This month we’re talking to one of our long-standing writers, Abigail Blasi, who covers an eclectic mix of Italy, India, Malta and the UK for Lonely Planet. Abigail has three half-English, half-Italian, but wholly well-travelled children. She recently took her family to Helsinki for a fascinating and very child-friendly city break.
What’s the story behind this photo?
We’re in Helsinki on a ferry approaching Suomenlinna, which is a sea fortress built across six islands. It was a slow and stately trip across from the Helsinki mainland, and we had plenty of time to watch all the sea life around us: canoes, boats, sails, other islands and painterly clouds in enormous skies overhead.
I’m not sure what my three-year-old had spotted but I’m guessing it was either a bird or the beached submarine on the edge of one of the islands. It was lovely being on the boat with my daughter enjoying it – a few months before this trip we had been on a speedboat in Malta, which she found quite terrifying, spending the whole time cowering on my lap! This photo has great memories of being on the ferry, passing the islands and boats, and the excitement of arriving in this mysterious place.
When we reached the island, we wandered around exploring. We went to a military museum and all the kids and my husband tried on uniforms. Next, we discovered the mammoth fortifications, which were like a fantastical, otherworldly playground, all wild windy headlands, tunnels and huge cannons. It’s an absolutely thrilling place for all ages.
From my 10-year-old: ‘The boat was fun and I was trying to say hello to people on a different boat. I remember on the island there was a submarine. There was a fort. We had ice cream and there were giant cannons, and there were these little houses in the hill. I liked going in the houses, because it was funny when I was hiding. I remember in the museum reading that the military had Fanta!’
Abi’s tips for visiting Helsinki with kids
1) Find a great apartment to stay in – it makes life much easier for cooking and gives you the sense of being a local.
2) Make the most of the flea markets all around the city, which were a surprise success for us. Our older kids loved learning how to haggle. They kept going off to different stalls and then reappearing proudly with what-on-earth-is-it ornaments and defunct-looking computer games.
3) Pack picnics each day: eating out is expensive.
Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?
Apart from the fact that we want to explore more of Finland, we’re trying to decide between going skiing in Courchevel in France or taking a trip to Iceland.
Lastly, complete the sentence:
When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always…
…make sure we have plenty of books to read for the journey. Electronics too, but I always find books make for a more soothing silence.