Sunday, 5 June 2011


My sister lives in the Kallio area. It is the old workers' district in Helsinki, a short tram ride away from the tourist-y centre of town, but a lifetime apart from it in spirit. I always get confused when I try to figure out what actually counts as Kallio; the area around here has many sub-districts and each one has its own characteristics. The long-term inhabitants tend to get very defensive about what area their particular street actually belongs to. As I am writing this, my sister has noted out loud to me that she lives in Alppiharju, not Kallio. Oh well. The tall building in the first picture is the Kallio church, and it is about three blocks away from where we are in my sister's apartment. I could try to differentiate between Alppila, Alppiharju, Harju, Sörnäinen, Hermanni, Vallila or what have you within ten minutes' walking distance, but I am going to use the more generic Kallio. The name means bedrock, by the way.

Kallio and its nearby area has a lot to offer: interesting architecture, bars and music, ethnic restaurants, small shops of all sorts. Kallio is notorious for its public drunkenness (the old drunks wandering the streets in daytime are sometimes called "professionals" by the locals) and sex shops, but those phenomena live side by side with old grannies, families with small children, vintage stores and organic cafes. It is an odd mix.

I feel comfortable in Kallio. The sometimes pretentious-seeming hipsters of the rich parts of Helsinki are mostly absent, except in the weekends, when they flock here to get drunk. Most of the people who live here don't seem to have the need to leave Kallio much. Compared to Kallio, the centre of Helsinki and the fancier parts of town seem impersonal somehow, even sterile, a little lifeless. Kallio has a certain roughness to it, a real character. Kallio is an old lady who tells a story. She has her ups and downs. There are days when she is horribly achy and angry, sometimes she gets wasted. Sometimes she has to line up for her dose of daily bread from a church charity. But then there are days when she looks young and beautiful, full of vigour, full of poetry and song.

I am wearing a second hand t-shirt, belt, sunglasses and earrings from the Hietsu flea market, Gap jeans and random online-purchase shoes. Oh, did I mention that the Kallio area has great second hand and charity shops..? Hakaniemi's Fida and UFF are the best charity stores in Helsinki.

Vaasankatu has a couple of good second hand stores: Keisarinviitta's selection is mostly sort of newish second hand, and Hoochie Mama Jane offers awesome real vintage. Last year the latter was chosen by a local paper as the best vintage shop in Helsinki.

Another great vintage shop, Ansa, is located on Fleminginkatu.

Alongside the charity shops and the vintage stores, Hakaniemi market, Valtteri flea market in Vallila and numerous small flea markets in Kallio make it, in my opinion, by far the best second hand hunting area in Helsinki. It has been almost a little too handy for me to be staying here with my sister for the past two weeks. I've bought enough old gems to last me for the entire summer and long into the fall.


Terri said...

I look forward to seeing some your finds in future posts. I'm admiring the tee you are wearing. And I know exactly the kind of neighborhood you are describing, a sort of "urban funk."

Shey said...

Oh boy! I love this virtual tour! I hope you can post more pictures of your stay there! =D

Anonymous said...

Wow, it looks and sounds really wonderful, hon. I love the pictures...Helsinki is really beautiful, and these areas you've shown us look so inviting. And the sky there is such an amazing color of blue! Miss you tons, oxox, CR

Milla said...

These Finland posts from Summery Helsinki leave me with such longing. Have fun for me too.

metscan said...

Great advertisement for Kallio. Great pictures too. Kallio has always been a black area for me. I belong to the ones, who never ever planned to cross the bridge. And you know what bridge; ).
These days, Kallio is a fashionable home for bohemian, younger people along with the old original inhabitants.
Helsinki has a considerable amount of secondhand shops and flea markets. I have been wondering, how profitable these shops actually are for the people keeping them, but came to the conclusion, that perhaps money plays only a small role. It is a lifestyle matter.

Madeline Quaint said...

Sounds like you're having great adventures with lots of second hand shopping!

I've never visited a city before thinking about the stores I'd visit, but if I'll ever travel to Helsinki, I'll know where to look!:)