Helsinki Design District

September 2012

I feel like I say this about a lot of places, but I’m not going to let that stop me from saying it about Helsinki — it was one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to!

Helsinki is the Design Capitol of the World — or so they say. Who knows. Maybe Fins are all giant liars. But I’ll take their word at face value because everywhere I turned were amazingly awesome bars and restaurants, great parks, neat stores, and So. Much. Randomness.

When Mar hired me for her wedding in Gratallops, Spain I decided I wanted to spend a month in Europe beforehand to take advantage of being over on that side of the pond. Helsinki was immediately at the top of my destination list. I have no idea why I’ve wanted to go there for so long…because I loved Oslo? Because I like Vikings? Because Helsinki is fun to say? Because I wanted to fly into an airport named HEL? There are many possible explanations, but all I know is that I’ve dreamed of visiting.

As soon as I knew I’d be in a Nordic country I immediately emailed Andrea and John. They were guests back at Andi and Lucas’ Buenos Aires destination wedding and we hit it off. At the moment, they’re currently residing in Norway and I figured I might as well give it a shot since Helsinki is relatively close. “Relative” being the key word here. I also went to China because it was relatively close to Finland, so you should probably just disregard all of my uses of the phrase “relatively close.”

I was so happy when Andrea and John told me they could come! Our travel styles ended up melding perfectly. By that, I mean, we loved to walk around all day long and take a lot of pictures and post a lot of things to facebook, instagram and blog, as well as drink loads of champagne (for me), beer (for John) or both (for Andrea). I also tried a kind of Finnish drink (invented for the Olympics apparently) called a Cranberry Long Drink. They had it in other flavors as well and I quite liked it!

Our first reunion afternoon together was spent walking the city’s design district. I’m still not really sure what that means since to me all of the city felt like one giant design district, but I do know that every single building we walked into had some of the coolest design and interior decorating and architecture I’d ever seen. If Helsinki wasn’t so damn high on the Big Mac Index, I might have been tempted to shop. A lot.

Alas, as it was, the pair of pants I saw and loved in a shop window were 200 Euros and felt like they were made out of cheap polyester. But crazy expensive prices didn’t stop me from doing some fun window shopping.

Bloggers taking pictures of bloggers taking pictures is lots of fun.

The design district wasn’t huge and we were armed with a map and listings of some of the good stores to go to while we were there. We strolled around the neighborhood enjoying the nice weather. Finland has a very high suicide rate because of how dark it is there in the wintertime, but we were lucky enough to have good weather still holding out.

Ha! I just liked the name of this music store.

See what I mean about random? Everywhere you turned there were displays and things like this. A lawn ornament wearing a Nike tennis visor. And somehow it looks good! I don’t know how the Fins do it.

That night I walked home from the Design District back to my hostel, which was about a 30 minute walk away. It was totally dark by the time I hit the road and I had to stop and ask for directions once. When I questioned the guy helping me as to whether or not I should be nervous about walking back alone he basically laughed in my face and said “Here?! No. Don’t be nervous. There’s nothing to worry about here.” I felt very safe in Helsinki. Add that to my list of reasons why I would live there. Add no light and freezing cold to my list of reasons why I would not live there. Winter trumps all. Won’t be packing up to move to Finland any time soon.


  1. Pilvi says:

    hey kyle, been reading your blog for years (since I first went to chile, to say), nice to read a post about my city and nice to know that you liked it here! (:

  2. Andrea says:

    So awesome!! We had the BEST time with you. Must do it again soon in another city – love that we were able to just hang and take photos, eat, drink, laugh. Miss you heaps xoxo

  3. I love that last photo, the dog looks perfectly posed to sum up a relaxed afternoon off.

  4. Roxanne says:

    I love the textures of this city and how you captured them. I’ve always wanted to visit and, as always, I love traveling vicariously through you. Thinking of you, chica — if you ever have a Boston layover, consider my home yours!


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