There are many places in Helsinki for families with children, from Children’s Town in the Helsinki City Museum to a few locations of the Moomin Cafe. In the summer kids can play in the numerous public playgrounds, and in the winter there are indoor playgrounds of all kinds to check out.
But what if you’re a kid at heart, stuck in the body of an adult who wouldn’t fit on the playground equipment? I know exactly how that feels. Luckily there are places that are perfect for some wholesome fun, whether you’re ten years old or thirty!
Address: Fredrikinkatu 19, Helsinki
The phrase “like a kid in a candy store” becomes as true as it could ever be once you step into this store. It catches your eye already from the street with the red vintage bicycle they use instead of an A-frame to advertise. Then once you step inside it’s like a real-life Candyland board!
Roobertin Herkku has traditional Finnish candies such as “nekku“, plus all-time classics like chocolates, lollipops, marmalades, sours, pastilles, and fudge. There is also a generous selection of imported American goodies. There aren’t that many places in Helsinki where you can find Ring Pops and Red Vines! A definite focal point of the back room in Roobertin Herkku is the Jelly Belly dispenser. There are over twenty flavours of jelly beans!
Another focal point of the back room is a mural by Teemu Keisteri. A yellow man is living the dream and has gotten covered in a pile of candy. With his outstretched arms, he looks as if he’s trying to hoard the candy on the shop tables as well! Also setting apart this candy store is their selection of candy-shaped jewellery on display in the hallway between the two rooms. It’s made by the yummy-looking Finnish indie brand Elvari. Next to the jewellery is a selection of TY plush toys, which are nostalgic x100 for most kids who grew up in the ’90s!
Address: Albertinkatu 46, Helsinki
Yes, that name is real! It might be the first thing you notice about this store at the intersection of five streets in Kamppi. You can’t buy this toy at Pii Poo, but you can buy a motherload of Lego bricks! If you remember playing with these as a kid, have a browse around this store and reminisce. It’s a wonderland of Legos.
There are countless Lego sets to choose from, including pop culture themed ones. Right now there’s a whole corner of the store dedicated to Star Wars merchandise. If you’re not looking to build a replica of the Millenium Falcon, maybe you’d just like to augment your current collection of bricks? In that case, dig through the boxes of loose bricks (irtopalikat) that are sold by the bag.
There is a display of Lego minifigures that includes licenced characters and themed figures from Olympians to Hamlet to Santa Claus. There are also Lego masterpieces on display around the store. They have a replica of Helsinki buildings, a ski slope, a Disney castle, a huge Kylo Ren and more. A Duplo dragon guards the stores’ selection of merchandise for younger children. There was something new to see every time I turned around!
Address: Piispansilta 11, Espoo (Iso Omena) and Tasetie 8, Vantaa (Flamingo)
The popularity of both playing and designing games has exploded in recent years in Finland. In my new media master’s degree programme, it was possible to specialise in game design, and many other schools teach it as well! VR is also gaining in popularity as the technology is developed and pushed further toward its limits. So an arcade specialising in VR games was bound to pop up sooner or later. Pikseli Arcade fills this niche.
Except for some early VR experiments at Disney World like “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!” in the ’90s, I haven’t played with VR much. So I wasn’t brave enough to play any of the more intense games available at Pikseli. But I did try my hand at some classic arcade style games and some which were more like immersive experiences than games. My favourite thing at Pikseli was actually a short film called Senza Peso. It would have been beautiful even without the VR, but the VR was brilliant. It truly felt like I was rising and falling and sailing through a dark and ambient purgatory.
Perhaps that last one wasn’t so much nostalgia as playing into my current interests. But then again, of course, gaming isn’t just for kids! But for someone who doesn’t game regularly, or use VR regularly, perhaps going to a place like Pikseli Arcade can let you kick back and experience the world the way a child might. As kids, so many things are new and fresh to us, making them exciting and memorable. This was definitely exciting and memorable for me, so for a moment, I felt as if I was 10 years old again.
Every now and then it’s great to get away from the daily life of an adult and just have fun! Grab a bag of candy, build a Lego tower, and play a VR game. You can do all of those things in Helsinki if you know where to look.