Escape the heat in Helsinki

news: Escape the heat in Helsinki

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is sited on a peninsula, surrounded by an archipelago of 315 islands and perfectly placed between east and west – equidistant as from both Stockholm and Moscow. The city retains a small-town feel: there are no high-rise buildings, plenty of open green spaces and waterways, fresh sea winds and inviting open-air cafés – it’s the perfect summer destination.

Throughout July and August, temperatures range between 18°C and 28°C, daylight lasts up to 20 hours and the whole city comes alive. The bars overflow onto the streets as the Finns revel in long sociable summer days and equally sociable nights.

Another major benefit of the long daylight hours is that tourists can explore the city for hours on end, either on foot or using one of the 300 free bikes, and savour the architectural contrasts on offer. The city’s distinctive ‘east meets west’ culture is summed up in the contrasting styles of buildings – the modern Finlandia Hall, built in 1971, is set next to the Uspenski Cathedral with its golden onion dome. The neo-classical centre of the city is easily explored on foot and most of the main sights are within walking distance.

Helsinki also contains some of the most notable art museums in Finland. The national art foundation’s Ateneum is the biggest and contains Finnish and international art from the 19th century. The National Museum, in the city centre, is also worth visiting for its extensive collections of Sami and Finno-Ugric artefacts. Other highlights include the Temppeliaukio Rock Church, quarried out of natural bedrock and one of Helsinki’s most popular tourist attractions, and Aleksis Kivi’s cottage – an important national monument. Finland’s national writer, Aleksis Kivi (1834-1872), spent the last months of his life there.

When you’ve had your fill of city life, why not grab one of the many ferries and motorboats that shuttle to and from Suomenlinna Island, where you can ramble around the ruins of the mighty Suomenlinna Viapori-Sveaborg fortress, one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world, or visit one of the island museums?

If you’re visiting with children, head for Linnanmäki, the biggest and oldest amusement park in Finland. The park has an enormous selection of fun rides, from ultra scary to more easy-going, the most popular being the special 50-year-old wooden rollercoaster. Or learn about the animals and the ecosystem of tropical rainforests and deserts, fresh and saltwater fish from around the world, in the Akvaariolinna Aquarium.

A touch of luxury

Helsinki offers a wide range of budget accommodation, but if you feel like splurging out, you’ll find plenty to spend your money on. Situated in the heart of Helsinki, close to the Senate Square and Esplanade Park, the Hotel Kämp is the only five-star luxury hotel in the entire Nordic region. Finnish designer products can be found at Ril’s, Vuokko Nurmesniemi’s and Marimekko’s boutiques, Skanno, Emporium and Design Forum Finland. Why not admire the unique Finnish jewellery on display at Kalevala Koru’s and Tillander’s, as well as smaller designer boutiques along the side streets of Helsinki? And, if you’re still shopping, the Kämp Galleria shopping centre, next to the Hotel Kämp, is filled with quality outlets.

Finally, Helsinki offers restaurants for the choosiest gourmets. Restaurant Chez Dominique has been awarded two Michelin stars, and is an ideal retreat for an intimate dinner. Nearby, you will also find G.W. Sundmans, Helsinki’s other Michelin starred restaurant. The Restaurant Sipuli in Katajanokka, will delight you as much with its view of the Uspenski Cathedral as with its fine food, and for more modern and Nordic cuisine, try the Restaurant Töölönranta near the National Opera.

PDM verdict

Whether you’re on a romantic luxury break or a fun filled family holiday, Helsinki will delight and intrigue with its unique combination of Nordic moderation and old world exoticism. Direct flights run from both the UK and Faro to Helsinki, with flights from Faro currently available from around ¤280 return, including taxes.