfortable interior design? Is it the crowd of regulars? Or perhaps it’s just the awesome food and drink. Whatever makes these cafes so irresistible, I hope it’s never lost. The city deserves these little dens of wonder and delight.
Most of us sort our household rubbish and put paper, plastic, and glass in their appropriate bins. That kind of recycling is great, and we should definitely keep doing it (or start, if you haven’t yet!). But this is recycling on a whole different level. Helsinki knows how to recycle whole buildings! Well, technically “repurpose” would be a better word. There are several old buildings and industrial areas in Helsinki which have been repurposed to create centres of culture. We can transform any kind of space, from the sterile hallways of a hospital to the gritty machinery of an electrical plant. And theatres, art galleries and working spaces rise from the ashes like cultural phoenixes.
I can’t completely explain why I’m so attracted to these areas. Maybe it’s the concept of creating something new and flourishing out of a cold and abandoned space. Maybe it’s the intriguing juxtaposition of factory buildings and collections of fine art. But I really do love these locations. They’ve got an indescribable but infectious vibe. They may not look like much at first glance, but once you’ve spent some time exploring them, these places will draw you in.
I love fine art. I studied it for years, starting in high school. I’ve spent countless hours of my life covered in charcoal and paint, trying to remember the major “-isms” of the past few centuries. That being said, no one can deny that fine art is very well represented in the gallery scene already. The majority of art on display, from huge prestigious museums to indie galleries, is fine art. This is no different in Helsinki. For that reason, I’d like to shine a light on some galleries which showcase art not considered “fine”.
A working definition of “fine art” is necessary here. It’s a pretty fuzzy definition, so bear with me! The traditional definition of fine art is art which is made simply for the sake of having something beautiful. That is, art which does not serve a practical purpose. “Fine art” can be used in a contemporary sense as a foil to “commercial art”, or art which is made to sell something. This definition basically takes the traditional definition and expands on it in a specific way.
There is obviously a lot of overlap between fine art and commercial art, but things like graphic design and illustration are usually considered commercial instead of fine. Some curators of fine art might be – well, let’s be frank – a bit pretentious. So, unfortunately, they might exclude this kind of art from gallery exhibitions. But I’ve taken a good look through Helsinki’s art scene and gathered a few places where you can see this kind of art. It’s SO worth seeing!
Admittedly, I’ve never really celebrated Valentine’s Day myself. Also, it’s one of those holidays that isn’t very big in Finland, so it’s pretty easy to avoid floods of pink hearts and teddy bears in February. That being said, there’s one aspect of Valentine’s Day that I love: chocolate. Like a great many people, chocolate has me all atwitter, especially a lovely high-quality bonbon. I don’t eat chocolate all that often though, so when I do, it’s even more exciting and irresistible.
For this post, I decided to focus on shops or cafes that specialise in chocolate. All of these places have a glass case of chocolate bonbons and truffles as their crowning glory. Try not to salivate!