Why every Helsinki lover needs The Helsinki Book


One thing is for sure: when visiting or moving to a new city in a foreign country, we all want to make the most of our stay. So, you pore over city handbooks, travel guides, and anything else you can get your hands on for a glimpse of your new city/country. However, while many travel guides and handbooks promise you a good time during your stay, most of them are either too touristy for my taste or simply lacking that interesting factor that keeps me glued.

But hey, that’s just me.

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Burning street car in Helsinki during USSR air raids, 1944.

Photos of bombed, WWII Helsinki mashed up with prosperous modernity

Burning street car in Helsinki during USSR air raids, 1944.

During WWII, Finland was twice involved in military confrontation with the Soviet union. For the capital, Helsinki, the most intense air raids and bombings occurred in February 1944, a campaign which is usually referred to as The Great Raids Against Helsinki. These amazing photographs, created by the Finnish Defence Forces Combat Camera unit, mash up haunting photos of wartime destruction with modern pics from a couple years back, in nice black and white plus colour images.

The USSR was under the impression its bombing campaigns were more successful and expected Helsinki to be pretty much gone by the end of the war. The Soviets didn’t learn of the relatively limited damage until after the war when Allied Control Commissioner Andrei Zhdanov visited Helsinki.

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Kippis! The strange history of Finland’s love affair with alcohol

Finlandia Vodka, photo by Vicente Villamón


Finns have always had an unusual relationship with alcohol. As far back as the 18th century, the French enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu referred to Finns as heavy drinkers. Doubtlessly, this contributed to prohibition introduced by Sweden in 1756. Prohibition ended under Russian Imperial rule, but it was still against the law to make moonshine at home. However, lobbying for complete prohibition remained popular among all kinds of busybodies.

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16 photos that show just how much Helsinki has changed in the last 100 years


You only have to wander around Helsinki on a summer’s day to see why it’s regularly listed as one of the world’s most livable cities. But it hasn’t always been that way. When King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden founded it in 1550 it was so unpopular he had to order the burghers of Rauma, Ulvila, Porvoo and Tammisaari to move there. The city didn’t grow much for the next few hundred years either. Even when it was finally declared the capital in 1812 the population was still less than 5000. At the same time, London was home to 1.2 million people. So, it’s really only since the start of the 20th century that Helsinki has become the city we all know and love. To celebrate this magnificent transformation, and to enjoy the fact we live in the Helsinki of the future, let’s take a peak at Helsinki of the past, courtesy of some marvellous pictures by photographers such as Ismo Hölttö and Jouko Leskinen.  Read more

Battledragon's Youtube cover of Bomfunk MC's Freestyler 1999 hit. Location: Hakaniemi Metro station.

Finnish Power Metal band recreates Bomfunk MC’s Freestyler music video, including remote control shenanigans

Battledragon's Youtube cover of Bomfunk MC's Freestyler 1999 hit. Location: Hakaniemi Metro station.

Here it is: Finland lacks an internationally known music scene compared to, say, Sweden which has produced hit phenomena ever since the days of ABBA.

A specific genre is something of an exception: Finland is estimated to have more metal bands per capita than any other country. Some of these bands are wildly successful within their genre.

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Screenshot of CompuCafe Helsinki video, uploaded to Vimeo by Larri Helminen.

1995 video promo for internet cafe puts Finland on the hi-tech map

Screenshot of CompuCafe Helsinki video, uploaded to Vimeo by Larri Helminen.
Recently, the online elite was amazed by a Finnish Internet Café video promo from 1995, which really should open our eyes for how quickly the world has changed. Back then, computers were clunky, fast internet connections were extremely expensive and there was no Wi-Fi.

Since we can assume the charmingly corny video probably didn’t serve its purpose back in the day, as an insert on MTV, we really think you should give the thing four minutes of your time.

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How to talk about work and leisure like a Finn: A step-by-step guide for expats


It’s a common belief among Finns that it’s not possible to fully relax and forget about your work if your vacation is shorter than the famous four weeks. The most usual and traditional summer holiday month is July. Nothing moves in July. Even if you work in July, you cannot get anything done, because except for you, there is nobody around. Little birds have told me a great strategy to have an eight-week holiday: keep on working in July (read: pretend) and take your four-week holiday in August. Feeling relaxed? Yes! And a little guilty? Of course not! Somebody has to work in July to answer e-mails and calls to say there is nobody working at the moment and you can’t really do anything about anything. You have sacrificed yourself for the good of the community.

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This amazing Instagram photographer will teach you about Helsinki’s walls


Anyone who’s into Helsinki should take note of this Instagram profile, Helsinkifacades. The account has one goal: documenting the facades of Helsinki, in glorious detail.

The idea isn’t new: the Ihaveathingforwalls Instagram is a must-see for any friends of architecture, but this hyper-localized account documents Helsinki, one wall at a time.

We warmly recommend reading the captions too. The unnamed photographer gives well-researched detail about the origin of the buildings, including architects and years built. The same photographer has a general repository of more Helsinki goodness in a separate account: @somewhereinhelsinki_.

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Never mind the hipsters: The complete guide to Kallio, Helsinki’s coolest district

Kallio Block Party in 2013

Kallio Block Party in 2013. Photo by Kallu.

Oh, Kallio, where would Finland be without you?

By Kallio, we refer to a wider district in Helsinki, the name of which literally translates to “rock” or “hill”.  It’s also a place you might want to experience.

This hilly area on the northeastern outskirts of Helsinki’s urban core has a mystique and romanticism to it: tales of brawls, wild student life and for outsiders, the obvious subject for tired weed jokes. Kallio is an extremely dense urban neighborhood by Nordic standards, explained in part by its cramped apartments, which where typical for working class settings in Finland even after WWII.

Finland, which is mostly suburban sprawl, is lucky to have a dense and culturally rich place like Kallio. These days, the district has an almost obnoxious, hipsterish role to play in defining trends and culture for a Finland that tends to cling to cartoonish versions of its agrarian past.

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