Helsinki beyond the classics
Had your fill of Moomins, Sibelius and the Rock Church? Just a few steps north from the Helsinki city centre you will find something a bit more urban and youthful. Explore the areas where Helsinki locals have fun.
Kallio - the home of the hipster
If you are young, or young at heart, the first area to visit in Helsinki will most definitely be Kallio. For a good decade or two, it has been the centre for night life, cool shops, and underground happenings. Recently Kallio has also experienced a gourmet boom, with some of the best restaurants and wine bars in Helsinki choosing the neighbourhood as their location.
You might want to start your food tour at Harju 8, a bistro serving simple yet delicious food and natural wines. They even have an inhouse florist and a buzzy outdoors seating area when the weather allows. Slightly fancier but just as hip is Wino, a wine bar and restaurant with a focus on craft. To end the night, you could try out The Bull and Firm. This tiny cocktail bar has been receiving rave reviews for its drinks and food alike.
Kallio also has a strong culture of late, or all-day, breakfasts. Green Hippo serves smoothie bowls, avocado toast, and other fresh options. If fresh sourdough bread sounds more like your thing, go to Way Bakery. Need something more comforting? Try out Tanner. The breakfasts are generous, and if you are craving something sweet there are great waffles too.
Once you are satisfied you can do a little tour of the food shops and buy some treats to take with you. The Hakaniemen kauppahalli food market is a great place for both traditional and new foods. There are several cafés there too if you want to eat in. For vegans the best spot in Kallio is Vegekauppa, a cute little shop selling vegan products that you might struggle to find elsewhere. Kallio also has a lots of Asian food markets around, the biggest one being Vii Voan.
Kalasatama - fresh and new
The newest neighbourhood being built close to the centre of Helsinki is Kalasatama, just east of Kallio. Kalasatama is in fact quite small and a part of the district of Sörnäinen - but many associate the entire area around the metro station as Kalasatama.
One of the reasons to get off at this stop is Teurastamo, a complex of old buildings that used to be a butchery. These days it houses restaurants, food producers, and events. There is a big courtyard where Helsinkians spend summer days. The food vendors however serve all year round.
Some of the places to check out include Helsinki Distilling Company, the first Helsinki based distillery in over a century. The distillery bar serves drinks as well as high quality food with a French twist. Every caffeine addict should visit the coffee roastery Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo, where you can buy coffee home or enjoy a freshly brewed cup. For hungry travellers there are several options from Mexican tacos at Lopez y Lopez to BBQ delicacies at B Smokery.
Kalasatama is still very much in the process of being built and one of the new areas in Helsinki where some of the budget of every building must be allocated for art. There are both permanent and temporary art pieces dotted around the area as well as art events. Wandering around the area you are sure to see some of the works but you can also find some more in-depth information about the pieces and their makers here.
Vallila - rustic and cozy
North of Kallio you will find Vallila. It used to be a working-class residential area but has become one of the favourite areas for creative types. Some of the neighbourhood consists of Puu-Vallila (meaning Wood-Vallila), a well-preserved area of traditional wooden apartment blocks in lovely pastel colours.
For a different take on the working-class history visit Pasilan konepaja. It is a complex that was formerly used for machine shops but is now being transformed into an area that combines housing, offices, and services. Some of the businesses you can already find there include the trendy Folks hotel, Albina restaurant and Konepaja biergarten. For Kaurismäki fans the only choice is Corona bar and billiard, a legendary joint that moved from central Helsinki to Konepaja two years ago.
Vallila is also great for smaller neighbourhood bistros and cafés. Where Kallio has more of a party vibe, Vallila is somewhere you can cozy up. Locals love Greenbake, a French style bakery making artisanal baguettes and croissants as well as some Finnish bakery classics. Or you could try restaurant Plein, a simple but high-quality bistro.