Kallio – A Vibrant Helsinki District
The eastern end of Helsinki’s heart, particularly the densely inhabited Kallio, has sparked to life in recent years. Formerly a working-class neighbourhood, the laid-back, idiosyncratic and spirited area has a noteworthy array of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, bars and more.
Kallio, like the upscale neighbourhood of Punavuori 20 years earlier, has undergone a facelift after drawing a young, diverse and entrepreneurial population. And although its run-down charm has in part evolved with the arrival of trendy cafes, brunch spots and boutiques, the neighbourhood hasn’t yet lost its distinctiveness.
Kallio is known for housing students and young couples, and on weekends its ruggedly hip bar scene lures in trend-conscious types from around town. The culturally permissive and liberal Kallio could be recommended to fans of Berlin’s Kreuzberg, Neukölln or Friedrichshain, or those who feel at home in London’s Hackney.
Kallio can be easily accessed from the city centre via tram route 3, which is also often referred to as Helsinki’s best line for sightseeing.
Market finds and boutiques
An exploration of Kallio can start at the market square of Hakaniemi. Its distinctive feature is a century-old market hall that sells everything from vegetables, fish and freshly baked bread to jewellery, clothing and vintage stamps. Pass the Jugend-style church of Kallio and head to Karhupuisto (Bear Park), marked by its bear statue. Then continue to explore the streets of Fleminginkatu, Helsinginkatu and Vaasankatu, and the small neighbourhood of Torkkelinmäki.
Like the more tourist-saturated Market Square in the Helsinki city centre, the Hakaniemi outdoor market offers the opportunity to take a coffee break inside a café tent. The Market Hall, meanwhile, is a recommended lunch spot in addition to its shopping options; Soppakeittiö (“Soup Kitchen”) serves a delicious bouillabaisse. Before heading out, try cheeses at Lentävä lehmä (“The Flying Cow”) downstairs, and pop upstairs to scope out design accessories.
Fleminginkatu street has several boutiques that include design collective Femin, a vintage shop called Ansa (“Trap”) and a bakery-café called Galleria Keidas (“Oasis Gallery”). A charming, traditional bakery K. E. Avikainen is located in the idyllic Torkkelinmäki neighbourhood. Friends of organic food frequent not only the Hakaniemi Market Hall, but also Oma maa (loosely translated “A Land of One’s Own”) and Ekolo. Kallio is also home to several secondhand shops. Among these Kauppahuone Keko (“Heap Shop”) stands out with its diverse selection, and Black and White with its record collection.
Laid-back bars and homey cafes
Among Kallio’s welcoming, distinctive cafes are Villipuutarha (“The Wild Garden”), Taikalamppu (“The Magic Lamp”), Sävy (“Shade”) and the summertime Bear Park Café. Recommended bars are Musta kissa (“The Black Cat”), Molotow and Rytmi (“Rhythm”), while Siltanen and Kuudes Linja are the area’s most popular clubs. Pub Sirdie, a popular watering hole, offers a glimpse of what Kallio was like a few decades ago; the dim, tiny, unadorned bar reminds one of an Aki Kaurismäki film.
The area is also home to a diverse and excellent array of cuisines. One can sample Thai food at Lemon Grass, Ukrainian delicacies at Pelmenit, vegetarian and vegan selections at Silvoplee, American food at Soul Kitchen and Finnish comfort food at Cella.
Communal saunas at Arla and Kotiharju are ideal for a moment of relaxation after a meal. In summers, restaurant boats on either side of Hakaniemi’s Pitkäsilta (“Long Bridge”) provide opportunities for cooling off by the water.
Helsinki is a modern pocket-sized European city of culture that is known for its design and high technology. Helsinki’s attractive and unique character comes from its proximity to the sea, which offers an endless number of exciting opportunities in summer and winter alike.