Nature and National Parks close to Helsinki

One of the best things about living in Helsinki is the proximity to nature. Helsinki is surrounded by forests boasts many city parks, and is close to water – and close to some gorgeous natural parks! Nature is treasured in Finland, with many Finns venturing out to their cabins every weekend during summer. Nature is also a great way to combat any university-induced stress.  A good idea is to bring food and water, and to have a picnic. Nothing beats a relaxing lunch with a scenic view. So grab your friends and your new classmates, check the weather forecast and go explore! I can personally recommend these 3 natural parks, all easily reachable from Helsinki centre. As winter is here and snow will start falling soon, don’t forget to bring warm clothes and proper footwear!

Nuuksio National Park

“How to get there”-suggestion: bus 244 from Espoon keskus or 238 from Leppävaara. Get off at Siikaniemi, and you’re right by one of the entrances to the park! Located in HSL zone C.

Probably the most famous day trip from Helsinki, Nuuksio is a gorgeous natural park just a short ride from Espoo. Nuuksio has a couple of trails, the yellow trail Korpinkierros (roughly 7km) being the easiest to hike. There are a couple of lakes with good picture spots, and the biggest lake has a fireplace and good rocks for enjoying a picnic!

Usually, the trails will be icy a few weeks after the snow has disappeared in the city, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear if you go between the start of the snow (usually December-January) and the “final melting” (anything from early April till mid May). Some of the paths are steep, and going up and down icy trails is not always super fun!

Sipoonkorpi National Park

“How to get there”-suggestion: bus 739 from the Central Railway Station, get off at Kuusijärvi – good place to start! Located in HSL zone C.

More of a hidden gem than Nuuksio. Sipoonkorpi is very big, and has a lot of different trails. Doing research before going to find the best trails and hikes is worth the effort, to make sure you know where to go upon arrival. The park is way bigger than Nuuksio, so if you want to make the most of your visit and cover as many of the beautiful spots, spend some time looking up the places and how to get there. The park has many entrances, and some busses only go to the south, and some only to the north – but everywhere you go, south or north, you’ll have plenty of mushrooms to pick, pretty lakes, and magical fairyland type forests.  

Vallisaari Island

How to get there: Ferry only operates in the summer months, every day from 1 May to 30 September. Ferry leaves from Market Square, next to the route ferry to Suomenlinna.

Many know of Suomenlinna, but fewer know that the surrounding islands are also worth a visit. Vallisaari in particular is very beautiful! The 10€ island hopping pass will allow you to jump on a off the ferry circling to all three island. Many people start at Suomenlinna and then go on to Vallisaari.

Vallisaari consists of two islands, easily explored in a couple of hours. Beautiful nature, the shortest nature trail in Helsinki, a fireplace by the lake and plenty of good spots overlooking the ocean. Definitely worth a visit!

All photos my own  – sunshine not guaranteed! 😊


Which foods to try in Finland!

By now, you’ve probably already tried some of the delicious food that Helsinki and Finland has to offer! One of the really fun things about moving to a new country is to try all the new food, and Finland has lots of weird and quirky traditional foods that every foreigner should try. You might not like all of it, but at least give it a go! 😉

I think you should try all of the following:

Traditional Finnish foods:
Karelian pie (karjalanpiirakat in Karelia, riisipiirakka everywhere else) – this wonderful creation is a salty snack made with rice and rye flour. It tastes like rice porridge on bread, but much better than that sounds! Finns like to eat them hot with butter on, and some also put cheese and meats on it.. like you would a regular piece of bread!

Salmon soup (Lohikeitto) – fish is very popular in Finland, and their salmon is very, very good. Soup is good for the cold winters, and salmon soup is made with cream, potatoes and carrots, so it is perfectly creamy and will keep you full (and warm) for a long time!

Cinnamon/cardamom buns (korvapuusti)– I am not actually sure if this is more Swedish than Finnish, but nevertheless! Finland has so many good buns, the most famous ones being the ones with cinnamon and cardamom.  Cinnamon and cardamom are very beloved spices in the Nordics. Korvapuusti are delicious, and you can buy them in every supermarket, every bakery.. everywhere! This is the bun that is on the picture above, on the plate.

Meat pie (lihapiirakka) – this “pie” is made from what resemlbes donut dough, yet it is not actually sweet..just greasy! It is filled with ground beef mildly spiced and is a popular fast food/food on the go item in Finland. This is the food item I am about to indulge on the photo 😉

Helsinki is also a wonderful city for vegetarian and vegan food. The options are plentiful and food is tasty!

