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Discovering Finland: Helsinki area and Savonlinna

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Hey – did you know that there is a life outside Lappeenranta? Do you want to explore Finland, but have no idea from where to start? Or maybe, you have already visited Helsinki’s airport and got totally frozen in Lapland, but you would like to see what else Finland can propose to you? In this case, welcome aboard and let´s start our journey!

The first destination of the travel list is Helsinki. Not a big surprise for us! As the capital of Finland and the most populated city in the country, Helsinki can definitely surprise all travelers around the world.

The most recognizable historical sights of the city are the Sibelius Monument, Ateneum museum and Helsinki Cathedral. However, the city has much more attractions to propose in order to satisfy the taste of each guest.

What to visit: If you want to have an unbelievable sauna experience, make a visit to Löyly – a public sauna with fantastic views just next to the public beach of Helsinki and in front of the Gulf of Finland. The Löyly offers several saunas, a nice restaurant with a sea view and a possibility to jump to into the refreshing water just after sauna.

The next place worth a visit is the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress – one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world and one of the most beautiful attractions of Helsinki. It was founded in 1748, and nowadays the fortress is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Suomenlinna sea fortress

The best time for visiting is autumn, due to the combination of nature colors and the fortress. Believe me; your Instagram followers will love it!

Please, if you have one extra afternoon in Helsinki area, do not miss the chance to visit Porvoo, the most charming city of Finland. Just take a walk through the city center and enjoy the magic of the ancient wooden Finnish houses. Have a cup of tea or coffee (typical Finnish drink) on one of the streets and relax for a moment.

Where to eat and drink: Helsinki has an enormous amount of places to eat and drink for groups of friends and couples. I will just write my personal top 5 places – Fazer Cafe, Casa Italia, Apéro, Naughty Burgers and Molly Malone’s Pub. To experience the true Finnish dishes, make a visit to the Old Market Hall located at the main harbor of Helsinki (it is closed on Sundays). Best fresh salmon sandwiches and the tastiest pullas are there waiting for you!

Helsinki Main Harbour

Next destination will probably surprise you, or maybe you did not even hear about it. Nevertheless, here it is – Savonlinna. This small city is the oldest town in Eastern Finland and is surrounded by lake Saimaa, the most famous lake of Finland.

What to visit: The best sight of Savonlinna is the Olavinlinna Castle. Its history began in 1475 and was established by knight Erik Axelsson Tott. It was attacked several times by Russians (the 1st and 2nd Russian-Swedish wars) and was occupied by them twice.  Due to its long and tremendous history, the castle has a lot of stories and secrets to tell its guests.

Savonlinna is a great place to make a small walk and enjoy the lake views. It consists of several islands; therefore, you will always end up at the lake. The architecture of Savonlinna´s city center is an extra enchantment!

Olavinlinna in Savonlinna

Where to eat and drink: Compared to Helsinki, Savonlinna has much less places to eat and drink. However, some of them deserve a recognition! My favorite places are Alegria cafe, Sillansuu bar and cafe ALKU.

Of course, there are still a lot of cities and places to visit, such as Turku, Tampere, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Mikkeli and so on. I hope that this article will push you to explore Finland and find your own favorite attractions and places. Take your backpack and start to travel now!

Just to make a preparation for a trip easier and faster, several tips from a traveler:

  • To find cheapest bus tickets, check Savonlinja and Onnibus. It is better to book tickets in advance. Matkahuolto is generally more expensive, but sometimes it has nice offers.
  • Train is the best option for comfort travelling, but it is more expensive compared to other options. However, if you plan a trip in advance, you can find special offers. Trains are operated by VR.
  • Make a plan for a trip before actual travelling. In order to choose the best options for you, make a web search, for instance at Visit Savonlinna, Lonely Planet or Kallio Helsinki Guide.

It will give you an inspiration about what to do in a city.

  • For choosing places to eat or to drink, you can just try your luck and choose randomly or check in advance. Useful websites are Tripadvisor, Food from Finland and Visit Finland.
  • It is also important to check the working hours of museums, parks and restaurants. Museums commonly have one non-working day per week (usually on Mondays).

The last but not the least, be positive and open for new experiences. There is a possibility that something will not go how you expected – the weather is grumpy and rainy or a museum is unexpectedly closed. But do not get upset, a lot of other sightseeing is waiting for you!

Kirjoittaja

Veronika Bogodist

The writer is a Master’s student from Russia, traveler and wine lover, who is passionate about the environmental protection.

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