HOW TO BEST SPEND 72 HOURS IN HELSINKI SUSTAINABLY
When it comes to placing sustainability at the top of its priority list, Helsinki is no novice. It is so simple to see Helsinki’s sustainably with local initiatives. The city has pledged some incredible advances in the past couple of years based on providing a good living approach for its residents. This makes Helsinki one of the most exciting places to visit in terms of local culture, hotel industry, attraction, food, drink and so much more. Through its central core this city is committed to social, cultural, and environmental sustainability and visitors can expect to craft a perfectly sustainable itinerary with the digital resources available.
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Full Disclosure: Some activities and points of interest in this article are part of a collaboration with the tourist board of Helsinki, My Helsinki. As always, all views, opinions and photography are our own and remain a copyright of Be-lavie.
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What is Helsinki Doing to Promote Sustainable Living
The capital city of Finland, Helsinki, is a world-class pioneer in its digital service approach launched in 2020, Think Sustainably. The aim of the city is to become the most sustainable city in the world by adapting to the changing climate and become carbon neutral by 2030. Pretty ambitious but it’s something that is achievable with the cities forward-thinking plans.
Think Sustainably is an online service and resource which allows residents of Helsinki, visitors and local business owners to access information and ideas to really delve into their own practice and behaviours and to be able to make sustainable-led decisions to best suit their businesses and lifestyles, as well as the planet.
The Think Sustainably Resource has already won an accolade in the Tourism category in the Place Marketing Award 2021. Since it’s launch it has helped many locals and visitors choose sustainable options in living and enjoying the capital city.
Those wanting to discover the Think Sustainable resources can find a selection of restaurants, shops, events, attractions, accommodation from hotels to guest houses. Each one of these has been benchmarked against a specifically case-by-case made criteria developed by the City of Helsinki who worked in collaboration with Demos Helsinki, sustainability experts as well as local focus groups. The wonderful thing about this is that Think Sustainable also has a route planner that allows the user to select emission-free transport options to partake in experiences in the city.
How to get to Helsinki City as Sustainably at Possible
By Air: Finnair
The National airline of Finland is Finnair and has a pretty extensive flight schedule to and from most major worldwide locations. Finnair’s goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 with working towards cutting their net emissions by 50% from 2019 as well as providing more sustainable catering. One example is the pre-ordering of meal options to avoid excess meals.
Finnair’s sustainability work aims to cover 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals by United Nations, although they are putting priority into six of the most pertinent to them including gender equality, industry and innovation, infrastructure, responsible consumption and production, climate action, peace, justice and strong substitutions and partnerships for the goals.
Vantaa Helsinki is Finlands largest airport and is around a 30 minute journey into the centre of Helsinki.
The Finnair bus will take around 30 minutes to arrive into the centre of Helsinki. Tickets are a lot cheaper to purchase online via the HSL app, rather than from the bus driver. Helsinki Region Transport has all the details on booking and routes. The following buses will also take you into the city centre, Lentoasema-Rautatientori and Lentoasema-Elielinaukio from the airport.
- Frequency of bus: 20 minutes
- Cost of journey: €6.90 one-way.
Helsinki airport has its own train station which is internally connected but you will need to purchase an ABC ticket using the HSL app as with buses.
- Frequency of train: I and P train routes take 30 minutes to city centre
- Cost of Journey: €4.60 one way.
Which Helsinki Hotels Promote Sustainability
Much of Helsinki’s accommodation scene is way ahead in terms of placing a greener stay at the top of their priority list. This includes environmental aspects such as energy and water consumption (switching off lights, reducing housekeeping duties such as reusing towels, sheets and large toiletries bottles) as well as addressing food waste by reducing menu sizes, finishing your plate and opting for vegetarian or vegan options for breakfast. There are also social responsibility criteria which ensure that the welfare of staff and ensure working conditions and pay is fair.
