A good indication of how expensive a city Helsinki can be on your wallet is to order a pint of beer, for starters.
Having just crossed the Baltic sea, from, well, the Baltic States, I noticed a gradual rise in the price of beer – from Vilnius (cheapest), through Riga (cheaper) and into Tallinn (cheap). However, once we were across the sea and had finally set foot in Helsinki, I thought 7-8 euros was daylight robbery.
While the first few days went discovering all that the city had to offer, and spending those hard-earned euros, it was only a few days later that I figured there is a trick to it. At least when it came to food. For example, walking into a restaurant, don’t even bother asking for the à la carte menu. Instead, opt for the buffet and make sure you stuff yourself silly. At a flat rate, it is a far better option than taking your pick off the menu, while constantly keeping an eye to the right of the it. Turns out that’s what most of the Finns do themselves. Too bad they didn’t tell me that in initially.
And that is how, in my thirst for cheaper beers, I found myself in Kallio. It literally translates as ‘rock’ or ‘hill’ and is located on the northeastern outskirts of Helsinki. In its previous avatar, it was the residential neighborhood of the working class immediately after the second World War, with its cramped apartments.
Kallio has now evolved into a trendy district that many students and artists like to call home. With its cool vibe, more bohemian and chilled out, it’s the one place that you must check out while in Helsinki. The streets here are line with several cafés, restaurants, bars and boutiques. And the prices are honest too. It’s also one spot where I saw more well-maintained classic cars than anywhere else in the city.
So, after checking out a couple of the bars, I finally zeroed in on Sivukirjasto. Think of it as a cross between a library and a cosy pub, both very comforting. Even better, they offer more than 100 varieties of beers. With its laid-back feel, it was just my kind of place. Perfect to chill over a few different pints of beer and a food menu that doesn’t perplex you.
Depending on where you are staying, getting to Kallio can be quite a bit of walk if you are up to it. As I was in the city centre, which for me was close to the main railway station, I chose to walk to Kallio. It’s a nice way to explore a city and be surprised with what it throws up at you. Like a beautiful sunset on Pitkäsilta bridge, while I caught up with my breath. If you don’t feel like walking, then hop onto their tram line. It will take you straight from the main railway station to Kallio.
I just wish I’d headed straight here from the boat. If only I’d known. If only.