A city break with a temperature of -8°C degrees centigrade with three children can prove challenging. Yes, Helsinki was freezing, but with it there had been a heavy snowfall the night before we came. So, the views were spectacular and there were lots of excellent cake shops open for us to warm up in.
I had visited Helsinki before, about 15 years ago, on a very warm day in July. But seeing this city in the snow and ice was a new experience for me too. I remember Helsinki Cathedral (Helsingin Tuomiokirko) which, along with Uspenski Cathedral, dominates the city skyline. The white domed building is beautiful, this coupled with fresh snowfall and a bright blue sky, meant the view was breathtaking.
The elegant Cafe Engel allowed us to warm up and recharge our batteries, with a generous slice of berry cheese cake and a cafe latte. It is so weird that now we have to show a Covid Passport to enter places. I was actually a bit worried because my phone had switched itself off due to the freezing cold temperature, and my passport was on my phone. Luckily the warmth of the cafe entrance helped to warm up my phone, thus gaining access to my digital Covid passport. I remembered visiting this beautiful cafe when I came here before, and the cakes were just as good, if not better. The benefit to having three children and a husband is you can order five different slices cakes and get a taste of each one.
Helsinki’s Art Nouveau Railway Station
Perhaps the most architecturally interesting building in Helsinki is the Art Nouveau railway station (Helsingin päärautatieasema). The 48 meter high clock tower designed by Eliel Saarinen was one of the designs which resulted in America’s first skyscraper, Saarinen’s 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower.
I think the intense cold had not only numbed my fingers, my iphone but also my husband’s brain. About 20 seconds into the first rotation of 131-foot-high Skywheel Helsinki, he remembered that he was frightened of heights. “Well, at least we are warm, ” I said, rather unsympathetically, “and the views are fantastic!”. We all encouraged him to spot the landmarks; the cathedrals, the stadium, the ferry and not to look too closely at the door of the gondala which had a gap of about a half a centimetre.