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The Kallio district of Helsinki (whose name literally means ‘cliff’) has emerged over the past few years as the central location for students and young people that you won’t read about in the guide books. While some argue this occurred as the result of gentrification, Kallio has none the less set itself apart from the rest of the city as a place to meet interesting people, get an affordable meal, or enjoy a cheap night out, and is also one of the centres for the Helsinki gay community.
Assuming you arrive in Helsinki from the central train station or bus station, you can reach Kallio by taking the number 3 tram from outside the train station and getting off at Linnanmäki. You will recognise the district by the tall black granite steeple of the Kallio Church. Alternatively, you can take the Metro to either Sörnäinen or Hakaniemi, or the uphill walk takes about 20 minutes.
The most distinctive thing about Kallio is the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere that the local population enjoy. It is the type of neighbourhood where dogs rest underneath café tables, laptops are always out in public, and the regular 9 to 5 work schedule doesn’t always exist. It can be fairly quiet on weekdays but on weekends the district comes alive with cultural activities and parties, such as the Kallio Block Party held every August which is known for shutting down entire city blocks.
Kallio is especially popular with arts students, up-and-coming artists who are looking for a space to display their work, or those who just love the arts. Everywhere you look there are galleries, live performers, and street markets where artists sell their work. The Suvilahti Graffiti Wall, for example, is the first legal graffiti space in Finland and has over 100 meters of street art where anyone is welcome to make their own contribution.
In stark contrast to the expensive restaurants in the rest of the city, a good meal with a coffee can be found in a Kallio café or restaurant for under €10. There also tends to be a much larger vegetarian, vegan, and international selection than in the rest of the city. Specialty coffee shops and roasteries such as Good Life Coffee hold high standards for their coffee while Bear Park Café holds the record for being Helsinki’s first gay bar and café.
Kallio is particularly famous for its nightlife and has some of the cheapest bars in the city. The numerous bars and clubs tend to have a much more informal atmosphere for socialising. Kaiku, an electronic music venue, has been named as one of Europe’s best clubs. For those who enjoy a quieter night out, there are also poetry slams, open mic nights, late night cafés, and even public saunas open late.
Whether it is for a memorable night out or just a stroll around, there is always something different and exciting to be found in Kallio.