Paola and Pirjo Suhonen
Hotel Rantapuisto was a new find even for us East Helsinki girls.
The sisters Paola and Pirjo Suhonen are especially known for their fashion label Ivana Helsinki. Paola is a fashion designer, artist, designer, filmmaker, and musician. Pirjo is the producer behind the brand. Together the sisters have, among other projects, written a children's book, produced a TV series, and launched the one-of-a-kind Superwood Festival in autumnal Eastern Helsinki.
Paola and Pirjo Suhonen identify more as East Helsinki girls than anything else. Growing up in Marjaniemi, for the two sisters Helsinki means beaches, shoreline rocks, and the nearby islands of Eastern Helsinki. Sometimes they would pack some food in a cooler and spend the night in a tent. In winter, the girls would ski over the ice from one island to the next. Many of their favourite Helsinki spots are to be found in the east.
Hotel Rantapuisto was a new find even for us East Helsinki girls. We used to go around Rastila and Ramsinniemi and we went on scout trips to the nearby woods but had never visited the place. We stumbled upon it some years ago while looking for a spot to have a Father's Day lunch. Everything else was booked out. Pirjo noticed an ad in a local newspaper promoting the Father's Day special, and we just figured that at least it won't be busy. And it wasn't on that day. The hotel building used to be a seminar house of a bank and was built in the 1960s. The architecture is magnificent, and the house has preserved well the spirit of the time with its wood panels and full-wall fireplaces. The sauna is right on the water’s edge. The hotel has a certain edge to it, typical of Eastern Helsinki. Nothing is too polished or over-the-top luxurious but instead, the place has a cosy roughness. What could be more fabulous than to sit at a hotel by the sea in a slight breeze, holding a glass of whiskey and welcoming the nature right into your lap from the gigantic windows?
The pizzeria in an old barn house in Jollas is only open on weekends, but people often say that it’s the best in town. The restaurant serves authentic Italian pizza with a thin crust. There is no seating: you pick up a pizza to go, and in the summertime, locals gather to enjoy them on the nearby rocks by the shore.
Vaasankatu is the best bar street in town and it has luckily held onto much of its original feeling. A certain decadence is still found there and a similar vibe is hard to catch elsewhere. Bar Molotow is the best one on the stretch. Paola has even written and directed an anthology film where Vaasankatu has a strong role.
Puhos used to be the best shopping mall in Finland, featuring a fountain, a Carrols hamburger joint, and the first escalator in the city. People would make their way there from all corners of Eastern Helsinki. Nowadays, it is quite decayed yet remains a mystical destination with its money exchange spots, bazar, Syrian eateries, and prayer halls. Going to Puhos is like a cheap trip to the Middle East.
A sightseeing cruise to Eastern Helsinki gives a completely new outlook on the city from the sea. The boats pass through the Degerö channel in Tammisalo, for instance. It's fun to look at the houses and beaches. We always take our foreign visitors out on a cruise. Many people wonder what the little shacks by the water are. When we explain that they are saunas, our friends are amazed that they are still in use.
Helsinki's allotment gardens are like a dollhouse game for adults. They are very regulated: everyone gets the same toys but everyone has pimped up their own allotment cottage. Allotment gardens are great places to visit on a walk. You can see the change of seasons and see what plants and flowers there are that time of year.
Helsinki flea markets are really great compared to many major cities. The Fida and Salvation Army flea markets are full of great finds. The Fida on Hämeentie is completely mystical. Paola has found really high-quality Moroccan leather bazar bags from the 1970s there, as well as half of her boyfriend's closet. Maybe all the treasures of Kallio's old hippies and grannies end up at Fida.
The market halls spark memories of the change of seasons and seasonal celebrations, like Christmas and Midsummer. You can really sense the yearly cycle in the halls. The scents of oranges, swedes, and hyacinths take us back to our childhood. Paola loves to shop for cheese at Lentävä Lehmä (Flying Cow) at the Hakaniemi Market Hall.
The market halls spark memories of the change of seasons and seasonal celebrations, like Christmas and Midsummer. You can really sense the yearly cycle in the halls. The scents of oranges, swedes, and hyacinths take us back to our childhood. Paola loves to shop for cheese at Tuula Paalanen's cheese shop found in the Old Market Hall.
Alppipuisto is a new favourite. It's like the Central Park of the Kallio district.
This combined restaurant and shop is in a handy location for us. There is plenty of room and calm space in the mornings for our one-on-one meetings and the food is great.