What to eat, drink and do in Helsinki
Author: PAT NOURSE
Photography: GUY DIAMOND
Finland's capital is bursting with beautiful achitecture, illuminating art, and a rich history seen in both their museums and streets. Here's our guide to getting the most out of Helsinki.
Finnair flies to Helsinki, codesharing with Oneworld partners from Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney via Asian hubs. finnair.com
Among the newest of the city's design hotels, Lilla Roberts has
contemporary Scandinavian good looks mixing monochrome accents with
Finnish Jugend touches, which reference the century-old building's
original look. The bedrooms are sleek and well appointed, with high
ceilings and windows that admit plenty of Nordic light. The bar
attracts lots of locals; nurse a vodka and apple cocktail spiced
with garam masala in dapper company.
Pieni Roobertinkatu 1-3; lillaroberts.com
The grande dame of Helsinki hotels, the Kämp is perfectly
central, right on the park and mere moments from the flagship
stores for Marimekko, Iittala and other essential local and
international brands. It ticks all the big-hotel boxes - great bar,
OTT breakfast, luxe spa - and Brasserie Kämp does a world-beating
croque-monsieur to boot.
Pohjoisesplanadi 29; hotelkamp.com
The friskier, more approachable younger sibling to the storied
Kämp, the Klaus K is still very central, but leans more brightly
modern in its design and outlook. Service is not quite so baroque,
but neither are the tariffs.
Bulevardi 2; klauskhotel.com
SEE AND DO
This daily market, held right by the water in the middle of
town, is flocked by tourists and locals alike, the former for furs
and knives, the latter for fresh fish, berries and the curious
likes of (somewhat toxic) false morel mushrooms. Snacks abound for
all, smoked fish and pastries not the least among them, regardless
of sunshine or snow.
Ateneum Art Museum
Washing on the Ice. The Cholera Basin. The Garden of Death.
Conveying the Child's Coffin. A random sampling of the titles of
the home-grown works at Finland's largest art museum reveals the
chilly core of hardship in the country's history, but the quality
of the craft makes it uplifting just the same.
Kaivokatu 2, ateneum.fi
Rug-washing piers - piers where, yes, you used to take your rugs
and mats to wash them in the sea - are a pleasing quirk of the
Helsinki shoreline. Better still, some of them, like this pretty
spot on Kaivopuisto park, are licensed to sell drinks.
Liberty or Death
Helsinki has its fair share of craft cocktail bars, and they're
good, though often the drinks come with a side order of average
music and bartender attitude. Not so at this gem, where the stock,
service and scene all come together for the good. Try the Tea
Clipper, a tribute to the Great Tea Race of 1866 rendered in bold
strokes of whisky, dry vermouth, ginger and lemon.
A true Finnish sauna is an essential experience, as any Finn will attest. Most locals get their fix at home or at private saunas; if your concierge can't work any magic, try Kotiharjun, a public sauna (kotiharjunsauna.fi) in the Kallio district.
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim is revered as the father of modern Finland. Immerse yourself in his world at his former home, now a museum (mannerheim-museo.fi), or with his menu at The Savoy (ravintolasavoy.fi), still resplendent in its original 1930s Aalto design.