Finnish design, much like Finland itself, is highly underrated. Here to tell us more is Jessica from our Marketing Team, who fell in love with Finnish creativity on a weekend trip to the country's capital, Helsinki.
As an Instagram fanatic, I naturally gravitate towards colouful designs, bold architecture, street art and generally quirky stuff. So it was exciting to know that Helsinki was designated as the World Design Capital in 2012. After a few years, I can certainly tell you the city still deserves that title.
Based on the information I got from my Nordic Visitor colleagues and Finnish friends, I knew even before I set foot in Helsinki that I'd love it. And since it's a very walkable city, I fit a lot into just 72 hours.
Helsinki is full of cool museums, design boutiques, sculptures, wall murals and nicely landscaped outdoor spaces. With limited time, I first checked out Kiasma, a museum featuring works by modern Finnish and Scandinavian artists. If you're not a fan of conceptual art, you might prefer the Finnish National Gallery or HAM (Helsinki Art Museum), which feature more contempory pieces.
Helsinki is also big on vintage stores and summer flea markets, and if you're lucky you might find some great bargains on Finnish design souvenirs from well-known brands like Marimekko and Iittala. You might even find some cute Moomins, troll-like creatures from a series of classic Finnish books.
Creativity also applies to Finnish cuisine, though I didn't encounter any delicacies that were as strange as some other Nordic foods, like Swedish surströmming (fermented herring) or Icelandic hákarl (rotten shark).
When in Finland I suggest trying reindeer paté, which happens to be delicious on blinis (buckwheat pancakes, Russian in origin). Fish roe, sour cream, smoked salmon and mushrooms are also tasty toppings.
To sample local seafood, go to the Kauppatori market by the sea, at the end of the Esplanade shopping street in the city centre. There, I enjoyed some fried vendace (small fish called muikku in Finnish) that I managed to guard from some pesky seagulls. The market also sells handcrafts, and it's a great place to hang out while waiting for a ferry to the islands or sightseeing boat tour.
If there's something Finns love more than design, it's nature. On a nice day you'll find the many lovely city parks and coastal areas full of sunbathers and picnickers. Or basically anywhere with places to sit and absorb the sun — like the steps of Helsinki Cathedral.
Another great option is to sail out into the Helsinki Archipelago. From the Kauppatori market area, it takes just 15 minutes by ferry to get to the Suomenlinna fortress island. You could easily spend half the day here walking around and checking out the old walls, cannons, tunnels, museums, cafes, the old submarine and the beautiful old houses. I highly recommend visiting the Suomenlinna Visitor Centre to understand the historical significance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I can't wait to go back and see more of Finland. And next time, I'm bringing a bigger suitcase to fit more Finnish design souvenirs!
Planning a city break in Helsinki?
Many travellers opt to combine a break in Helsinki with other Scandinavian cities, such as Stockholm. The city is also a great starting point for Nordic Visitor's winter tours in Finnish Lapland.
This part was of our "My Destination" series, in which we ask our staff to tell us about their favourite places and highlights in our Nordic destinations.