“Niin metsä vastaa, kuin sinne huudetaan.”
“The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it.”
Scouring the globe for a decade in search of a destination I could feel at complete ease as a solo female traveler; why had it taken me 30 years to touch down in this alluring Nordic city?
Arguably one of the best seasons, fall showcases the vibrant colors of the leaves as they blend effortlessly against the flamboyant buildings lining the streets: truly picture-perfect.
Maybe it was the friendly smiles of the locals or maybe the respect I felt as a woman, but I can safely say that 35 countries later, Helsinki may be the place I felt the most comfortable as a solo female traveler thus far on my jaunts across the world.
Crisp air greeted me as I made my way from Helsinki Central Station through the main part of the city. I arrived just in time for the beginning of the fall season. What’s pleasant about Finland is the mixture of weather and the ability to experience all four seasons in one place.
While the winter months are certainly a huge draw for visitors looking to experience the beauty of Finland layered in a powdered sheet of white, the fall brings a pop of color to the city and a noticeable buzz around certain events and things to do.
Where To See The Foliage (because there’s plenty of it to go around!)
- Meilahti and Viikki Arboretum
- Keskuspuisto – Helsinki’s Central Park
- Eläintarhanlahti and Kaisaniemenlahti
- Niskala Arboretum and Haltiala
Unexpected Places To Meet People
Navigating a new destination can be arduous as a solo traveler, but you know what makes it a little easier? Finding something in common with the locals. And if there’s one thing most Finns are passionate about, it’s the city’s spirited beer scene.
Embarking on a mission from my hostel to the eclectic street that is Iso Roobertinkatu, I had one destination in mind: Black Door Beer Garden. I was on the hunt for a local haunt where I could chat with others who shared my beer-loving tendencies and for a chance to really talk to the locals.
To say I found it here is an understatement. After a week in Helsinki, I found myself back at the neighborhood bar 3-4 more times during my stay. There’s nothing more pleasurable as a solo traveler than being greeted as an old friend in a new city.
Best Beer-Pubs in Helsinki (Sampled By Me):
- Black Door- Local spot with over 20 beers on tap
- Pien- Craft beer shop where you can drink in or take out
- Bier Bier- Cozy bar with both Finnish and various other beers
- Villi Wäinö- Literally hundreds of beers available
- Bart- A beer and art pub with 20 Nordic beers on tap
5 Star Hostel Life
Upon check-in, I was asked to take off my shoes and handed a pair of slippers. Staying in hostels around the world, you learn to appreciate the small luxuries – and this was certainly one of them!
Situated in a commercial building on the buzzing street of Kalevankatu, Yard Hostel was the ideal place to stay as a solo traveler. With a cozy atmosphere and family feel, it’s within walking distance to everything you’d want to see around the city, with a few local bars on your doorstep.
The Yard perfectly mirrors the Finnish way of life through its clean interiors, potted plants, and open spaces. A large common area and kitchen make it surprisingly easy to meet fellow travelers during the stay, and rooms are spacious with curtains for privacy.
For More Tips On Where To Stay During The Fall, Visit My Helsinki!
Activities To Keep You Busy And Relaxed
Imagine waking up on a crisp, cool morning, and all you want to do is relax, detox, and enjoy the Finnish way of life. Well, Helsinki has an abundance of activities for all locals and travelers.
With an estimated 3.3 million saunas across the country, the art of detoxing truly is a way of life in the Finnish culture, and luckily for visitors, they’re easily accessible.
Below is a list of unique saunas/pools frequently used by the locals. There’s also a ‘secret sauna’ in Helsinki that prefers staying under the radar, so ask a few locals and see if you’re up for the challenge of finding it along your travels!
Unique Saunas/Pools To Visit In Helsinki:
- Löyly: Seaside sauna with a glass-walled restaurant
- Kotiharjun Sauna: Wood-fired traditional sauna (BYOB)
- Lapinlahden Lähteen Sauna: The oldest sauna in town
- Yrjönkadun Uimahalli: The oldest public indoor pool in Finland
- Allas Sea Pool: Sauna, fresh-water pool, and heated pool sat along the ocean
Affordable If You Know Where To Go
Oftentimes, Nordic countries are known for being a little more expensive than the likes of Eastern Europe or Western Europe; however, affordable finds can be found all over the world if you know where to look for them.
As a solo traveler, I always base my trips on one key mindset: do as the locals do. To fully immerse oneself into the open arms of a new culture, it’s important to explore off the beaten path slightly and see where the road leads.
Meandering along the foliage-lined streets of Helsinki without Google Maps as my guiding light, I stumbled upon many local markets, thrift shops, quaint cafes, and outlying neighborhoods
- Market Square: Sat along the waterfront in the city center, the Square is lined with tents serving all of Finland’s traditional favorites (be sure to try the salmon soup and vendace)
- Hakaniemi Market Hall: An indoor/outdoor market in the quirky Kalio neighborhood of Helsinki. As one of the city’s most authentic markets, it offers 2 floors of the best finds
- Old Market Hall: Serving Helsinki since 1889, you’ll find some of the best foods here
- Hietalahden Kauppahalli: Vintage indoor food hall
- Cafe Regatta: This log-cabin cafe has called Taivallahti Bay home for more than 135 years! A local haunt, it has some of the best views and cinnamon buns outside of the city
- Keskuspuisto: Did you know the central forest in Helsinki is a foraging site? Actually, most of the country is! Finland believes in Jokaisenoikeudet or everyman’s rights. “The law allows anyone living in or visiting Finland the freedom to roam the countryside,” which could be the cheapest meal ever if you can cook it all afterward!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com