Skip to Content

First Impressions of Helsinki

Seeing as how this is my first time in a country I hadn’t visited before, I thought I’d share some of my first impressions of Helsinki. I had quite a few expectations before visiting the Finnish capital—some of which have lived up to the reality. I’ve also got a tendency to record my first impressions in my travel journal (Moleskine, naturally), so I wanted to share a snapshot.


My initial assumption about Helsinki is that the city is very “design-friendly.” Meaning plenty of art galleries, inspiring architecture and public spaces, boutique shops, trendy locals and so on. Shortly after arriving I wandered in the area around my hotel, the Design District, where the signs of Helsinki’s design-friendliness were more than apparent. Boys wearing sailor-striped shirts and girls in gladiators. Shops selling antique furniture and vegan-friendly restaurants. I knew I was in my kind of place.

Some other first impressions from my first 36 hours in Helsinki:

  • posters promoting a LOT of upcoming concerts & music festivals — and not just metal bands!
  • so many patios! It seems the Finns like to be outside and with the record-hot weather it’s no surprise why. Helsinki is beautiful in the sunshine. The bars all seem to have patios and whether it’s ice cream or Mexican food, it’s all being enjoyed outside.
  • I always knew Helsinki was by the sea but somehow it was surprising to hear seagulls.
  • Finnish sounds redonkulous. The noises coming out of people’s mouths are so strange but somehow poetic.
  • Last night I went to one of Helsinki’s few gay clubs and it was immediately apparent that the gay clubs aren’t just for gays. They’re obviously some of the coolest nightclubs and popular with men & women, gay or straight.
  • Despite being a very bike-friendly city (bike lanes are pretty common), Helsinki has a few big hills as well. Too challenging for my weak legs.

I’ll have more observations and stories to share after my trip. So far, I can’t help but say how impressed I am with Helsinki. Though I have to admit after just 36 hours here, I feel like I’ve seen quite a bit! But with the nice weather here, it shouldn’t be hard to fill my time with a sunny picnic or two!

Helsinki Design District


Helsinki lake

Moi moi! Bye-bye!

  1. Claire says:

    My family and I went to Helsinki once. My impression was that it was like Stockholm, only I couldn’t understand a word people said. :P

    • Adam says:

      Hahah, the language here is BIZARRE! But I guess everyone here also learns Swedish (and English, for that matter).

  2. JR Riel says:

    You’re absolutely right, the thought of hearing seagulls in Finland is like a disconnect to me, fascinating! I never really considered the fact that it was a waterside city that it would just make sense. Have fun!

    • Adam says:

      Thanks JR – and yep, that was completely surprising for me. Geography is often fascinating but always makes so much more sense when you physically visit a place.

  3. Talon says:

    I look forward to going there one day. Finland has really impressed me from things I’ve read. Enjoy!

    • Adam says:

      Yep, I’ve always been curious about the country myself. Will probably try to make it back next winter to see Santa Claus!

  4. Trent Myslin says:

    I’ve been thinkig about going to Norawy but who knows, Finland also seems good :)

    • Adam says:

      Norway has been a dream destination of mine since I was a kid! But Finland is closer and easier to reach from Berlin which is why I’ve ended up there for this trip…

  5. Dan says:

    Hey Adam,

    I think Helsinki has a laidback hipster vibe, the place can seem small (especially with GLBT venues) but is very friendly! Had some great conversations and new Facebook friends from those patios :) After hearing people speak Finnish the first time ( I know French and a teeny bit of Dutch), I realized there is no way i’ll ever be able to speak it if i even wanted to, would have needed to start at an early age and that it sounds more like Klingon than any other language. :)

    • Adam says:

      Klingon is a really good analogy for the Finnish language, haha.

      I definitely agree with you that Helsinki feels small, but yet somehow still quite cool. I was also surprised how many LGBT places there are there, despite it being such a rather small population and city. I went to one gay bar that had just opened up in the past 6 months! Still a small scene, but bigger than I would’ve thought for a city of its size.

  6. i never been to Helsinki, but my travel buddy once told me about the place..and we’re planning to hit it this year. and the photos you have just made me so curious.

    • Adam says:

      Stay tuned John for more photos, or be sure to check my Flickr account for even more!

  7. Funny to read your blog about Helsinki and our former home country that we left some 8 years ago. You chose a good time for your visit. Finland is like living in a fridge. During the summer time someone forget to close the door and that’s why there is a bit warmer and lights are on all day long. But think about winters in the fridge: darkness and cold around the clock. And people keep asking us why we left…

    Happy travels!

    • Adam says:

      That’s such an incredible analogy — never thought of it that way but it makes total sense.

  8. Tom Miller says:

    I’ve only heard about Helsinki and with your blog post, I am starting to become more interested in visiting the place. These are excellent first impressions!

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Tom. It’s always interesting to compare the first impressions of a new place with the overall impressions after some time. That’s why I like to record my first impressions :)

  9. Alice says:

    I haven’t been to Helsinki but After seeing the images I think I must go out there. Nice pictures. Love it! Good Work Adam.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Alice! Working on editing the rest of my many photos from Helsinki. Be sure to check Facebook and Flickr (and back here on the blog) for more stories and photos!

Comments are closed.