Beaches in Helsinki and Finland

Summer = beach. That is especially true if you can rely on good weather and sunshine, like in the south of Europe. But the northern countries, including Finland, also have their nice share of sea beaches and beaches by the lake. In this post we tell you about some of the best beaches in Helsinki and Finland.

Hietaniemi beach
Some Finns taking in the sunlight, on Helsinki’s Hietaniemi beach. Source (CC: by-sa)

Finland: beaches by the sea and beaches by the lake

Finland, as it has been traditionally branded, is the land of the thousand lakes (the Finland brand has grown ever since to include education, design, northern lights). You can go to any of the lakes in Finland and freely take a dip, but if I personally had to choose I’d prefer bathing in salty wather and with no coast on the horizon, with the feeling of immensity that only the sea can provide.

Finnish sea-beaches (and bathing in the nude)

The sea-beaches of Finland that are on the shore of the Baltic sea aren’t all look-alikes. Some of them are sandy, while others are covered in small stones instead of fine sand. They are usually quite long with lots of space to put your towel, and once you decide to go into the water, the floor of the sea will have the same pattern as the beach: it can be a little rocky or deliciously sandy.

We’ll see some famous and highly frequented beaches in Helsinki and Finland in a second.

Beach in the baltic sea, in Helsinki
A beach in Helsinki, on the Baltic sea. Source(CC: by)

Highlight: Hietaniemi beach in Helsinki

When people picture Helsinki, they probably think about anything but a beach. Nonetheless there are several beaches to choose from, and they are a great option for spending the long summer afternoons and evenings and to enjoy the white night.

The Hietaniemi beach, or “Hietsu” as it is known by the locals, is the most popular beach of Helsinki’s capital. It is sandy, so you don’t have to worry about little stones. Its address is Hiekkarannantie 11. It is a supervised beach: It has safeguards during the summer period, in the daytime (from June 2nd to August 10th, between 10 and 21h). There are some publicly available areas and services, such as showers, outdoor gyms, and a children’s area. Hietaniemi was named one of the most romantic spots in the city, so it is a great choice for spending a day at the beach in Helsinki.

On this map we can see the location of Hietaniemi beach, on the left, and the location of the Uunisaari beach – we will talk about it in a second – in the south.

The Uunisaari beach, near Helsinki

This nice beach can only be accessed in summer with a ferry boat. The good thing is that the ferry takes only three minutes from the city. This ferry leaves from Kaivopuisto park, next to the city center.

The island where the beach is at also features a restaurant, a kiosk, and several public saunas. This island is worth a visit to get the sun tan: it is really close to Helsinki and is tiny, which makes it quite lovely. From there you can leave the busy city life and all the buildings behind, and you have a great view: the sea to one side and the city to the other.

Uunisaari beach
Uunisaari beach, before the beginning of the season, and looking towards Helsinki. Source (CC:by)

Regarding the beach per se, this one also has safeguards during daytime – between 10 and 18h – during the period between June 2nd and August 10th. The cost to arrive to this island by ferry is 3,5€.

Other beaches in Helsinki

The website of the city of Helsinki provides us with a list of all the beaches that exist in the city. Some of them are near the river or at a lake, others by the sea. The list contains data like locations, if they are supervised, what kind of installations are around (for example, beach volley nets, an open-air gym, children’s playground, toilets, etc.). You can see this list of beaches in Helsinki here.

The longest beach of Finland: Yyteri

Yyteri has to offer six kilometers of sandy dunes, to sink our feet in with each step. It is the longest beach in Finland and one of the biggest in all the nordic countries.

Yyteri beach, Finland
Yyteri beach on an autumn day. Source (CC: by-sa)

Its location is 250 kilometers from the capital of Finland, therefore being less accessible than the beaches of Helsinki we talked about. This beach is near the city of Pori. Its distance to Helsinki is compensated by its great length, the low waters, and all the things you can do there, such as surfing (it is one of the few places in Finland where you can do this), lots of beach volley and more water sports.

Most of the beach area is for normal bathing, but there is also a part of the beach for people who prefer to sunbath, and bath, in the nude. If this is something you’re keen on doing, besides this beach you can also go to the Pihlajasaari beach in the Finnish city of Yyteri, and also the beaches of Pihlasaari and Seurasaari in Helsinki.

