During the Christmas of 2017, a year after going to Prague and Poland together, and after almost a year of living apart, I travelled to Helsinki to meet up with my roommates from when we lived in Spain. At that point Shaina had been living in Italy, getting Italian citizenship, and Vera was spending another year in Spain, this time in the Granada in the south.
I’ve heard Helsinki is boring and there’s not much to do in Finland. I can’t speak for other times of the year, but we did something awesome in Finland – we went to see the reindeer.
An easy half day trip from Helsinki, you can get to Nuuksio Reindeer Park. It’s about an hour on public transport, and so worth the trip. I’d never seen reindeer before, and in the environment in Nuuksio it does feel so magical and Christmasy.
Getting to nuuksio reindeer park:
You can take commuter trains U, L, E from Helsinki Railway Station to Espoo (8 stops/25 min) and then bus no 245 from Espoo to Nuuksio. The bus stop at Espoo is right next to the train station. Ride the 245 bus until the Punjobsuo stop (27 stops/23 min). Walk a little bit forward and turn right after the crosswalk – you’ll see a sign advertising for the Reindeer park!
Getting back we had a bit more trouble as we had looked up the 245 bus schedule and obviously written it down wrong. The bus doesn’t run very often and we were waiting in the cold for about 45 minutes. I’d suggest asking the people working at the reindeer park to advise on the next bus, so you can avoid this.
The park itself is small but so lovely. When we went it was just the three of us and one other small group. You can feed the reindeer, pet them, and there’s a candlelit hut with a fire pit where you can warm up and enjoy some warm cider or mulled wine. I think I recall being given some chocolate as well.
If you have more time (and money) than us, I would have LOVED to stay on site in one of the two iglu huts. These handcrafted huts are made from natural materials and look so cosy. You can feed the reindeer right from your window – there is a national park trail just around the corner that is meant to be a gorgeous walk as well. If I ever go back to Finland in the winter, I’ll definitely do this as a night in nature would be so wonderful.
The rest of our time in Helsinki was spent wandering around and taking in the city slowly. We went to Stockmann Shopping Centre, as it was quite festive and I bought a few decorations from that I look forward to putting out every year. We ate at Restaurant Savotta and spent an afternoon wandering around the stalls in the Helsinki market where there were tons of adorable handcrafted items.
Where to eat:
We had dinner at Restaurant Savotta, which was delicious and the place was adorable. It was like having dinner in someone’s house – traditionally decorated with Finnish furniture and rya rugs and the table settings were perfect. I wouldn’t miss this place on a return trip!
We also had dinner at Café Engel, which had great food and was perfectly located just across from Senate Square – where the Christmas Market is.
For breakfast, going to Regatta Café is basically a requirement. Traditionally Finnish and is right on the water, full of decorations, a fireplace, candles and is possibly the cosiest café I have ever been to. Go here and get the cinnamon roll – you won’t be sorry!
We stayed at Eurohostel, which was a cheap and cheerful option with a free sauna in the mornings. It’s a five minute tram ride to the city centre, and the trams are so easy to use in Helsinki it made getting in and out super easy.
To/from the airport: This is really easy as well. It’s one train that takes about 30 minutes between the city centre and the airport. Two trains connect the two: Line “I” train: Runs via Huopalahti to Helsinki Central Station. Line “P” train: Runs to Helsinki Central Station via Tikkurila. See their schedule here.
Though we only had two days in the city, we packed in so much and had such a lovely time getting in the holiday spirit. One thing we didn’t have time to do but wished we had was visit the Winter Garden. It’s meant to be a bit of an oasis in the middle of the city and we were sad to miss it.
Devastatingly, I haven’t seen Shaina in person since, PROBABLY TIME TO SORT THAT. Instead of Africa 2020 maybe London-for-my-wedding 2020?