Things to do in Helsinki
Helsinki offers a huge variety of experiences for almost every type of visitor and at every time of the year. Great shopping, impressive sights, fabulous food and a buzzing nightlife: this city has it all.
Suomenlinna should be on everyone's list. From 18th century fortifications to museums, bunkers and a WWII submarine, it's a minature town. Seurasaaren Ulkomuseo is perhaps one of the most interesting architectural museums. Buildings have been transported here from around the country and rebuilt : you will see everything from churches to farm buildings and mansions alongside traditional Finnish costumes and crafts. The Finns are famous for their saunas and Kotiharjun Sauna is the last remaining traditional wood-fired sauna open to the public.
For the Shopaholics
Helsinki has everything from tiny boutiques to large modern shopping centres. The main centres are at Kamppi and the Forum, while Stockmann's is the city's most famous department store. Go south of Mannerheimintie and you will find the Design District. Here you can browse some 170 different little boutiques, offering everything from fashion to housewares, jewellery and art. They are centred on Annankatu and Fredrikinkatu and you should look out for the distinctive black Helsinki Design District sticker in the window.
Helsinki is an intriguing combination of the traditional and contemporary. You will find plenty of international restaurants but the revival of restaurants using locally-sourced ingredients in modern ways is particularly exciting. There is also a strong cafe culture, allowing you to people watch from the pavement. There are lots of good restaurants to choose from but Havis is especially renowned for its seafood. If you are looking for contemporary Finnish cooking, Kosmos, Savoy and Ravintola Torni are all excellent choices. Don't be put off by short menu descriptions, it's a Finnish trait.
Kiasma is a metallic and quirky looking building designed by the architect Steven Holl and opened in 1998. It houses a strong collection of both international and Finnish modern art and has regular visiting exhibitions. The Ateneum is the gallery to head to in order to see the best of Finnish art through the ages and it is housed in a handsome 19th century building. The Mannerheim-Museo takes you through the life of Baron Gustav Mannerheim, commander of the Finnish army and victor in the Finnish Civil War. It is a fascinating insight into the country's history, told through the life of one of its most celebrated sons.
Lately Helsinki had expanded to offer so much more than its reputed heavy metal club scene. Cocktail lounges are increasingly popular and offer a more refined nightlife experience. The city centre is compact, so it's easy to hop from bar to bar. Try A21 for probably the best cocktails in the city or Fennia Salon for the full dinner, cocktails and live entertainment experience. Angleterre is a good choice for beer lovers.