Last night we checked into the Hilton Helsinki Strand, a hotel just near the centre of town. We caught the bus from the airport which dropped us off almost right outside the hotel. The hotel is also conveniently located next to the Metro and trams for easy access around the city.
This is our third visit to Helsinki . We love the city for the mix of mid 19th century architecture and the modern design aesthetic.
After a leisurely breakfast we headed outside. Directly across the road is the Helsinki Market Hall. The original building is being renovated so a temporary building is near the transport interchange. According to the hotel reception "this is where the locals come to shop". Although there are some tourist stalls (one selling products made entirely from cork, including shoes, gloves, phone cases and even a tie!) most of the stalls are food, ranging from fruit and vegetables to fish and meat such as reindeer salami and bear pate.
We caught the Metro to Herttoniemi to visit the Marimekko outlet store. Two Japanese women approached us as we were buying our metro tickets. They had Google Maps open on their phone and pointed to 'Herttoniemi'.
"Are you going to Marimekko?" we asked. We assumed this as there is always crowds of Japanese in the store.
"We are going too. Come with us."
The Japanese women were from Osaka. They seemed quite apprehensive about us knowing the way but were relieved when we saw the sign pointing to the shop, which is tucked away in a light industrial neighbourhood and off the main road.
The bargains were not as good as the last time we were there in 2015 but that is outlet shopping for you. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. We came away with 5kgs of fabric for EUR20 - lucky we have plenty of luggage allowance. Much planning is now in the making for cushions and possibly a duvet cover.
We returned to town and visited Helsinki Cathedral, the main Lutheran church in the centre of town. This is an impressive building on the outside - stark white with beautiful blue domes. Inside it is less so. All the walls are bare apart from the pulpit. Not even the interior of the dome is decorated. Having visited other churches in Finland we think this is a Lutheran thing.
From there we caught the ferry to Sumomenlinna (translation: The castle of Finland) a very scenic journey past some of the many small archipelago islands that make up the marine landscape of the bay. Sumomenlinna is also called the Sea Fortress. During the Crimean War the Anglo-French fleet bombarded the fortress and badly damaged it. The island is (yet another) UNESCO World Heritage site and was a garrison until 1973. The Ministry of Education and Culture now looks after the site.
We had a picnic by the water and then wandered around the battlements and the Baroque buildings. There is still a small population of approximately 800 private residents on the island and we saw many kids coming home from school. The church on the island was built when the Russians controlled Finland. It was substantially rebuilt as a Lutheran church in the 1930’s and doubles as a lighthouse - the only church-lighthouse combination in the world.
There are lots of museums, arts and crafts stalls and restaurants on the islands, mostly open during the summer. One could easily spend a whole day there. We had almost perfect weather (much better than on previous visits to Helsinki even in the middle of summer) and although it only got to 12 degrees we were dressed appropriately and never got cold. A lovely day - especially our walk back through cobbled streets and alongside the water with a beautiful rainbow to top off the late afternoon light.