Happy Days in Helsinki

Helsinki may be northern in the extreme, but the people have warm hearts. Come and see. They’ll welcome you.

Quick — can you name the world’s northernmost metropolitan area with more than one million in population? Helsinki holds the title, of course. Yes, it can be icy up there on the Baltic Sea.

But, those who have visited can understand why Helsinki puts in such consistently high rankings among the worl’s most liveable cities. Hint: the affable Finns are part of the reason! Come in summer, when the land of the midnight sun means a glow in the sky until nearly 11 p.m. and dawn just less than five hours later, before 4 a.m. Go north to Lapland, where it’s light out for weeks on end. If it’s the Northern Lights you’re after, head inland away from city lights for a chance to witness the very special Aurora Borealis.

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Shine a Northern Light on Helsinki

helsinkiWhile the street signs are in Finnish and in Swedish, only about 6% of the residents are Swedish-speaking. In any case, English is a pretty good bet, and certainly most visitors cannot tackle such words as Vanhankaupunginlahti, which means “Old Town Bay”.

Hotel Kâmp, Luxury Collection by Starwood, is the finest hotel in Helsinki since 1887. Other chain hotel presence includes HIlton, Radisson, Best Western, Crowne Plaza, Scandic, and a collection of smaller, hip hotels highlighting cutting edge design. For lesiure trips, look for one near the port, convenient to Stockmann’s department store and shops, such as Scandic Hotel Marski.

For business trips, find one in the commercial center near Parliament House and Finlandia Hall, such as Sokos Hotel Presidentti. Both should have a great spa, such as Hotel GLO, and all may present a bit of sticker shock. Honorable mention goes to the 35-room Hotel Finn, who put out the call for a “”professional sleeper”” to try out their new beds and blog about it…in Finnish.

How about a ferry boat ride to arrive at your dinner table? Särkänlinna Restaurant has been operating a summertime spot for 90 years in 18th century fort on an outlying island. Alas, May through mid-September only. At other times, take your Baltic herring and crayfish party elsewhere. Just behind the Crowne Plaza, everyboidy’s favorite bistro, Ravintola Kuu serves unabashedly Finnish food and Chef & Sommelier is considered a destination restaurant worth booking a trip around, according to Tripadvisor entries. Ready for sautéed reindeer? Find it on the menu in October and November at the one-star Michelin Chez Dominique. Rounding out the other four-starred restaurants in Helsinki are Demo, Luomo, Olo, Postres.

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