Six Things We Love About Helsinki
By Alex Panisch
1: Walk Along Töölö Bay (Töölönlahti)
Squarely in the heart of Helsinki, this scenic inlet is popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s shores offer breathtaking views of Helsinki’s historic wooden villas, as well as the Finlandia Hall, opera house, and the winter garden. If you’re feeling active, jog or cycle on the 2 Km path that runs along the bay. Though it’s a nicer workout in the summer, the winter allows you to cheat and take a shortcut across the frozen waters.
2: Make New Friends at dtm
The undisputed pinnacle of Finnish gay nightlife, dtm is the largest gay club in Northern Europe. Composed of two sprawling dance floors and three bars, dtm is renowned for its variety of moods, music, and men. From karaoke to foam parties and '70s tea dances, dtm offers something for everyone. It may sound like sensory overload, but the club’s vibe is decidedly easy-going: Come-as-you-are, don’t stress, grab a drink, and mingle.
3: Shop in Design District Helsinki
Not a geographic area per se, Design District Helsinki is a network of shops, restaurants, galleries, and showrooms clustered around Dianapuisto Park in the center of the capital. With nearly 200 members, this wellspring of culture showcases the best that Finland has to offer, including avant-garde works of art, one-of-a-kind antiques, and unmatched culinary experiences.
4: Power Lunch at Savoy
A favorite lunch spot for Helsinki’s powerbrokers, Savoy offers traditional Scandinavian fare in its most decadent iterations. From poached king crab and citrus-marinated white asparagus with samphire to Sole Meunière fried in sage butter and morel mushrooms (all served in an airy dinning room designed by legendary architect Alvar Aalto), Savoy offers the most delectable, splurge-worthy plates in the capital.
5. See the Future of Art at Kiasma
Helsinki’s contemporary art museum is so cutting-edge that it’s liable to draw blood, making all other museums of its ilk seem retrograde. Designed by rock-star architect Steven Holl, Kiasma is revolutionary inside and out. With more than 8,000 works in its collection—and adding 100 more every year—Kiasma isn’t just avant-garde; it dictates what deserves the adjective.
6. Get Out of Town at Pihlajasaari
Three kilometers south of the city center, this former villa island is now an outdoorsman’s paradise. Day-trippers can rent boats and hike through Pihlajasaari’s verdant woods and groves, while those looking to stay longer can rent a camp site for €15 and have a cookout using the island’s gratis firewood. Sun worshipers can checkout the island’s pristine beaches and those worried about tan lines can head over to the naturalist beach.