In 2002 I traveled to Helsinki for a conference (my first passport stamp!) but Leandra had to stay in Georgia. Ten years later we were finally able to get Leandra to Finland when we found a good deal for Labor Day weekend. We arrived on Friday morning and after a bus ride to town and a quick shower at the hotel we were out exploring the city.
Our first destination was the Temppeliaukio Kirkko, also known as the Rock Church because it is built into a large chunk of granite. It can be touristy but still worthwhile to visit since it different than the standard European cathedral.
National Museum of Finland (former church)
After exploring the area we wound our way south to have lunch, then walked across the city to explore the east side near the harbor.
From the cathedral we walked to harbor with its enormous ferry ships and the open-air Market Square.
The neighboring Old Market Hall has stalls selling vegetables, cheeses, seafood, meat, sweets and even cutlery.
By mid-afternoon we decided to retire for a short nap. Feeling recharged afterwards, we made our way to Kasvitieteellinen puutarha, the Botanical Gardens.
[ Leandra’s Note: As is common in many foreign cities I was stopped in the gardens by two women asking if I was a local and could I help them pick out a place to eat that evening? I happened to have a list of places with me to recommend based on research we did before we got there. We spoke for a few minutes and I encouraged them to try Juuri even though it’s tiny and might be full. Serendipitously, the owners had a last-minute cancellation, so after their meal they came over to say thanks for the great recommendation! I love when things work out that way. :) ]
With our dinner reservation approaching we left the garden and turned south, along the way stopping to admire Johanneksenkirkko (St. John’s Church).
Helsinki is a fairly compact city that rewards exploring, and we tried to make the most of our first day in country.