Can you recommend any other sea beach that you like in Finland? Have you been to the ones we mentioned in this post? Be careful, nonetheless, about the very big Finnish mosquitoes, and if you go to some beaches on the south-west of Finland, also beware of ticks.

Finns eat tar: the strangest Finnish ingredient

We already saw on the blog that Finns eat tar thanks to the Bizarre Foods’s video from Andrew Zimmern, Finnish edition. We saw him give his opinion about how tar tastes in food when he went to a marketplace: He actually liked the smokey flavor.

A road made with tar
A Finnish road. Main ingredient: tar.

What exactly is tar?

According to wikipedia, there are several kinds of tar. Some of them aren’t very good for people’s health.

In the North of Europe, Finland included, tar is produced by burning wood in a pile. It was already being used centuries ago in these nordic and scandinavian countries to coat ships… and as medicine.

Finns have a saying: “If sauna, vodka and tar don’t help, the illness is fatal.” The reason behind this expression is that tar is also a microbicide agent.

The word for tar in Finnish language is “Terva“. So if you see this word in the supermarket and you are not afraid to deal with the dark element, you know what to go for. For instance, this shampoo:

Shampoo made with tar
Shampoo with “chimney effect”. Just kidding: Tar is supposed to help with dandruff. Source (CC: by-sa)

This ingredient is also used as a scent for places such as the sauna. The Finns like the familiarity of the smell.

Eating tar

Tar is used as an additive and as a flavoring ingredient. It gives a smoky flavor to the dish you add it to, such as ice creams, beers, liquorice and sweets. In the Andrew Zimmern video we saw tar added to a herring sauce, and as a spray to add a bit of tar to any dish that you wish.

And what does tar have that is liked in Finland? Besides the smoky flavor we talked about, it might have something to do with Finns fondness (love!) for food items that are seen as strange everywhere else and that have unique – acquired taste – flavors, such as salmiakki or mämmi. The tar flavor is the closest thing you have to chewing smoke.

In this photos we can see some people eating tar ice-cream and also some Finnish candy that features the same flavor and that you can get at in many supermarkets and convenience stores. You can check out this Finnish delicacy by yourself and then decide if tar is for you. After all, all the cool Finnish kids are doing it.

tar ice cream
These people are eating tar ice-cream, or so it says the Source (CC: by-sa) of the photo.

Leijona candy
This candy brand is tar-flavored. Source (CC: by-sa)

What do you think of this curious gastronomical variant of Finland? Would you be up for trying it?

Finnish Cuisine: a thorough overview on video

Some time ago we saw how star chef Gordon Ramsay tasted traditional Finnish food. He didn’t like what he tasted but, unlike him, the readers of Big in Finland did like these parts of the Finnish cuisine. Ramsay, as always, brought in the polemic: Some people said that he has no manners, or that he barely put the food in his mouth before criticizing it and spitting it out. the common opinion was that you don’t judge Finnish cuisine like that.

I like Ramsay, though. I see a perfectionist that demands the same of others, or at least no fluff. He can also be a good mentor, as you can see in Master Chef. In any case, I understand that he’s a person not liked by everyone.

When I put his video on our Facebook page, a reader pointed me to another one that also deals with Finnish cuisine: an episode of Bizarre Foods about Finland and its most bizarre foods, with Andrew Zimmern.

Recording an episode of Bizarre Foods
Andrew Zimmern recording an episode of his show. Source (CC: by-nd)

I started to watch it and, indeed, it is a great overview of the whole spectrum of Finnish gastronomy. From family recipes of almost uninhabited islands to a visit to Finland’s top chef Hans Valamaki, from Chef Dominique. His restaurant used to be the only one in Helsinki with two Michelin Stars, but it was closed due to the chef’s lost love with the business side of having a restaurant.

All Finnish cuisine in a single video

The following videos of the Bizarre Foods chapter deal with Finland and its food. The episode is cut into three smaller videos and, above each video, I tell you what’s in it. In almost all the segments and dishes we can see an ever-present ingredient in Finnish food: potatoes.

