One beautifully sunny early spring day a few weeks ago, I decided to go for a stroll in my old neighborhood the Vallila district. Vallila is, of course, located just a short walk from the Kallio neighborhood, so if you ever find yourself in the area, paying a little visit to Vallila while you’re there is definitely worth considering.
In recent times, there’s been a lot of talk about the new so-called creative class, consisting of architects, designers and artists, finding their way to Vallila, and while doing so also creating new lively urban culture in the area, such as finding new use for some of the old industrial blocks. Simultaneously new shops and cafes have found their way to the area as well, so I decided to pull together a list of my favorite spots in Vallila and a few tips on what not to miss when in the area!
In Vallila the delicious scent of coffee is almost always present! The large, white factory building of Meira coffee roastery, founded in the 1930s and located in the corner of Aleksis Kiven katu and Sturenkatu, is one my favorite buildings in the area. The simple, minimalistic facade is embellished only with some of the well-known Meira brand names in simple lettering and long, narrow rows of windows that to me resemble little pieces of jewelry.
There are several architectural gems to discover in Vallila, such as the Vallila Library (Päijänteentie 5) designed by architect and academician Juha Leiviskä in 1991.
Many know Vallila for the charming Old Vallila, also known as Wooden Vallila, which is home of a large number of idyllic colorful wooden houses built in the 1910s and 20s. Nowadays the old working-class residential district is a highly sought-after neighborhood.
The cosy coffee bar of Helsinki Coffee Roastery was opened just a couple of years ago right next to the Wooden Vallila. In the beginning it functioned only as a roastery, but soon after, a cafe was opened in the same premises, and word on the street started spreading about a new little coffee bar with exceptionally good coffee. Personally I adore the atmosphere here and the exciting, rustic details which have been used to create the interior – like the carpenter’s bench used as a table, and the inventive shelving units built on the painted white brick wall. Spotting all the details here is a lot of fun and that’s also how I started my Vallila adventure day – without forgetting to mention the seriously delicious cup of cafe latte and a piece of tasty almond cake!
Another one of my favorites when it comes to charming coffee bars in Vallila, is the more recent arrival Suvanto, opened in the spring of 2014 and located also close to the wooden district, along the busy Mäkelänkatu street. I dropped in the cafe just as it was getting ready for lunch time, and was lucky enough to find a spot for my coffee cup and a slice of oh-so-tasty blueberry pie. (What’s another slice when in Vallila, eh?) Maybe it was the sunny weather that inspired Vallila residents head out for a coffee and lunch, or – as I’m guessing – the lovely cafe keeps busy all the time. Suvanto is probably best known for its good selection of healthy porridge options for breakfast which are available during both weekdays and weekends. As soon as I find myself back in Vallila during lunch time, I’m planning to try out the lunch soup option, available Monday through Friday.
There’s a sense of an unhurried, easy-going atmosphere in Suvanto that makes you just want to spend the whole day there by the side of your cup of coffee!
Another one of the distinctive architectural features in Vallila, which at least most users of the local public transportation are familiar with, are the large maintenance and parking halls of HSL Vallila tram depot, located along another arterial road passing through Vallila, the busy Hämeentie street. The halls were designed by architect Selim A. Lindqvist, and the oldest one dates back as far as 1914.
There are several small businesses located on Eurantie right around the corner from the tram depot, but this time I popped into the little paper and gift shop called Varikon Varjo. The shop has been set up by the young fashion designer Liisa Riski in 2013, functioning also as her creative space. The selection covers different kinds of fun, unique cards, decorative prints and other paper products as well as small design items, such as ceramic vases from both Finnish and international brands. For the time-being, there’s only a small amount of items available from Riski’s own fashion line, but as I found out from the designer, they have plans to just slightly change the concept in the near future by adding more clothes and also vintage items in the selection.
Varikon Varjo is also a place to drop in for a take-away specialty coffee when in the neighborhood!
When in Vallila, check also these:
Aarikka factory outlet, Nokiantie 2-4 C, http://www.aarikka.com/
Vallilan Stoori, seconhand shop with a cafe, Sturenkatu 36, http://www.vallilanstoori.fi/
Pub Magneetti, Mäkelänkatu 20 B
Restaurant Allotria, Hämeentie 68, http://www.allotria.fi/
Restaurant Pikku-Vallila, Vallilantie 19, Wooden Vallila
Photos: Riitta Kokkonen