Helsinki Primer

It all started, ten years ago, with a photo of a Finnish lodge surrounded by mist in a lush green forest.  Over the years, the photo turned into an obsession.  Very recently, I had the opportunity to turn the obsession into a reality – a trip to Finland.  Only, my reality was not a rustic lodge surrounded by Birch trees and Lilly of the Valley springing forth out of the verdant ground. It was a visit to Helsinki, the capital of Finland, to explore design in all its forms: physical, applied, social, urban, cultural.

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Helsinki Architecture

I think that I spent most of my time walking around looking at the top of buildings and doors.  The architectural style in Helsinki is unique, exciting and incredibly beautiful.  Helsinki’s Finnish National Romantic movement, influenced by Classicism and modernised, flourished in the early years of the 20th century. Finnish Art Nouveau, also known as Jugend, drew a great deal of inspiration and influences from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. The best way that I can describe it is a bolder, more masculine, slightly brooding, art nouveau.

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Helsinki Shopping and Walking Tours

Helsinki = Design

The Design District around Uudenmaankatu and Iso Roobertinkatu is full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms. Here you can find the most interesting names, classics, trend-setters and so much more. Visit Design Forum Finland at Erottajankatu 7 to get a map of shops and galleries.

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Helsinki Eating

To my knowledge, I have never eaten Finnish cuisine before going to Finland.  I have had my fare share of smoked fish, eaten at a Swedish restaurant, and purchased salty licorice from Ikea but never authentic Finnish food.  As such, I really did not know what to expect.

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Helsinki Day Trips

SOUMENLINNA: Suomenlinna was built during the Swedish era as a maritime fortress and a base for the Archipelago Fleet. Work on the fortress was begun in the mid-18th century. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is a magical location that you can explore with a guide or on your own.  On summer weekends, there are many little cafes or you can bring your own picnic.  The island is a popular picnic destination and you may have to wait for a long time as hundreds of people crowd the ferry terminal.  When visiting the island, don’t stick to the center.  Walk around the coast, where there are jagged rocks, little bridges, small cafes, and beautiful little areas to picnic.

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Helsinki Outings

Helsinki has it all: museums, parks, markets, libraries, shops, saunas, swimming and so much more.

MARKETS: Most outdoor markets in Helsinki are open only in summer, but the market halls are open all year round. They are great places to taste Finnish delicacies.

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Helsinki Neighborhoods

Helsinki is formally divided into a total of 54 districts, but more commonly the city is merely divided into the center and the suburbs. The southern districts are older (some would say more revered), and they contain most of the city’s main tourist attractions. Neighborhood map 

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