Hotel Options in Helsinki Operating Sustainably
Hotel St. George
Wonderfully situated right in the Old Church Park, this luxury hotel concentrates on holistic care and all round wellbeing. Their rooms are beautifully finished in an array of sizes and their Wintergarden restaurant and bar serves the best dishes as well as their new restaurant, Boom Nam, where chef, Tomi Björk cooks up a storm. The hotel also boasts its own bakery and the first Monocle shop in the Nordic countries as well as a spa to contributing to the wellbeing theme.
- Location: Yrjönkatu 13 C, 00120 Helsinki. Tel. +358 9 42460011
- Find Out More: Hotel St George
- Style: Luxury
- Think Sustainability areas covered: Energy, Food & Beverage, Social Sustainability.
- Details on sustainability categories for Hotel St George
Lapland Hotels Bulevardi
If it’s nature-filled relaxation you desire right in the heart of Helsinki then head to Lapland Hotels Bulevardi. The rooms have a cosy luxurious feel to them but with the foundations of the Lapland.
As the name suggests, much of the hotels décor, style and fuss-free approach effortlessly resembles life in Lapland with the combination of nature and modern stylish.
The hotel has wonderful saunas which will literally transform you to the wilderness of North Finland and its Kultá kitchen is a modern Nordic style restaurant with inspiration being taken again from the countries northern roots in terms of ingredients and cooking style.
- Location: Bulevardi 28, 00120 Helsinki. Tel. +358 9 25251111
- Find Out More: Lapland Hotels Bulevardi
- Style: Mid-range Luxury
- Think Sustainability areas covered: Energy, Food & Beverage, Social Sustainability.
- Details on sustainability categories for Lapland Hotels Bulevardi
Clarion Hotel Helsinki
Soaring high above the Helsinki skyline, and located in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Jätkäsaari, a short walk out of the immediate city centre.
This is a great hotel for business and conference events and features some incredible city views by means of the Sky Room rooftop bar and terrace serving a fantastic range of drinks. The hotel restaurant is by Marcus Samuelsson which fuses traditional Finnish flavours with Mahattan style dining.
Clarion Hotel Helsinki ticks 20 out of 25 of the Think Sustainability criteria, which is pretty impressive as well as being located in an urban regeneration area and built with great eco-friendly fundamental elements. Rooms are modern and look out to the city.
- Location: Tyynenmerenkatu 2, 00220 Helsinki. Tel. +358 10 8503820
- Find Out More: Clarion Hotel Helsinki
- Style: Affordable-Mid-range
- Think Sustainability areas covered: Energy: Food & Beverage, Social Sustainability.
- Details on sustainability criteria for Clarion Hotel Helsinki
Clarion Hotel Skyroom: Think Sustainability category details
Hotel Lilla Roberts
If you’re looking for something a little more design focussed, the Hotel Lilla Roberts is an art-deco inspired hotel located in the city’s design district.
With a prestigious green key Award, leading excellence in sustainability in its practices, including house-keeping, energy, social sustainability and food this is not just a stylish hotel but also functional and one that looks to the future.
Related Article: An Art-Deco Inspired Luxury Hotel: Hotel Lilla Roberts
How to Best Spend 72 Hours (3 days) in Helsinki
Explore Helsinki Sustainably: Day 1
08:00-09:00 If you’re not having breakfast at your hotel and have just arrived into Helsinki via train at the art nouveau-inspired Central Train station, Helsingin Päärautatieasema, it’d be rude not to have breakfast at the Sacndic Grand Central Helsinki. This building was designed by Eliel Saarinen, completed in 1909 and will give you a great introduction to the city.
Whilst you’re there check out the hotel’s grand ballroom and terrace and admire the beautiful architecture
09:30-13:00 Get your bearings and take a guided walk of Helsinki city and take in more of the architecture, the city’s main attractions, district history, shopping streets as well as a few local foodie markets.
Add these Helsinki City Centre Spots to your Itinerary:
- Helsinki Cathedral
- Senate Square
- National Library of Finland
- Helsinki City Museum
- Uspenski Cathedral
- Market Square
- Old Market Hall
- Esplanadi (the catwalk of Helsinki)
Related Article: The Best Photo-Worthy Locations in Helsinki
13:00-14:00 Grab a seat at Cafe Engel on Senate Square and a quick lunch as you watch the world go by in the square.
