Destination Finland: Why Not Choose Helsinki
Discover the many charms of the Finnish capital. A port city surrounded by islands and green spaces, Helsinki is above all a city which has preserved its natural surroundings. The omnipresent sea offers a multitude of leisure activities: boat trips, beach picnics, bathing… or you can simply admire its waters from the fortress of Suomenlinna.
The city also has many parks where you can relax.
However, Helsinki is also a city of design (it was named World Design Capital in 2012), cutting edge technology and architecture. Dynamic and buzzing with life, the Finnish capital is packed with bars and restaurants, which supplement an already tempting range of activities.
Remember to choose the right season for you: summer for endless days, or winter if you prefer snow and the cosy atmosphere of long evenings by the fire.
Design, architecture, and much, much more
In the heart of the city, the Cathedral and its huge steps are the first unmissable stop for all visitors. Continue your exploration with a coffee on the Market Square, then enjoy the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, where you can admire old wooden buildings, in particular the Karuna church.
After this whistle-stop tour, immerse yourself in the design and architecture of the city, which was World Design Capital in 2012. The Design District is packed with boutiques selling antiques, furniture, lamps... Starting from the famous Diana Park, discover the official neighbourhoods one by one: Kaartinkaupunki, Kamppi, Punavuori and Ullanlinna. But if this full programme is too much for you, the Tourist Information Office offers a two hour route, the Design Walk, covering the most interesting sites.
To find out everything about the history of design in Finland, don't miss the Design Museum.
However, your experience wouldn't be complete without an excursion in the Arabianranta neighbourhood, a true hub for art and architecture.
Like the other Nordic countries, Finland favours architectural sobriety and elegance, yet remains faithful to a rich history which has shaped the city over the centuries. For example, Uspenski Cathedral, built in the 19th century, reflects the Russian Byzantine architectural tradition.
In summer, architecture lovers can satisfy their thirst for knowledge with "Inside Helsinki": a tour of the most interesting public sites, to discover a completely new universe which combines ancient culture, late 19th century industrial urbanism, and Nordic modernism.
To relax after all this sightseeing, take a cruise along Helsinki's immense stretch of coast, pamper yourself with a treatment in one of the city's spas, or go on a shopping spree! If you're prepared to go a little further afield, there are plenty of things to do in the city's surroundings. With a surface area of 4,300 km², Lake Saimaa is the largest in the country. With its sprinkling of little islands, the lake itself is an impressive spectacle. For a charming day that will take you back in time, visit Porvoo Old Town. European Capital of Culture in 2011, Turku has plenty to offer: lush parks, a splendid cathedral and an impressive castle. And if you're after some adventure, unspoilt Finnish Lapland awaits, with its midnight sun in summer, or its endless nights in winter!
Top 10 Must-Sees
Suomenlinna: sea fortress founded in 1748, which over its history has belonged to Sweden, Russia and finally Finland.
Seurasaari: around a twenty-minute bus ride from the city centre, this museum town will show you rural architecture from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
Design District Helsinki.
Töölönlahti: maritime bay surrounded by old wooden villas, offering beautiful scenery.
Kaivopuisto Park: a stone's throw from the city centre, this park near the sea is considered one of the most beautiful in the country.
Kallio: former workers' neighbourhood, very popular among artists and students.
The old town (Vanhakaupunki) and the Arabia factory.
The Hietalahdentori market hall and flea market.
Kauppatori: the Market Square.
Helsinki Cathedral: a magnificent neo-classical style building built between 1830 and 1852.
What will Helsinki put on your plate?
With a focus on seasonal produce, Finnish cuisine is a meeting point for eastern and western gastronomy. You can taste fried herring fillets at the Sea Horse, or delicious cinnamon brioche at Café Hopia. And at the Port Market, you will find all kinds of local produce: smoked fish, wild berries, vegetables… But above all, you can enjoy a unique culinary experience if you are in Helsinki on one of its "Restaurant Days", when the city goes gastronomy mad and anyone can try their hand at serving up food for others!
4 times a year, Restaurant Days offer budding cooks the chance to open their café or restaurant in a place of their choice: at home, at work, or even in the street!
In March/April then in September, 50 exhibitors gather for Helsinki Vintage, bringing nostalgic delights such as clothes, accessories and furniture!
In early August, Flow Festival welcomes the trendiest musicians of the moment.
In September,"Helsinki Design Week" attracts design, fashion and architecture fans.
In October, the Wine, Food and Good Living fair puts fine wine and gastronomy in the spotlight.
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