The last leg of our Nordic Adventure was our Finnish Roadtrip. This was over seven days (6 nights), which would return us back to Helsinki to fly home. We didn’t follow anyone elses recommended roadtrip. We designed ours as a round trip, with drive lengths between 2-4 hours. We did consider going along the coastline to Oulu and up to Rovaniemi, Lapland to see Santa and that is definetely do-able in 7 days. But when travelling with a toddler who doesn’t like the car, we thought we would leave that for another holiday. Also because we were travelling early in the summer season, we would not be able to see the Northern Lights, which can be seen between mid-August until early April.
We made six stops on this roadtrip, which included Turku, Tampere, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Savonlinna, and Porvoo. We booked Airbnb for every location except for Turku, so we got to stay in some very interesting locations. We did make a few stops between these towns, but not as many as we did on or Norwegian roadtrip, just because there wasn’t as many tourist stops that we came across.
Something that needs to be mentioned as well, is that we were travelling during the MidSummer holiday or as I like to refer to, as our Midsummer Nightmare. I don’t recommend booking a trip during this time and if you do try to stick to Helsinki. The reason is because all the Finnish leave and go to their summer homes in the country. They enjoy time with their family and friends in their cottage, light bonfires, have sauna’s, which is all very nice. This also means that all of the shops, restaurants and attractions are closed. The supermarkets were open, but it was hard to find restaurants or cafes open and definetely no clothing or sourveir stores. So all my well researched plans to see and eat the best that these towns had to offer were ruined. It’s our own fault not doing more research on this Finnish national holiday. Everything was shut for 3 days and some shut for a whole week to give employs a longer break. So this Midsummer Nightmare affected our trip by day 3 and we also had rainy weather to top it off. We didnt stay in our apartments and complain, instead we made new plans to see what we could. So in the following posts I will detail what we did and also what we would originally planned to do.
Breakfast in Helsinki
Before we started our roadtrip we needed some Finnish pastries. So we began the day at Finland’s oldest bakery, patisserie and cafe. Ekberg 1852 is located on Bulevardi, in Helsinki’s city centre, which is lined with many restaurants, cafes and art galleries. For the past century Ekberg 1852 has been serving Finnish and international pastries and other delicacies.
Now something we didn’t realise when we arrived is that are two parts ot Ekberg 1852, the cafe and the bakery/patisserie. We were expecting to see the bakery, but because we arrived from the left we found the cafe first and didn’t stumble across the bakery until we were leaving. In hindsight I would of prefered the bakery, because they had so much more to offer and we could of got some takeaway items and kept going.
At the cafe they had a breakfast buffet, which included breads, crossiants, cheese, cold cuts, vegetables, porridge, eggs, hot and cold drinks. At the counter they had sweet and savoury pastaries, sandwiches and cakes.
We arrived just before buffet was going to close, so we just ordered a few of the times at the counter. Octavia and I shared the Brioche and Korvapuusti (cinnamon roll) and Marco had a poppyseed roll with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, pesto and lettuce. We also ordered oak milk coffees. Everything was nice enough, but it didn’t wow us and lacked atomosphere I was expecting. I think I would have found that in the bakery next door, but it wasn’t meant to be.
From there we had make our way on foot to pick up our rental car from Eurocar. So we first cross through the Vanha kikkopuisto/Old Church Park. It is also known as Plague Park, as it is the resting place of over a thousand victims of the plague of 1710 and was previously a cemetary. The 40 gravestones and memorials commemorate the plague victims as well as victims of the Finnish Civil War and Estonian War of Independence.
Not far from there we came across the Three Smiths/Kolme seppää monument in the Three Smiths Square, between Kamppi and Kluuvi districts. It was made by Felix Nylund and was unveiled in 1932. The statue represents there smiths and is thought to symbolise human labour and cooperation.
From Helsinki we drove straight to Turku, which takes about 2 hours by car. We arrived into Turku after midday and checked into the Scandic Hotel. We didn’t get too much time to see the centre of town as we had to have lunch and have enough time to visit the Turku Castle, so these are a few photos I took from the car.
Before we go on I’ll tell you a little bit about Turku. It is situated on the southwestern coastline/region of Finland and is mostly likey the oldest city in Finland. It was founded as early as the 13th century and remained one of the most important cities over the centuries. Until the 1840’s it was one of the most populated cities in Finland and thus, has had a big impact on the history of Finland. It is also known as the ‘Christmas town’ of Finland, as it has been celebrating Christmas celebrations annually since the 13th century.
Turku Market Hall
On this trip we had seen so many amazing Market Halls, but hadn’t got a chance to have a proper lunch at one. Today we were able to visit the Turku Market Hall with the intention of lunch.
