Sometimes I forget that I'm not from Helsinki.
Can you forget your birth place? Momentarily yes, says Annika Ollila, a social media influencer from Lahti.
"I moved to Helsinki five years ago, so fairly recently. Yet it feels like I don't even remember another time, it feels like I always lived here. Before I moved, I had hardly any friends here and I would have had every reason to feel like an outsider, but instead I began to feel at home almost immediately. My partner is a Helsinki native and has lived here his whole life. Our life here feels so natural that I sometimes forget that I'm not from Helsinki."
While Ollila still appreciates her birthtown Lahti, she enjoys the open-minded attitude in Helsinki. "It was so refreshing that all of a sudden there is so much around to see and do, events and other life. That is the biggest difference compared to everyday living in a smaller city."
Kallio is a focal point for Ollila, a district where everything is within reach. "I feel I have become a homebody. It's a little bit amusing that there are endless options for things to do around me and still I enjoy myself most at home. Here in Kallio, everything is right outside my door: my favourite restaurants and terraces, services, and the beat of the city centre. It's easy to do whatever you want even on short notice."
Now this idyllic lifestyle is somewhat under threat: Ollila is moving to northern Helsinki with her boyfriend, where they have bought their own home for the first time. "The transport connections are good, so it is unlikely that we will be isolating ourselves completely. But the change is a bit intimidating as I've lived in different apartments in the same district within the same 100-metre radius for the past five years. Even though I get around a lot, my view of the city might be a bit narrow due to my everyday stomping ground being so small. I think the change will definitely be a nice one and open new perspectives to Helsinki."
The open-faced rocks by the water in Lauttasaari are especially beautiful. They are near the city centre, but you can find your own peace. I like to have a pause there while jogging and look out to the sea. Sometimes I'll listen to an e-book or podcast, but most often I just listen to the soothing sounds of the sea.
One of my favourite everyday spots is the Pengerpuisto park in Kallio. I have lived right beside it for the last five years and not a day goes by that I don't at least walk through it. Usually I grab a blanket and head to the park to spend the evening there with friends. There are always people around, and a nice lively mood.
Mustikkamaa is within walking distance from my home and I often head there with my dog. It's different from other urban parks as the beaches are in a natural state and there are very few buildings. You can see the horizon of the city from Mustikkamaa, but it feels like you're not in the city at all.
The Korjaamo Culture Factory has perhaps the best outdoor seating in the city. I like to head there to enjoy top quality sushi by Sushibar+Wine and a glass of wine by small producers under the atmospheric apple trees. Korjaamo also has live music, stand up comedy and even a cinema.
The gorgeous Winter Garden has been a destination for recreation and encounters for Helsinkians for 125 years already. The green oasis invites visitors to enjoy exotic plants throughout the year, but I often visit in winter to have a feeling of a little get-away to southern hemispheres. And the best thing is that there is no entrance fee.
The ambiance on Harju8's terrace is like something from another country. The mash-up of restaurant, bar and flowershop is a welcome and well-liked addition to Kallio's diverse restaurant scene. It's great to visit for lunch, to pick up flowers for home, or to linger on a summer night with a glass of wine.
Kallahdenniemi is one of the gems of eastern Helsinki and for myself quite a new discovery. This recreational area has a beautiful open forest and a beach with fine sand for swimming.
We have a specific spot on the southernmost island of Suomenlinna where we always head. Beautiful flower meadows, far-reaching views, and rugged rocks. It is brilliant that Helsinki has gems like Suomenlinna and the nearby island of Vallisaari right outside the city centre, and easily reachable – you don't need a boat, a public transport ticket is enough. The island of Lonna is also lovely, as is the restaurant there.