Travel Guide: Helsinki and Hanko, Finland
It feels like I just got back from Finland and now that I’m sitting down to write about the experience I realized it was almost two months ago! Finland is one of those places that was never really on my radar but an amazing opportunity came up with Finnair and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to adventure.
Finnair recently launched direct flights from LAX to Helsinki and it is a BLESSING. I mean, direct flights anywhere are amazing but when you’re traveling from the US to Europe it’s a real treat. The coolest part is that you fly up and over Antartica; a legit reminder that the earth is round haha. They treated us to an incredible flight and trip.
We lived our best lives in business class (Andy was THRIVING) and I was just so impressed with the Finnair experience as a whole. The tech, the plane, the service… muy bueno. Wrong language, huh?
During our 5 day trip we went non-stop in the capital, Helsinki, then a small beach town at the southern most point of Finland called Hanko. Keep scrolling for some of my fave experiences and tips if you’re planning a trip to Finland:
P:S: take a peek at my Finland Highlight on IG for a play by play of our trip.
Shoutout to Jules Kennedy, the amazing photog behind a lot of these pics.
We went in the middle of May and couldn’t have had better weather. All of us LA kids packed for the freezing cold and for the most part is was pretty mild temperature wise and the sun was SHINING. A light winter jacket or puffer was sufficient for most days except when we were out on the water (need a little more warmth.)
Stays lights forever (in the summer)
One of my favorite things about our trip was that the sun stayed out FOREVER. Granted, the opposite happens if you visit in the winter time. I loved having ALL day to really explore, shoot, and take in everything. It’s funny how you feel less rushed and overall more relaxed. I’ll always remember our after dinner drinks watching the sunset around 10pm.
What to pack
Layers, layers and more layers. While we lucked out with great weather, it was pretty chilly RIGHT before we got there and I believe they had a lot of rain right after we left. When I was preparing for our trip I relied a lot on this blog called HER FINLAND as a resource for what to pack, places to visit, and overall what to expect (like Sauna culture!). Also don’t forget good walking shoes. There are a lot of cobble stone streets. Most of what I wore can be found here, here, and here.
Helsinki is the southern capital and sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. It’s also where the direct flight from LAX lands. Throughout our 3 days there I kept saying “oh it reminds me of Paris, oh it reminds me of London”… in general it just feel likes Europe - hah.
Where we stayed: Hotel Katajanokka: Hotel
This hotel used to be an old prison! It’s a little more on the outskirts compared to other hotels we walked passed during out adventures. It’s easily walkable and the train stops right in front of it. The rooms are rather tiny (they are the size of two prison cells) but the hospitality is great and the downstairs restaurant was a great plus. If you followed on IG then you saw that we left our stuffed Teddy Bear there and didn’t realize it until we got back to LA. They hotel found him and shipped him back to the states free of charge - so sweet!
Things to do in Helsinki:
Walk around: the architecture is great and there are so many cute little corners, parks and moments. We stumbled into a lot of unique home decor shops and local stores. I especially loved the Esplanada Park and Market Square areas. Just get lost in the city!
Amos Rex: Amos Rex is a modern art museum - it’s an easy walk from almost anywhere and there are some interesting exhibits. The museum itself and it’s surroundings are an art piece themselves. Around the corner is a pretty bustling area of Helsinki with lots of shops (well known like Zara and other small ones that are unique to Finland.)
Allas Sea Pool: this is a public sauna with a beautiful view and outdoor seal pool. My suggestion: skip the sauna and just head to the rooftop to grab a drink or two and enjoy the views and company.
Afternoon trip to Suomenlinna: there’s tons of little islands right off the the Market Square area with different restaurants, picnic areas and historical moments. You can easily grab a ferry ride in the harbor area and go for a visit.
Hanko is a small beach town at the southern part of Finland. I’ve never been to the Hamptons but there was a lot of comparison going on of the two. Hanko has roughly 8K year- around residents and up to to 30K in the summer; definitely a destination spot. I got Big Little Lies vibes from the area aka Big Sur/Monterey. We visited right before the peak summer season hit, so it was very quiet and peaceful.
Where to stay: Regatta Spa Hotel
THE hotel - literally, it’s the only one in the town- and it’s great. The rooms are spacious, the hospitality is superb, and we especially loved the food at the restaurant downstairs. Can’t forget the SPA! Our schedule was so jam packed that we only got a little taste of the spa and from what I saw it was SPECTACULAR. Legit wanted to stay one extra day to spend it at the spa.
Things to do in Hanko:
Kayak: probably one of my favorite experiences of the trip. We did a 2 hour kayak along the sea side and it was just so surreal. A perfect meditation, take it all in moment.
Sauna: I had my favorite sauna experience here because it was a private sauna with just our group. To be honest, I much prefer more intimate saunas settings than the big public ones. It’s less overwhelming and very relaxing to be on your own time and not feeling crowded. Our hotel organized this for us and it was just a few blocks away.
Bengtskar Lighthouse: this is almost a full day experience but so worth the beauty. We charted a boat that took us on through the Southwestern archipelago to the lighthouse that’s out in the middle of nowhere. Definitely not a trip for friends that get sea sick AND I would highly suggest not having a crazy night out the night before (from personal experience.) The photo opps and the views are stunning; nothing like we have in LA that’s for sure. For over a hundred years, the lighthouse has guided thousands of seafarers along safe routes and in the summer of 1995 the lighthouse was opened for visitors. They actually have a small hotel there as well!
Rent Bikes: as you can imagine, the town is not very big and it’s easily bikeable. The hotel has bikes and there are also others for rent on the dock near by. Definitely suggest this as a morning activity to get a feel for your surroundings.
I imagine if you go during peak summer season there’s so many more fun activities, parties, and bars popping.
If you’ve been following EDP for awhile then you know that Finland isn’t my typical tropical destination trip but I so enjoyed learning about the history and the culture there. It’s also nice to get out of your comfort zone every once in awhile. We really got to know our local guides and see the simplicity of both cities. It truly was a breath of fresh air; literally and figuratively. TBH, I will say the food wasn’t my favorite. Lots of smoked fish and veggies that Andy and aren’t typically used to eating on the daily but a few of our friends warned us of that before we embarked on the adventure. I’ve heard amazing things about Sweden and would definitely add that to the itinerary if I were to go visit Finland again. xo - Ash