My personal recommendations are:

Roots,  Eurantie 8 – breakfast, bowls, smoothies, coffeee, bread and cakes, Roots is a hotspot vegan café that I recommend everyone to try!, Vaasankatu 14 – this place also has everything your vegan heart could desire, and the food is tasty and GORGEOUS!

Ravintola Soi Soi, Vaasankatu 9 – the place to go to for greasy vegan fast food!

Sen Chay Vegetarian Restaurant,  Siltasaarenkatu 3-5 – very affordable and yummy vegetarian Vietnamese food. A must in Helsinki!

The Finns also quite like their buffets! Most Finns are not aware that this seems to be a very Finnish thing, as they are very used to it. But it is something that most foreigners note when they arrive here. Most buffets are quite reasonably priced, and there are so many different ones to choose from that even if you are very picky, you will still find one that fits your taste! Many buffets are lunch buffets, which means that for 10-13 euros (typical price) you can come in for lunch and eat all you want!

A popular buffet restaurant is Caverna, which is right next to the city centre campus (Yliopistonkatu 5).  Paulig Kulma (Aleksanterinkatu 9), which is also in the area, offers a  delicious vegan salad buffet Mon-Fri for around 12 euros.  But fear not, there’s plenty of buffets all around Helsinki – you might have to visit a few to find your favorite!

A fun thing to do is to invite all your new international friends to go try some of the delicious food in Helsinki – or you can ask your Finnish friends to cook some traditional delicacies for you. Food is always a good reason to spend lots of quality with your new friends. 😊



Ready for the Finnish experience? Let’s pack the travel bags!

Written by Matilda Carol Dok

I know you are excited about the idea of coming to the “land of a thousand lakes”, and by now you have gathered a few tips on how to survive in Finland. This article guides you on what is important for survival, and so it doesn’t mean you have to buy everything in it. Just select a few that you feel are very necessary. It is also more applicable to the non-EU students coming to Finland since most EU students experience similar seasons like Finns. You will realize that winter has been given much importance than the other seasons. This is because it is the longest season and can be depressing if one is not adequately prepared for it.

My first precautionary advice on shopping for this experience is, buy as much items as you can from home because Finland can be very expensive. But be careful because not all things you buy abroad will function in Europe, especially electronics. Also, not all airlines allow large luggage capacity. You should also check flight regulations to know what is not allowed to carry in an aircraft. Good earphones, a music podcast and neck pillow will do you justice for the long journey. Finns religiously keep time, so no matter what happens, do not forget to carry and adjust your watch! And oh, carry some love with you, a gift or two, for the person who will receive you in Finland. It warms the heart, you know!

Finland experiences four seasons. Autumn is cold, and winter is freezing harsh. But that is just before the beautiful Spring and wonderful summer! Summer is a free and playful season, so you need very light colorful clothes, cap, open light shoes and a water bottle because the heat can be dehydrating. Spring requires umbrella, raincoats, and waterproof clothes. In winter, you can freeze, get wet, or slide and fall on ice (I had a pretty fall myself! Everybody does at some point 😊 But it is all fun, believe me! (If you don’t break any bones of course 😊). The key elements are therefore wind and water resistance, warmth, and comfort. As Finns say, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing! All you need is a “layer system” that will trap in your body generated warmth to keep you away from freezing. The most important parts to keep warm are your hands, head, and legs. Now, are your passport, visa/resident permit, IDs, and all travel papers ready? Let us see what can fit in those suitcases for an amazing Finnish experience! 😊

This is the longest season in Finland. Wear thick trousers with long-johns underneath, a thick woolen jumper, and a good snow proof coat. Gloves should be roomy with a warm lining. Headgear should protect the ears and face properly. In your winter list, consider a warm hip length hood that is water resistant, wind resistant, with an adjustable drawstring; a Parka or heavy-duty winter hooded coat of looser fit since you will wear several layers of clothing underneath; warm wool; bulky sweaters; light sweater; fleeces; long sleeved tees; short sleeved tees; thermal polyester tops; good shoes with Vibram-sole for walking on ice; shoe spikes; warm, well-fitting moisture-wicking socks; synthetic fabric gloves with a padded or double lining; “flip-top” glove; mittens (normally considered warmer than normal gloves); gloves for touchscreen use (since you will use your GPS a lot for navigation and also your phone for browsing and you don’t want to get your fingers frozen by exposing them to cold); sock liner for hikers; polyester ski pants; a wind resistant and multi layered hat; jeans; thermal stockings; silk balaclava; scarf; neck-warmer; waterproof shoes; boots; face moisturizer with sun protection; sauna gear; Waterproof Ski; jacket; Ski goggles; headlamp or flashlight.

