When asked about Finland, the first thing most of us will say is “It’s cold!” Although that may be true of the long winter months, it could not be more wrong about the people: they are smart, resourceful and friendly. (Although surprisingly there is no direct translation of the word “please” into Finnish.)
They invented the sauna to stay warm, and have an education system that tops the world, making communicating in English very easy.
So what does Helsinki have to offer travellers on a city break?
What to visit
Suomenlinna is a huge fortress that was built by the Swedes to protect the city in the 1700s. It is so huge, in fact, that it spreads across six islands! Since the Russian invasion in the 19th century it has been left largely untouched, making it a real trip back in time. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To visit all you need to do is hop on the ferry, which takes about 20 minutes.
Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the rock church, is one of the most iconic and most photographed buildings in Helsinki. The circular church is quite modern, opening in 1969, and has been carved out of the rock and topped with a copper dome. When approaching it looks more like a UFO than a church!
The Sibelius Monument is one of Helsinki’s must-visit locations. It is dedicated to the great Finnish composer Jan Sibelius. Not only is it one of the most breath-taking sculptures you will see, it is interactive too. By placing your head into one of 600 different pipes you can make your own music.
Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It was built to honour Russian Tsar Nicholas I in the 19th century. The steps leading up to the cathedral are a popular meeting place for locals, and make a great place to take some holiday snaps.
The sauna is an integral part of Finnish society, and a must-do activity when in Finland. It is so popular that for a population of 5.5 million people there are estimated to be over 3 million saunas, one per household! This means that wherever you choose to stay you will more than likely have a sauna you can try. If not, don’t worry, there are some great public saunas around the city.
For other unusual entertainment, the Formula 1 Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen part-owns a karaoke bar in Helsinki called Wallis (probably named after the 1976 F1 world champion James Simon Wallis Hunt).
Eating out in Helsinki is more expensive than in the UK. On average you will pay around £15-25 for a main course. However, there are some great restaurants to choose from.
To try traditional Finnish food made with fresh in-season local produce, head to Grön. If you want to treat yourself, Helsinki has four Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from.
When to visit
The best time to visit Helsinki is during June and July, when you can enjoy the near 24 hours of sunlight, with temperature highs of around 20C (68F).
Want to know more? Visit My Helsinki and see what you can find!