Helsinki is without a doubt the liveliest city in Finland. With a striking amount of people from all nationalities roaming the streets, you will never feel far away from home. In every other corner, you will spot some sort of “exotic” market, such as Asian or oriental food stores. Not to mention, the food scene is so colorful and vibrant that it really is difficult to just pick a place to eat. The night life is roaring, the people are friendly, the streets are safe… I could go on and on about all the pros of spending your college years in Helsinki.
Since I’m clearly a foodie, I will talk first about the food scene. There’s such a big range of options to choose from, that every time I want to eat out in Helsinki, it literally takes me about 45 minutes just to pick a place. The options vary from delicious, cheap street food to Nordic fine dining, which has been a trend on the rise recently. You’ll find places of all sizes for all tastes, but as always, it’s best to ask the locals for the hidden gems, as those places are usually the best ones! For a quicker solution, I strongly recommend that you visit one of the many market halls in Helsinki (my personal favorite: Old Market Hall). Indoors, not only will you have a warm place to enjoy your lunch break, but you will have many options in choosing your food, as the halls are usually packed with unique local delicacies that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
Speaking of things, you won’t find elsewhere, you will spot Helsinki’s observation wheel, also known as SkyWheel, in the center of the city. The wheel is your ordinary run-of-the-mill wheel: youhop on it and you’ll have a really nice view from the top. However, what makes the one in Helsinki special is that it offers the possibility to book a sauna while on it. Yes, you read that right, a sauna on a 40-meter tall observation wheel. There is only one sauna-gondola though, so book in advance!
Next up, my favorite monument, probably ever: The Sibelius Monument… there are no words. For some reason, the sight of that monument really stuck with me after seeing it the first time. It’s a monument that was created in the 60s by Eila Hiltunen, and it’s made of over 600 steel pipes which form a shape that resembles a wave. The partially abstract monument was created in dedication to the renown Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, from which it also got its name. There’s truly aren’t words to describe its magnificence, you have to go and see for yourself.
Not to be cliché, but you absolutely have to visit some of Helsinki’s museums. There are a few boring ones, of course, but Helsinki is home to some of the most unique museums. Art museums are very big in Finland, especially contemporary ones. Personally, I would recommend that you check out Kiasma. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through all the beautiful pieces of Finnish contemporary art. Another museum you have to see is the Design Museum. Let’s face it, Finns are known for their minimalist designs, so going to Helsinki and not visiting their Design Museum would be like… like going to Hawaii and not going to the beach! Unheard of.
As somewhat of a side note, I also have to mention the lovely Suomenlinna, which is technically not in Helsinki because it’s on an island just off the coast. It’s a 15-minute boat ride from Helsinki’s shore, and totally worth the visit. Suomenlinna island, literally translates to Finnish Fortress, named after the old fortress sitting atop it. In fact, the fortress spreads out through 6 small islands. The fortress was built in the 18th century, and is nowadays in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Other than the fortress, the island is quite lively with people, either residents or tourists, and there are some fantastic views that deserve endless Instagram pictures! Let’s just say, there’s a reason Suomenlinna is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Obviously, there are many, many, many more things to do and see in Helsinki (there’s an Olympic Stadium!). But I simply cannot condense all of that information into one simple blog post. When you do visit Helsinki though, make sure to walk around on your own a bit and explore the wonderful city. You will, without a doubt, discover many of the secrets it holds.
Best of Finland is a series of blog posts that Edunation has created in order to familiarize our readers with the main attractions to be found in Finland. The blogs will be all about the Finnish destinations in which you can study through Edunation, both the big cities and small towns.
Even though Finland is a relatively small country, it has managed to top the world rankings in pretty much everything, from education to life satisfaction ratings. Thus, we’ve decided to gather up a few things at which Finland ranks highest worldwide.