The first segment about the Finnish cuisine, Andrew Zimmern tastes…

  • Blood pie (he really enjoys showing us how it is prepared)
  • Salmiakki
  • Lamprey
  • Herring on tar sauce
  • Bear

In the second segment, we see:

  • How to feed bears
  • Seal
  • Herring and salmon leftovers (head, tail, bones) soup
  • Reindeer milk (around 120 Euros/litre, he says, and with a fatty and sweet flavor that stays in the mouth)
  • Reindeer meat (liver, tongue, top round, medallions of the reindeer’s leg)

In the last segment chef Hans Valamaki, the former owner of the only Finnish restaurant with two Michelín Stars, Chef Dominique, prepares:

  • Reindeer tartar
  • Reindeer with the moss that it eats (mixing different ingredients that relate to each other in nature – as in here with the reindeer and the moss that it eats – it is one of the novelties of the new Nordic Cuisine and thus of the Finnish Cuisine)
  • Reindeer with poisonous wild mushrooms (cooked twice until all the toxins are gone)
  • Crayfish, served at a crayfish party

After this, Andrew Zimmern vistis Jarmo Pitkanen, from the Tundra restaurant in Ruka Kuusamo (in Lapland, the north of Finland) who serves him:

  • White fish with a sauté of zucchini, chanterelle mushrooms, new potatoes and sauce hollandaise

Finally, in the forest with other locals, he tries:

  • Birch tree bark (and they take some birch branches to hit each other in the sauna)
  • Cloudberry
  • Leippajusto (“cheese bread”)
  • A just-fished perch, that they proceed to smoke

What is missing for me in this video about the Finnish Cuisine? Maybe he should have traveled to Karelia as well, and tried the most Finnish dish of them all: the Karjalanpasti (Karelian stew), and of course the Karelian pie.

Did these videos about the Finnish cuisine make you hungry? What did you like the most from the videos, and what else should he have shown?

The Linnanmäki amusement park in Helsinki

Some people ask us via Facebook: What to do in Helsinki? Finland’s capital is not only the main entrance point to the country, it is its biggest city too and therefore worth a visit. If you’re going to Helsinki and like to have fun – which I assume you do – read on: we’ll talk about Helsinki’s amusement park: Linnanmäki.

El Parque de atracciones de Helsinki
Down in the Linnanmäki theme park. Source (CC: by).

Linnanmäki’s attractions and opening times

This year’s new season has already begun at Linnanmäki (official page), as they open up in April each year. They close their doors again at the end of October – check the opening times here.

The Linnanmäki amusement park of Helsinki states that it has more attractions than any other park in the the Nordic (and Scandinavian) countries. If you want to check out what you would like to ride, this is the page to do so: probably you’ll find some equivalent of your favorite rides if you are a theme park aficionado.

Of course, the park is also apt for families, in case you visit Helsinki with the ones closest to you.

Linannmäki: a theme park in Helsinki
You’ve got a ticket to ride. Source (CC: by-sa)

The prices of Helsinki’s amusement park and directions how to get there

The entrance to this amusement park is already something amusing: it is free! You can go inside the park and take a walk for no cost, and you can also have fun watching the faces of the people currenty on the rides.

You will have to take out your wallet to ride an attraction though. Each separate ride costs approximately 8€ and the price for a full day of rides is 37€. You can also combine the day ticket with a SEA LIFE ticket and both will cost you 45€. These are, at least, the prices that they show on the English version of the website. The Finnish version has a myriad of ticket options (see them here, if you speak Finnish), like a special ticket for the last 3 opening hours or another day ticket for the next day for just 8€ more. Ask at the entrance of the Linannmäki for explanations in English if needed.

A good tip: Check out the Panorama sightseeing tower and experience Helsinki from 53 meters above the ground. This, alone, is worth visiting Linnanmäki: You get to see Finland’s capital scenery from the high ground… and is also free of charge.

The park at night
The park at night. Although if you visit it during the White Nights time you will see little darkness. Source (CC: by-sa)

The park’s address is the following: Tivolikuja 1, 3km from Helsinki’s centre. There are several options how to get there with public transport – check all the options here.

Linnanmäki also has some restaurants and live events. During recent years they were especially promoting some of their restaurants, where cooks who had 4 Michelin stars altogether were working at.

Have you already visited the amusement park of Linnanmäki? What’s your favorite attraction?

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