8 Dec 2016
Marimekko, Nokia, Keke Rosberg, Finlandia vodka, Santa Claus in Lapland, Tove Jansson, the Molotov cocktail, Mikka Harkinen, Fiskars scissors, Angry Birds, Salmiakki licorice, the heart rate monitor, the sauna. This is Suomi, or in English – most properly Finland.
With the snow-covered Lapland, the colourful Lakeland, the vibrant metropolis of Helsinki and the delightful coastal region, Finland is a country of dramatic contrast. With more than 30 national parks, 180,000 islands, 188,000 lakes, hundreds of Art Nouveau buildings, 2 million saunas and counting, 200,000 reindeer, Santa Claus, and 200 Northern Lights shows every year, Finland is a visitor Mecca.
Bordered by Russia, Norway and Sweden, this Nordic paradise is alive with tourists year-round, whether in the urban cities or the vast countryside and the unspoiled islands. Admire the midnight sun during summers and come to Finland in the winter for the spectacle of the Aurora Borealis. And whilst many folk believe Rovaniemi to the home of Santa Claus, his real home is in Korvatunturi.
Helsinki - Helsinki, the compact capital of Finland, is a vibrant seaside city of beautiful islands and great green parks, easily explored on foot. The city’s rhythm is laid back yet at the same time refreshingly active in terms of both the number and quality of restaurants and nightclubs. Design, architecture, culture and shopping are all great exploration angles and large park areas, forests, lakes, and the coastline with numerous islands sprinkled off it make certain there’s no shortage of nature. Indeed, the archipelago of Helsinki consists of around 330 islands, providing the perfect location for days at the beach or weekend camping trips. Many of the islands, such as Suomenlinna and Pihlajasaari, can be reached by a regular ferry from early morning until late at night.
The fortress of Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Finland’s most popular and attractive sights. The beautiful islands of Suomenlinna are only a 15-minute ferry ride away from Helsinki Market Square. Come here for a relaxing stroll, a picnic or perhaps even to jog. There are plenty of routes, locations, restaurants and cafes dotted across the islands.
The eastern end of Helsinki, particularly the densely inhabited Kallio has sparked to life in recent years. Another cutting-edge place to look out for is Punavuori in the centre of town. Now gentrified, both these areas used to be rather rough working-class neighborhoods. Now they are home to the most inspirational array of bars, boutiques, galleries and vintage shops.
Kallio, like the upscale neighbourhood of Punavuori 20 years earlier, has undergone a facelift after drawing a young, diverse and entrepreneurial population. And although its run-down charm has in part evolved with the arrival of trendy cafes, brunch spots and boutiques, the neighbourhood hasn’t yet lost its distinctiveness, and is quite edgy.
Influenced by Classicism and modernized by Functionalism, Helsinki, like parts of Riga in Latvia, is possibly best known for its Art Nouveau architecture. Some connoisseurs have even suggested that certain features of Batman’s Gotham City were influenced by Helsinki’s majestical Central Railway Station. Go look for yourself and call us on the Batp 'phone if you agree!
The food scene in Helsinki today is cutting edge and ever-changing. Various Pop-up restaurants and the worldwide spread phenomenon Restaurant Day are both brainchildren of Helsinki-based food enthusiasts and a whole new generation of chefs. Their latest invention is Helsinki Street Food Festival, which sees the capital’s coolest culture districts change into street food hubs. While Finnish food itself is all about local, seasonal, wild and fresh- with game, fish, mushrooms and berries at the core of it all – these innovative food events embrace all culinary cultures and tastes of the globe.
Must-see – Come to Finland and see the Aurora Borealis. Check out the best time to visit for more information on where/when to see this natural phenomenon.
The WOW factor – For many, the word Marimekko is synonymous with design. Making their debut in 1951, Marimekko’s distinctive bright and wildly colourful prints are recognised and coveted by mavens of interior design and lovers of simply lovely things. Shoulder bags, mug, cushion covers, tea towels, clothing, umbrellas, placemats and more are adorned with Marimekko’s famously exuberant patterns. Head to Marimekko’s designer outlet for goods at highly agreeable prices. Marimekko Factory Outlet Helsinki, Kirvesmiehenkatu 7, 00880 Helsinki +358 (09) 758 7244
Must try –The Finnish sauna is the quintessential temple of physical and mental relaxation. Here, you can cleanse your body and soul by sweating away stress and impurities, emerging revitalised from the soothing hot steam. There are city versions for hotel guests, but a lakeside or seaside sauna flanked by Finnish forest offers the best experience of all. Consider that roughly five million Finns own over two million saunas and you get an idea of how popular the sauna is in Finland. And if you want to a piece of sauna action, head to the Sauna Market Finland at Aleksanterinkatu 28, 00170 Helsinki, Finland tel: +358 50 3412065 for souvenir back scrubbers, ladles, oils and other accoutrements.
Best time to visit – June, July and August when the sun shines breathtakingly. However, if here for the Northern Lights, in northern Lapland the lights shine about every other clear night between September and March. In southern Finland, they are visible on about 10-20 nights a year. Look to the stars. If you notice that the night sky is clear and starry, your chances of seeing the northern lights are good.
PS – Do purchase and gobble down a few Fazer sweets. Fazer, a very popular brand name in Finland manufactures delicious confectionery. Look out for chocolate filled with Arctic liqueurs such as lingonberry and cloudberry.
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