TRISH TAKES FIVE: By blogger Trish Burgess
Whilst some people’s bucket list includes spotting all the ‘Big Five’ animals on a safari, mine has been to visit each of the five Scandinavian capital cities - a Scandi Safari.
The architecture is handsome, reflecting its years under both Swedish and Soviet rule
Like many others I have fallen under the spell of the cool, trendy Scandinavians. The Nordic Noir has become a genre in its own right due to TV programmes such as The Killing and Borgen together with authors such as Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo.
During an adventurous trip to Iceland in 2007 we visited Reykjavik but it wasn’t until 2011 that we ticked off Copenhagen, closely followed by Stockholm and Oslo, in 2012 and 2014.
The last of my Big Five was Helsinki, a city I knew very little about. Finland conjured up thoughts of Nokia, saunas and the Moomins, not necessarily the perfect ingredients for a short city break.
Having just returned, I have to agree with the Helsinki Tourist Board’s phrase of the moment. Helsinki? Hel Yeah! Here’s my Top Ten reasons why.
1. It’s a small capital city which never seems crowded with people or traffic. We didn’t have to queue to enter a museum or gallery. Even a ride on the Finnair Skywheel, the equivalent of our London Eye, was a case of turning up and jumping on.
2. The city is very low-rise, spread over 300 islands. One of the few structures which does make a bid for the skies is the Olympic Stadium Tower which provides magnificent views across the harbour towards the other islands that surround the main heart of Helsinki.
3. The architecture is handsome, reflecting its years under both Swedish and Soviet rule. The golden cupolas and redbrick facade of Uspenski Cathedral vie for attention with the snow white neoclassical Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral.
4. Most of the attractions are easy to reach on foot, along wide pedestrian-friendly boulevards, there is an excellent tram network and regular ferries take you to the beautiful islands, such as Suomenlinna, in minutes.
5. A previous European City of Culture, it has a number of impressive modern galleries, museums and concert halls such as the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and Finlandia Hall.
6. The World Design Capital for 2012, Helsinki has a fabulous selection of shops and some very cool homeware designers: leave room in your case for some classic Iittala glass or bold Marimekko prints.
7. They may have a reputation for being quite reserved but the Finnish people are delightful hosts. Speaking perfect English, they are warm and welcoming.
8. There has been a food revolution in Helsinki: it’s not all herring and reindeer steaks. Finding good restaurants was a breeze as the influence of the top-notch chefs has trickled down to all budgets.
9. Finns endure months of cold temperatures and little sunlight. Little wonder that they make the most of the long summer days. Picnics in the parks and sitting outside at pavement cafes are the norm, even if they wrap up in fleece blankets when the temperature drops.
10. Unlike its nearest neighbours, its currency is the Euro so, although it’s not cheap, the reasonable exchange rate at the moment makes it far more affordable.
Follow Trish on Twitter via @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com