Category Archives: Finland

Finland’s Pristine Nature: Interesting Natural Attractions

When visiting Finland you should not miss our pristine, beautiful and diverse nature with its exquisite hiking destinations. This summer we wandered in the nature quite often and were lucky enough to visit some of the most interesting natural attractions. Finland has 38 national parks spread around the country, offering everything between short hour or two walks to 80 km hikes, but also plenty of natural formations for a shorter visit are available. Most of them even located near to bigger cities that travellers usually visit.

Astuvansalmi rock paintings, Ristiina (Eastern Finland)

One of the biggest rock painting sites in Nordic countries, Astuvansalmi is well preserved and mysteriously showing a part of our history. The oldest paintings in this site date all the way back to 2500-3000 BC. I remember visiting this site many times during my childhood and this summer after who knows how many years, I decided to go back. The site itself is quite easy to reach, during summer you can go there by boat as the paintings are located in a shore, or then hike there through a forest – which will take around 45 min to one hour, depending on how used you are to walking in the nature.

The rock paintings haven’t made it to UNESCO World Heritage list yet, even though they were submitted on the tentative list in 1990. Regardless, they are very impressive and should not be missed when visiting Saimaa lake district in Eastern Finland.

Can you see the elk?

Nuuksio National Park, Espoo (Southern Finland)

Located less than hour away from Helsinki centre and accessible by public transportation, Nuuksio National Park is easy choice for a daytrip – even though the national park offers a lot for a longer hikes too. It is popular among people living in the metropolitan area, who wish to escape the busy city life and enjoy a moment of silence in the nature.

The Finnish Nature Center Haltia is located in the borders of Nuuksio and also worth of a visit. Suitable for both kids and adults, it lets visitors experience nature from all over Finland under one roof. Haltia is also the first public building in Finland built entirely of wood.

Trails are usually well marked in Nuuksio

Sammallahdenmäki, Rauma (Western Finland)

Bronze age burial site of Sammallahdenmäki is another spectacular historic and natural attraction, which features more than 30 granite burial cairns. Burial site dates back to 1500-500 BC and can offer an excellent insight into the funerary practices and social and religious structures of northern Europe more than three millennia ago. Basically it’s just rocks lying around in a high place, probably placed so that deceased could be closer to their gods and the sky – I’m not an historian, so I don’t know the exact story behing these but needless to say, the burial sites are very impressive and interesting. Sammallahdenmäki is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites we have in Finland and easy to combine with a visit to Rauma city, where you can find another UNESCO site, The Old Rauma.

Rocks and more rocks

This summer I got see plenty, but there is still so much more to explore in this, northern and extraordinary country of ours. Next summer I hopefully will get the chance to visit Lapland and do some hikes in national parks there. Finland is definitely a destination for nature lovers, and many of the sites are easy to reach from cities, which makes it possible to combine a trip to nature with city holiday.

Just one more thing about visiting Finnish countryside – the everyman’s right. It allows people of all nationalities to enjoy Finnish nature freely, acting respectfully towards the nature, properties and other people of course. You can check the rights and responsibilities within everyman’s right here.


 

Sources:

UNESCO WHC

Visit Mikkeli

Haltia

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Flea market razzle in Helsinki

It looks like the summer has finally arrived in Helsinki. June being rather rainy and cold most of the Finns escaped to abroad seeking warmer weathers, but luckily July came with a whole new climate. Past couple of days we have been able to enjoy warming temperatures and sunshine – which of course means that everyone is out on the move.

One of my favourite things about summer is visiting the street flea markets that pop up all around the city (and country) almost every weekend. During  the past couple of years these pop-up flea markets have become quite popular and more accepted by the local authorities, too.

This time the flea market we wanted to visit was held in Vaasankatu – a street well known of its shady bars and pubs offering cheap beer and being very popular among the strangest residents of the city, day and night. Vaasankatu is located in bohemian and lively Kallio district not too far from the Helsinki centre. It’s also easy to access by metro, as it starts right outside the entrance of Sörnäinen metro station.

