Helsinki is a lot of things. One of those things is really, really beautiful.
The city is located on the tip of a peninsula, with over 300 surrounding islands. During the summer, the water is really blue and the grass is really green, and you will constantly be questioning how and why nobody ever told you that Helsinki was so gorgeous.
But to be fair, Helsinki is a lot of other things too.
One of those things is expensive. I mean geeeez. A fast food burger was like $15. Luckily, we found a really great apartment on Airbnb and didn’t spend much on sights, but we did spend what I thought was a stupid amount of money on food for the couple of days we were here.
But I couldn’t be that mad because the food itself was pretty. Fresh salmon on Finnish rye bread, topped with sprigs of dill. (And quaint little food stands with tables right along the water sealed the deal.)
The food was pretty, the views were pretty, and my frugal brain was placated time and time again by how ridiculously gorgeous Helsinki is.
It is also super English-friendly.
Which is very good news because Finnish is tricky and even learning to say “hello” and “thank you” correctly (well, correctly enough) was rough. But everyone we talked to spoke English perfectly. Contractions, slang, colloquialisms. Ain’t no thang but a chicken wang to Helsinkians.
And while I don’t have a picture of anyone speaking to us in English, I do have a never-ending supply of pictures of Helsinki looking really, really pretty.
During our time in Helsinki, I also noticed that the fashion was super unique and non-conforming. Patterns clashed, fabric billowed, and hairstyles were bold, colorful, and asymmetrical. People often looked like carnies, or death metal band members, or models strutting bizarre fashion designer outfits.
While at first, I was frantically googling to see if there was some sort of “Wacky Wednesday” or “Summer Halloween” in Helsinki, I quickly realized that these were just normal people, wearing their everyday clothes. People weren’t afraid to experiment with fashion or wear whatever made them feel comfortable. And after some consideration, I decided there’s something really beautiful about that too.
I wasn’t gutsy enough to snap a picture of the guy with a full face tattoo and spiky hair standing next to me on the tram, but here’s a picture of Michael pondering his very “normal” clothes and hairstyle. And of course more lovely Helsinki scenery. (Have I mentioned how pretty this place is??)
The internet is also a crazy (and completely awesome) thing in Helsinki. Finland is one of the first countries to make internet access a legal right for all citizens, deeming it a basic human right and a necessity to thrive in modern society. As such, there is free, super fast wifi all over Helsinki.
One day, we stopped in a small coffee shop. After connecting to the wifi, Michael’s eyes got huge and I was legitimately worried he was going to stroke out. Apparently, it was just the fastest internet he had ever connected to in his life (aside from his internship at Google).
Now I don’t fully understand what 80+ mbps upload/download speed is, but I do know that I was able to load silly internet videos very quickly, which was wonderful.
Here’s a screen shot of the bandwidth (which Michael says is beautiful).
But since I have an endless supply of “Helsinki is gorgeous” pictures, let’s add one of those in for good measure too.
Helsinki also has some fantastic architecture.
One of my favorite things was the Chapel of Silence. It’s a giant, wooden, egg-shaped chapel in the middle of a busy plaza. The structure is made entirely from Finnish wood – including spruce, alder, and ash. Some people say it’s reminiscent of Noah’s Ark.
And the inside is completely silent. Like, you can hear your own heartbeat silent, and the slightest rustling of clothing sounds like it’s being projected through a megaphone. (Which made me acutely aware of how bad I am at sitting still and being quiet.)
Everyone is welcome to stop in, regardless of religion, philosophy, or background. It’s meant to offer a moment of respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It’s calm and peaceful, and makes you completely forget that there’s a busy plaza and crowded shopping center right outside.
(I feel like the US could use some of these, particularly on “shopping holidays” like Black Friday where SO MANY PEOPLE could use a minute to chill out. #SerenityNow, y’all.)
And there’s another church in Helsinki that is architecturally interesting and really beautiful. Though I’m partly mentioning it because it’s called the Temppeliaukio Church and it’s located in the Töölö neighborhood. (Is Finnish even a real language?)
No, but it’s also really pretty. It was made by drilling directly into the middle of a hill. So the walls are all natural rock and the top is a big copper dome. It kind of looks like a UFO or a prepper bunker from the outside, but it’s actually just a gorgeous church.
And last but not least! This city is bright (well… at least during the summer). The day lasts almost nineteen hours during the summer solstice. Which is kind of absurd.
There is SO MUCH SUN. I loved it, but it would also freak me out. I would constantly check my watch and then go to the window to see if it was dark outside yet.
We would legitimately forget to eat dinner, because we’d be walking around outside and it still seemed super early. Then one of us would think to look at the time and realize it was 10:00.
The sun would finally start setting around 10:30, but it wouldn’t be completely dark outside until about 11:00pm! It definitely threw off our circadian clocks, but we did get to see a lot of really, really pretty sunsets.
So while the Helsinki landscape itself was gorgeous, so were all the other parts. The food, the people, the architecture… and definitely the internet speed.
And now you can’t say that nobody ever told you. Because during the summer, the water is really blue, the grass is really green, and Helsinki is really, really beautiful.