Helsinki makes you feel like a citizen of the world
TV journalist and presenter Mikko Silvennoinen moved from the remote town of Kiihtelysvaara to Helsinki in 1995, when he began hosting Jyrki, a live daily TV show for young people. “That was my first job. Everything was big, amazing and exciting.” The fact that some of his old friends had also moved to the city helped him adjust. Friends are indeed the best thing about Helsinki, according to Silvennoinen. Having lived in the capital for more than 20 years, he has had time to make plenty of new acquaintances.
“Helsinki is also safe, easy and enjoyable.”
Silvennoinen appreciates how Helsinki is such a “suitably sized city”. It has all the services and events of a capital city, but getting around on public transport, by bike or walking is still fast. For the past 13 years, Silvennoinen has owned a tiny cottage in an allotment garden just a short cycle ride from his home in Töölö. Between May and September, he spends half his nights at the cottage.
“Coming from North Karelia, I am still amazed that I have a pear tree growing on my allotment.”Silvennoinen feels it is important that Helsinki is diverse and open-minded. He also appreciates the food scene, especially the fact that there are so many restaurants representing different food cultures from around the world. “Helsinki makes you feel like a citizen of the world.”
Silvennoinen is amused by how his friends from other parts of Finland never understand why locals run to catch the tram, even though the next one will be along in ten minutes. “It must seem like a short time to wait compared to the countryside, where a bus comes along maybe once an hour. On the other hand, tourists are never in a hurry.”
According to Silvennoinen, the quality of customer service has improved in Helsinki. “In addition, young people especially are really friendly these days and are always ready to help you find your way.”
I love gardening, especially in my own allotment garden. I also like to visit the other allotment gardens in Helsinki – of which there are nine, by the way – to admire the flowers and get ideas for my own garden. Sometimes a friendly gardener will even give me a sapling to take home with me. Most Finnish tourists look for urban experiences in Helsinki, but “rural Helsinki” is also worth experiencing. Many of the Midsummer festivities in allotment gardens are among the most rustic I have ever experienced.
The Mall of Tripla in Pasila is one of my favourite places in Helsinki. It has everything, and it is easy to get to by local commuter train or tram, for example. I also like to walk and cycle, for which Tripla’s location is also ideal.
Pasila also has lots of graffiti and murals, and I often go for walks there with my husband and dog. My favourite street art can be found at the corner of Asemapäällikönkatu and Pakkamestarinkatu, where you can find works by several graffiti artists – including the dark-skinned Elovena girl painted by Viv Magia.
All kinds of exciting things happen around the Old Town Rapids. You will find anglers, birdwatchers, joggers and people just relaxing. I believe there is a proper fish ladder there too. Nearby you can find the “Design dog park”, which is pretty funny. I like both fish and dogs! I also like street food, and these days there are always around five food trucks or sellers in the area. Delicious!
Did I say already that I like plants? Viikki Arboretum is situated near the largest nature reserve in Helsinki close to the Old Town Bay. There you will find Finnish and more exotic trees, shrubs and vines. I love just strolling around the area.
Nearby there are also tall birdwatching towers and the Viikki Research Farm with its cows. The fact that the CoolHead Brewery recently opened in the area is not a bad thing either!
These days I live in the Töölö district, and one of the best places there in my opinion is Töölö Market Square. I often spend time at the Tintin Tango café or at a table in the market square in sunny weather. You can also buy flowers and plants in the market, of course.
Recently, the market has become a real centre for the circular economy: the Relove flea market and UFF vintage shop are situated opposite each other. It is easy to get to by tram too.
If I go out in the evening, it will mostly likely be to the gay bar Room BLVD on Bulevardi. It is lively already in the early evening, which suits me because I am not a late-night person. I also like that the bar and terrace are at street level and you can see out through the large windows. They always have special offers for bottles of white wine, and you can order food from the menu of the hotel next door. I often stay there longer than I had planned!
Both my husband Asmo and I love Chinese food – so much, in fact, that we and our friends have visited every single Chinese restaurant we found listed on the MyHelsinki website.
My own favourite is the homemade fish with eggplant at Chengdu at the Kulosaari shopping centre, close to Helsinki Zoo. The old shopping centre itself is piece of Helsinki’s history that is getting harder to find these days.
Observatory Hill offers breathtaking views over the city, and it also has a breathtaking history. I worked there as an assistant on the Tom of Finland movie. I spent one night stalking the area in a Nazi navy uniform. According to legend, many of Touko Laaksonen’s nocturnal encounters on Observatory Hill were immortalised in his Tom of Finland drawings.