I really like flea markets and believe in the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle. One’s thrash is another’s treasure, don’t they say? I think people are getting more and more conscious about issues bothering our planet and especially when it comes to travelling, we should think what is sustainable and what is not. I think it’s always better to support the locals by buying products directly from them and/or buying second hand stuff than putting your money on big chain companies. Visiting flea markets on your travel destination is one way to support the locals – and you probably get to find very unique and personal souvenirs.

For design fans I also recommend visiting different flea markets – some popular Finnish designer china such as Iittala and Arabia and older Marimekko designs can be found from flea markets and usually in a very reasonable prices. Especially Japanese seem to really love Finnish design and when visiting Finland they are totally after it – so act quickly or there might not be much left!

You might want to check the social media about street flea markets before arriving, but there are plenty of permanent flea markets in Helsinki area, here’s to name few:

 

Hietalahti flea market

Hietalahdentori, 00180 Helsinki

Located in Hietalahti market square. A classic, summertime outdoor flea market open 7 days a week, opening hours vary.

 

Jäähalli flea market

Nordenskiöldinkatu 11-13, 00250 Helsinki

Open saturdays and sundays from 9:30am to 1:30 pm, closed during summertime and if there’s other event at the ice rink

 

Lanttila

Porttikaari 2, 01200 Vantaa

Big indoor self-service flea market with clothes, old records, furniture, pretty much everything.. Located next to IKEA Vantaa – accessible from Helsinki centrum by bus number 734.

 

KABOOM! Self-service flea market

Aleksis Kiven katu 50, 00510 Helsinki

Runned by two flea market enthusiastics who wanted to bring something new to the “scene”. Closed on mondays.

There are of course plenty of other flea markets – and second hand shops around the city as well, most notorious of them called UFF (a second hand chain) – but I have to admit it’s not exactly my favourite, mostly because of the high prices.. The Finnish word for flea market is “Kirpputori“, so look around for it when exploring the city if you are looking for second hand stuff!

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Trying out urban exploration

Urban exploration has become rather popular, or at least, that’s what I hear all the time. I, too, got interested in it so during the past couple of days we have done some urban exploration sightseeing in our home city Vantaa as in Helsinki, too. I remember some abandoned places that I’ve visited when I was a kid but not many of the sites we have here in the capital area are familiar to me. Actually there was one quite near by where I live that I had not heard before – the Nissas estate. It dates back to early 20th century and it was burned down in 1930’s.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed when I saw the ruins – because the place had obviously been renovated! New roof, columns where painted and handrails had been installed. I don’t know what kind of plans the city has for the ruins but it seems like they wanted to make it more pretty – and maybe more safe as well.

I heard of another interesting place that is in Kartanonkoski, Vantaa. The area is very beautiful with rapids and nature around. Sadly, the abandoned mill wasn’t as abandoned anymore as we had thought it would be and we couldn’t get any closer look – some kind of renovations were taking place in there, too. It seems that someone has finally taking care of the property. This old mill in Kartanonkoski is located next to a busy road, so it’s not very hidden – maybe that’s the reason, why it didn’t stay abandoned.

There is one very strange yet beautiful place in Helsinki called Kruunuvuori. It’s not that hidden anymore as many people know already about it and I think the whole place is getting demolished sooner or later as new neighbourhood is being built right next to it – so now is the time to visit, before you miss it!

Villas in Kruunuvuori date back somewhere in the 19th/20th century I guess. Most of them served as summer houses for germans living in Helsinki. In the 1950’s a local businessman bought the villas, planning to build a new neighbourhood but the plans never worked out so the villas became deserted. Since then they’ve just stood there, alone, in the middle of the forest.

I have to say that Kruunuvuori is a very mysterious place yet somehow a little scary at the same time. Some of the buildings have gotten their part from vandalism and graffittis, and they serve as a secret party place for youngsters. I wouldn’t want to enter to any of the buildings though, as they were in a pretty bad shape.

Urban exploration sites are interesting and great for taking photos. There is just few things we should remember when visiting these kind of places – don’t break or take anything away. Leave the places as they were. Most of the old buildings aren’t very safe anymore, so it’s good to be careful and watch your step.

Some people like to keep the best hidden gems to themselves – which is good in a way, as the more untouched the places stay, the more mysterious and interesting they are. I think I’ll continue exploring, it’s a great way to have small adventures in your own hometown!

