My neighbourhood

The secret of East Helsinki is the village-like Puotila

Where can you find the sea, the metro, and all the big city amenities nearby? In Puotila, of course. Puotila is becoming one of Helsinki's trendiest residential areas.


Just a couple of years ago, this spot was home to Puotila shopping center, a low-rise, sleek building designed by Erkki Karvinen in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now, there's a construction site gradually rising to become Puotila's new shopping centre, a hub of local services. New retail spaces and 113 apartments are being built on Klaavuntie 11.

The walls have already been painted, and the floors are covered in protective plastic. Next on the agenda are finishing touches, like installing the skirting boards. Markku Ristevirta, founder and owner of the restaurant Pikkulintu, stands in the middle, where the bar counter is missing.

Since 2000, the beer restaurant Pikkulintu has been operating in Puotila's shopping centre. It's returning to its familiar spot once the shopping centre is completed. The restaurant plans to open its doors around the end of September or early October. Ristevirta isn't sure about the exact date, but the time is set: the doors will open at 15 o'clock.

"Probably 150 people asked about it at the whiskey fair in February, so I ended up with this answer. Clearly, there's a lot of anticipation for Pikkulintu's return to Puotila."

Originally, Ristevirta happened to open the restaurant in Puotila by chance. He had seen a lot of the restaurant industry and wanted to open a place focusing on beers and malt whiskeys – a place where he would enjoy himself. He searched all over Helsinki for a location, even considered Haaga, but everything just fell into place in Puotila. The metro started running nearby just a few years earlier, in 1998.

For the next 17 years, Ristevirta worked behind the counter at Puotila's Pikkulintu. During that time, a lot happened: the smoking law changed, and smoking inside the restaurant was prohibited in 2007. The adjacent cafe closed, and Pikkulintu expanded into its space. Additionally, more Pikkulintu restaurants were opened in other neighborhoods in Helsinki.

Titles are left at the door 

According to Ristevirta, Puotila's uniqueness is its communal nature. This is evident even in the restaurant, where newcomers are warmly welcomed and encouraged to become part of the community. And titles are left at the door.

"I do know the people of Puotila quite well. There are people from second and third generations, and those who have returned here. The children who met in the large courtyards of the buildings in the 1960s still keep in touch. That's how the village-like community stays active," Ristevirta describes.

Ristevirta believes that the customers make the restaurant, and the people of Puotila make Pikkulintu. In this restaurant, Ristevirta himself feels at home.

Communal living and beautiful walking paths

Puotila was built in the 1960s on the former cultivation, meadow, and forest lands of Puotila Manor. Spaciously arranged buildings, large courtyards, and the lime tree alley of Rantakartanontie make the area especially cosy.

Puotila is not only one of Helsinki's oldest suburbs but also one of Finland's first concrete neighborhoods, designed to address the post-World War II housing shortage.

In one of the 1960s low-rise buildings, Kaisa-Leena Koskenkorva opens the door with her three-month-old baby, Kerttu, in her arms. Peeking behind her is 3-year-old Fanni, proudly displaying her Paw Patrol balloon.

Their colourful home is decorated in style fitting for the era. The patterns are vibrant, and the walls are adorned with plenty of art, along with Fanni's creations. In the living room, next to a bookshelf overflowing with books, is Fanni's adorable play kitchen.

"One thing I really like is the big flea markets nearby, like Kontti and Kierrätyskeskus at It is”, Koskenkorva says“Yksi juttu, josta tykkään tosi paljon, on ihan lähellä sijaitsevat isot kirpputorit, kuten Itiksen Kontti ja Kierrätyskeskus”, Koskenkorva kertoo.  

Three years ago, Koskenkorva and her partner moved to Puotila. They were looking for a family-friendly home in a building from approximately that era, with more affordable square footage than in the city center.

Koskenkorva wasn't very familiar with Puotila beforehand, but they have settled in perfectly. She finds Puotila a fun, village-like place, while all the major services are still conveniently close by in Itäkeskus.

She has also enjoyed the events held at Puotila Manor, such as flea market days and the Halloween Park. Currently, Koskenkorva spends her time mostly taking walks with the stroller by Vartiokylänlahti.

Community-oriented residents brings a sense of home. Often, families gather at the courtyard playground, and sometimes a neighbour's child comes over to Koskenkorva's home to play for the evening. Residents have together grilled and planted lilacs in the yard.

Nearby is the Rusthollari playground, which is undergoing renovation and will be completed soon.

"It's going to be lovely. There will be berry bushes, trampolines, and a water play area," Koskenkorva says.

Fanni, who is playing with modelling clay, is already looking forward to summer outdoor play and the playground. She also has a special wish for the coming summer.

"I want to do gardening with Grandma," Fanni says.

The secret that's not talked about

Puotila Manor, with its red hues, rises atop a small hill. In the same courtyard is the old granary, now Puotila Chapel, one of Helsinki's most popular wedding churches. On the other side is the yellow Pehtoorin pytinki, currently home to Pub Svenkka. Behind the manor are the cultivation plots of Juorumäki and Puotila beach.

The main building of Puotila Manor was built towards the end of the 18th century, but an estate on the same site existed in the 16th century. The manor was one of Helsinki’s most significant agricultural and livestock farms.

In the 1960s, the manor was in disrepair and served as a shelter for the homeless. Everything was in short supply, and to get some warmth, even the wooden paneling from the walls was torn to fuel the stoves. Helsinki was already planning to demolish the manor. Still, luckily, a restaurant keeper saw the potential and promised to fully renovate the house.

The restaurant keeper has changed, but the manor still serves food. It's lunchtime, and at a table on the glass veranda sits village activist Mikko Sorsa, who has lived in Puotila for 16 years.

Before moving to Puotila, Sorsa and his partner's wish was for a home by the sea, and based on that, they scoped out metro stations eastward. When they then spotted Puotila, Sorsa felt like he had stumbled upon a hidden gem.

"It's like I found a secret that nobody talks about."

Community triumphs over loneliness

Puotila has captivated the man. Nowadays, Sorsa serves as the Puotila-seura's vice-chairman and the contact person for the cultivation plots of Juorumäki. Additionally, he calls himself a village activist and organizes various local events. He considers the manor the heart of Puotila and the main venue for events.

"The buzz around the manor and the community events bring people together, creating that genuine neighbourhood vibe," Sorsa says.

Sorsa wants to contribute to creating community spirit, as he believes that's what today's city dwellers need. Many are busy and don't have the energy to organize activities themselves, but they gladly join in when something is arranged.

"Nowadays, there's a lot of loneliness, and many in the city don't even know who their neighbours are. When people come out of their shells and get to know each other, communities and support networks are formed."

The image of East Helsinki may be rough around the edges, but for Sorsa, Puotila is a lovely neighbourhood. Here, he chats with other dog owners on the streets. At the beginning of every summer vacation, Sorsa's daughter, a middle schooler, sells ice cream from their home window. A friend told Sorsa that they have been trying to read a book outside their house for years, but the book always goes unfinished because someone inevitably stops to chat.

Sorsa is also eagerly awaiting the completion of the new Puotila shopping centre. He hopes for a quality restaurant and, of course, a local shop. He already has plans for a community event.

"When the old mall opened, there was a big opening ceremony. We could organize an opening party for the new mall with the locals."


Text Vapa Media

Images Vapa Media

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