Helsinki

Packed full of designer treats, the Finnish capital is ideal for a summer break

Why go?

Helsinki has everything you expect from a Scandinavian city – super-stylish interiors, public transport that actually works, gorgeous citizens who speak perfect English… But it’s also intriguingly different, thanks to the closeness of Russia and the Finns’ peculiar obsession with things like saunas, forests and self-reliance. Set beside by the Baltic Sea, the best time to visit this friendly city is during the long, light days of summer, when its many parks, beaches and islands are full of life.

Stay at…

Hotel Glo (00 358 10 3444 400; www.palacekamp.fi), which opened in March and is in a perfect position for shopping and sightseeing. The large, contemporary-style bedrooms epitomise the cool restraint of Finnish design, and there’s a day spa, bar with DJ, and Catalan-Basque restaurant. In July double rooms cost from £81 including breakfast. For more hotel options see www.helsinkiexpert.fi.

Dine at…

Olo (www.olo-ravintola.fi), which is devoted to modern Nordic cuisine (think Arctic char, morels, berries) and pairs a different wine with each course. For excellent fish in a classic setting, book a table in the older part of Havis (www.royalravintolat.com). In the Design District, Loft (www.ravintolaloft.fi) is relaxed and inexpensive, or for a picnic head to the wonderful market hall and harbourside stalls at Kauppatori.

Shop at…

Helsinki’s a place where you’re more likely to come home with a blissful duvet cover, sleek coffee cups or a zany beach bag, rather than high fashion. The smartest shops are along Pohjoisesplanadi – don’t miss Marimekko (no. 31) and Iitala (no. 25). One-off boutiques are concentrated in the nearby Design District (www.designdistrict.fi). Pick up a free map at Design Forum Finland (Erottaajankatu 7), then walk along Uudenmaankatu and Fredrikinkatu.

Lounge at…

In July the sun doesn’t set till after 10pm, so everyone stays outside drinking in the terrace cafés and parks till late (buy your booze in advance). When it’s time for a change, head for Ahjo at the Klaus K Hotel (www.ahjoclub.fi) or the upstairs lounge at Mecca (www.mecca.fi).

Explore…

Helsinki is small and walkable with lots of eyecatching architecture, such as the all-white Lutheran cathedral in Senatori and Eliel Saarinen’s monumental art nouveau railway station. If you’re feeling lazy, Tram 3T makes a circular tour of the city, or hire a bicycle from Green Bike (www.greenbike.fi) and visit the historic houses on Seurasaari (www.seurasaari.fi). Hietaranta is a popular city beach you can walk to, or take the short ferry ride to Soumenlinna island.

Book now

Finnair (www.finnair.co.uk) flies direct from London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh, return fares in July cost from £178 including taxes. For more information see www.visithelsinki.fi and www.visitfinland.com/uk.

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