14:00-17:00 Hit Helsinki’s super cool Design District and see what’s on offer in terms of galleries, fashion and arts. There are always exhibitions as well as events happening in the area. Get a vibe for this cool neighbourhood. The Design Museum is great to spend some time in whilst in the area.
If you fancy a coffee head to Café Succes down one of the residential streets in the district, they serve great coffee and cinnamon rolls if you need a snack.
Be-lavie Tip: Huvilakatu Street is just a stone’s throw away from the Design Museum. This street is a great example of Art Nouveau with its very brightly coloured house facias and makes for the perfect spot for a Instagram worthy photo
17:00-18:30 Grab some pre-dinner drinks a short walk away at the Stockmann department Store Rooftop by Ravintola Teatteri
19:00-21:00 Dinner at Yes Yes Yes. This vegetarian restaurant not only has great décor but incredible food and drinks to match. Opt for a seven course set menu, which not only is quite economical but will provide you with a great taste of the small plate vegetarian dining concept here. Cocktails are expertly crafted by mixologists and the atmosphere is relaxed, hip and trendy.
Related Article: The Best Vegetarian-Friendly Dining: Rooftops & Restaurants in Helsinki:
Explore Helsinki Sustainably: Day 2
08:00-09:00 Have a delicious breakfast at Helsinki’s oldest café, Ekberg. Choose from a variety of in house baked pastries, breads and cakes as well cold cuts, cheese and fruit accompanied by a variety of teas, coffees and juices.
Related Article: A Coffee-Lovers Guide to the Best Cafes in Helsinki
Be-lavie Tip: Instagrammable place lover, must head to Regatta Cafe – It’s quintessentially Finnish and very photogenic, plus the cinnamon Buns are the best in Helsinki!
09:00-13:00 take the short walk to Market Square and board a ferry to Suomenlinna, which takes around 15 minutes to reach. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known as the Fortress Island. It has an impressive defence construction, making it one of the biggest sea fortresses globally. Suomenlinna is very much a residential district of Helsinki with around 800 residents on the island, forming one of the 300 island archipelago’s of teh city of Helsinki. It has a grocery store, restaurants, cafes, museums, galleries, artist studios, a kindergarten and elementary school.
It’s worth spending 3-4 hours here A great immersion into local culture and history. Call into one of the pretty cafes for a drink and snack
13:00-14:00 Once back in Helsinki, head to Penny for lunch. Penny has a great US influence and with its sustainable efforts, has a few items on the lunch time menu. Ingredients are fresh and they also have a small terrace outside. It’s affordable, service is very quick and the food is utterly delicious. Penny also does a great weekend brunch including pancakes, burgers and omelettes. They also do some fab cocktails, should you fancy a lunchtime tipple.
14:00-17:00 Spend some time post lunch at the National History Museum of Finland taking in the exhibitions and artefacts contained in this beautiful building.
Take a stroll through Sibelius Monument and marvel the structure designed by Eila Hiltunen. It is dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Before heading back, pop into the Temppeliaukion Church. Completed in 1969, the church is carved into a big rock and has a very unique design. The church itself hosts concert with the most unbelievable acoustics due to its design.
17:30-19:30 Grab your swimming costume and head to the Allas Sea Pool which is where you’ll see the Finns hanging out post work. Spend a couple of hours relaxing in the sauna, dipping into the sea water pools or go for a swim. Spend time enjoying this very Finnish activity.
20:00-23:30 Head up to Allas Restaurants for the rest of the evening take a pew on one of the tables outside and enjoy some of their delicious small plates for dinner and sip the night away with cocktails and take in the beautiful harbour views.
Explore Helsinki Sustainably: Day 3
08:00-09:00 Breakfast at Fazer café (dating back to 1891) is one not to be missed when in Helsinki. It was first opened in Kluuvikatu in 1891 and now is a modern classic café which serves a wonderful brunch at weekends and breakfast items daily, amongst other things! They serve Finnish breads, pastries cakes, cold cuts and cheeses as well as European delights. You can also see the confectioners at work behind the glass screens.
