With Finland celebrating its centenary this year and the country being a firm favourite of ours, it seemed only natural that we should make a return visit this summer. On arriving into Helsinki airport late the previous evening, we spent our first day enjoying a walk around the market square which is always a beautiful sight. The square is the beating heart of the city bustling with activity. The small orange and white canvas roofed stalls sell fresh berries, flowers, vegetables and gifts and are always crowded with tourists, many from cruise ships looking for the perfect souvenir to remind them of their visit to Helsinki. The market square is also the starting point for boat trips and a regular ferry to Suomenlinna island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, just a short 12 minute journey away.
Strolling across the footbridge we were interested to view the Allas Sea Pools which were nearing completion when we visited last summer. Allas is located in a prime position at the side of the harbour next to the Ferris Wheel, affording stunning views of the harbour and the market square (kauppatori). Wide, wooden steps lead up to the terrace and these have been cleverly designed to act as seats as well as a staircase with large bean bags to relax on.
Tickets are not required for access to the terrace areas but are needed to use the pools and saunas. Allas boasts three pools located on a floating basin on top of the sea. The Big Pool is filled with heated tap water and is a very comfortable 27 degrees Celsius all year round. The Sea Pool is filled with sea water pumped from further out to sea where the currents are cleaner and then filtered. The temperature of this pool is the same as the sea with warm water in summer and ice swimming during the winter months for the brave or should I say foolhardy! The third pool is primarily for children and their parents and this is also heated to 27 degrees Celsius.
The complex also has three luxury saunas taking between 15 and 20 people at one time. We climbed to the uppermost terrace from where we had splendid views of the pools and the harbour setting. Here we found a rooftop bar with lots of wooden deck chairs to soak up the sunshine whilst sipping cool drinks. On the lower level there is also a restaurant and cafe. The site is spacious and can accommodate up to 2,700 customers, we were very impressed and will definitely be returning again during our stay.
Continuing our walk along the waterfront we admired some beautiful buildings from the Art Nouveau / Jugend style and boats moored in the harbour opposite. Slightly further on, we followed a path along a causeway to Terversaari island. This causeway was constructed in 1939 when it was used as a storage area for tar awaiting exporting. After the final industrial units were removed in 1970 the island was opened to the public and in the mid 1990’s it was enlarged by means of land reclamation and transformed in to a park like setting.
Hedges of wild roses line the path and were awash with colour as the flowers were in full bloom. Small boats were bobbing in the water on the causeway moorings and views back to the mainland were stunning.
Starting our walk around the island we passed a traditional Finnish carpet washing pier ‘mattolaituri’ where people bring their rugs and carpets and wash them in the sea. They are then left to dry in the sunshine on the wooden racks to be collected later. These washing piers are a common sight along the Helsinki and Espoo waterfront.
From the island there are some good views of the Finnish ice breaking fleet in their summer home of Katajanokka. These ships work hard at keeping the ports free from ice during the winter months and are now celebrating Finland’s centenary with a large banner. Further round we could see Korkeasaari island which is home to the Helsinki Zoo.
We also passed a dog park which even has its own designated swimming beach for dogs, a children’s playground and an outdoor theatre where regular summer performances take place.
The island also features a traditional Finnish style restaurant ‘Savu’ which is located in the last remaining storehouse. The restaurant specialises in smoke curing and is located in a beautiful setting. After completing a circuit of the island we continued to Hakaniemi from where we caught a tram to the Kamppi bus station to return to our accommodation in Espoo.
In this, my second series of blog posts on southern Finland, my plan is to mainly visit places that I have not previously written about. If you are interested to read about my month long stay last summer you can find a link to it here.