A city of both historic and modern architectural marvels, Helsinki is a visually exciting place. Its position on the Gulf of Finland gives it a relaxed, maritime feel and an abundance of green space and forests makes it wonderful for those that love the outdoors.
After a fire in 1808, much of the city was rebuilt with wide avenues and neoclassical brick buildings the order of the day. You may have spotted some of its architecture doubling as Soviet Union locations in films from the 1970s and 80s.
Although in many ways Helsinki is a thoroughly modern city, there is an incredible sense of history that you can get to grips with that at its many museums. The biggest historical museum in the city is the National Museum of Finland, set in a neo-medieval castle, where you can look all the way back to prehistoric times. Learn more about the city’s 500-year history at the Helsinki City Museum, and discover the importance of art at the Finnish National Gallery and the Helsinki Art Museum.
Fanning out from the city into the Gulf of Finland is an archipelago of some 330 islands. Jump on a ferry and explore the beaches and forests of Vallisaari, Lauttasaari, Korkeasaari and Seurasaari. The sea fortress of Suomenlinna is spread across six islands and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular spot for picnics.
And of course, like any good Scandinavian city, the foodie scene is something to write home about. Dip in and out of its cafes and bars and set aside some time to simply sit and watch the world go by.
When to go
To make the most of warm summer days, visit Helsinki in the summer months from June to July. But if you're keen on spending time in the snow and even trying some winter activities, then visit between December and March.
What to do
- Spend a few reflective moments at The Kamppi Chapel. Known as the Chapel of Silence, the space was built as part of the 2012 World Design Capital programme.
- Spend a thrilling day with the family at Linnanmäki amusement park. With more than 40 rides and attractions, the park raises funds for a non-profit that works with Finnish children.
- Visit Seurasaari Open-Air Museum - a densely forested island dotted with old wooden buildings moved from across Finland.