When I was still living in Hong Kong, I remember there were two periods in a year that all my Italian friends suddenly disappeared: August and December. December is for them to go back home and spend Christmas with families. While August is considered the Italians’ holiday period, everybody takes a two-week holiday from work. And YES, the Italians even bring this tradition to their expat countries!
This August, being the first one that I spent in Italy, helps to increase my knowledge of how serious Italians taking their summer holiday. I basically found Firenze “empty”! It seems almost all the locals are away, leaving only tourists in the city. Many shops are closed with a notice hanging at the door writing: Chiuso per Ferie (Close for holidays).
“To do as the Romans do”, we also decide to take a trip somewhere. Knowing it would be quite crowded at the seaside, we chose to visit the Nordic land: Finland, to be specific!
Some of my friends asked me “Why!” when hearing that I will go to Finland for summer holiday. I couldn’t have a good answer before, but after the trip I’ve got 15 reasons:
1. The Long Summer Days
In Finland, the summer days may end, but there are endless summer days. Even though in August the mid-summer is almost finished, we still find the day time quite long. It is a good period to get up early for a run, or taking a long walk after dinner.
3. Sunbath at the Lake Side
It still can be cold going to swim in August, so many many finnish people choose to enjoy the sun and the sea/ lake in their way: sunbath. Gathering some friends, having picnics under the sunshine looks like a summer habit there.
4. Friends Meeting on The Lawns
Walking in Helsinki, almost every piece of lawn we found people sitting there: chatting, drinking beer, resting, etc. At some point, I wanted to stop and join them as well.
5. The Finnish Blue
If I’m asked to choose one color to represent Finland, blue is the answer! I adore the different shades of blue from the sea and the sky. So lovely!
6. Summer Flowers
I use to have this wrong impression that there was no flowers in the Nordic country. But I have always wondered how the flowers will be like in the Scandinavia. Well, I found they are so beautiful, just like the prints on Marimekko clothes.
7. Seagulls are Around
Seagulls are best friends to humans here in Finland
8. Market Square in Helsinki
Markets are always my favorite because there hides all the treasure! We had lots of fun just visiting the Market Square near the piers in Helsinki.
10. Blankets Provided in Restaurants
Although August is the “hot summer” for Finnish people, it still can be chill in the evening. I always brought an extra layer with me while out for dinner. However I found many restaurants, especially those ones having outdoor tables, have blankets for customers. It was such a considerate idea! For people like me, who doesn’t resist cold much, this is like the best thing a restaurant can offer besides the food!
11. Colorful Paintings on the Road
Found some colorful street art in Helsinki and Porvoo. I had a lot of fun taking pictures using them as background!
12. The Mid-age Festival in Hameelinna
We were lucky to find the mid-age festival in Hameelinna while visiting there. People putting on their Viking age costumes, and lived as in the old days. Traditions, they never go out of style!
13. Cottages and Reflections by the Lake in Porvoo
Porvoo is a small town 45-minute drive from Helsinki. There we found line of cottages along the lake. It felt amazing to walk in between the real town and its reflections.
14. English Speaking Country
Yeah, people speaks good English in Finland! After 3 months living in Italy, it felt great to go to a place, where I can talk to people in English without problem! 😝
15. Well Informed Tourist Information Online
I must say the tourism information are well put on internet for tourists’ reference! Just VisitFinland.com and VisitHelsinki.fi already have more than enough information to plan your trip! And additional thanks to Georgette’s post on GirlinFlorence, I got all the information needed before the trip, for free!
If to name one thing that I enjoyed less in Finland, I would say it is the food. Blame the Italians who had raised the standard for cuisine, Finnish dishes didn’t impress me. We did try a good Finnish restaurant, where the environment was nice, food presentation was fabulous, but again the taste was nothing special. 😡
Places I Visited
🌟🌟🌟 Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki: this is one of my favorite places visited in Helsinki. The fortress is on a small island, where to reach you need to take a boat trip. It is a place nice to visit, as well as to find a spot for relaxing or sunbathing. More information can be found:
🌟🌟🌟 Market Square, Helsinki: as you know local market is my favorite spot as always, of course I don’t wanna miss the one in Helsinki. The market square locates right at the pier. You may consider to pay a visit after you get off from the sightseeing boat tour, or coming back from Suomenlinna. But keep in mind the market only opens until 4pm (in Winter it may close even earlier), so remember to save enough time for it.
🌟🌟Old Market Hall: an indoor food market, just next to the pier where you can find many booths selling Finnish food and products, as well as small restaurants with prepared dishes ready to serve. I found my Vietnamese Pho here, and I loved it!
🌟🌟Porvoo: as the 2nd oldest town in Finland, Porvoo is worth paying a visit. Taking the bus (no train available) from the bus station Kamppi, after 45 minutes you will find yourself in this antique place by lake. Besides the nice sight, there are lots of shops selling local goods, which can easily steal half day away from you! More information see here:
Suggested time spent in Porvoo: 0.5 – 1 Day
🌟Hameenlinna: We were lucky to find the mid-age festival in Hameenlinna, which made our trip more interesting. Otherwise, I am not sure if this is a place I wan to suggest. It does have an old castle in town, but I didn’t found guide tour services available. If you can rent a boat and do some sailing, the lake in Hameenlinna seems nice. In my case I did spend some time just walking along the lake. Other than that, I didn’t find too many special things going on.
Suggested time spent in Hameenlinna: 0.5 – 1 Day