If I could do anything, it would be to spend all of my time traveling. Exploring the world and in the process taking something new and making it familiar is my absolute favorite. So when My Helsinki invited us to come out and join the city’s PRIDE celebration we couldn’t resist. Not only would we be going on a magical adventure to a new place together, we would be celebrating love with 100K people!!
The timing worked out perfectly, as Finnair recently started offering direct flights from Los Angeles to Helsinki. We decided to take advantage of it by scheduling our flight around a visit to LA. We opted for their business class and everything from the lounge access, to the in-flight service to the full-flat seats (yes, the seat legit turns into a bed) was incredible. Full T, it felt more like first class than anything else! Erik and I kicked off our journey with celebratory champagne and bomb pasta with a mushroom sauce, before fully reclined our seats and sleeping for the rest of the flight! We were gently woken up by the flight attendants just before the plane began its descent into Helsinki. Coming from the desert, the lush countryside with temperatures in the low 70s was perfection. It was time for our adventure to begin!
A short drive and we were home at the Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments, centrally located adjacent to the newly constructed Oodi Library, a large park and Töölönlahti Bay. One of the first things that stood out to me was the hundreds (if not thousands) of rainbow flags up across the city. I have been to gay pride events across the US and in my experience rainbow flags and the pride celebrations themselves have usually been confined to one part of town. I was so happy to be in such a progressive country where civil rights are celebrated throughout the city. Did I mention all of the geese and their babies? There are so many and they’re so cute I could barely contain myself. As you can see below, they were clearly also very excited to see me.
Getting around in the city is incredibly easy! Perhaps that’s why it’s rated the happiest country on earth? Regardless, their public transportation is one of the most efficient systems I have experienced in my travels, we never waited more than 10 minutes. Although we spent most of time exploring on foot as the downtown area is about 3 miles squared. Bikes and scooters are also available for rent via apps all over the city. Don’t bother with Uber, there are only a couple drivers, but the taxis are very easy to flag down and there are plenty of them. You will also enjoy how nice and clean they are. In fact most of the cabs we rode in were Mercedez-Benz sedans!
As we explored we couldn’t help but notice how the city is virtually free of litter and poverty. It’s absolutely breathtaking, a stunning melange of modern architecture, pristine parks and historic buildings. Oodi Library, Amos Rex (art museum) and Löyly Helsinki (saunas) are some of the most fascinating examples of modern architecture that I’ve ever seen. Make sure to take advantage of one of the several gelato stands, but be careful….The seagulls there are fearless (click on the shot of me standing on the stairs and zoom in on the one behind my head…lol) and will literally grab your ice cream cone right out of your hand. If I hadn’t seen it myself I’m not sure I would have believed it. The birds all seem to live in harmony with the residents of Helsinki and as a result aren’t scared of people like they are most places I’ve been.
For those of you wondering, don’t worry…I had a healthy helping of my favorite carbs at The Cock. That’s right, you could say that I had a mouthful at The Cock, a mouthful of glorious rigatoni in an Alfredo sauce with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and arugula. Erik, a die hard Tarantino fan, was giddy when he saw a “Royal with Cheese” as a choice on the menu. On your way to the bathroom you’ll find a hidden gem full of Instagrammable spots (see below). Seriously the downstairs felt bigger than the actual dining area and we only found it by chance.
The entire trip was perfect, but my favorite part was joining in the gay pride celebration. I have been going to gay pride events since I first came out when I was 14 and never in my life have I experienced anything like this. It starts as many similar events do, with a parade. However it was where this parade started that showed me right away that I was in for something different. The initial gathering point for the parade was right in front of the Helsinki Cathedral. The cathedral has massive cement steps out front of it opening to a large square, but Helsinki Cathedral played more than a starting location for the parade…the church is an OFFICIAL PARTNER of the event. Yes you read that correctly...gays in Finland can marry in certain churches should they wish to!
Clarion Hotels generously invited us to ride on their truck for the parade with DJ Leo turning it all the way up! Yes, our truck had a DJ and a sound system blasting some of the best music as we road through the city. Music was bumping, people were dancing and we were throwing plumes of brightly colored clouds of colored corn starch into the sky. It was truly glorious. Approximately 100,000 people participated in the parade, that culminated in a celebration in a park by the sea. The night continued at Clarion Hotel - Helsinki, with the official after party taking place in Sky Room the roof top bar/lounge.
We are already planning our next trip because there is so much more that we want to do in Helsinki and Finland in general! Fun fact, Finish people love their saunas. It has been said that there are more saunas than cars in the country! I know…we had no idea either, but next time we’ll make to take one! We also still want to explore the islands that surround Helsinki, visit the historic city of Tallinn and even travel north to see the Northern Lights. Future plans aside we are grateful for the experiences we had and can not recommend visiting with any more enthusiasm. Everyone there was so kind to us! Thank you for hosting us in your beautiful city! Kiitos!!