There are a lot of cafés in Helsinki and boy, did we spend a lot of time in them! Our fast-paced sightseeing gave us much spare time to sit in cafes and match the slower-paced life in the city. If I were to make broad generalisations of the cafes in Helsinki, they would be the following:
- Cafés in Helsinki are self-service (or at least, all the ones I frequented were). You take a tray, help yourself to the various savouries and cakes (and yes, you have to serve yourself the slice of cake), order drinks from the cashier and then pay and carry all your items to the table of your choice.
- Cafés in Helsinki serve what I call cold food. So, sandwiches, salads, pastries, cakes, quiches, tarts, etc.
- Cafés in Helsinki provide free tap water, from a tap! Glasses are stacked up by the tap and the nicer places provide a bucket of ice and/or a bowlful of lemon slices.
- Cafés in Helsinki are so nice!
After our light seafood lunch on Saturday, I dragged Blai (who was quite tired from his work-filled week in Helsinki) to the Café Kappeli, housed in a a beautiful glass and ironwork building in the centre of the city. We settled for a modest slice of blueberry tart on that first visit (yes, there was a second), a tart that was surprisingly not very sweet.
We returned there the next day, on Sunday, after a visit to Suomenlinna, and this time had a slice of much sweeter Daim cake, a chocolate and toffee confection made with the Swedish sweet of the same name.
What really drew us back was the setting and atmosphere of the cafe. With its large glass panels and central location, there’s a lot of people watching that can be done. The seats are plush and there’s plenty of natural light and there’s lovely music playing in the background. We must have spent a few hours in there!
That evening, we wanted to try Strindberg for dinner but were left disappointed when we learned that the restaurant is closed on Sundays. However, their café on the ground floor was still going strong and so we joined the queue and helped ourselves to a salmon salad,
a spinach pastry (very nice flaky pastry),
and a sweet bun topped with raspberries.
We had a choice of dressings with the salad – yogurt and herb or mango and chili. We chose the former but the latter must be popular in Helsinki as we saw it offered at other places. The food was delicious and I wish we had space to try their beautiful cakes. Seating inside was so-so and cannot beat that of Café Kappeli but they have outdoor seating that reminds one of Paris. Another upside is that it’s open in the evenings, when many other cafes close.
Early on Monday morning, we headed one final time to central Helsinki to have some breakfast at the Fazer Café before heading directly to the airport. This is the most famous cafe in Helsinki and you probably already recognise the name as Fazer chocolates can be found around the world. One half of the space is a shop selling baked goods and chocolates, both loose and boxed. The other half has plenty of seating and a long display case of treats. I chose a couple of pastries that were sort of breakfasty: a Finnish pulla (a sweet bun flavoured with cardamom; not Blai’s thing but I liked it)
and a slice of blueberry cake (similar to a coffee cake and it’s so delicious).
Again, I wish we had more space in our tummies for some of their gorgeous cakes but that cafe latte I ordered was huge! After eating, I went to browse their display cases again and saw one of the most beautiful open faced sandwiches I’ve ever seen:
So, if you ever are in Helsinki, do make time to relax and eat at one of its many cafés. It’s all part of the culture here and isn’t experiencing that the best part of travelling?
Karl Fazer Café
All my Helsinki photos can be found in this Flickr photoset.