PROMENADE: The Finnish Passeggiata
The shoreline leading south from the Helsinki Market Square is filled with cafés offering coffee, beer, champagne or a dog to pet. The views along the shoreline include the sea and archipelago on the one side, verdant parks and the fanciest neighbourhoods of the city on the other.
Arriving by foot: a 1km walk along the shoreline from the Helsinki Market Square.
Arriving by tram: take the number 2 or 3 tram toward Olympiaterminaali and step off at any stop on Tehtaankatu.
Kaivopuisto, wedged between the beautiful park and the sea lies the swankiest neighbourhood in Helsinki.
Eira, the second-poshest neighbourhood in Helsinki, is built on and around a small hill.
CLASSIC OF CLASSICS
The classic outdoor café in town since the Olympic year 1952. The café with several extensions is always packed. The best seats are outside. Grab a coffee and a bun from indoors and sit down to enjoy the sea breeze. The view to the island fortress of Suomenlinna is stunning. BTW look out for cheeky and ever-hungry sea gulls that suffer from serious food envy.
Breakfast, lunch, à la carte and Sunday brunch served.
THE PLACE TO BE SEEN
Mattolaituri is the only beach club in Finland and Helsinki. Beautiful young and older people with big sunglasses and a leisurely life. It is the place to show yourself as people from afar visit the bar for the nightlife.
When you feel like a glass of champagne and a sweet bite stop by at Mattolaituri. The name of the place, roughly translated as Rug Pier, originates in the floating piers next to the café where the city’s residents wash their rugs in the summer. Washing your rugs in the sea is as Finnish as the sauna. The ever-changing display of drying rugs and the scent of tall oil soap are a bonus for the café’s patrons.
MEET THE LOCALS
If you start longing after your dog during your visit in town the most gregarious dogs in Helsinki are often found in Café Compass.
Despite its size the tiny Café Compass has it all and is especially popular in the mornings among the residents of southern Helsinki. Compass is super local: local people and coffee ground in Punavuori and buns baked around the corner. Sit down and enjoy the sea view, funny names of the small boats tied to the dock and the flow of passers-by.
SUN, SEA AND – PIZZA
A surprisingly genuine feeling of archipelago only five minutes away by ferry: a boat filling station, outboard motor boats and a rocking pier. People hang out on the island at large tables and eat gourmet pizza. On weekend nights the restaurant changes to the wonderful Café del Mar where top DJs play, lovely people meet in a lingering atmosphere under the nightless night skies of Helsinki.
Skiffer Liuskaluoto. Accessible by ferry from the Merisatama dock, return ticket €6. Open: Depending on the weather in May. In June–August: Mon–Tue 11–22, Wed–Sat 11–24, Sun 11–20, weather permitting.
Café Carusel uses eco-friendly local energy, the sun and the sea water, for producing heat. Pretty cool! Café Carusel is the largest café by the sea with a spacious interior and a large sheltered terrace with a view over the small islands, Sirpalesaari, Liuskasaari and the artists’ Harakka. Finnish exports, i.e. skilled ice-hockey players, hang out in Carusel with their friends and WAGs, and also lure beautiful wannabe WAGs to the cafe. Carusel is the most restaurant-like of the seashore cafés and it is just fine to spend the evening on the terrace and get a little light-headed.
Hey, has that café burned? No, but it is the hottest café in the summery Helsinki. The walls have been burnt, yes, and the surface is coal. Built from timber the threepart café has been designed by architect Minna Lukander who won the Timber Building of the Year award for the café in 2014.
Birgitta’s sunny terrace is one of the finest in Helsinki. Find a chair, with a bit of luck it’ll be a Butterfly chair, and blend in with the locals. The café may seem a little chaotic but don’t fret, everything works out fine and the atmosphere is simply perfect. Nice, beautiful and light, food. The charcoal grill is on most of the day and night. Next to the café is the tiniest unofficial beach in town waiting for you to dip in.