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A Student’s Guide to Helsinki

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Barbora Czókolyová, from Slovakia, is completing a Masters in International Business Law and Public International Law at Finland’s University of Helsinki. She explains why she thinks any visitor will fall in love with this ‘cold but beautiful’ city.

Before coming to Helsinki for my master’s program, I’d already spent five months here as an exchange student in 2011. My very first impression of the city was that I’d never seen so much snow before (I arrived in January). Actually, even the locals were surprised by the amount of snow that winter. 

Extreme weather aside, the main thing I noticed was how well organized the city is, and the fact that despite being a capital, it feels very calm, which I really like. By calm, I don’t mean boring! There’s always something going on, with all the galleries, museums, cinemas and festivals.

Indoors and out

I love going for long walks in the city center, especially around Fredrikinkatu, a street where you can find lots of small design shops and antique book shops.  My favorite indoor space is Cafe Regatta, a small coffee place by the sea, where you can enjoy a hot chocolate or coffee while looking out across the sea and small islands.

When I have more time to spare, I love taking a trip to Suomelinna, one of the nearby islands, which you can reach by ferry from the city center harbor. In summer, it’s great for picnics and long walks, and in winter there are beautiful views, and delicious sweet cakes and hot chocolate in small coffee places. I haven’t yet had time to go to zoo on Korkesaari, another of the islands. It will be lovely to go there in spring.

Usually I travel around on the metro system, which is very convenient – there’s a stop very close to my home, and another right at the university.

My advice for those new to the city would be just to take a walk and soak in the atmosphere, visit small shops and try the delicious sea food. I think anyone who spends time in Helsinki is bound to fall in love with this cold but beautiful city.

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