Raincoat; Umbrella; Mosquito repellant; water resistant shoes; waterproof bags and allergy pills.

Regular pair of shoes; Undergarments like bras; Swimming/Sauna Gear; waterproof Sandals/Shower shoes; denim jeans; shorts; skirts; dresses; tank tops; skirts; hot-pants; light trousers; sleepwear; sports bra; sunglasses; Sleeping mask; jewelry; flats, walking shoes like casual sneaker.

This season sets in immediately after summer, so it is characterized by fluctuations in temperatures. It starts of warm and gets colder as September approaches. Carry light jackets; headlamps/torches/flashlights; warm sweaters; normal shoes; reflectors.

Good hygiene results in a happy soul and consequently a healthy body! Pack deodorant and fragrances; soaps; swabs; wipes; moisturizer; Chapstick; toothpaste and toothbrush; sunscreen; sanitary towels or tampons; face and hand towels; hairbrushes; cosmetics and haircare products; handkerchiefs; dental floss and medications.

Electronics, photography gear and general tools of entertainment
Finland has Type C or F European style two pin plugs for its electronics, so, carry universal travel adaptor plugs. Do not carry a 110v appliance since its electricity is 220 to 230 volts. Dual voltage appliances are recommended. Cold weather makes batteries die faster especially for gadgets not custom made for the European market, therefore, carry extra power-bank; batteries; normal chargers or car charger. Other things include Backpacks and day bags; unlocked smartphone; travel journal; cables; headphones; audiobooks; laptop or tablet; e-reader; memory cards, camera with spare batteries, tripod stand, selfie stick, lenses, case, strap; game cards; scrabbles; and most importantly, medical first aid kit. Carry all your travel and academic documents. They should be legalized and translated according to country specific requirements.
Finally, as earlier stated, Finland is an expensive country you know! 😊 Carry a few euros and your Visa electron card along, since you will need money to survive and it takes a while before you get your Finnish bank account. It is not fun to go hungry or homeless because you cannot access your money back at home! I almost did! 😊


Learning Finnish – is it worth it?

Lesson #1: “Puhutko suomea” = “Do you speak Finnish?”

Learning Finnish – is it worth it? Short answer: yes! But don’t beat yourself up about it, because Finnish is haaaard.

One could argue that I’m not the best ambassador for taking up Finnish as an international student, as I dropped out of my Finnish course a week before the exam! But, nevertheless, I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the upsides and downsides of embarking on the Suomi-journey, so I’m gonna share my thoughts with you anyways. If you are an international student coming to study at UH in the fall, keep reading as I have a secret to share with you!

First of all, I want to say that I am not trying to persuade you to take Finnish. I’m also not trying to persuade you not to take Finnish. What I’m going to do is give you an honest and fun insight into one of the hardest languages I have come across in my 24 years of life!

Finnish has 16 verbal cases. Or is it 30? Either way, it’s a lot! Some will tell you that Finnish is similar to the Estonian language. Both Finns and Estonians alike are likely to dispute that. They originate from the same language branch: a branch that also has Hungarian on it! My native language is Danish and if I had a dollar for every time someone had assumed that I must surely already speak Finnish as we’re all Nordic brothers, I would have a lot of dollars. Finnish has absolutely nothing to do with any of the Scandinavian languages (unfortunately!) – it’s a whole different world, and many people opt to learn Swedish instead, as Swedish is another national language in Finland. I am lucky that I can get by with Swedish in Finland, as there’s usually very limited English on the products in the supermarkets and a lot of websites are only in Swedish and Finnish. So, if you’ve ever flirted with the idea of learning a Scandinavian language, here is a wonderful chance to learn the biggest one!

Anyways, back to Finnish – upon my arrival in August last year, I signed up for Finnish 1A at the Language Centre. I was hesitant, as I have to say I wasn’t super enthusiastic about the challenge – but it was fun, I have to admit that. We are lucky enough to get language courses completely free of charge at the university, and you can choose between an intensive course, which has class 3 times a week, and another way less intensive one which is 2 times a week. I opted for the one that runs two times a week, and it wasn’t interfering too much with my other classes. If you are good at managing your time and want to put in the work, taking up a new language, even a not so easy one as Finnish, is very doable.

