This is the second in a series of posts about my recent trip to Scandinavia. After our wonderful stay in Iceland, we took an early morning flight from Reykjavik to Helsinki Finland. We shuttled in to the city and made our way to the hotel. All of Scandinavia is very expensive but Helsinki would be the least expensive of the countries we visited. We had a studio apartment in an awesome old building with tons of character. We decided it would be nice to have a bit of a kitchen since we were there for 5 nights. We settled in and went out to find a grocery store to get some breakfast food and coffee supplies. My friend I was travelling with was particularly interested in Finland as her husbands family has roots there. Next morning we set off on foot for market square. It was quite a long walk as it turned out. We found the tourist info office and bought a Helsinki pass which gave us access to the Hop On Hop Off buses as well as reduced prices on some tours that we were interested in. We had a nice time wondering through the market square and shopping the booths. There were lots of hand made Finnish crafts there, as well as plenty of tourist “tat”. Their fruits and vegetables were wonderful.
Near Market Square, Helsinki.
We had a nice lunch and then boarded a bus for our tour of Porvoo. The bus picks up right at Market Square so really convenient. It was about 45 minutes to Porvoo. This tour was recommended to me by a friend who has family in the area and has been there many times. We are so glad we went. Such a lovely little town. It is a medieval town founded in 1346. The buildings in the Old Town are predominately wooden and the wooden storage buildings on the river have been proposed to be a Unesco Heritage Site. They are super cute. Our guide toured us around the Old Town and told us lots of stories about Porvoo. One of the things I like about travelling is learning about the areas I visit. The learning starts with all the research I do before the trip and then learning things as we go. Can’t get enough. We had some free time on our own and enjoyed browsing the shops there. We had tea and a treat at a lovely cafe and sat outside and enjoyed it. Then back to Market Square. We walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a meal at nearby restaurant.
Old wooden buildings in Porvoo.
Next morning we taxied over to the ferry terminal to catch the boat over to Tallin Estonia. I had been to Tallin before as it was one of the ports we went to on our cruise the year before. But Tallin is definitely a spot I did not mind returning to. It is a walled city originating in the 13th century and it is entirely intact as it was in medieval times. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is stunning. The streets are cobblestoned. We climbed the spiral stairs up to the wall which gives a great view of the town. There are lovely cafes, restaurants, bars, museums,galleries and shops. It was a bit of a rainy day on and off but we did get all over the Old Town. It has a nice central square. We did some shopping of course! Had a lovely lunch in out of the rain. On nice days you can eat outside . Then we walked back over to the ferry terminal and our sailing back to Helsinki. It was dark by then so again we taxied back to the hotel. There is a tram station close by there which we could have tried but in the dark when we weren’t sure which stop to get off, we taxied. We didn’t relish being lost at night wondering around the streets.
Old Town Tallinn.
Next day we took advantage of the Hop On Hop Off and toured around the city. By this time my friends cold she had picked up on the flight over was full blown. But she pushed through as one has to when on a trip. However by the next day it was now pouring rain and cold. She opted to hang out in the apartment and see if she could rest up and shake it off. So I ventured out into the rain on my own. I walked to the bus stop where the Hop On Hop Off stopped and found that it wasn’t going to arrive there for an hour. It seems they get a late start in Finland! We did find the Hop On Hop Off buses in Helsinki to be a bit confusing. There seems to be 2 different ones and it was hard to know which one we were to use and which bus stop to be at. So I walked back to Market Square and arrived a bit soggy. But not too bad. I took a ferry over to the Fortress of Sommelina. It began construction by Sweden in 1748. The fortress and the buildings there all date from different eras. The buildings dating from the Swedish and Russian eras are well preserved. I walked around and visited some of the buildings for about 2 hours but by this time I was getting pretty wet. So I took the ferry back to Market Square and had a bit of lunch and dried out a bit. My original plan was to take a boat cruise through the islands around Helsinki Harbour, but I felt it was raining too hard to really enjoy it and actually see anything. So I scratched that plan and took the bus over to the Museum of Finland. Always a good thing to do on a rainy day. I took a couple of hours to get through that, had a coffee in the cafe and walked back to the hotel. My best piece of advice if you are travelling in Scandinavia, is dress in layers. And one of those layers needs to be waterproof!
Like most hotels in Finland ours had a sauna. We took advantage of that and really enjoyed it. Apparently there are 5 million people in Finland and 3 million saunas! The Finnish people treat the sauna as a necessity of life. We went out for dinner and then back to pack up for our next part of the adventure! Stockholm!