Exploring Helsinki: highlights of the Finnish capital

Exploring Helsinki: highlights of the Finnish capital Helsinki 2019

Helsinki, host of the 2019 Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition, is an exceptional city that enchants visitors with its diverse urban culture and unfailing friendliness. From saunas to sprawling green spaces to new Nordic cuisine, the Finnish capital has plenty of distinctly Helsinkian surprises in store for every visitor. The conference will take place from 24–27 September 2019, but be sure to plan some extra time to explore all Helsinki has to offer.

Oodi: a masterpiece of modern architecture

The new Helsinki Central Library Oodi opened its doors in Kansalaistori Square in December 2018, offering a free public space in the heart of the city. It hosts not only a library, but also studios, workshop spaces, a restaurant, a café and a cinema. Oodi is an events venue, a house of reading and a diverse urban experience. This modern library is a living and functional meeting place.

State-of-the-art libraries like Oodi are not only a key element in the internationally renowned Finnish education system but are also design attractions in their own right. Oodi showcases Finnish wooden construction expertise and sets an example for the libraries of the future.

Amos Rex: the latest addition to Helsinki’s cultural quarter

The Finnish capital has gained a major new cultural institution and a striking new public space with the completion of Amos Rex. A meeting place for art and urban culture, Amos Rex consists of new underground exhibition spaces, the old Lasipalatsi (‘Glass Palace’) building from 1936 and its Bio Rex cinema, as well as a vibrant events forum on Lasipalatsi Square, which serves as the roof of the exhibition hall. Pop into the Museum Shop and the Iittala store before or after your visit to the exhibition, or visit one of the many nearby cafés and restaurants.

Urban nature

Helsinki is one of the greenest metropolises in the world: over one third of the city consists of parks and other green areas. There are also 42 nature reserves in the city, and the city’s many parks can be enjoyed year-round: in wintertime they are used for skiing, and in summertime for jogging and picnics.

With over 100 km of shoreline and around 300 islands, you can sense the proximity of the sea everywhere in Helsinki. Take a sightseeing cruise in the archipelago, or visit one of the many islands open to the public.

One of the must-sees just off the coast of Helsinki is Suomenlinna, one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site. Suomenlinna is not only an important part of the history of Finland but also a lively district of Helsinki that offers something for everyone: nature, culture and history.

The famous Finnish sauna culture

Hitting the sauna by the sea or lake is an essential part of the way of life in Finland. For centuries, the sauna has been a place for physical and spiritual cleansing, for getting bare in all senses of the word, and for entering the core of humanity. If you want to understand Finland and its people, going to the sauna is a good place to start.

The Löyly design sauna in Hernesaari is just a short distance from the city centre. The modern complex also houses a restaurant serving the finest Finnish cuisine, which visitors can enjoy while admiring the stunning views from the large terrace that stretches out over the sea. This impressive building is a great example of contemporary wooden architecture. The Löyly sauna complex consists of three saunas: one smoke sauna and two wood-heated saunas. The terrace area includes a café and a restaurant open all year round.

The Allas Sea Pool spa complex is located right next to the Market Square, allowing visitors to enjoy swimming, saunas and a great seaside atmosphere. Take a dip in the sea pool and relax at the café, bar or restaurant while enjoying the city centre atmosphere!

This traditional wood-heated neighbourhood sauna Kotiharju in Helsinki has welcomed sauna lovers since 1928. Massages and other treatments are available if booked in advance.

Uusi Sauna opened in November 2018 and is the first new neighbourhood sauna built in Helsinki in the last 60 years. It offers an unforgettable sauna experience with communal vibes in the Jätkäsaari district. After the sauna, you can enjoy a lovely dinner in the cosy restaurant.

City of design

Minimalistic, functional and clean, Finnish design has enjoyed an enviable international reputation for decades, and Helsinki has always been its epicentre.

Design District Helsinki is a cluster of creative businesses that is full of fascinating design attractions and serves as a Mecca for fans of Finnish Design. It comprises 25 streets and 200 locations on the map, including design and antique shops, art galleries and museums, restaurants, hotels, design studios and more.

Tip: Discover the Design District on foot! The Helsinki Design Walk is a two-hour guided tour in English of the top design sights. Tours are organised on Saturday mornings at 11:00 throughout the year and last approximately 2.5 hours.

Torikorttelit – the “new old town” in the historical centre of Helsinki is being rejuvenated. Old offices are being converted into spaces for new design and fashion businesses. From here you can find two iconic Helsinki sights: Helsinki Cathedral and the Market Square.

New Nordic cuisine

In just a short time, Helsinki has developed into a culinary capital. New Nordic cuisine has taken over the scene, and restaurants that have been established in recent years favour fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. When chefs themselves fall in love with simple ingredients, visitors to their restaurants also get to taste local flavours at their finest.

Savoy is a traditional restaurant that has also managed to keep up with the times for the past 80 years. The interior was designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto, and one of the tables used to be reserved for the President of Finland.

Ultima is a restaurant that aims to grow more than half of its ingredients on-site in a hydroponic greenhouse. With a green, dreamlike ambiance, Ultima serves a full-evening fine dining menu, as well as snacks for a shorter stop.

If you’re looking for fine dining, the concept behind Grön is to create tasty, focused, plant-based and inspiring food that concentrates on high-quality ingredients. The food is based on seasonal, organic and wild ingredients. The restaurant obtained a Michelin star in 2018.

Vegetarian food culture is also blooming in Helsinki. Yes Yes Yes is stylish but laid back vegetarian restaurant and the menu offers lots of delicious choices that you can share among friends. Omnam serves vegetarian gourmet quality food, as well as convenient fast food. Cargo Coffee + Vegetarian Food serves breakfast, healthy lunch, coffees and treats.

Article and photo courtesy of Helsinki Marketing.