As mentioned above, I did drop out a week before the exam, as the winter darkness had started to kick in – like I said, do not beat yourself up about it. If it becomes a chore above anything else and you cannot find any good sides to it after you have given it a decent try, then consider if it is worth it. Finnish is not easy, and being at least a little excited about learning it is important. If you aren’t, then at least you can say you tried. And there’s always next year, if you felt like jumping into it during your first week in Finland was too rushed. If not, there’s Swedish!

For all my fellow international students – if you wish to get a head start on your journey into the wonderful land of the suomen kieli (Finnish language in Finnish – head start!), I encourage you to attend the Helsinki Summer School in August. Here, you can take a Finnish course before the academic year really kicks in in September – the course is free for scholarship students and other new students can access the course for a small fee. Signup takes place here:

To sum up: learning a new language is a challenge, but it can also be very fun and it can help you get to know Finland and the Finns better. It’s not as easy as some of the languages you might’ve learnt in high school, but the benefit here is that you’re surrounded by natives and you can practise all the time if you so wish. Don’t beat yourself up about it if you choose to focus on other studies – I have never met a Finn who expects you to speak Finnish, as they are well aware of how hard their language is. And, perhaps the most compelling reason to start a Finnish language course when you start your university journey in Finland – you meet loads of equally new international students with whom you’ll be sure to curse away Finnish in no time. They are sure to become your new best friends, as you have your ‘love’ for Finnish in common!

Our City Centre Campus

Before I came to study in Helsinki, I had absolutely no idea what to expect of the city centre campus. I had been to Helsinki before and had no idea I was walking right on campus when I was touristing the city! I was surprised to find that not only is it in the very heart of the city, it is also quite beautiful –  a mix of old and new in a perfect constellation. Every time I have class at our main building, I can peek out the window and see our divine cathedral – Helsinki’s stunning landmark. I’ve been here for more than 6 months, and I still have to pinch myself!

















I could write several paragraphs about the Senate Square, where the cathedral is located, but it’s not actually part of campus. The yellow building in the picture, however, is! That’s our main building (päärakennus), and the cathedral is literally right next to it. The square is huge, and it is a very popular tourist hotspot. You’ll be listening to lectures with the sound of tourist buses dropping off and picking up! In Nov/Dec, there’s a nice Christmas market, so you can leave class and go straight to the baked Christmas goodies and the warm glögi.

On the other side of the main building, you have Think Corner (Tiedekulma). This building looks like a sauna on the inside (not a coincidence!) and it’s also cozy and warm. Very sauna-like.


There’s a super cool gift shop where your uni apparel needs are sure to be met. There’s a lot of events and discussions on every week, and you’ll be sure to walk in on a few during your time in Helsinki. Think Corner also has a nice café, where, as a student, you can get discounted lunches. There’s plenty of spots for studying and chilling out. There’s even bean bags!

On the 2nd floor, you’ll see Helsinki Think Company, the beloved entrepreneurship society of the university. If you have a secret dream of becoming an entrepreneur, this is where you can go and get help, inspiration and meet likeminded people. In the basement of Think Corner, you’ll find multiple floors of our exercise service, UniSport. They also have a location opposite Think Corner, in Porthania.

If you feel the need to leave Think Corner – after your exercise, nutritional and entrepreneurial needs have been met – you can go to our wonderful main library, Kaisa. An architectural masterpiece with all the knowledge you could ever need! Take some time to roam around the floors and explore the hidden gems. On the last floor, you get a nice view of the cathedral. Hard to study with a view that good!









If you find yourself hungry, fear not! We have a wide array of our wonderful UniCafés around the city centre campus. You could go to the one in the main building, Metsätalo, Soc&Kom, Porthania or Ylioppilasaukio. For just €2.60 (with a student card or the Frank-app), you get a delicious and filling meal with a main dish, free selection from the salad bar, a side (rice, potatoes and the like) and a drink (juice, plantbased or cow milk).  Be sure to download the Unicafé-app, so you can check which café has the tastiest meal on the day you’re looking to eat! There’s always a nice selection of vegan and vegetarian meals, and you’ll be sure to leave UniCafé refreshed and with newfound energy.

There are so many more things that make our city centre campus an awesome place to be, but I’m gonna stop here and hopefully leaving you wanting for more. I hope to see you around exploring and taking advantage of all the nice places our campus has to offer! If you arrive here as an international student, make sure you ask your tutor for a tour around campus so you get to know it during your first days here. It’s the perfect way to start your new life here!

If you have any questions about our city centre campus or about student life in Helsinki, feel free to email me on!