I have to admit a love of Scandinavian architecture and design made Helsinki one of the most highly anticipated stops on the cruise for me. I longed to wander through a city of design shops and marvel at the beautiful buildings. And among other things, we managed to do that with our short 9 hour adventure in Finland.
We began the day with a self guided walking tour of the city, which led us through the outdoor market by the cruise port where we had to buy some gifts for friends and family and perused the food stalls, though it was too early to get the full effect. Our walk took us through the Senate Square, which was not yet packed with busses and tourists as it was when we walked by later in the day. It’s worth walking up the steps (or taking a rest on the steps) of the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral, and peeking inside (it’s free!).
We wandered past design boutiques filled with jewelry and well thought out house hold goods (where we tried to not buy tooooo much) and past famous architectural works, such as the train station, with its two granite statues standing guard out front and the Stockmanns Department store. A more recent addition to the city architecture is the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, which can be entered from a busy commercial square in central Helsinki and is a bit of solace in the city, where one can stop for a moment of silence and also marvel at the beautiful wooden architecture.
Another beautiful, but very different, church is the Church in the Rock, which is built into an excavated rock bed, with a large skylight that has a copper coil winding around it. Music was playing when we visited, and the acoustics are excellent.
We took a quick tram ride to the Sibelius Monument, famous for its abstract pipes that are a tribute to the Finnish composer. It’s an interesting sight, full of selfie sticks and bus tours, but it’s free and easy to get to, making it potentially a worthy stop.
We headed back to town and the market for lunch, eating some of the most expensive beer and hamburgers I’d ever had (until we got to Stockholm…) at the marketplace. Unfortunately the city museum was closed, so we headed to the Design Museum instead. It was interesting to learn about the history of design and see many of the famous works and important steps in creating a national ‘brand’ of design. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to sit in most of the cool looking chairs.
Want to read about our other Baltic Cruise adventures? Check out the links below!