Biking is an amazing way to see the different faces of Helsinki. Something is always happening somewhere, whatever the hour.
Jasper Pääkkönen is an actor and entrepreneur from Helsinki. Together with Antero Vartia, he owns the seaside public sauna and restaurant Löyly in the city's Hernesaari district, sharing the secrets of Finnish sauna culture also with tourists from abroad.
Pääkkönen's acting career includes a part in the History Channel produced tv series Vikings. He also played a Ku Klux Klan member in Spike Lee's feature film BlacKkKlansman.
Pääkkönen grew up in Kumpula and has lived his adult years in the city centre – partly because he hasn't wanted to own a car. Often on a summer night, he'll jump on his bike and ride through the city streets with friends.
Jasper Pääkkönen's Helsinki is a small village where almost everyone seems to know one another. At the same time, Helsinki is blooming with lively urban culture. On his trips abroad, Pääkkönen misses people's honesty most of all.
"When I have visitors from Los Angeles, I take them to a karaoke bar. A karaoke evening has become a must-do thing that everyone wants to relive. Karaoke bars crystallise the Finnish mix of craziness, weirdness, and a honest hillbilly vibe."
"The sauna is at the heart of Finnishness. Anyone visiting the country should try it. I naturally take care of my sauna needs at Löyly. It's the only place in Helsinki where anyone can experience an authentic smoke sauna. If the weather is nice, it is amazing to catch some sun in between bathing. Sauna culture goes hand-in-hand with a detox-retox way of thinking: once you've gotten your dose of a Finnish wellbeing experience, you can station yourself on the restaurant terrace with DJs spinning and people dancing on tables. Both practices are part of Finnish summer culture. I personally like to go for a glass of rosé with a view of the sea on a warm summer day after a sauna – or even without."
"The Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is well-known to Finns and visitors yet worthy of a mention: a half-day trip on a ferry to an island full of history. I'm mostly enchanted by being surrounded by sea, the views and a moment of fresh air. Exploring the island is always good fun. It feels like the walls and tunnels always disclose yet another nook or cranny that you’ve never seen before."
"The ultimate way to move around by Helsinki is by bike. The city bikes have made it so easy that everyone should jump on a bike. I often get on a bike and just ride the streets with a friend to check out what's happening. It's the best way to explore the different sides of Helsinki on a warm summer night. There is always something happening, regardless of the hour. When you just zig-zag around, you always learn something new about the city, as a local or as a visitor."
"I grew up in the idyllic wooden houses on Limingantie just a few minutes’ walk from the Kumpula pool. As a kid, the most exhilarating moments were when I first dared to jump down from the 5-metre platform and then the 7.5-metre one. When I was 18, I finally pulled off a clown jump from 10 metres for the first time. Highly recommended, especially for families with children."
"A summer favourite is the Sunday afternoon party at the Vallila industrial zone. The vibe is right, people are happy and dancing on the rooftops. You shouldn’t say this out loud, but I often don't even know who is playing. The relaxed atmosphere matters to me most. Of course enthusiasm for electronic music connects the people. At Ääniwalli the music is guaranteed to be good.”
"Helsinki was missing a proper street workout spot, so we had the idea to set one up with my friend Mikko Leppänen using our own money. We built an open and free exercise spot with bars in Hernesaari. It has now become a nice piece of South-Helsinkian urban culture. I visit the bars several times a week and in the summertime I only work out there – half an hour is enough for a good workout. It puts a smile on my face every time I pass by: there is always someone on the bars; hundreds of people use them daily."