If you’ve ever heard anything about Finland, you’ve heard that they have the best education system in the world. Finnish schools have consistently stayed at the top of worldwide education rankings. Most of this is due to the fact that Finns have a completely different system from the rest of the world, when it comes to teaching. Students have only 30 minutes of homework, and only 3-4 hours of lessons per day. Moreover, Finland doesn’t have the traditional school subjects such as mathematics or physics!
Finland has been ranked as the safest country in the world, because of the extremely low crime rates. It’s also worth noting that the Finns’ trust in their police is the highest in Europe! There’s many other safety-related things where Finland ranks highest, including being the most stable country in the world, best governance in the world, the most independent judicial system, safest banks in the world etc.
Finns are the fifth happiest country in the world! The factors that played a role when calculating this were the GDP per capita, life expectancy, perceived freedom to make life choices and other such things. Finland is also a very desirable destination for women, as it is the second most gender equal country in the world, and the second best place in the world for mothers.
As mentioned, mothers’ and children’s well-being in Finland are the second best worldwide, and maternal mortality is the lowest in the world! Furthermore, Finland has the third lowest mortality rate from cancer. It’s also at the top of the lists worldwide for the highest life expectancy at birth.
Last but not least, here’s a couple reasons why visiting Finland would definitely be a good idea.
When I first decided I wanted to study in Finland, I only knew three things about it: It has the best education system in the world, it’s expensive, and it’s cold. As soon as I stepped on the Finnish ground, I found out something else about it too: it’s super clean. Seeing as I didn’t know pretty much anything about Finland, I had braced myself for some serious culture shock.
Coming from Kosovo, a developing country, I was bound to notice a lot of differences between my home country and Finland. The whole process of coming to Finland took a lot of unexpected turns. At first, I kept repeating to my parents that I needed to buy lots of winter clothes because I didn’t have enough to last me a whole year. I packed my bags full of skiing clothes, thick jackets, scarves and woolen shirts. I regretted that decision as soon as I arrived; turns out September is actually warm in Finland. I had to borrow clothes from my roommate for quite a while, before it finally turned cold by the end of November and I could start using my endless supply of winter clothes.
Upon arrival, I thought I would never get used to the quiet atmosphere of Valkeakoski, a small town where my university was located. The first few days, every time I went for a walk, I was reminded of the fact that Finland was completely different, not only from my home country, but also from all other European countries I’d visited. There was a certain air of morality and honesty here: everyone tries to be helpful, people don’t stare, they don’t lie, and no one will try to steal anything from you! The latter was especially hard for me to fully grasp. I remember this one time during my first few weeks in Finland, I was in class when I suddenly remembered I had forgotten my phone in the school’s cafeteria. I started freaking out that someone must have already stolen my phone. All my Finnish friends were looking at me weird (later, they told me they were trying so hard not to laugh at my unnecessary panic attack). It goes without saying that my phone was still in the cafeteria, just where I’d left it.
Another thing that came as a shock were the staggering prices. I mean, Finland is expensive even when compared to other EU countries, but I came from Kosovo, one of the cheapest countries to live in! The steep prices were extra shocking for me. Soon I found out this wouldn’t be a problem if I had a job in Finland, as the wages are more than enough to cover all expenses.
With every passing day, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for me to have some sort of breakdown from the cultural differences. After all, everyone I had talked to since I’d arrived kept asking me “How are you handling the culture shock?” with a sympathetic, almost sad, look in their eyes. Yet, as time went on, I found myself growing accustomed to this wonderful place. It felt like home. I had made such an amazing group of friends, my professors were great, and I’d even discovered cheaper stores to shop in! My visits back home became fewer and shorter, and my stays in Kosovo were mostly spent missing Finnish culture. I missed the people, the food, the sauna nights, the nightlife (they throw parties on cruise ships to Stockholm!), I even started missing the weather… to put it simply, I missed the life I’d built in Finland.
While I’d also been accepted to study in the UK and the US, I had nonetheless decided Finland would be better suited for me, and I’d been right. Finland truly is one of a kind. The quality of education here is a delight to experience. Your professors are more your friends than they are your superiors. You call each other by first name, as you would with friends, you go out drinking with them, you mock each other, you share inside jokes… All the while, these people are giving you the best tools to grow and enhance your academic future and career. It is the best of both worlds.
