Helsinki: The Northernmost European Star
Despite being the northernmost EU capital, the warm people and delightful city of Helsinki will distract you from the cold.
On the southern shores of of Finland, along the gulf lies a majestic capital city. Almost five hundred years old has created the intimate feeling of small town living, while giving the benefits of big city life. The long cold winters can be just as beautiful as the short, warm summers, and is perfect for visitors all year round. This city of course, is Helsinki, home to 1.2 million Fins, and exciting and eclectic sea town that’s never dull.
For a truly Finnish experience, head to this sea faring fortress during the summer months. Though the museum is delightful, simply walking around this 18th-century relic is the real reason to go. Crumbling walls, grassy knolls overlooking the water (perfect spots for picnicking!), and cannons lining original bunkers cover four islands, and transports you through the past.
If you’re feeling a bit peckish after all of your wandering, Suomenlinna even sports its own brewery! Many visitors agree that their favorite part of the excursion is the fifteen minute ferry ride that carries you to and from the fort. It creates an amazing view point, and is a great photo opportunity.
The museum is the best way to introduce yourself to Finnish art. The building itself is a work of architectural beauty, built in 1887. In the past, it was also home to the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Art and Design Helsinki, but now primarily shows the “golden age” period of art. The country’s greatest collection of classical pieces can be found here (nothing painted after 1960 here!).
Notable artists featured include Helene Schjerfbeck, Hugo Simberg and the Von Wright Brothers. Finnish art doesn’t quite strike a chord with you? There’s also small collection of foreign artists, or sip a coffee from their cafe in the ground floor’s reading room.
Traditional steam rooms are a HUGE part of Finland’s culture. in fact, for every five people in the country, there are two saunas! These are places of peace, to relax physically and mentally, but also to spend time with family and friends. Fins have enjoyed the loyly, or pouring water over hot stones to create steam, for thousands of years. The muscles soreness from tough work in the fields could easily be countered with a little sauna time.
Traditionally these areas are separated by gender, due to the lack of clothings required. When the heat becomes too uncomfortable, you’re expected to hop into a cool pool, and then repeat the cycle! One sauna of particular note is Kotiharju Sauna, which has been in business since 1928. It’s open every Tuesday through Saturday, and is very much the same as it was when it first opened is balmy doors.
For a lot of people, going to church isn’t necessarily on their go to tourist list. Maybe if we’re going to visit the Vatican, but it’s definitely not the first thing that comes to mind about Finland. However, this cathedral actually gives an intricate layer to the culture of the area. Finland has had significant influence from neighboring powers, and the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral is an excellent example of Russian flair.
In the back of the building, there is even a plaque commemorating the Russian Czar, Alexander II. It is the largest orthodox church in western Europe, and stands out amongst the most Swedish influenced backdrop.
Helsinki is by far an underrated European capital city. Tourists flock to Paris, to London, to Amsterdam, not knowing what splendor lies just a little farther north. Don’t let the small size of the town deceive you, there is plenty of excitement and adventures abound for anyone who seeks them. Take advantage of the friendly locals and gorgeous locals. You will never experience another city that’s quite like Stadi. Plan your visit here at Trekeffect!