-libraries (rikhardinkatu, suomenlinna, oulunkylä, herttoniemi, vuosaari, laajasalo). im pretty much doing a tour of the city libraries. of the ones visited this month, the oulunkylä, vuosaari, and laajasalo ones were impressive.
-childrens town museum. its in the city center, right off senate square. a free museum. theres a room with 6 dollhouses (that you can really play with!), some puppets and dress up clothes, and an old-fashioned school house exhibit. there are a few fun places to play and explore, but nothing that would take more than an hour to entertain.
-suomenlinna. the citys fortified island. we took a ferry through ice to get there (so cool!). it was a nice sunny chilly day but X wasnt in the mood to explore or walk much so we didnt get far, but we certainly saw enough to know it would be a great spot to come back and spend time on a warmer day. there were hiding places in the fortified walls, tons of paths along the sea, the city to one side, the open water on the others. very beautiful.
-helsinki winter gardens. a greenhouse with three rooms and a koi pond. we loved the cacti room. we went when they had easter decorations around. people were bringing picnic food and eating at little tables among the greenery. very neat.
("bakery" in childrens museum; broken up ice the ferry boat driver had to navigate through to suomenlinna; suomenlinna fortified walls; central room in the helsinki winter gardens)
-vantaa river. we walked north from the dam in vanhakaupunki along the frozen river, through the tunnel under the highway into a more forested river trail by the viikinmäki neighborhood. it was very pretty and easy to walk a small piece of this long river trail and get out to a bus stop to go home whenever you are done.
-stromsin kartano. over in the itäkeskus neighborhood this is an estate land with paths and lots of water access. the bay was still frozen when we went, so we walked on the ice.
-arabianranta coastline. so, this is where i want to live for our next apartment, in this neighborhood. its still developing but has a great location on the water without being crammed in the city center. when we walked the coastline it was still mostly iced over, but there was some open water for X to throw ice/snow/rocks in and their were lots of people out (its got a popular cross-country ski trail/path). we walked north and ended up by the vantaa river mouth.
-ruoholahti canal/bridges. this neighborhood would be my second favorite, but is definitely adjacent to the bustling city center core, so its less appealing in that way, but the canal area is a nice spot with lots to offer. within a stones throw there are 3 playgrounds, 4 pedestrian bridges, and a canal walk on both sides. there were ducks when we went. the area is near to everything, yet quiet/calm.
(under the bridge from vanhakaupunki area along vantaa river north; open water near coast of arabianranta)
-etola. kind of like a "pier 1" mixed with a kids toy store.
-kankurin tupa. the fancy souvenir shop in the heart of the city. the top floor is filled with only moomin stuff, the main floor is filled with mountains of finnish souvenirs, and on the bottom floor it is always christmas.
-bockin talo. the building across from the church on senate square that is filled with souvenir shops, but very typical tourist shops. i suppose i would go there for little tchotchkes, but its not as good as kankurin tupa.
-iittala/arabia/fiskars outlet. this place could be addicting. such solid, simple quality pieces, beautiful designs. i really, really shouldnt have registered for anything for our wedding. i want a house full of this stuff instead.
-arabia posti. great post office with lots of artsy gift choices as well, its in the same shopping center as the arabia/iittala outlet.
-ateneum gift/book shop. this is the gift shop for the citys big art museum. it has great tourist items for adults and kids.
-anton & anton. a speciality grocery store. when i went i got craft beer, fancy chocolate and cheese, and some dense pastry (like a UP pastie) filled with meat/rice and salmon/rice. the items were quite good, but i wouldnt make the special trip to this store anytime soon.
-pihlis kirppis. our neighborhood thrift store, it has some decent things. certainly something to do on a crappy, stay-near-home kind of day.
-aarikka. very typical finnish design house: wooden jewelry and home decorations. simply gorgeous. so elegant yet natural looking. i also discovered their "factory outlet", literally at their factory in a slightly sketch part of town. most things looked first quality enough to me. i bought a great pairing of navy blue earrings. i think i shall be back. look out accessories!
-eyeglasses hunt. i went to keops, silmälasistudio, specsavers, and silmäasema before finally settling on the darn neighborhood store (optikko@pihlajamäki) for some long overdue new eyeglasses. i got some 50s style frames and some ray ban sunglasses (prescription) are in the works too. i'll be all set.
-tiger. a danish company. kind of like a dollar store but with nicer things, its hard to leave without buying something.
-thrift store alley. on mäkelänkatu there are a handful of thrift stores, most are not super awesome, but there is lots of browsing that can be done for hidden gems like toys and books and household randomness.
-marimekko. we had been to the store in the city center last year when we first visited, but i made it out to the outlet too. that is where the more affordable stuff is. it was almost too full of selection. i bought one shirt and a mug with a helsinki cityscape on it. i will have to come back alone, and with a purpose next time. i certainly loved seeing all the cheerily dressed employees. its also the the first "designer" house where i want to own nearly everything.
-ruoholathi shopping center. easy to get to even though its the far western edge of the city (we are north east). it has an indoor kids playground (that we havent been to yet) and is near the canal park i mentioned above.
(store front of aarikkas city center location)
-eat&joy market in kluuvi. a fancy, expensive, specialty goods store. i will be peek in there from time to time for gifts. there are lots of goodies to sample, and i think it would be a good place to bring visitors.
-karl fazer cafe. this is the most widely famous bakery in finland. it supplies tons of grocery stores in the helsinki area. their bread is quite tasty, and their pastries look good, but we havent tried most because they arent always lactose-free. they do make a variety of chocolates too. we went to their original cafe in central helsinki for brunch one day. it was 39€ for us to eat, and while it was a nice spread, im not sure it was worth it. and they were cramming people in to tables that didnt really fit everyone and their winter gear.
-cafe engel. right across from the church on senate square. its a nice location for a cafe and you pay a premium to eat/drink there.
-ravintola sunn. its right above cafe engel, across from the church on senate square. we were taken here when dave came for the interview for brunch and have since gone back. the brunch is the same expensive price as elsewhere, but with great views and more variety and fancier food. id say its worth trying this place.
-hietalathi market hall (hietaladen kauppahalli). it used to be the antique/art flea market but they temporarily moved the old markets (vanha kauppahalli) food stalls over here while they renovate. we scored some tasty lactose-free sweet treats and a DEElish shrimp lunch of boullibaise soup and toast skagen (shrimp toast). neither would normally appeal to me, they seemed too simple and too shrimpy for my liking, but im glad i was wrong. they were great (probably the first really memorable food experience here)! we also spoke to some nice people at the communal tables there.
-NYCBurger. this is in the ruoholathi shopping center, and they actually do a decent burger. i didnt love the 10€ pricetag though.
-the freeze/melt season is dangerous here. i was going along thinking i hadnt seen anyone slip or fall on the ice/snow covered sidewalks here. but during this freeze/thaw time, not so much. ive even seen blood on the ice in particularly slippery areas. people do seem to wear removable boot grips on their shoes/boots for the ice (kinda like snow tires for cars). thankfully none of us slipped and fell and hurt ourselves.
-finnish women are quite strong, independent ladies. ive heard there is kind of a trend for them to go abroad and get themselves a non-finn mate (as ive noted finnish men seem to almost be invisible here, cant put my finger on it).