Things to do in Helsinki

Helsinki is undoubtedly one of the world’s coolest, quirkiest capitals. It has the modern edginess of Scandinavia with the architecture and attitude of the Balkans, making it a fantastic fusion of ultra-stylish and bursting with character. The capital of Finland is certainly a highlight in Europe, and it is possible to base yourself in Helsinki and travel to Estonia, Russia and Sweden, making it a brilliant place to start your European exploration.

As Helsinki is situated on an archipelago, there are lots of opportunities to see the city by both land and water. There are lots of boat trips available, with the best being to Suomenlinna, the walled fortress island which very much reflects ‘old Finland’. The island has only a few thousand inhabitants and very few cars, and the buildings are all traditional in style. It is effectively a ‘living museum’, but also features restaurants and theatres so you can make a real day of it.

If you prefer to languish in nature and get to grips with the environment, Nuuksio National Park is just a short drive away from Helsinki. A particular highlight of this trip is the guided canoeing tour you can participate in, or if you enjoy hiking in the wilderness there are lots of pre-planned routes you can follow. There are spots for ice-climbing and rock-climbing, and if you enjoy foraging there are berries and mushrooms hiding throughout the park.

The majority of churches in Finland are Lutheran, in typical Nordic style. They are usually vast, primarily white buildings which are minimalistic and peaceful. However, a church which very much bucks this trend is the amazing Temple Square Church, also known as ‘The Church in the Rock’. This was literally built into solid rock in the ground, and looks almost like a UFO with its modern circular design. Eastern Europe’s influence can be seen in the Uspenski Cathedral, which is Russian in style and used by Orthodox Finns.

Finland is another hyper-cool Nordic capital which oozes design charm, and you will be in your element if you have even a passing interest in art and design. Head to the independent boutiques and sleek Finnish chains dotted throughout the capital to browse or pick up some European design staples, or head to one of the many museums to check out the history of Finnish design and what is being pioneered now. The Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture are some of the highlights, and are well worth a visit on your trip to Helsinki.