During the dark winter months, we’ve greatly enjoyed visiting the Helsinki Talvipuutarha (“winter gardens”) as it is a warm, bright and green place that’s perfect for spending some quiet time. This weekend we visited one of the other big public glasshouses in the city: Helsinki University’s greenhouses at the Kaisaniemi Botanical Gardens.
As with the University itself, the garden actually “started” in Turku, but moved to its currently location in the late 1820’s after a large fire destroyed much of that city. It seems like the gardens thrived until the second world war, during which two bombs hit the greenhouses during the middle of winter – of all the indoor plants only one giant waterlily and a tree survived the blast and the cold.
But these days you’d not be able to guess the gardens traumatic past – we enjoyed an hour wandering through the 10 connected glasshouses, visiting deserts, tropical rainforests, savannas and dry forests… There are plants from all over the world in the greenhouses, including a good few that we recognized from home – Streliztias, a Sausage tree, a small baobab, and a variety of aloes and other succulents. One of the nice features of the gardens is that the gardens have identified all of the endangered (with red labels) and useful (with yellow labels) species – they are growing, for example, vanilla orchids and a cacao tree.
If you’d like to visit the glasshouses, they are closed on Mondays but open from 10 am to 4 pm other days (except Thursdays when they are open until 6 pm; details here). It will cost you 8 € per adult… unless you visit on the first Thursday of the month, when it will cost you nothing. I’d have to say that the city winter gardens are a nicer place to relax, definitely having a nicer atmosphere (and entrance is always free) – but if you are particularly interested in plants (or a bit bored with the talvipuutarha) then you should not be disappointed with the Kaisaniemi greenhouses… of course there is also the Gardenia centre’s greenhouse which we’ve heard is worth a visit too.