A fairly leisurely start to the day today.
After waking and having breakfast we went for a nice walk to the tip of the peninsula that Helsinki is on, past the ferry terminals and stopping to take photos on the way. After relaxing for a bit to take in the wonderful scenery we walked back into the city towards the cathedral where we took some more photos. During this random walk we also started our souvenir purchasing at a nice souvenir shop right next to the market square which was a little expensive due to the location but sold some very nice items – we shopped at the market for anything we wanted cheaper.
The next stop of the day was the Temppeliaukio Church which is like a concert hall built into some exposed bedrock. There were some people practicing for some sort of televised event there – a few musicians were soundchecking and there were TV broadcast vehicles outside so maybe it was an annual concert or something.
Right opposite the church was a great souvenir shop that sold everything else we needed. I say everything else as the souvenir shop next to the marina combined with the market allow you to find most things but this shop has things like Christmas decorations and just silly little things that you can buy as presents for people.
We decided to wander back to town and wandered down towards the Tavastia club, which felt like some sort of pilgrimage. To compare, the Tavastia is like the London Astoria, the Key Club, or Radio City Music Hall – the legendary venue where everybody seems to play and that would be missed if it was demolished. Nightwish have played here a few times so it was nice to be able to see it.
Nobody should go to Helsinki without taking in a cruise around the harbour whatever the weather. We decided to do one with IHA Lines but went back to the hostel first to refresh, put on warmer clothes, put souvenirs in the room etc. We decided we were going to sit on the open deck to take in the sights so needed to prepare!!
Our cruise took us out into the harbour, past the big ferries and out to the western harbour where the cruise ships dock, freight is shipped out etc. This took us past some nice stereotypical Scandinavian buildings and allowed us to get some good photos of the city. Next stop was Suomelinna, the fortress built on the islands off of Helsinki to protect the city against attack. We didn’t actually stop on the island but went pretty close to it and got some good photos before heading further out into the harbour.
After a while cruising the harbour and seeing many of the beautiful islands we started heading back towards the city. By this time we were the only people still remaining on the upper deck as many people had decided it was too cold – indeed it was but we wanted to take some good photos.
The final stop was the part of the harbour where the ice-breaker fleet is docked and where there are many government buildings before returning to the dock past the big ferries. The cruise took about 90 minutes and was definitely worth it.
One thing I thought was quite nice after the tour we waited to let the large Indian tour group and other tourists get off first, during which time the tour guide was saying thank you to them all in English. However when we went to get off she said Kitos, which is thank you in Finnish, to us which was a nice change and was the first time we haven’t been marked as typical English tourists that only speak English. Even the girl on the checkouts in the supermarket talks to us in English before we even say anything!
If anybody is considering doing a cruise on the harbour there are two or three companies to pick from and they all depart from the docks near the market square / presidential palace. They usually take similar routes but some do slightly different things at different times of the day so pick up a leaflet from all of them to pick the one that is right for you. They mostly do tours with live commentary in Finnish and English but others may offer other languages, dinner cruises etc.
We had started to get cold by this point and it was starting to get late so we headed back to the hostel via the supermarket, had dinner and now it’s time for a fairly early night due to the long day tomorrow.