Don’t stagnate on a bus tour. Travellers can move around simply and quickly on the saddle in the capital city of Finland; take it from an inexperienced cyclist who accomplished 8 miles in one afternoon without even breaking a sweat.

I can’t say I’m much of a cyclist. I did most of my biking as a kid in the mid-90’s. Yet some weeks ago I came up with this brilliant idea to cycle from my hometown to Helsinki, approximately 25 miles away, and take a tour around the city.

With all the odds against me this still turned out to be a great success.

Helsinki loves its cyclists and offers plenty of opportunities to rent a bike for your holiday. The prices vary from 15 to 30 Euros a day depending on your need of gears. However Upi Korpela, one of the many bike shop-keepers in Helsinki, told me that if one is planning to stay for more than three weeks and will constantly be moving around then it may be a good idea to buy a second hand bike instead of renting one. Should you choose eiher of these options, you must keep on eye of your bike while you are not on it. Another shop-keeper Norberto Cameron said that his business has lost only two bikes during three last years, and he won’t charge people for any stolen bikes unless the renter admits carelesness. However, the policies may vary between bikeshops in the city. 

In addition, cycling on a rental or purchased bike in the Helsinki may not be cheaper than taking public transport, though you might want to choose it anyway for the sake of activity, and it can really save your time. You will experience more on the saddle than sitting behind the glass of a tram or a bus – and don’t worry – the people are friendly and not disturbed by cyclists as long as they follow the traffic rules and stay in the designated bike lanes, of which there are plenty in Helsinki. I myself moved around with my rather unwieldy bike carrying an enormous backpack and didn’t get any daggering eyes from pedestrians or drivers. You can also attend guided bike tours.

I started my personal tour of Helsinki from Lauttasaari, which is an island between Helsinki and Espoo. This place offers a great laid back environment for cycling with a nice view to the sea. The island is less busy than the downtown area, and it is a good place to take a swim or have a picnic on the beach. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual then at Lauttasaari harbour one can rent a floating sauna that looks like a duck, climb inside, and let the driver (yes, the duck has a driver) take you on a one hour cruise along the shore. I believe for a foreigner this arrangement might sound a little weird, and I have no option but to say that it probably is how it sounds.

From Lauttasaari I cycled approximately 3 miles to Hietaniemi, where one can find the best-known beach in Helsinki. In order to get there from Lauttasaari one must first cross the bridge at Lauttasaari, then follow the western shoreline. This makes the journey refreshing an experience because of the wind coming from the sea.  

Another route to Hietaniemi from Lauttasaari goes through Baana which is a road built especially for cyclists. This 0.8 mile long route replaced the old and unused railway tracks in 2012, in order to make the life of the bikers easier and faster in the city. The problem is that if you want to go to a specific place, such as Hietaniemi, you have to know when to walk your bike up the ramps, of which there are several alongside the Baana. This is a road that you should eventually use if you choose to cycle in the city. It starts from nearby the Parliament House, right between the Helsinki Music Centre and the Museum of Contemporary Art. You can also find venues for basketball, ping pong and skateboarding right in the middle of it, although you need to bring your own equipment for all of these activities.

After sunny Hietaniemi beach my next stop was the Hakaniemi market place. Although this city is no Venice, or even Amsterdam, it seemed that I was constantly close to riding my bike into the water – the earth really felt flat in Helsinki. The best thing is that you get to cycle along the shorelines, with no need to slalom through the traffic. In Hakaniemi you can find the outside wholesale market and a two-store brick building called Kauppahalli. Both of the venues are open from Monday to Saturday, and Hakaniemi is just one of the nine wholesale market locations where you can buy fresh Finnish food, nice handicraft and authentic souvenirs. My advice would be to buy newly handpicked strawberries and take a break in one of the parks in Kallio nearby.

Kallio is a part of Helsinki that inhibits many stories, most of them wildly exaggerated. The Daily Telegraph wrote in 2011 that Kallio should be avoided in the night-time, but I can’t agree with that as some of the best clubs and bars are there. Sure, the five star restaurants are absent, but most of the time you can hang out in Kallio minding your own business. At least here you can enter a food joint even a bit knackered after cycling without fearing that you are being stared at.

My last stop was at Senaatintori by the Helsinki Cathedral. This seemed to be very popular place amongst tourists, although I was hoping to see more cyclists. To my disappointment the whole area was surrounded by busses. I have to admit that the cobblestoned Senaatintori is not the best place for bikes, but somehow I sensed that those who chose to see the city on their bikes didn’t care much for the most popular attractions. The Helsinki Cathedral and the stairs in the front of it are amazing, but I truly think that the city really blooms somewhere else than by the monuments. I recommend taking a tour with a bike and proving it yourself, it will be easy and refreshing even if you haven’t cycled for awhile.