Hitting the infinitely and effortlessly cool Finnish capital with no time to waste, and want a little guide to blitz through the best bits? Mix and match a few of our favourite things to do in Helsinki here:
- Get stranded on Katajanokka, a famously content island neighbourhood, for beautiful buildings and better coffee just two minutes from the bustling Market Square
- Make a Finnish forest discovery in Lauttasaari, another island 3km from the city centre connected by a big bridge; enjoy a serene coastal walk and astonishing mini coloured houses among the trees
- Toe the line along Baana, a former freight train line transformed into a pathway for pedestrians and cyclists, moving from elaborate street art to the bucolic greens of the countryside
- Hostel Erottajanpuisto for cosy comfort smack bang in the city centre
- Hostel Domus Academica for an eco-friendly hostel with beachside location
- Hostel Suomenlinna located on a Maritime Fortress island in a UNESCO world heritage site
- Helsinki – CheapSleep for a social, modern setting and a good night’s sleep on the cheap
- Stadion Hostel where you can wake up for breakfast in Helsinki’s central Olympic Stadium.
- Hit the perfect art/ coffee ratio at Lokal; at 72% art and 28% coffee, this art gallery-come-café serves the perfect blend of caffeine and culture
- Visit Alvar Aalto’s house, one of Finland’s best known architects and designers. Nose around this perfectly preserved testament to his works – his own home – just 4km from the city centre in Munkkiniemi
- Refresh your ecclesiastical experience through gaping at two amazing churches in Helsinki: the Chapel of Silence and the Rock Church are interesting enough to cure you of that classic cathedral fatigue.
- Get your dose of Contemporary Art at Kiasma
- For the big kids, entertainment in the great outdoors and a healthy dose of adrenaline doesn’t get better than the Linnanmäki Amusement Park
- The island fortress of Suomenlinna is ripe for exploration, a former defence base for Sweden, Russia and Finland during World War II, the heritage site is peppered with beautiful wild flowers and strewn with seemingly secret passageways
- Combine culture and fresh air with Seurasaari open air museum, wandering the island for free or paying to see individual exhibits
On a rainy day:
- For a touch of nature under a roof, visit Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden and spend an afternoon wandering through the glass houses holding hordes of tropical trees and exotic plant treasures
- At the Finnish Museum of Natural History you are greeted by two large giraffes drinking coffee on the balcony, and holds displays of stuffed Nordic beasts and animals of the world. Creepy but fascinating.
- Behind Linnanmäki Amusement Park is Sea Life, where you can escape the blustery weather and gaze at everything from tiny rainforest frogs to blue gropers and huge white pythons
- Karjalanpiirakka or Karelian pies are a key part of Finnish national identity, fit in your hand, are filled with potatoes, rice or carrots, and melt in your mouth
- Perfect for summer, try grillimakkara – big fat sausages frequently eaten with mustard and washed down with beer
- Korvapuusti, translating as ‘slapped ears’, but they are essentially cinnamon buns. Really good ones.
- For a flea market with everything from vintage clothes to fabrics and furniture, head to Hietalahti Market Square
- Old Market Hall, or Vanhakauppahalli, is the mother of all indoor markets, selling delicious seasonal produce to get your stomach rumbling
- Market Square, open Monday to Sunday, offers everything from Lapland cuisine to fresh herring – a good stop for lunch.
- 80km south of Helsinki, across the Baltic sea by a 2 hour ferry, Tallinn, Estonia is an excellent bet for a peek into a different culture just a stone’s throw away
- Take a two hour trip to the city of Turku for the day, where rich cultural history and experimental art meet.