Closer to Santa Claus: 10 reasons to visit Helsinki
Somebody would say that I have a thing for extremely cold temperatures when I announced, a few years ago, that I wanted to go visit Helsinki in December. But, as you know me, I am a #sunchaser #sealover person. Despite of all of that (and my love’s protests) I did it anyway. And it was one of the best travel experiences I have had. And I think I would go back there in a minute (he will go to, even he would rather repeat the experience in the summer). For these 10 reasons, mostly, but I bet there are some more to discover.
Architecture. Helsinki is an interesting city, with a lot of steel & glass building, but also with the largest orthodox church in Western Europe (Uspenski Cathedral), and the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe, plus a lot of wwoden structures (in the Käpylä, Puu-Vallila and Etu-Töölö districts). I could see, in different parts of Helsinki, a Russian influence, a Sweedish touch and a Finnish influence (defined by the world-famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto Academic Bookstore and Finlandia Hall).
The Design District in Helsinki. I am in love with Nordic culture, with their minimalist view over spaces and their exaggerated use of white, anywhere, anyhow. Therefore, I couldn’t miss Iitala shop (the beautiful glassware), the Design Eero Aarnio (the house of the most beautiful capsule chair), Lokal (run by photographer Katja Hagelstam), Kartell Flagship store and Artisaani. Even a window shopping’ round will be wonderful.
Marimekko. Yes, I know I could put this in the Design District chapter. But Marimekko is one of the few stores that made me wanna buy everything on the shelves: from clothes to objects of interior design or even kitchen stuff (and I am a two left handed person when it comes to kitchen).
The food. Wild berries and coffee: that is all I need for a perfect morning. And I could find them in any of the cute coffee shops in the city, as well as in the Market square (Kauppatori). Helsinki also has a dynamic new centre for food culture, with the Abattoir, which hosts a variety of innovative food-related events. Taste of Helsinki brings the best restaurants and food lovers together once again in June. Street food can also be found throughout Helsinki, as well as 1 Michelin star restaurants (Demo, Luomo, Olo and Postres). Unfortunatelly, Chez Dominique, the only 2-stars restaurant in Helsinki closed its doors three years ago.
Klaus K hotel. And because I said architecture & design, I could not mention one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in (part of www.designhotels.com). Located in the late 19th-century Rake building, the hotel Klaus K is inspired by Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, with each of the 171 playful guestrooms boasting a theme that illustrates the Kalevala’s primary emotional elements: desire, passion, mysticism, and envy. Don’t miss here Toscanini restaurant (when you had enough fish and berries, try some delicious pasta!).
Opera. I know that is kind of weird, but at Finnish National Opera House I saw some spectacular pieces. The view is awesome, the building very modern and the performances (about 300 a year!) awesome! You can even watch live a performance.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Designed by American architect Steven Holl represents the best of contemporary architecture. It is the best way to see the works of contemporary Finnish artist and works of some artists from the nearby countries. Kiasma has over 8.000 works in the collections, and about 100 new pieces are added every year. (http://www.kiasma.fi/en/)
The Island of Suomenlinna. I didn’t know what to expect when I put my foot on the boat that was going to take me to Suomenlinna. First, it was the cold and the wind (well, that is the reason that I would recommend you the summertime…). But then, I have discovered a beautiful island: Suomenlinna is a fascinating destination to explore: 6 kilometres of wall, over 100 cannons, exciting tunnels, museums, cafés and restaurants. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Christmas Market in the winter. Just because everything is linked to Finland is linked to Christmas (after all, this country host Santa Claus’ house, isn’t it?). The Christmas season begins in Helsinki when the lights are turned on along the traditional Christmas street Aleksanterinkatu. An the market is perfect for gifts: who doesn’t want wood reindeers, white bells, liquorice candies for Christmas?
Photography: dreamingof.net, www.visithelsinki.fi (Jari Kurvinen / Vastavalo, Tim Bird / Visit Finland, Matti Tirri, Pekka Keränen, Kimmo Brandt / Visit Helsinki, Sakke Somerma, Nina Ijäs / Visit Finland, Soili Jussila / Vastavalo, Eetu Ahanen / Visit Helsinki, Jussi Hellsten / Visit Helsinki), www.designhotels.com