In January of this year the New York Times had an Article listing Helsinki as the second of 45 places to see in 2012. I've been wanting to get to Helsinki for awhile now, and little did I know I would be going in a couple of short months. A good friend suggested we go up for a long weekend, and the only suitable response was 'Why not!'
'Design. Design. Design. Aesthetics fuel a new cool' was how the Times described the city. I had known this for awhile, that it was the land of Marimekko, Nokia and iconic Nordic (not Scandinavian!*) design, and wanted to see it for myself. I always invision Nordic cities as being sleek and ultra modern, like something out of the movie Gattaca. There are a lot of modernist architectural landmarks in Helsinki, but it had much more of a vintage, early Art Niveau flair to it than I knew or expected. The sea-faring port nature of the city reminded me of parts of Hamburg. Dense side streets beckoned with funky restaurants and cool old neon signs.
Another element that I didn't expect was the Russain influence - but of course, Helsinki's eastern border is a very long one along Russia. We came across lots of Russian signage and our hotel (a former prison in the 1800s) was in the same neighborhood as the Upenski Cathedral, which is Eastern Orthodox.
I wouldn't say the Finns are a 'gushing, back-slapping' kind of folk, but they are very friendly and happy to help (we occasionally needed our Menu's translated when they weren't in English, and everybody did, of course, speak perfect English).
Even though it is a very small city, and we explored pretty easily in four days, I definitely want to go back. In the summer the sun doesn't really set and you can tell that when the weather warms up the city is designed for a lively outdoor urban culture.
Have you been to Helsinki? What were some of your favorite sights?