A true flagship city of the Nordic and Northern European territories, the Finnish capital of Helsinki has long been a destination for travellers looking for a different kind of journey. With a disconnected and meandering coastline, sprawling countryside and sometimes hostile environment, getting to grips with the country can sometimes seem a daunting prospect, but with a bit of exploration you’ll see Finland delivers way more than just its famous capital’s charm.
Officially Finland’s second-largest city, Espoo has an atmosphere unlike its larger neighbour. With large open spaces and a thriving art scene, the city once home to Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen is one of exploration and new encounters.
It’s forward-thinking Cultural Centre was designed by architect Arto Sipinen and hosts bi-annual events such as the Espoo Piano Week and Choir Espoo so, should you be a lover of all things music, be sure to check the calendar before you make the trip. If it’s modern art you’re looking for then make the short journey to EMMA (Espoo Museum of Modern Art), a characteristically Finnish looking structure which houses both home-grown modern art as well as international.
If you’re planning on a trip to Hanko you’d do well to make sure it’s in the warmer summer months as this is the time the idyllic former Russian spa town really comes to life. Its landmark water tower is open to the public and offers willing participants the chance to head up the lift the 50m tall structure on Vartiovuori Hill for picturesque views over the entire town and out to sea.
If heights aren’t really your thing, be sure to head across the bridge to Neljän Tuulen Tupa, less than a mile north of the town centre. The ‘House of Four Winds’ has a history of secret imbibing with locals coming here to sneak slurps of ‘hard tea’, or what we now know as moonshine, during the thirteen year Finnish prohibition from 1919 to 1932. Rest assured, those raucous days are over and you’ll find a much more relaxed and chilled out atmosphere there now.
1 hour 45 minutes
Like the British Isles, Finland has a long and complex history of seafaring and there’s no better place to educate and admire it’s history than at its very own Maritime Museum. This exquisite and striking wave-shaped building is a great place to introduce oneself to the roots of Finnish culture both past and present and its impact on the everyday life of Finnish people. It’s the perfect distraction if you’re travelling with young explorers with the opportunity to get involved with interactive games and presentations.
If you get the time make sure you stay and eat in the restaurant, where sandwiches, salads, pastries and a traditional buffet is served on a gorgeous terrace which fittingly overlooks the Baltic Sea.
1 hour 30 minutes
If there’s one thing the Moomins know well its peace and tranquillity. These melancholy, hippo-like characters were created by Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson after she was inspired by her own family’s relationships with one another. Initially created as comics the family empire grew and eventually became a TV show broadcast worldwide, soothing children the world over.
Much like the Moomins themselves, Moomin World (located in Naantali) bucks established trends and offers something a little out of the ordinary with educational based activities in place of your usual theme park rides, making it a great experience for both adults and children full of interactive happenings and nostalgic games that are sure to take even the most serious and staid parents back to their childhood.
2 hours 10 minutes
Driving through Ylöjärvi you may not even notice this strangely symmetrical forest but with a little digging its true purpose is uncovered. Amazingly it sits as an enormous work of art and the world’s first natural forest built by man. Artist Agnes Denes recruited 11,000 people from across the world to plant one tree each in a pattern designed to reflect ancient artworks and the geometric patterns found in early artist’s paintings. By planting trees typical to the environment she was able to essentially create a living time capsule, preserving a part of the Finnish landscape for generations to come.
Be sure to visit when snow has fallen to really appreciate the spectacular view but check weather warnings and be sure to equip your car with winter tyres, a legal requirement at this time of year.
2 hours 15 minutes