09:30-11:30 It’s time to check out Helsinki’s coolest Libraries, Oodi. This is a library like you’ve never seen. Opened in 2018 and built over three floors with impressive architecture and a place to study, read, meet, learn, enjoy the immersive experience Oodi offers you. Head to the rooftop and take in the views or sit and read, grab a coffee at the café. Climb the unique staircase from the ground floor and be wowed by Oodi.
12:00-13:00 Take a trip back to the Stockmann but this time make a bee line for Relove Stockmann. This pretty café is one with a difference, not only does it sell the most pretty, delicious and photo-worthy food, drinks, brunches, lunches, salads and more, it opts for primary producers as well as environmentally friendly options as a priority. Relove sells second-hands products, mainly clothes with its first store opening in 2016, in the heart of urban Töölö (feel free to pop in when you’re in the area). Its just a beautiful, chic yet a casual place to hang out and you’re sure to find so many things you’ll want to pick up too. This is slow sustainable fashion done right. Go and be apart of it!
13:00-18:00 Spend the afternoon at leisure or squeezing in the remaining activities you haven’t been able to get to Check out some of the open spaces and parks as you walk them by. Maybe add the following to your afternoon itinerary:
- Amos Rex, a new type of museum and meeting place which incorporates underground meeting spaces, the Old Lasipalatsi (glass palace) from 1936 and its Bio Rex cinema, as well as an events forum on Lasipalatsi Square -serving as the roof of the exhibition hall. The aim of Amos Rex is to wow its visitors with unique experiences. Lasipalatsi also hosts many cute shops, like the Moomin Shop and Makia.
- Pikku Finlandia (Little Finlandia) can be a good lunch spot at the Finlandia Café & Wine. The building is world-renowned architecture and the service here is fantastic. Töölönlahti Bay. is the bay lcoated next to Little Finlandia and you can read all about the special story behind Little Finlandia “the forest in the city” with 95 pine trees incorporated into the pavilion at Little Finlandia
- Contemporary art fans, head to Kiasma, a museum of contemporary art under the Finnish National Gallery. The primary focus of the changing exhibitions here are all based on Finnish contemporary art.
19:00-21:00 Dinner at Nolla is a must (bookings essential) when in Helsinki. Nolla means ‘zero’ in Finnish and is the first zero waste restaurant in the Nordic countries. The owners of Nolla set up the restaurant due to their frustration of food waste by the restaurant industry. Nolla offers local, organic produce cooked beautifully and an evening here will be a very special experience.
21:30-23:00 If you don’t quite want to say goodbye to Helsinki, watch the twinkling city lights high up at the Skyroom rooftop bar at The Clarion Hotel, with a cocktail in hand. Cheers to a wonderful 72 hours in Finlands Capital, done sustainably.
How Best to Spend 72 Hours in Helsinki Sustainably Round-up
Helsinki is clearly one of the most green-promoting cities in the world from architecture to food to transport, The key is all the education they have ploughed into the fact that there are not infinite resources available. Be-lavie’s Top Tip for planning a planet – friendly trip to Helsinki is to refer to the city’s digital service, Think Sustainably. to explore Helsinki sustainably. Walking is a great way to see the sites of Helsinki but in addition you can use the trams, underground, rent bikes by the hour as well as scooters. Local islands can be accessible via ferries too. Think Sustainability also has some fab recommendations on where to shop preloved clothing and homewares as well as the best zero-waste Finnish spots for dinner. Finnish coffee culture and saunas are a must try, maybe not together though, depending on how you enjoy your coffee!
- A Beautiful Art-Deco Hotel in Helsinki: Hotel Lilla Roberts
- A Coffee-Lovers Guide to the Best cafes in Helsinki
- The Best Dining in Vegetarian Dining in Helsinki: Restaurants & Rooftops
- Discover the Best Photo Locations in Helsinki
Tours to Explore Helsinki Sustainably
Links That May Help with Seeing Helsinki Sustainably
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