24 hours in Helsinki, Finland
This summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to Finland through my school and take a few courses at the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). Lappeenranta is a small city situated on the shore of Lake Saimaa (Finland's largest lake) about 18-19 miles from the Russian border. The city is quiet and quaint, surrounded by lush forests ideal for hiking or biking. It's the perfect place to get away if you're looking for a calm and outdoorsy atmosphere with a small but lively downtown, filled with plenty of restaurants, parks, and small shops. Because I was in class all week for about 8 hours a day, I did not get much of a chance to walk around and snap pictures. However, I did have a 24 hour stay in Helsinki (Finland's capital) before heading to Lappeenranta and thought I'd share some photos from my time there.
Helsinki Cathedral (my eyes are open I swear!)
Helsinki Senate Square
Helsinki is a city of design- trendy and charming- it attracts architecture enthusiasts from around the world (it was actually given the title of World Design Capital in 2012).
The city has a combination of both historical and modern architecture: hip cafes/ bakeries, seasoned cathedrals & museums, contemporary restaurants and shops and a handful of cobblestone streets scattered throughout the area.
I later found out, Finland only has a population of about 5 million people (about 3 million less than the population of New York City alone) and so, I was initially quite taken aback by the lack of people and vehicles I saw around the city. Being from the super congested San Francisco Bay Area, I couldn't help but wonder where everyone was when I first arrived. It almost reminded me of a ghost town. Then I realized the size of the actual municipality (you can walk around the city in a day, maybe two days tops) and understood that Helsinki would not be like the big metropolitan cities I had been to before in Europe (Paris, Madrid, Rome, etc.).
This place had a much more peaceful and laid-back ambiance, but it was the perfect place to visit as I prepared for an intense/hectic week of classes. I got the sense that Fins, and those that had immigrated into the country, much rather preferred a quiet and slower-paced life than those living in more densely populated regions. It was honestly a really nice change for me to experience coming from California. I left the city feeling so refreshed and relaxed.
Helsinki- Northern Europe's best kept secret
View from one of the cafes we ate at
The yummiest breakfast! Homemade croissants, veggie and salami sandwiches with coffee and a chai.
Yummy Finnish pastries
Strolling through the city- I loved all the colorful buildings!
With two of my classmates from my university
Another beautiful cathedral
We stopped by a local farmers market and browsed and shopped- pictured above are Finnish berries found in Lapland (Finland’s northernmost region)
A gorgeous Finnish sunset. Because Finland is located so high north, during the summer there are only about 4.5 hours of darkness throughout the night. The sun wouldn't set until about 11:30 pm or midnight and it would rise around 4 am. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep while in Finland haha
LUT coordinated a cruise for its summer students on Lake Saimaa- it was so fun!
Overall, my quick stay in Helsinki consisted of walking around the whole city, stopping occasionally at cafes/restaurants to grab a bite to eat and catching up with two of my classmates over coffee. It was a beautiful city with super hospitable residents... I really enjoyed my stay! If you ever happen to be traveling through the Nordic countries, I would recommend stopping by and spending at least a few days here.