On the breezy banks of the Gulf of Finland is the nation’s capital and largest city, Helsinki. Southern Finland is a cornucopia of metropolitan innovation and unrivaled natural phenomena. Helsinki’s refreshing, mild year-round temperatures make this a classic destination for both summer travelers looking to beat the humid, equatorial heat and audacious winter warriors. Regularly ranked one of the most livable cities in the world thanks to its high standard of living and residential accommodations, the city was even chosen as the World Design Capital by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design for 2012. Known for its world-renowned architectural designs and cultural anomalies, Helsinki’s modern amenities and old-world amiability are just a few reasons it’s a top international tourist destination. Artists, in particular, will find dozens of opportunities to learn and revel in the bustling Helsinki scene. It’s home to a multitude of galleries and museums of all tastes and styles. Its most famous museum is the Helsinki Art Museum, or HAM, which includes over 9,000 individual works of art under one roof. Whether you’re into art, design, or just new experiences, Helsinki enthusiastically welcomes you.
Architecture and Design
The Finnish Romantic movement flourished in the early years of the 20th century, and with the fusion of Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, and modern Functionalism, the city’s design is truly something to see.
For Romantic architecture, check out the National Romantic Railway Station, constructed in 1919 out of Finnish granite. Its clock tower and illuminated statues, designed by Eliel Saarinen, are the most notable features of the easily seen structure. Just a short walk from the railway station is the National Museum, fitted with impressive stone bears on its exterior. The National Theatre is considered one of Helsinki’s most impressive public Art Nouveau buildings. Constructed in 1902 by Onni Tarjanne, it’s made of grey Finnish granite and red roof tiles that age it substantially. One last architectural staple in Helsinki is its Yrjönkatu swimming hall. Built in the 1920s, the hall remains one of the city’s top relaxation and recreation destinations during every season.
Due to Finland‘s northern positioning, it makes a premier location for viewing the Northern Lights. Although northern Finland offers better views of the astro-phenomenon, the dancing spectacle can be seen near Helsinki 20 nights a year, usually during late winter to early spring. To maximize the possibility of seeing the lights, visit Helsinki during the heart of winter and remove yourself from city lights. Early hours of morning, when the sky is darkest, is the best time to look up. The northern European Sami people, indigenous to the region, tell the story of a sly fox racing through the sky, pushing snow up with its tail and creating bountiful visions.
Nearly one-third of Helsinki is covered in green space.
The city offers visitors the opportunity to take advantage of parks and maritime recreation such as canoeing and kayaking, as well as wildlife viewing, hiking, horseback riding fishing, and biking. The archipelago of Helsinki consists of roughly 330 islands, with plenty of beaches and campsites. Many of these islands can be easily reached by ferry all day. The city even features a Central Park for people watching or catching up on a good book. In winter, the city is a hot spot for skiers, snowboarders, and other ambitious athletes.
Fun for Foodies
Restaurants in Helsinki range from traditional Nordic cuisine to classic American, and everything in between. For the full experience, check out the many restaurants offering dishes you’ve probably never heard of. Some good options are Spis, Ora, Nokka, and Farang. These restaurants all offer several-course meals to take your palate on a Baltic journey. Dishes include seafood, berries, fruit, and red meat.