What do you get most excited about? For me, it’s traveling. I live for getting new stamps in my passport and last week, we had the opportunity to get 2 new ones! We went to Europe with Finnair and took advantage of their StopOver in Finland program.
So what is Finnair’s StopOver Program all about? It a new offering for United States based customers which allows you to spend a night or two in Helsinki before exploring another destination in Europe. It’s really easy to book a flight – you can do so directly through their website here. You have the option to select how long you want to stay in Helsinki (from 5 hours to 5 nights) as well as whether to stopover at the beginning or end of your trip! Finnair has non-stop flights from Chicago and New York which is incredibly convenient for traveling. Finnair was named the best airline in Northern Europe for 8 years straight and is one of the safest airlines in the world.
The StopOver Program is something that really excited me personally. The opportunity to easily (keyword!) visit 2 countries in a week is almost unheard of so I love that the Finnair website breaks it down step by step. It’s genius! I think this program is a great fit for any kind of traveler. From someone just looking to get a taste of Europe to the experienced traveler wanting to make the most of their vacation days, it’s such a great opportunity. Plus, the airline itself was incredible. We had the privilege of flying business class and it didn’t disappoint. The lounge (especially in Helsinki) was absolutely stunning. From fresh, good quality food to the beds in case you need to take a nap, it was just fabulous. Finnair definitely spoiled us! Here’s a picture from the lounge!
So where did we go on our trip? We spent 2 nights in Helsinki – one at the beginning of our trip and one at the end. Visit Finland did an amazing job of planning our itinerary. If you don’t want to work through Visit Finland, you can book activities directly on the Finnair website. It could not be easier! Here is what we did in Helsinki!
Helsinki, Finland Travel Guide
After landing in Helsinki, we headed to Hotel St. George which was where we were staying. The hotel just opened at the beginning of May and it was gorgeous! Here is what it looked like at 11PM the first night as we were walking home from dinner with our group. I couldn’t believe how late the sun set in Helsinki. It really made you feel awake and gave you plenty of hours in the day to maximize your time spent!
After checking in, we had lunch at Putte’s Bar and Pizzeria. It was so delicious. I was blown away. They had not one but two vegan options for pizza on the menu! That has never happened to me back home! It was such a cute spot and it is just around the corner from Hotel St. George. Matt also loved his pizza as did all 30 people in our group!
After lunch, we had about an hour to walk the streets of Helsinki. We wandered around town and headed over toward the water. Then, we met everyone back at the hotel for a bus tour with one of our guides from Visit Finland. It was probably one of the most instructional bus tours I’ve been on – there was so much history and information to absorb. One of my favorite spots along the way was the Helsinki Cathedral. Why is it that cathedrals are always so gorgeous?
Our guide also took us to the cutest coffee shop right along the water called Cafe Regatta. The coffee shop itself was small and quaint but there was a gorgeous outdoor space. There was even a fire pit with fresh cut wood going. Kayaks were available for rent if you wanted to get some exercise in! We stopped at several of the islands around Hesinki on the way. Since Finland is so far north, there is lots of water all around and numerous small islands. The weather was great, people were out tanning on the grass!
We headed to Ravintola Werner for dinner. They had the best gin cocktails I’ve ever tasted (and I’m not a fan of gin). They served us family style and every dish was very tasty. They were able to accommodate any dietary restrictions easily! The decor was just adorable and it was located in the same square as our hotel so it was a quick walk home. Overall, I was impressed with how healthy the food options were in Finland. I could definitely see myself going back there!
The next morning, we grabbed breakfast at the hotel (they had a beautiful buffet) before heading to Marimekko factory. Marimekko is a Finnish design house with fresh, colorful prints. Their designs were even on the airplane pillows and blankets! I loved that little bit of culture. We toured the factory and learned about the different ways to press prints onto fabric. It was mesmerizing! After the tour, we had lunch at the factory in their little restaurant called Maritori which they designed specifically for the employees to always have a place to eat. It was adorable and made me feel like I was eating right at home. If you’re touring the factory, plan to eat there! Located on site was a store with the cutest travel bags so leave yourself a little time for shopping.
We headed to the airport after our factory tour as our next destination was Zurich. Since we spent our last night in Europe in Helsinki, I’ll include those details here in the Helsinki section! We had dinner at Holiday Bar and it was one of the best places on the whole trip. The menu was international and they had the best sweet potato fries we’ve ever tried. Rumor has it that it’s hard to get in so be sure to make a reservation if you want to go here. They have an outdoor patio area to grab a drink or two. We went to a karaoke bar around the corner after dinner to work off all the food. Matt and I turned in for the night after that so we could get up early and walk around Helsinki some more!
