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While it doesn’t get the attention of Stockholm or Copenhagen, the Finnish capital has got an edgy energy all of its own, says resident Satu Kalajainen, British Airways’ account manager
For traditional Finnish cooking, grab a cab out of the city centre to Lehtovaara. Expect starched white tablecloths and old-school waiters, plus a menu featuring seasonal ingredients (try the elk tournedos with cold smoked reindeer and winter vegetables). The glass patio, with its romantic lighting, is especially inviting on dark winter days. After dinner, take a stroll to the city’s Sibelius monument. Last month marked the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
If you have always dreamed of watching Finnish people let their hair down, visit Kaarle XII. Nicknamed ‘Kalle’, the venue is home to seven different bars set over two floors. Visit the Suomibaari (Finnish bar) where you can dance on the tables to Nordic pop tunes. On your way in, look up and admire the building – it was built in 1901 and resembles a museum or church.
Watch the city wake up with a cup of coffee and a traditional cinnamon bun in the Kauppatori market square. Many of the coffee stalls here near the harbour open from 6:30am all year round. Get there for 10am during the winter and you’ll see the Silja and Viking cruise ships arriving into the harbour from Stockholm.
Kallio is the Finnish equivalent of London’s Soho. It used to be known for its nightlife, but it’s increasingly somewhere for families to visit too. The area is also popular with students and couples who want to visit independent restaurants, cafes and shops. Oma Maa is an organic shop selling fruit and vegetables bought directly from local farmers.
Embrace the Finnish love of solitude with a trip to a traditional wooden sauna. For a population of nearly 5.5 million, the country boasts an estimated two million saunas – found in people’s homes, sports centres, hotels and even offices. Kotiharjun is the last public heated wooden sauna and it’s worth the trip. Strip off, relax, and discover the truth behind the Finnish saying: “A sauna is the poor man’s pharmacy.”