The Turku Market Hall/Turun Kauppahalli was open in 1896 and was designed by the architect Gustaf Nyström, who also designed Helsinki’s Market Hall. It was built to address the unhygienic and disorderly 19th century food trade. Turku’s Market Hall originally had 151 shops, with 53 dedicated to meat products. By 1905, running water was installed, so there were aquariums, with live fish to buy. However, electricity wasn’t installed until 1932, so gas lamps had been previously used. Modern refridgerated counters were installed in 1957, as well as its first florist and stationary store. The hall was nearly removed in the 1960s, to make way for a new market hall and office buildings. This eventually resulted in a renovation in 1976, which replaced the marble counters for stainless steel and reduced the number of stores by half. The front facade of the building remains unchanged.
Inside the market hall today you can find butchers, fish mongers, cheese shops, bakeries, stores selling Finnish and Scandinavian foods, spice stores, resturants and cafes. There are a few international stores/cafes, offering Mexican food, Vietnamese, sushi, hotdogs, kebabs, pizza and vegetarian/vegan food. There is also a tiny little Museo and a text panel with old photographs, so you can imagine what it use to be like and see how much it has changed.
I really wanted to try something Finnish for lunch and preferably with fresh seafood. So we stopped in at Herkkunuotta, which is a fishmonger with a small cafe attached. They had a small menu, which utilised their fresh seafood, cooked right in front of you. Octavia and I shared the Fried Catfish with Roasted Potatoes, Vegetables and Citrus Sour Cream. Marco had the Crayfish Burger Happy meal, which also included a salad with prawns, spinach, roasted potatoes and herb cream, as well as a coffee. These dishes were quite well priced and were very generous portions. The fresh seafood and other ingredients was high quality and so was the presentation. We just loved every bite of it.
Before we left we got some takeaway pastries from the market bakery Hallin Herkku, which we enjoyed at our next stop for afternoon tea. These treats included Raparperipulla (custard and rhubarb), Kotkanwiener (strawberry-apple jam & custard) Kinuskimunkki (carmel donut). They were all so delicious and tasted very fresh, which to be honest I wasn’t expecting from the donut. My favourite was the rhubarb and custard pastry. We enjoyed them at the Turku Castle, which we visited just after this. I will write another post dedicated to the castle as its the major attraction in Turku and a must-see when you visit.
Shopping in Turku
After the Turku Castle, we did a bit of walking and window shopping in the city centre. Turku city centre has a mix of gorgeous old buildings and modern ones. There quite a few shopping malls, filled with Finnish designers and restaurants. One store that I was really excited to see was the PUF Design Market, which offers over 20 eco Finnish brands. I was expecting it to be more of a market, rather then a medium size clothing store. They did have pretty unique stuff though. It is located inside the Forum Kortteli, which has other Finnish designers and International restaurants. We also visited the oldest and large shopping mall, Hansakortteli and walked along the main pedetrain street. Since it was quite late in the afternoon most stores were closing or closed, but it was still worth seeing the centre.
Our last stop for the evening was the Aura River. This river runs through the heart of Turku and is lined with museums, city buildings, parks, cafes and restaurants. It is the perfect place to take an evening stroll along the promenade and dine overlooking the water. Even though it looks pretty deserted, the restaurants were all full.
As ususal I had already planned where I wanted to have dinner. It was a beautiful Mediaterrean resturant, Tintå. However, they were completely booked out and we had no luck of getting a table this evening. We did checked out Pub Niska, but ultimately decided on, Ravintola Sergio´s.
Ravintola Sergio´s is an Italian restaurant located along the promenade, in an old wooden house. They are known for their authentic Italian pizza, which won the Pizzamest championship in Finland in 2017. They menu offers a selection of pizza, pastas, traditional Italian starters and mains, as well as an imported wine selection. I was quite impressed with the offerings and the atmosphere inside was also very authentic.
Marco and I ordered a couple of dishes to share and Octavia had her favourite Margherita pizza with sugo, buffalo mozzarella and basil. We had the Lasagne with veal ragù, white wine and parmesan cheese sauce and the Capricciosa pizza with sugo, mozzarella, ham, artichoke, salami and mushrooms. I was a bit unsure how the lasagne was going to be since its usually a hit or miss dish and when it came out I was suprised to see the sauces underneath the lasagne. Well, it was to die for. It was just perfectly made and the sauces just added to the favours hit. The pizza was also excellent and was the same quality that I would expect from a good pizzeria in Italy.
Well thats part 1 of our first day in Turku. Next I will take you to the Turku Castle and then on day two we will visit the Turku Cathedral before driving to the city of Tampere. I just thought I would mention that we only scratched the surface of what Turku has to offer. Two or three days would of been idea to visit some of the many museums, such as Aboa Vetus Ars Nova Museum (historical and contemporary) or Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum (pre-industrial open-air museum) and see the Turku Archipelago.