With a coastline stretching 100 kilometers and hundreds of accessible islands, Helsinki – Daughter of the Baltic – offers a great opportunity to soak up a maritime atmosphere.
One of the largest maritime fortresses in the world, Suomenlinna was built in the 18th century and over the years has helped to defend Russia, Sweden and of course Finland. Suomenlinna is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Finland and has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Children will love to explore the tunnels that riddle the fortress, and adults and children alike will find something to their tastes in the cafes and restaurants on the island. The fortress is vast so do make sure you allow yourself enough time to take it all in!
Image Source Flickr
If you want to treat yourself then stay in the Hotel Kämp during your visit. As the first hotel in the Nordic Countries to gain a 5 star rating, Hotel Kämp is also one the most important historic buildings in Helsinki. Located within a short walk from the harbor it offers unrivalled luxury and provides its guests with outstanding service.
If you can’t afford the 5 star luxury hotels then the Cheap Sleep hostel does it exactly what you expect it to. There are private rooms and over a hundred dorm beds in this contemporary yet affordable hostel and its location offers easy access to transport across the city. With free WiFi, kitchen and dining areas for guests this is a great option for tourists on a budget.
There are many festivals in Finland throughout the year. In Helsinki there is the Lux Helsinki during the winter season that sees residents come out during the darkest time of the year to cheer away the darkness. Light installations all around the city are installed and people gather to cheer on mass! Into spring there is the Vappu festival, a pagan carnival. Students wear brightly colored overalls and get pretty wasted in the market square in the heart of the city. In the middle of summer Juhannus festival sees large bonfires lit to celebrate the ‘nightless night’. During this festival only a few stores remain open as for most people it is seen as a national holiday. Into the even darker winters in Finland, the Joulu (Christmas) festival features open air markets in the city centre. This usually ends the night before Christmas eve so that residents can spend time with their families.
An absolute must for any visit to Helsinki is to have a meal at one of the many island restaurants. The idyllic locations provide a stunning setting for dining in the summer. The restaurants are understandably extremely popular at the weekend so be warned you will need to make reservations. You can get across to the restaurants on ferries which run from May to September. Restaurant Saari is only minutes by boat away from central Helsinki and offers magnificent vistas across the Gulf of Finland. If you’re lucky enough to own one, you can even use one of the private docks to park your boat!
Kari is a travel blogger who writes for various websites. Kari lives in Phoenix Arizona, where the weather is so much hotter than Finland!