Helsinki may not be on the top of your travel list, I’ll be honest it wasn’t at the top of mine, but when the opportunity arose to travel there with friends I quickly took it. After all I am a travel fiend and would never miss the chance to add a new country to my list.
A long weekend in this Nordic gem and it is now one of my all time favourite cities and I can’t wait to return. If you’ve been thinking of planning a Northern getaway let me convince you why it should be Helsinki.
To say the Finnish take their saunas seriously would be an understatement. Sauna is a way of life for the Finns. While many of us think of saunas as a luxury amenity found at a gym or spa the Finnish see them as a daily staple, this means there are saunas in apartment complexes, homes, and of course public ones as well. In fact there are over two million saunas in Finland and less than six million people, essentially all of Finland could be in a Sauna at the same time! If that’s not something to be proud of as a nation I don’t know what is.
While some may be intimidated by the idea of sitting in a hot, sweaty room with naked Finns I have to say it is an experience not to be missed. I recommend going to the public sauna near the market square called Allas Sea Pool. Here you can take your time in the sauna, work up a sweat and then take a dip in the sea water pool, yes the non heated sea water pool. An invigorating experience that cannot be missed. If you wish to sauna like a true Fin be sure to have a cold beer with you at all times.
Food and Drink
Speaking of beer, the bar and restaurant scene in Helsinki is exceptional. Being in a Nordic country comes at a price, one of them being that food and alcohol is typically more expensive and while it’s not the most overpriced city I’ve visited it wasn’t the cheapest, but fret not, Helsinki makes up for it with tasty dishes and delicious drinks.
My personal favourite was the lohikeitto, a rich and creamy salmon soup. After braving the cold, crisp, northern air this dish is everything you need to warm back up. Try it with a Lonkerro, which literally means a long drink in Finnish. Traditionally a mix of gin and grapefruit juice this scrumptious drink is a staple amongst the locals. If unsure where to eat or drink take a walk near Park Esplanadi the streets are lined with top restaurants and bars, each one unique and enticing in their own way, ensuring you won’t be disappointed.
One of the most well known features of Finnish culture is their talent for design. Many famous designers from various genres hail from this humble country. Without a doubt the Finnish culture embraces the minimalist, natural aesthetics of good interior design. Marimekko is a prime example of an artist who embraces this ethos. While in the capital city you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the many design shops and even the effort that goes into putting a Finnish spin on all that you see. A trip to one of the many interesting design museums will give you a true taste of how contemporary art and design have evolved to become an essential part of the Finnish lifestyle.
Typically when people travel to Europe they think of warm climate, historic ruins and Mediterranean cuisine; visiting the northern region opens up a new realm of culture and experience.
From the tall Nordic people with their unique sense of humour to the breathtaking scenery and soulful food that is all around, it is a place that I will gladly return to and easily recommend to any avid travel.