If you have chosen to holiday in Finland, then the first pit-stop ought to be its dynamic capital - Helsinki. This uber-modern and lovable metropolis is a unique amalgamation of Scandinavian, Russian and Sami culture. Though keeping up with the times, the largest city of Finland has been successful in retaining its historical past and glorious heritage.
When in Helsinki, be sure to head over to Finlandia Hall. This eye-catching building is the city's main conference and concert venue and is the present residence of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Sports fans can visit the Olympic Stadium which houses a 72-meter-high tower from where one can procure superb views of the city. One of the chief highlights of this stadium is the Finnish Sports Museum which features a statue of the great Finnish Olympic runner, Paavo Nurmi (1897-1973). Drop by to the east to find the Swimming stadium and head west to visit the Ice Stadium.
Tired of the hustle-bustle of the city? Then take a stroll around the city's Central Park. It is a huge park that resides right in the heart of the metropolis. Encompassing over 10 sq kilometers, the park resembles a jungle more than a manicured garden. But there are bike and walking trails as well as other activities for the visitors to sink their teeth into. History aficionados would love to visit the fortified islands of Suomenlinna which can be easily accessed through a 20-minute ferry ride. The fortress of Sveaborg (Swedish Castle) is prominent highlight of the island. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses a museum, a park and an arts venue.
Be sure to catch a glimpse of the Sibelius Monument - hundreds of steel pipes shaped by sculptor Eila Hiltunen that together make up the incredible structure. When it comes to religious shrines, then the Temppeliaukio Church is one of the Helsinki's most iconic buildings. Nicknamed as the 'Church in the Rock', it was built into the bedrock below Helsinki and completed using stone quarried on the site. The inner walls are made up of raw, unfinished rock and the roof features a futuristic dome of copper plates. Also, pay a visit to Helsinki Cathedral that sports a prominent Russian Orthodox look.
Be sure to spend some time at the defunct Finnish Cable Factory. Today, the building houses 12 galleries, design studios, recording studios and offices of dance companies, theatre companies, TV and radio stations as well as three art museums. Helsinki have plenty of museums that are worth visiting such as National Museum of Finland (comprises of rich archaeological and ethnographic collections depicting Finnish life from the earliest times to current day), Contemporary Art Museum (exquisite display of Finnish art from the 1960s to present day) and Design Museum (traces the history of the Finnish design movement).
When it comes to shopping, Helsinki has its share of shopping streets with chic boutiques and outlets featuring designer-wear. But the heart of the city lies in its traditional markets. The largest and the finest market in the metropolis is held at the Kauppatori, a cobble market square with seasonal Finnish foodstuffs and souvenirs. As for cuisine, do head over to any of the restaurants dotted in the city to sample some of the local delicacies.
The stay options in Helsinki are abundant with the city hosting the best luxury hotels, sprawling private apartments and budget & cheap accommodations.
Helsinki experiences humid continental climate. The best time to visit would be during the summer season - from May to September - as the weather conditions are perfect during that period.