Thursday, 17 July 2014

The top five cafes in Central Helsinki

I love the cafe culture in Finland. Sitting in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and flipping through a book is one of my favorite ways to spend a few hours in my newly-adopted city. Expat life can be hectic, so I think it's important to slow down and enjoy your surroundings. This is my home for the foreseeable future, but I still like to play tourist when I can (one of the perks of being a 'trailing spouse'), which includes discovering new places to get my caffeine fix... and maybe a snack or two. If you're in the area -- and you should visit! -- check out my top five cafes in central Helsinki:

5. La Torrefazione -- This is one of the best-located cafes for visitors and Finns alike. It's in the city center, right in the middle of the major shopping area. What better excuse do you need to take an hour for lunch? It is truly amazing. Their coffee beverages are like a work of art and they have delicious food, including lunch specials that change frequently. The customer service is great here too, and everyone is very friendly and will happily answer any questions you may have or translate the menu.


4. Johan & Nystrom -- Right around the corner from Uspenski Cathedral, this little cafe is sure to please even the most selective coffee drinkers. I found it randomly one morning – we had only just moved in and I didn't have a coffee machine yet. A quick internet search yielded a coffee shop a few minutes away from me, I went for a quick cappuccino, and I was in love. In nice weather, Johan offers beautiful marina views and if the weather is bad, cozy up inside their red-bricked cafe. They offer a great selection of pastries (go early!) and even raw cakes, for those with special diets.

3. Cafe Regatta -- Okay, this isn't quite in the center, but it's so accessible by public transport that it still counts. Cafe Regatta is located on an inlet from the sea and offers spectacular views of the water. As a big bonus, it's open seven days a week (a rarity in Finland, especially for a small place like this). The lines are usually out the door, but for good reason; their karjalanpiirakka (rice pastries) are out of this world, and the coffee is also very good. If you're feeling chilly, sit by the bonfire and roast all those sausages you bought inside.

2. Brooklyn Cafe -- Yes, this is run by a pair of American sisters, but I swear that's not why I like it! They actually own both this cafe and a bakery down the street. I love them both, but the cafe is my favorite of the two. I found it online before I left (this girl needs her bagel fix) and it was one of the first places I tried after the move. I was not disappointed! They have a variety of goodies, but I never leave without a prosciutto-on-everything bagel, complete with a tasty drink (usually one of their smooth cappuccinos). Bonus for having amazing iced coffee, a true treat during the short Finnish summers. Don't forget to try their brownie -- they are the best in Helsinki! Trust me, I've tried them all.


1. Cafe Aquamarine -- Blink and you'll miss it. There isn't a clear sign outside and you'll probably walk by it six times before finding it (not that I did that...). Friends from San Francisco actually introduced me to this place while they were visiting us. They randomly stumbled on it and brought me back one of their pastries: Love at first bite. This is now my go-to place when I want a quiet afternoon with a great drink and snack. Cafe Aquamarine is run by a sweet older woman whose cafe looks like it belongs in her house; cushy mis-matched armchairs, Asian artwork, and flower prints. I love it! She bakes everything onsite and it's worth any potential wait. My top choices are the chocolate cappuccino (my husband adores them, too) and the korvapuusti, which is the best of its kind in the city. Really. You'll leave full and happy. Don't miss this place!



About the Author
Danielle Laurence spent most of her life bouncing around the US, and now her sights are set on Europe. She's been living in Finland for three months with her husband and cat -- and loving every minute of it! She has a passion for history, exploring new cultures, and traveling. You can follow her Finnish adventures at theunfinnishedblog.com and via Twitter @ExpatDanielle



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