In the morning, we grabbed breakfast at our hotel: Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti. They had the best mini pancakes! They just revamped the hotel and it was a 10 minute walk from the water located right across the street from the Museum of Natural History and 2 blocks away from the Church of Silence. Saunas are really popular in Finland – there are more saunas than cars! They are often located on the water and as we were wandering, we saw a few. We also got a taste of the farmer’s market on Saturday morning.
Zurich, Switzerland Travel Guide
Our next destination was Zurich, Switzerland, which is something that had always been at the top of my list! The flight from Helsinki was just under 3 hours and seamless. Airport security was a breeze and since the airport was only 30 minutes away from downtown, it did not take up much travel time. You can even self scan your bags! Visit Zurich helped us plan our itinerary for the city and they kept us busy! I couldn’t believe how much of Zurich we saw in just a few days!
We checked into Hotel Atlantis by Giardino after landing in Zurich. It was stunning. Once owned by a Saudi Prince, every detail was impeccable. We even got to tour the floor of the hotel which was designed to be his living quarters. It was quite decadent and absolutely gorgeous. If you follow me on Instagram Stories, you saw just what it looked like! We had dinner at Hide & Seek, the restaurant in the hotel, that night with our group. There were 8 of us that traveled together to Zurich! We had split into 4 groups after Helsinki to check out the destinations of Finnair’s StopOver Program. The other groups went to Spain, Estonia, and Northern Finland! Dinner was another delicious meal. Afterward, we had a few drinks in the hotel bar and stayed up pretty late. The bartender was quite the character so there was no shortage of laughs!
In the morning, we grabbed breakfast at the hotel before touring the grounds. Since we had been up so late the night before and were running low on sleep, we took the opportunity to sleep in a little. For lunch, we headed to George Bar & Grill before going on a walking tour of Zurich. We got to meet our tour guide from Visit Zurich! The food was incredible – I think I had the most photo-worthy dish at the table and it was vegan! You could see some spectacular views of the city from the rooftop too.
After lunch, we visited some of the hotspots in downtown. We stopped at the cutest juicery called Juicery 21 and observed how they cold press their juice. You know I was loving that! Green juice is right up my alley!
We walked toward Kraftwerk Cafe which was a really cool coffee shop and eatery. There were old train cars in the center of the space where people worked out of. It was unlike anything else I’d seen. After getting a little caffeine, we headed toward the Botanic Gardens which were still beautiful even in the rain. My favorite part was the greenhouse! We also got to see Rimini Bar which is a bathing pool bar. These are very popular in Zurich and are called Badi-bars. Since the weather wasn’t optimal for a pool day, we just got to see the space!
Once we got a sense of our bearings in Zurich, we headed on a boat tour around Lake Zurich. Our final destination was a tiny little town called Kusnacht and it was a breath of fresh air. We had dinner at Romantik Seehotel Sonne which was a hotel right on the water with the most wonderful view. I’d definitely recommend staying here if you’re looking for a little oasis and distance from the bustling city. You can easily train into downtown Zurich – we took the train back to our hotel, Hotel Atlantis by Giardino, later that night! The restaurant had some of the most rare art I’ve seen including some by Andy Warhol. Here were the views of the lake from the patio!
The next morning, we grabbed breakfast at our hotel before heading into Old Town Zurich for a walking tour with Visit Zurich. We stopped at the cutest chocolate (Teuscher and Laderach), spice, and coffee shops. The chocolate in Switzerland was a highlight! It was so cool to get a sense of the incredible culture of Switzerland. We saw quite a few different views of the city from all over before heading to lunch at Neni. Neni had amazing hummus samplers and the females in our group got a glass of rose with our meal! They had a delicious array of international cuisines from all around the world.
After lunch, we toured a gin factory called Turicum. I found it so interesting to see how the gin was made from start to finish. Turicum is only available in Europe but if you ever see it, you must buy it! We learned all about the botanicals used in the process and how they distill the gin. We rounded out the visit with some gin tasting! We later saw the gin in Zurich’s airport which felt so surreal and was a splendid reminder of our visit!
We walked off our lunch with a stroll through the hipster part of Europe called Zurich West. We wandered through a market and a few outdoor patios just full of beautiful art designs. Apparently, Zurich West is the place to go out as it has become a very popular bar scene. We grabbed a few drinks in town before heading to dinner at Cho Chin Chin. It was Vietnamese cuisine in the heart of the Langstrasse quarter and the decor was adorable. It was another great spot for anyone with dietary restrictions and so delicious! The atmosphere was magical and it was perfect for our last night in Zurich! We took the train home after dinner and cozied up in bed after a long day!
In the morning, we grabbed breakfast at our hotel before heading to the airport. They had the best vegan pancakes and Matt ordered the french toast 3 times (every day) because it was so good. I don’t think we ate a bad meal on our entire trip! We headed to the airport to get on our Finnair flight back to Helsinki. We would 100% go back!
Have you ever flown Finnair? What do you think of the Finnair StopOver Program? Have you ever been to Zurich or Helsinki?