Visited December 2013
Breakfast at Hotel Haven was a nice and cozy affair. Tucked away in a little corner on the first floor, it served a variety of cheese, smoked ham and salmon, and had a nice range of muesli and yoghurt. While I usually find smoked salmon too salty, Finnish smoked salmon was just perfect. The only troublesome issue was that we had to walk in the open for a few moments to get to the restaurant. If you are a person who cannot stand cold for just a little moment, you’ll need to put on and take off your coat every time you visit the restaurant.
Our second day in Helsinki started off with the Audio Sightseeing Tour, free with the Helsinki Card. Picking us up from Esplanade Park, it was mainly sightseeing through the bus window to the Presidential Palace, City Hall, The Parliament buildings, Finlandia Hall and the Opera House.
Our first stop was Temppeliaukio Church, a church carved into the rocks with excellent acoustics. And with the crowd coming in, it was pretty hard to get a good shot of the place. I would think that the second level might have a better view, but our stay there was extremely short (10 min), which did not allow us to fully explore angles. The second and last stop of the tour was at the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
After the bus tour, we made our way to Uspenski Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox cathedral, and its surrounding neighbourhood. As we did not make our way up to its entrance, we felt that a nicer view of the cathedral was from the nearby port, located just behind our hotel.
In the spirit of visiting more Christmas markets, we made our way to Hakaniemi Market Place, an indoor market place that I happen to come across. Located two stops from the Central Railway Metro Station, we arrived to 2-storey red-brick building. While the first floor sells fresh produce and foodstuffs, the second level offered souvenirs and handicrafts.
As for us, we decided to enjoy a meal at a café found on the second level, together with chocolates and gingerbread men in tow as snacks and souvenirs.
Before we knew it, it was almost the end of our second day, which meant that we would be travelling up to Rovaniemi the next day. We decided then to walk under the lights of Aleksanterinkatu one last time before we left the capital city, and catch up on any last minute shopping or window shopping, as we passed by street buskers and the impressive Stockmann department store.
And according to one of my Finnish Lapland tour guide, Stockmann is the largest department store in Finland, and that ‘If Stockmann doesn’t have it, it means you don’t need it’.