Living as a Local: Helsinki Secret Residence

Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki

Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki

Hello friends! I want to tell you how wonderful it was to be a guest in the Helsinki Secret Residence.  Here in this post I share my Helsinki highlights with you all.  I’ve been visiting Helsinki for many years and I honestly have to say that Helsinki’s travel blogger program WOWED me. It allowed me to see and experience Helsinki in a way that I never did before. Helsinki is a city that must be experienced like a local to really get a full appreciation for it. This program allows you to do just that; it really takes the travel blogger experience to a higher level.  Once you arrive, the Visit Helsinki team will greet you and hand you a folder full of things to see and do in Helsinki and its surrounding areas.

The Visit Helsinki team were very welcoming, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. These people are experts on Helsinki and will go over each and every brochure, dining and museum voucher, your travel card, and much more.  After a thorough briefing, you’ll be ready to explore this Nordic city and have a nice game plan mapped out to make the most out of your stay.
The midnight sun was still very present during my stay in mid-July. During the winter months, daylight is scarce, so summer is a time for some wonderful celebrations. And with all that daylight, there were many great opportunities to see and photograph some spectacular sunsets that occurred around 11:30pm.  Absolutely breathtaking!

Midnight Sun - Helsinki

Midnight Sun – Helsinki

One of the most memorable events of my stay was an evening that I spent at a traditional Finnish Crayfish Party.  This party look place in the in the town of Loppi.  This beautiful lake area is about a one-hour drive from the Helsinki and it’s a perfect place to get a taste of the marvelous countryside that’s a short distance from the city.  It was much more than just fun. It was a cultural experience that really tied together the Finnish people’s connection to nature, their appreciation of family, friends and long summer nights.

Crayfish Party - Loppi, Finland

Crayfish Party – Loppi, Finland

Apparently Finnish crayfish celebrations are nearly identical to those in Sweden. During the late summer, sweet-tasting freshwater crayfish can be caught in the countless numbers of lakes of this country.  

Crayfish Party - table setting

Crayfish Party – table setting


Crayfish parties have a longstanding history in Finland with many traditions attached: the table is dressed festively, time-honored songs are sung (in Finnish and Swedish), schnapps is poured, stories are told and new friends are made. These parties typically don’t start until 9:30-10 pm, taking full advantage of the summer sun and beautiful late night sunset.  It was an experience I will never forget and quite a delicious one, too.
Also, during my stay I took the opportunity to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’ve always wanted to visit this city and it is very easy to do from Helsinki via the St. Peter Line.  All you have to do is jump on board, enjoy a nice meal, do some shopping, catch a late night show and go to sleep.  Once morning comes, you’ll be walking down the gangway toward one very beautiful city and no visa is required.  That’s right, no visa hassles when traveling by ship.  (See my previous post on Helsinki to St. Petersburg)

You’ll have a 72-hour temporary visa that is set up by the St. Peter Line for passengers. (Restrictions apply for some, so carefully check the website.)  St. Petersburg is home to the world-renowned Hermitage Museum.  I know I’ll be back. If you ever get the chance to visit St. Petersburg, you’ll be so overwhelmed by its beauty and places to see that you’ll want to go back one day soon, too. Memorable overnight trips to a spectacular city like St. Petersburg, Russia are just another great reason to visit Helsinki.

As a chef I can’t leave out the food.  The food scene in Helsinki is booming! There are some fantastic chefs and many wonderful restaurants.  Over the last 10 years, the food culture has changed drastically for the better.  New Nordic cuisine is all the craze these days and when in Helsinki you can get a nice taste of it.  I had three very memorable meals during my stay. 

Snow Grouse and Roasted Root Vegetables

Savoy Restaurant’s Snow Grouse and Roasted Root Vegetables 

First was the Savoy Restaurant.  The Savoy has been a classic mainstay in Helsinki for the last 75 years. The restaurant’s design was created by the famous Finnish architect, Alvar AaltoEven though this is a place steeped in its historical past, the food is contemporary. I’m glad to say that the kitchen puts out delicious, beautifully prepared top-notch dishes that actually bring a new flair of appreciation to the longstanding history of the restaurant.  

I also had a very unique dining experience at a very new Finnish restaurant called Finnjävel. The name of this restaurant means “Finnish Devil” and the chefs here are serving some devilishly creative twists on traditional Finnish dishes.

A lovely Sancerre at Finnjävel

A lovely Sancerre at Finnjävel


The tasting menu pairs each course with superb wine and beers.  As the dishes are being served, the waiter explains what the dish was traditionally and what the chefs did to create a more modern twist on it.  It’s really nice and as a chef, I was all ears. This kind of dining causes you to pay attention as you’re transported from dish to dish.  Foodies will truly love this place.







Lastly, I had a fabulous meal in the restaurant of an old prison-turned-trendy hotel. Linnankellari restaurant is one prison that you won’t mind spending some time in.  The food is hearty Scandinavian cuisine. 

Linnankellari: Flank Steak with Smoked Chili Butter

Linnankellari: Flank Steak with Smoked Chili Butter

And as a reward for good behavior, you can ask for a tour of the Hotel Katajanokka and see for yourself how this establishment was miraculously changed from a lockdown facility to a modern hotel with a very cool restaurant.

Linnankellari : Almond Cake with a Lemon-Blueberry Cream

Linnankellari : Almond Cake with a Lemon-Blueberry Cream

Maybe after you research more about Helsinki online and delve into your areas of interest, you just might want to change your traditional travel plans and head north.