Written by Morea Ibrahimaj
Finnish people consume more coffee per person than does any other nation in the world. Coffee culture in Finland is a very important part of the daily life and in Helsinki, for example, it is practically impossible to turn a corner without passing by a café or three. Here are some of the coziest spots in the Finnish capital, where you can experience the true Finnish culture and enjoy a cup of delicious coffee.
Kolmas Linja 17, 00530 Helsinki
Their slogan is ‘avoid bad life’ and fittingly, as this cozy coffee bar is dedicated to make every cup great along with pastries from some of the best local bakeries. Try their special “Päivän suodatenkahvi” (filter coffee of the day), as displayed on the clipboard next to the record player. As the barista said, “filter coffee is kind of our thing.”
Pursimiehenkatu 29A, 00150 Helsinki
In the heart of the Helsinki Design District you’ll find the Kaffa Roastery. Kaffa doesn’t have tables, just bars, and it is located in the back corner of a larger building that sells vintage and designer housewares. Great variety of coffee, good design and hospitality – Kaffa has everything a perfect coffee place needs to.
Aleksis Kiven katu 12, 00500 Helsinki
This cute little café with a friendly and inviting atmosphere is a true gem. A family run business, this café is only open in the daytime, and yet still has managed to be a popular place among the city’s coffee connoisseurs, who savour the excellent brews.
Siltavuorenranta 16, 00170 Helsinki
Hunaja Café is a great place in Helsinki, selling vegetarian and vegan food, organically grown coffee, and fresh smoothies. The café also has an incredibly relaxed, homey feel, requiring visitors to leave their shoes at the entryway, and with the interior more closely resembling a living room.
Kanavaranta 7C, 00160 Helsinki
This big Swedish specialty coffee roaster Johan & Nyström has opened its first shop in Finland and is located right on the water next to the Uspenski cathedral, near the presidential palace, and other tourist attractions like the Kauppatori market square and Helsinki cathedral. Outside, views of Kruununhaka, with many sailing ships and modern yachts and power-boats sharing harbour space. Not only the spectacular views, but also they offer a range of coffees and treats in a cozy, warm atmosphere with friendly staff.
Summer has arrived. It is the time again to spend some time on the beaches with friends and family. We have listed some of the popular beaches in Finland for you to visit!
Yyteri is Finland’s longest beach, which stretches to four miles on the western Baltic shore. The beach itself is clean, white sand, and known for its beautiful sand dunes. There are many events and gatherings hosted on the beach throughout the summer and other attractions such as spa and golf courses. It is one of the country’s most popular leisure destinations in the summertime. Part of Yyteri beach is one of the nude beaches in Finland.
Nallikari beach is an one kilometre long beach in Oulu. During summer time, the beach is crowded by roller skaters, athletes, cyclists, beach volleyball and football players. There are three volleyball courts, beach football field, playground for children, and gym equipment. All of these are free for visitors. More information on what to see in Oulu can be found here.
This beach, also called “Hietsu” by the locals, is probably the most popular beach in Helsinki. It has lots of sand and beach amenities, even if you didn’t pack all the beach gear in your suitcase. Just like the previous beaches mentioned, it is a great place to play beach volleyball. It even hosts a beach volleyball tournament annually. Note: this isn’t a natural beach. In the beginning of the 20th century this area was being used as a landfill and was converted into a sand storage.
Suomenlinna, which means “Castle of Finland” is an island near Helsinki. The fortress is also a UNESCO World Heritage site with an interesting history. It was built in 1748 to protect Sweden against Russia. Suomenlinna has more than this fortress; it also has a tiny beach. To be completely honest, don’t just go here mainly for the beach – because as a beach it is quite small.
Now you know about some of the best beaches in Finland, it is time to truly enjoy your summer. Go with your friends and family and enjoy the sun!