Helsinki has many great places for practicing melancholy.
Originally from the somewhat remote Finnish city of Kuopio, Atte Heiskanen knew at the age of 16 that he would one day move to Helsinki. It took him two years until one summer day, while sunbathing on the granite rocks in Kuopio, Heiskanen decided to put his plan into action. The very next day he caught a train to Helsinki and began looking for a job in the capital. He found one by walking into the Farang restaurant and asking the restaurant manager if any jobs were available. Heiskanen was 18 at the time and lived in his girlfriend's aunt's office on Annankatu.
“I knew that Helsinki could offer me what I was looking for,” Heiskanen remembers.
Today, Heiskanen is a nearly 28-year-old Helsinki-based entrepreneur who describes himself as a positive dreamer and doer. After Farang, Heiskanen worked in a grocery store, a kindergarten, the Stockmann department store and various jobs in the clothing industry.
“It was easy to settle in Helsinki, because some good friends moved here from Kuopio at the same time as me, so it felt like we were not alone. It was also easy to meet new people here, and I have made a lot of new friends. Still, I spent my first five years here trying to find my direction and figuring out what I wanted to do.”
“Heiska” has been fascinated by clothing since he was a child, and today he is realising his fashion-related dreams as Chief Operating Officer at the Finnish clothing brand Formal Friday and by consulting young brands in the field, such as Latimmier and Vain. Together with Paavo Hiltunen he is also leading a local design project named Danny Wu that is creating everything from fashion to sinks. In addition to fashion, he is also involved in other creative projects, such as Boys Reading Poems on Instagram and the System Greenhand planting project. In Helsinki's nightlife, Heiskanen also organises techno parties with his friends. He considers all his projects therapeutic.
“I recently put together my portfolio and found that all these projects form a timeline in dealing with all of my different life stages and emotions. Despite what you might think, you don’t have to stick with all your projects until the very end. You can leave a project when you have got what you need and move on to the next one. At the same time, you can give to others, and all my projects are for people – mainly Helsinki residents.”
Helsinki is important to Heiskanen because of all his friends, all the opportunities and, above all, the feeling of home he gets here.
“Part of me will always be back in North Savo, but I want to take risks, live on the edge and experience more. I like big cities and could also see myself living abroad for a while, but Helsinki is my base. Everything is good here, and in Finland in general.”
The best thing about Helsinki, according to Heiskanen, is simply walking, looking around, sitting in cafés and relaxing. It is important to spend time with friends, but also alone, during creative projects.
“I’m a really melancholic person, and Helsinki has many great places for practicing melancholy!
Töölönlahti is “the place” in Helsinki for me. I live in Punavuori today, but when I moved to Töölö and lived there, I experienced my biggest growing moments and the most important life changes so far. The area around the Töölönlahti bay lets me be alone with my thoughts, and I can process all my joys and sorrows there. While living in Töölö, I used to walk around the bay with my headphones in any weather – the poorer the weather, the more melancholy I enjoyed. It’s a great place for anyone who wants to clarify their thoughts!
The restaurant Harju 8 is my living room. I like to spend time there with good friends, whether it’s an ordinary day or a celebration, just enjoying each other’s company and all the natural wines. Harju 8 attracts a lot of young adults, but also many other kinds of people. The best thing is simply experiencing the atmosphere of the restaurant, as well as its food and drinks, of course. From the menu, I recommend the perch sandwich and natural wines, and on summer Sundays you should definitely experience one of the popular live jazz evenings on the terrace!
These days, living in Punavuori, Eira Beach is what Töölönlahti was for me when I lived in Töölö. The Eira shoreline is great for jogging and walking, and there is also a skate park. I often go to the beach in the mornings, pack a small breakfast and start the day with a morning swim. Other times, I enjoy the evenings there, watching as the lights of the ships flicker in the darkness. I like to play melancholic music on my phone speaker, take a dip, curl up in a towel, and stare out into the void
Kiasma is one of the best museums of contemporary art in Helsinki, and it always has interesting exhibitions. I watched the hour-long music-themed video art exhibition of Ragnat Kjartanson no less than 12 times. My mother was a museum director in Kuopio and works in the museum field, so visiting museums is very familiar to me. My habit of visiting museums is to go first alone at my own pace without being disturbed and then a second time with friends. Kiasma also offers free days for visitors!
BasBas is my local restaurant and has a wonderful milieu. Despite being a fine-dining restaurant, the atmosphere is relaxed and there is no pressure to rush away as soon as your plate is empty. Sometimes I go to BasBas after swimming at Eira Beach – it’s easy to go there, and the value for money is good. It attracts people of all ages, and we also have a good time there with friends. You should definitely order the menu!
When it comes to partying, Post Bar and the adjacent Kaiku are my go-to places on weekends. Both offer good musicians, good sound quality, a good atmosphere and a good place to dance if you like techno. The newer Post Bar attracts a more select crowd, while Kaiku attracts a broader group of people. We usually go out with friends, but I’ve also often spent the whole night alone at Kaiku. Kuudes Linja and Siltanen are located on the same block, all of which together form a bar complex that is literally known among locals as the “Complex”!
Amos Rex is a magnificent museum in terms of its architecture and exhibitions, which are always different from everything else. For example, the opening exhibition by teamLab was amazing – I probably saw it 15 times. There may be a queue at the door if the exhibition is new, which is why I like to visit the museum in the evenings or as soon as the doors open!
Café Succès is a classic café on Korkeavuorenkatu with a lovely interior. The café has a great customer base, a slightly older crowd, and I often go there myself. Succès serves good coffee and perhaps the biggest cinnamon buns in Helsinki. Nothing beats a sunny Sunday sitting on the terrace with an espresso and giant cinnamon bun!
Last summer I watched the Olympics, at which sport climbing made its debut. The sport has always interested me, and watching it on the Olympics finally got me to try it. I was able to try climbing with more experienced friends, which is a good way to start. I usually go to the Climbing Arena (“Kiipeilyareena”) in Kalasatama, where you can also go alone thanks to the safety instructions that are posted there. It’s easy to spend several hours there, climbing and hanging out. I’m happy I discovered the sport – it has become a way for me to relieve stress. Climbing is a great individual sport that can also be done with friends. I also enjoy skateboarding, as you feel like being part of one big family, and I’ve tried to bring the same culture of support to climbing as well. Just the other day, I praised a little boy when he completed a challenging wall, and he smiled from ear to ear!