There are plenty of ways to get to Finland. I took an SAS flight from Arlanda, Stockholm, to Vantaa, Helsinki. It was a pretty short flight with some interesting company en route. Once there, the easiest way to get to the centre is by train. I'm convinced we got the wrong ticket but no one checked. If you want to be ultra prepared download the trainline app and get your ticket in advance. I was excited about visiting Helsinki but found it a bit tricky to navigate at first. The best thing to do is get a travel card and go everywhere by tram. The locals are really helpful and of course speak perfect English. For some reason I had it in my head that Helsinki was smaller than it was. It's pretty sprawling. Most of the cool architectural stuff is within walking distance from each other. We bumped into the Danish royal yacht again with the members of the royal family in Helsinki to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence.
According to Tripadvisor there are 14 Escape Room companies in and around the city of Helsinki. I was lucky enough to visit Escape Room Helsinki. This should be confused with Exitroom Helsinki who has subsequently changed their name but still exists on Tripadvisor. Escape Room Helsinki is one of the oldest in the city, opened in December 2014 and expanded rapidly. They now operate in 5 locations around the City, all within 5/10 minutes walking distance of each other although I understand they are seeking to draw all there rooms together in one place. Owner Yvonne was initially reluctant to do this because many of the rooms have connections to the place they are in such as Ghost of the Opera, set in a real life "haunted" opera house. Yvonne is a story teller and the power of the story is the driving force to their immersive philosophy. When the company began they wanted to 'do it right' so they enlisted the help of an the already establish company in Manchester. Ed Roberts from Breakout travelled over to help guide the company in technical aspects of the setup. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength. According to Yvonne, tourism is a growing part of the trade they do but word of mouth and their growing fan base on Facebook has attracted more and more Finns from Helsinki's 600k strong population. Even with the puzzle savvy Finns Yvonne thinks only about half of Finns have ever heard of Escape rooms. And like in many Escape Rooms, VR is a growing trade although currently not as popular as the rooms themselves. So what about the rooms… I only had time to play one game and that was the Dinner Party.
The Dinner Party
You have received a dinner invitation from an unknown hostess. Out of curiosity you have accepted it, and arrive to her beautiful apartment in the middle of Helsinki. Who is your hostess and why has she invited you? Has she got a hidden agenda for her dinner party? As you step into the dimly lit dining room, the door snaps shut behind you. The table is set, but what do the strange symbols on top of it mean? You have 60 minutes to find out what is going on and escape, before it’s too late.
This is one of their oldest and most popular rooms. Set in a fairly ornate apartment building, the game begins in an atmospheric well decorated dining room. Whilst I wouldn't say it was was particularly scary or even creepy, there was a definite 'otherness' to the room that kept me interested throughout. As ever the important things to me are how much the puzzles make sense in the context of the rooms. Here they did. The music supported the pace throughout. There were some clever touches to the room but the abiding feeling you got was this was created through love more than a high tech desire to impress. We didn't quite make it out but again T Man accepts full responsibility in this area and admits he definitely didn't pull his weight.
Should I return their Sauna room is a must do. Yes I'm not joking, a Finnish Escape Room where you have to escape from a sauna.
Food and Drink
Magneetti Vallila – Mashiro is a great little Japaneses restaurant a short walk from where we were staying. It was pretty empty but the food was good and the price was reasonable. The salmon as you would expect was excellent.
This places is easy to get to, its just next door to the outdoor market square. There a multitude of small shops and eateries the best of which I thought was Soppakeittio. It's basically a tiny soup cafe. Have the sea food. It is was seriously one of the best things I have eaten/drunk in a long time.
Things to do
There are 287 things to do on Tripadvisor. I managed to do 3,4,6,7,8,9,10. It was mostly walking around looking at things from the outside. Helsinki Cathedral (no7) overlooking Senate Square (no.10) is impressive and in the right light quite beautiful. I stood and looked at it for a while and then moved on. Number 3 believe it or not is the public tram system. I spent a lot of time on that getting lost. Always ask the locals, it way quicker than trying to work it out for yourself. I did use it however to get to the slightly out of the way to the slightly underwhelming Sebelius monument. No. 6 in the TA list is the Uspenskin Cathedral, an austere looking Orthodox Church that looks down on the harbour. When we went it wasn't open. They rest were markets and gardens that to be honest I didn't realise they were things to do until afterwards. What do the locals say is the best thing to do? Well again its the thing we didn't do. You really should visit the fortress of Soumenlina.
Stay: I stayed in CheapSleeps – its a short bus ride outside the city centre. I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a hostel with some private rooms. I stayed in a private room. Apart from the American gentleman calling everyone arseholes for taking his coffee from the Kitchen it was a fairly average affair.
Escape Room: Escape Room Helsinki
Eat: Without doubt go to Vanha kauppahalli
Drink: Magneetti Vallila – Ok so its cheap (for Helsinki) and has to be seen to be believed. Only go if you are near by. It looks like a 1980s Christmas party that never got cleared away.
Visit: Soumenlina, a short boat ride from the harbour near the outdoor market.
*no payment was taken for this game