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.
Address: Aleksanterinkatu 7, Helsinki
I became familiar with this place while attending an open university course at the University of Helsinki. It’s right on the university campus, but it’s a far cry from a school cafeteria. The cafe has been called an “urban living room”, and that’s an incredibly apt description. The small space has both eclectically mismatched retro sofas and small tables. The lighting is provided by hanging lamps with wicker lampshades. There is framed art on the walls, and enough potted plants to make the cafe look a bit like a greenhouse.
Ihana Cafe & Bar has a liquor license, meaning they can fix you up a cocktail as easily as a cappuccino. They have several hot alcoholic drinks too, like the hot toddy and Irish coffee. They even have “Irish tea”! I asked, and yes, it’s exactly what you think: Tea with whisky. The cafe’s liquors are all on display behind the counter on funky asymmetrical shelves, surrounded by a blackboard wall with a menu. Of course, Ihana Cafe & Bar also has plenty of food, including delicious handmade cakes and pastries.
Oh! And one more thing. When you first enter Aleksanterinkatu 7, you might be momentarily knocked off kilter by the posters that cover every square centimetre of the vestibule. Don’t worry, there IS a door there. Open it and you’ll be inside the cafe. ;)
Address: Siltavuorenranta 16, Helsinki
You’d be forgiven for walking past the entrance to Hunaja Cafe as you make your way along a tucked away street. You might be observing Siltavuorensalmi (Siltavuori Strait) to one side, looking over towards Hakaniemi. But don’t walk past the iron gate between a pale pink & cream concrete building and a red brick one! Walk a few metres into the alley, and the door to Hunaja Cafe’s premises is on your left. In the foyer, a chalkboard wall reads “Welcome to hima happiness” (hima = slang for home). Hunaja Cafe’s neighbour is a yoga and wellbeing studio, which explains the sign in the foyer asking for guests to remove outdoor shoes. I’m not sure whether it was strictly necessary to remove my boots to go to the cafe, but I did anyway. It’s a ubiquitous custom in Finland to remove your shoes when entering a home, so why not remove them when entering here?
Hunaja Cafe’s interior is as homey as you can get. There are lace tablecloths, a macrame wall hanging and subtle floral wallpaper. There are vintage items on display on a cute shelving unit, and not all of them are just for decoration. Appropriately for a cafe called Hunaja, you can buy a jar of honey from the Sipoo-based family company Kotikylän Unelma. Hunaja’s food selection is vegetarian and includes some delicious baked goods. I had a lovely piece of cake that had all the best qualities of being homemade, but was also decorated smartly with a blackberry and a cape gooseberry. In addition to cake, Hunaja Cafe also has lunch options and several choices of wine!
Address: Helsinginkatu 16, Helsinki
I had meant to visit Rupla for ages before I finally had an opportunity to do so. I am so glad I did! Behind the counter at Rupla, impeccable script on a chalkboard declares “the vibes live here”. They aren’t exaggerating. Rupla is quite a big space, and if you’re wondering why: well, it’s all the better to display this art in, my dear! There is art to see whichever way you look. The walls of the larger front room are covered in paintings and mixed media art made of yarn, records and ceramic tiles. Pop culture themes and bright colours abound. In the back room, be sure to look up! There’s a mural covering the entire ceiling.
I ate a slice of mango and whisky cake Rupla, and it was wonderful. The whisky wasn’t very prominent, but the cake was definitely moist and fruity. Rupla’s coffee comes from their own roastery, and it tastes great as well. I sat near the central buffet island during my visit, and I heard from a friend who I was talking to that Rupla’s lunch buffet is phenomenal. She praised the quality of their vegan choices too. Judging simply by how the buffet looked, I’m inclined to wholeheartedly believe her!
This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about cafes on this blog, and it won’t be the last. I will continue to explore Helsinki and find new cafes to rave about, but these three are ones I will make the time to return to.