The city lover’s Helsinki

Radio journalist student and lifestyle guru Iiris Kokko spent her childhood in Espoo and went to high school in Brussels. She then returned to Helsinki, because the city has always been “the thing” that drew her back.

“One of my key experiences of Helsinki was my time as an intern visualist at the Popot Sneaker Store on Iso Roobertinkatu. That’s because I’ve been collecting special sneakers since I was young. A great bunch of people went to Popot and I learned a lot about what goes on in the city. The place is a kind of institution in its own right. It was a nexus for news on everything going on in Helsinki, there were good bars nearby, and it was at the centre of the grapevine.”

In between, Iiris spent a year studying the fashion business in Glasgow. Upon her return, she began half a year of work experience at Radio Helsinki. There, she got to know Maria Veitola and was inspired by her style and candour. She started to feel that she belongs to Helsinki.

“This is a truly authentic place to be. Things are done with huge passion and emotion.  People know huge amounts and take an interest in things. There’s no need to be so hard on yourself all the time, but on the other hand the commitment and way in which people throw themselves into things is inspiring – really special.”


A city of many precinct identities

Iiris admires the beautiful architecture of various parts of Helsinki.

“I would recommend touring Helsinki’s neighbourhoods and trying out the different feel of each place. Each part of the city has its own thing, its own vibe.”

Iiris is delighted to act as a city guide for friends and strangers alike. You learn to see places in a new, exciting light when showing other people around them.

“One of my favourite places in Helsinki is Uutela in Vuosaari with its nature trail. It’s such a cool escape. This is a city of amazing riches! You can enjoy a vintage atmosphere in Kallio, eat raw cake in Rupla, or drop into the city centre and listen to a panel discussion at the Design Museum – but an urban oasis like Uutela is always just a stone’s through away. That’s special.”


City people from many walks of life  

Iiris was involved in the film project ‘Night goes long’, made in just 48 days based on open participation by the public. Its main stars, Manuela Bosco, Elias Gould and Paperi T, i.e. Henri Pulkkinen are all cross-over talents: they act, sing, create art – basically do whatever they want.

This is something that Iiris loves. That people can do exactly what they want free of boundaries. In her view, that could be an emerging feature of Helsinki; freedom and a huge range of possibilities. Cheering each other on.

“I hope I can always do my own thing. I hope that we would not need to pigeon-hole each other – Helsinki should be about doing things together. We need to give each other the space to do what we want. We should cheer for other people’s successes and inspire each other. If only people learned not to judge themselves, but just to go for it!”


Text and picture: Anna Pakarinen



Maria Veitola chose Iiris Kokko as a maker of the Helsinki of the future.