• Kallio – A Vibrant Helsinki District

    Kallio Block Party is *the* street party of the year

    Kallio Block Party takes place in August on the streets of Kallio. Brilliant music and a variety of performances entertain the young and old until late at night.

  • Vintage shops outfit Kallio

    Linda Pakalen of Ansa (“Trap”) vintage shop shows a few picks from the shop’s selection; Ansa carries women’s clothing from the 1920s to the 1980s, and also has its own line of jewellery. Located on Fleminginkatu, Ansa is one of Kallio’s numerous secondhand shops.

  • Bear Park invites to enjoy

    Bear Park (Karhupuisto), surrounded by Jugend-style architecture, is one of Kallio’s central meeting places. Bear Park Café, open in summers, invites crowds to spend afternoons outdoors. A stone’s throw away are the Kallio church and library, both a century old.

  • Sparking neighbourhood activism

    A sense of community is the saving grace of a small, run-down neighbourhood such as this,” says Laura Oikari, who is part of Kallio Movement (Kallio-liike in Finnish), a collective that participates local politics and organises block parties and flea markets. On the background is the entrance to the must-visit Arla sauna.

  • Local and organic

    Oma Maa (loosely “A Land of One’s Own”), located on Kaarlenkatu, opened in 2011 and is a welcome addition to the selection of organic shops in eastern Helsinki. The shop stocks items bought directly from local farmers. Daniel Fenández Sáez, shown here with store products, is in charge of sales and marketing.

  • Historical and fresh

    “Kallio is becoming more vibrant, and its selection of services is broadening,” says Anna Pakarinen, who runs an entrepreneurs’ network called Up with Kallio. “Most importantly, there’s a sense of authentic and long-spanning Helsinki life here.” Pictured is one of many pop-up restaurants that were part of Helsinki’s Restaurant Day festival. The one-day grassroots event was held three times in 2011.

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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.

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