Helsinki on foot
Nobody can march on an empty stomach, let alone a traveler out to explore a city. Eating local food with the locals is also a good way to get in touch with the culture of the country and in Finland, the best way to do that is hit the Market Square by the Baltic Sea and have a cup of coffee and a meat pie. And maybe some fresh berries to have as snacks on your walk.
From the market square, walk along the Esplanade park, and you’ll find yourself in the chart of Finnish soul. In the middle of the part, there’s the statue of national poet Johan L. Runeberg, the author of the national anthem, and across the street, there’s hotel Kämp, where Finnish cultural giants, such as composer Jean Sibelius and painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela held court in the early 20th century.
We’ll walk by Kämp, and its fine cocktail bar and instead pass Karl Fazer Café, which has served customers there since 1891.
It’s worth a stop, even if we’re still early on our walking tour. Get an ice cream or maybe a small bag of Fazer’s candy.
Glogatan 3, Helsinki
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Opening hours: Monday - Friday 07:30 - 22:00, Saturday 09:00 - 22:00, Sunday 10:00 - 18:00
You have walked 500 meters
Keep walking in the same direction and take a left and you will come to Ateneum, Fnnish national art museum where you can see what Gallen-Kallela did when he wasn’t sitting at Kämp with Sibelius and poet Eino Leino. Walk past the train station and you’ll arrive at the main street cutting through downtown, Mannerheimintie. And there should be a statue of the man himself, General Carl G.E. Mannerheim right in front of you.
Across the street is thew newly opened Amos Rex gallery, next to the Mannerheim statue is Kiasma, the museum of modern art, and behind it, Oodi, the new main library and a meeting point. Across the street, you’ll see the House of Parliament, and from there, the National Museum.
You have walked 1.3 kilometers
This is where you have to ask yourself a question. Am I a walker, or am I a stroller? Walkers cross the street at the Finlandia Hall and disappear into the Hesperia Park shade, strollers take a left at Storyville jazz club. Walk along Museokatu, until you hit Restaurant KuuKuu because it’s time for a classic Finnish lunch, such as pea soup and pancakes or herring or maybe meatballs.
Museokatu 17, Helsinki
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You’ve walked 2.2 kilometers
You have now reached the halfway point. KuuKuu is a good spot for you to wait for the parts of your group who decided to walk the longer route.
Once you’ve walked into the park, admire the view over the Töölö bay and keep walking around the bay, counter-clockwise, like all the joggers you’re bound to see there. Once you’ve climbed the uphill on the opposite side iof the bay, you’ll get your reward. It’s a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun at the Blue Cafe, in the birch trees’ shade, overlooking the Opera house.
Well, well, no rest for the wicked. Walk around the bend until you come to the Winter Garden, which despite its name, is open year-round, and has been for over a century. From there, you can almost see the next stop, the Olympic Stadium, frointed by the statue of Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn, and a nine-time Olympic gold medalist (1920 Antwerp, 1924 Paris, and 1928 Amsterdam).
Cross the main street again and keep walking until you hit the Baltic Sea. Well, until you almosthit the sea. There, by the water, is another good opportunity to get a light lunch at Mestarittalli, or a cup of coffee at Airo. Once yo get to the bottom of that bay, take a left and walk alongside the park until you hit restaurant Elite, another classic Helsinki restaurants and the hangout of A-list local celebrities. (Just two blocks from KuuKuu, so you may want to set up a meeting here instead).
Another classic Helsinki restaurants and the hangout of A-list local celebrities.
Eteläinen Hesperiankatu 22, Helsinki
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Opening hours: Mon - Thurs: 11.30 am - 11:00 pm, Fri: 11:30 pm - Midnight, Sat: 1:00 pm - Midnight, Sun: 1:00 pm - 11:00 pm. Kitchen closes 1,5 h before the restaurants closing time.
After lunch - Salmon soup with toasted rye bread, anyone? – It’s time to meet up with the rest of the group at the Rock Church. Yeah, baby! The Temple Square Church, as its proper name is, is referred to as the Rock Church because it’s built directly into solid rock.
You’ve walked 2.5 kilometers / 7 kilometers
It’s time for some nice urban walking down the street, and Runeberginkatu is made for that. Heading south, if you look to your left, you’ll see the gigantic Kamppi shopping mall / bus terminal, and just behind it, the Mannerheim statue again, but keep walking. There’s SAS Radisson and just behind it, the Helsinki synagogue from 1906. Once you come to a 19th century building, the Alexander Theatre, named after the Russia tzar Alexander II who gave his permission to bulld a theatre in Helsinki, take a right to the Boulevard.
Possible stops: Sinebrychoff art museum. Salve restaurant. Hietalahti Market. Seafood restaurant Merimakasiini).
Walk through Punavuori. Aim at the sea again. And there, right on the waterfront, there’s a big wooden building. That’s Löyly, a restaurant and a sauna. (Löyly is Finnish for the heat a sauna generates).
Stop. Admire the view over the sea, and the city.
This urban oasis is a sauna and restaurant located on Helsinki's waterfront.
Hernesaarenranta 4, Helsinki
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You have walked 5 / 9.5 kilometers
Follow the coastline and turn left at Laivurinkatu and follow the street until you come to Johannes Church, the second most popular wedding church in Helsinki. (The big white cathedral you saw from Esplanade Park is the most popular). Then return to Boulevard, walk past the old cemetary, the Old Church park, also known as “Plague Park”, and turn left on Yrjonkatu. Follow it until it makes a sharp left turn. Walk into restaurant Torni and get one of their gorgeous cocktails, kick off your shoes (it’s allowed) – and relax since you've now walked 7 / 11.5 kilometers.
Relax and enjoy a cocktail at the restaurant Torni after a long day of walking around beautiful Helsinki.
Yrjönkatu 26, Helsingfors
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Published: May 27, 2019
Last edited: June 12, 2019