What do you think of urban exploration? Do you find visiting abandoned places or ruins interesting?

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Moving around in Helsinki

The northernmost metro station in the world – Mellunmäki station

Orange metro of Helsinki

Central Railway Station’s metro entrance

VR – Suomen Valtion Rautatiet (Finnish State Railways)

Glass ceiling at Helsinki railway station

Public transportation in Helsinki capital area is good. We have metro, buses, trams and commuter rail. During wintertime the public transportation might face some problems (usually if there is heavy snowfall), but other than that, I think it’s quite reliable. For visitors I recommend a day ticket costing 8 euros. A single ticket costs 2,50 euros (one zone), so if you are planning to use the public transportation many times during the day it will be cheaper to get the day ticket. Single tickets are also valid only for about an hour after purchase. Same ticket is valid in all five modes of transportation (bus, tram, metro, train and Suomenlinna ferry).

Explore other parts of the capital area too – for example you can take a bus to Tapiola, where Espoo Museum of Modern Art is located. Only in 15 minutes by metro from the center you can reach Itäkeskus, where is the largest shopping mall in Nordic countries. If you decide to stay in the center, try Spårakoff – it’s a tram converted into a bar! The pub tram in Helsinki has been claimed to be the only one of its kind in the world.

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Destination for metalhead travellers

I enjoy heavy metal music a lot. When I’m abroad, it’s only natural that I try to find places where local headbangers gather. Usually the place is a bar or a some kind of a club, maybe an open air festival!

Finland is also well known of its metal scene and bands. Not every Finn enjoys heavy metal music but I would say that metal is quite popular here. I think Finland is a great destination for someone who loves metal, because..

We have festivals!

Tuska Open Air, Steelfest, Nummirock, Jalometalli and Sonisphere are the biggest metal festivals held in Finland. Three of these are in the capital city or at least in the capital area: Tuska and Sonisphere are held in Helsinki and Steelfest in Hyvinkää, which about an hour away from Helsinki. Many other festivals (that aren’t mentioned now) also have some rock/metal bands playing, so a true fan has the whole summer booked with festivals every weekend. Most of the festivals are held in summer time, but we have plenty of other metal events, bands playing etc. during winter – and around the year as well, of course.

Tuska Open Air

If we are not spending our time in festivals, we are probably consuming refreshing drinks at metal/rock bars and clubs. I would say that every city has at least one place where metal fanatics are welcomed.

Our large variety of different venues, bars and pubs and clubs keep a metalhead traveller rather busy, especially if visiting Hellsinki, Finland’s capital. Tampere city is also known of its rock scene. Some of the places offer hevikaraoke – heavy metal karaoke. That one I only recommend to listen if you are heavily under the influence of alcohol.. If you are not into bars, you could try the metal mass.

We Finns tend to be a little reserved, quiet and not very talkative at first when meeting new people. But it doesn’t mean, that a fellow metalhead woudn’t be welcome here. We love travellers, who have come here seeking our heavy metal culture! Because it’s something, that we are quite proud of. It’s only about 5,5 million people living in Finland but compared to our population we have a huge amount of heavy metal bands. Many of them, famous abroad as well.

Visiting On The Rocks bar in Helsinki with Hungarian couchsurfer Anna last summer

Even though it seems that we are somewhere far up north, Finland is actually quite easy to reach. Helsinki-Vantaa airport in southern Finland serves as an important hub connecting for example Asia and Europe. Many airlines operate from North America with direct flights. From European countries it’s easy to come here by car (and ferry) as well, if you happen to like driving. Other heavy metal countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Germany are just couple hour flights away. So if you are planning to visit one of these, you could include Finland to your travel itinerary as well!

When I travel and search for a great metal spots, I like to use Metal Travel Guide. It’s a site, where users can rate places they’ve visited, read reviews and it’s possible to search venues/bars/so on that have something to do with the rock/metal scene. Here you can find the Finland section. Metal from Finland is a site concentrating on finnish metal bands and culture – this site might be handy as well if you are planning your next metalhead trip to Finland!

Heavy metal people all around the world – I invite you to Finland!

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