I didn’t think I would travel back to Helsinki so soon. I was there just two summers ago. In fact, I didn’t even plan to go to Helsinki; it was Beijing I was aiming for. Here’s how it happened: I recently realized that I racked up enough miles on my credit card to buy myself a long haul flight, and I ended up with a ticket from London to Beijing with a six hour layover in Helsinki.
Not wanting to sit in the lounge and drink Champagne all day (well, it’s not that I didn’t want to…), I threw my bag in a locker, hopped on a Finnair bus, and rode into the city for the afternoon.
And what an afternoon it was. The mercury read 25 C (77 F), but it felt even warmer, and all of Helsinki was out enjoying the sunshine.
I alighted at the train station, a gorgeous Eliel Saarinen building in the Helsinki city center. I didn’t have a set plan for the day, so I did what Americans do best: I let my stomach lead the way.
Gastric juices gurgling, it led me right across the street to a tiny food shop called Eat&Joy Farmers Market. Inside was a plethora of gustatory wonders from fine Finnish chocolate to local cheeses and meats. I was tempted to buy half the store and have myself a picnic.
I refrained, though, if only because my stomach was holding out for another Helsinki market. This was the famous outdoor market on the waterfront, Kauppatori.
Walking down the beautiful cafe-lined esplanade to the sea, I spotted the famous orange market stalls and my stomach gave a little squeeze of excitement.
The market sells both food and souvenirs, and there’s no need to guess which one I was there for. The summer strawberries and cherries called to me with their sweet red ripeness, and I worked my way down the aisles tasting their succulent nectar. When my berry appetite was sated, I tucked in for an amazing ham and cheese crepe at a small open-air market cafe.
After I finished eating I convinced my stomach to give the souvenir side of the Kauppatori Market a chance. I was happy to see that the vendor from whom I bought a beautiful silver tray two years ago was still there. Latimeria Arts and Crafts from Porvoo had the same amazing designs, and if I hadn’t been en route to Beijing, I would have bought some of them.
By the time I finished meandering through the market, my time in Helsinki was running out. I walked along another few streets enjoying the sun and the city, then headed back to the airport to travel to Beijing.