Some of the best watering holes in the Finnish capital feature unique decor, stellar views across the city, and even saunas.
While Reykjavik and Copenhagen have gotten a great deal of attention in recent years, another, less-traveled Nordic city has come up in a big way: Helsinki. The Finnish capital is a quirky, gorgeous, accessible city that excels in all things culinary and design-oriented—and, increasingly, drink-oriented.
As an extremely walkable city—most central destinations are no more than a 15-minute walk from each other—it’s an ideal place for a bar crawl, whether in the summer months when the daylight never ends, or to keep you going over the cold, dark winter. And once you get to one of these places you’ll never want the night to end.
Why Join the Navy If You Can Be A Pirate
Worth a visit for its name alone, Why Join the Navy If You Can Be A Pirate (yeah, we can’t stop saying it) is a coffeeshop by day, ramen shop and lively bar by night. Grab a G&T (with cranberry, rosemary, and the Finnish Napue Gin) and, if your timing is right, a DJ set.
Why Join the Navy if You Can Be a Pirate, Annankatu 28, 00100; +358-40-6543111
Join the hipsters of Helsinki at this popular bar right by the waterfront, with excellent cocktails, an expansive terrace and blankets for when it gets chilly. (Odds are, the Finnish tolerance for cold is much stronger than yours.) Sip on a kale-Champagne cocktail; take selfies in the oversized wicker chair, or with the rainbow-patterned seal on the patio and wait for the disco ball to kick into action.
Holiday Bar, Kanavaranta 7, 00170; +358-9-61285121
From a rooftop bar in Helsinki, it’s easy to see the entire city laid out before you. On the 14th floor of Solo Sokos Hotel Torni, the top floor reached via spiral staircase, Ateljee Bar is worth a visit for the view alone, whether you’re after a Finnish-brewed lager, a glass of Pinot Gris, or a gin-cranberry long drink.
Ateljee Bar, Yrjönkatu 26, 00100; +358-10-7842080
Only in Finland do the concepts of “sauna” and “bar” go together. Then again, in Finland, the concept of sauna goes with just about everything. It’s essential to everyday life. There are saunas everywhere in Finland—private homes, hotels, inside Helsinki’s Ferris Wheel (really), in a Burger King (really)—and one of the hottest right now, no pun intended, is Löyly, a sleek, sprawling sauna-restaurant-bar complex on Helsinki’s picturesque waterfront. Go for the sauna; stay for the terrace bar.
Löyly, Hernesaarenranta 4, 00150; +358-9-61286550
Trillby & Chadwick Detective Agency
A high-concept speakeasy—finding the entrance is a genuine challenge, even if you’re armed with the address—themed around a London-based detective agency, whose Helsinki branch was charged with enforcing Prohibition laws in the 1920s, while also infiltrating various Finnish political factions on behalf of the British Secret Intelligence Service. (When we say high-concept, we mean it.) Offbeat cocktails might include the “My Own Heart,” with Aperol, pisco, hibiscus, and thyme.
Trillby & Chadwick Detective Agency, Katariinankatu, 00170; +358-40-1803199
Every self-respecting hipster cocktail scene needs its very own steampunk bar, right? Steam Helsinki is fully invested in its theme, from the zeppelin “hovering” over the bar to the endless Victorian-era ephemera; it’s worth a visit for the decor but also for the gin collection—Finland’s largest.
Steam Helsinki, Olavinkatu 1, 00100; +358-44-2222420
A ten-year veteran in Helsinki’s craft cocktail scene, this sleek bar takes its inspiration from Nordic ingredients, whether a "Savusauna" drink inspired by the Finnish smoke sauna, the “Koivu 3.0” with birch leaf syrup, lime, white lindenflower rum and homemade birch soda, or an ambitious menu of G&Ts.
A21 Decades, Annankatu 21, 00100; +358 40 0211921