From the standpoint of cultural tourism, there are at least three reasons why Helsinki is definitely worth visiting this summer. First: ARS, one of the most important exhibition institutions in Finland, will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with an extensive exhibit devoted to contemporary African art, held at the city’s contemporary art museum, Kiasma. Second, a retrospective of works by Claire Aho, a pioneer of Finnish color photography, will be on view at the Kunsthalle Helsinki. And third, the Design Museum will pay tribute to Marimekko, a legend in the Finnish design and textile industry, which turns sixty this year.
All of the folklore about Helsinki being a province of Europe is long in the past (though one sign still stays the same: seagulls continue to defecate every day on all the monuments in the city, with obvious joy). For several years now, the influential magazine Monocle has included Helsinki in its list of the top ten most liveable European cities. The city has only slightly more than half a million residents, and thanks to the many parks, a third of the city is green. The sea is found at the very gates of the city, and the nearby archipelago of islands is just a short boat-ride away. Helsinki also has wonderful infrastructure and is a sort of crossroads—during a single week, more than 1,000 flights from various airlines head to approximately a hundred destinations. And though the current positioning of Helsinki is expressly Western, the city hasn’t lost its Finnish identity. Nor has it been overwhelmed by the swift invasion of European brands. Though you’ll certainly find the loudest global brands here, Helsinki is a city that respects its design more than anything else, and knows how appropriately to present it. Helsinki has experienced a true expansion of design, style, and gastronomy in recent years, which in itself has ensured the city with the status of a desirable destination.
By the way, a wonderful place to enjoy the urban feeling in Helsinki in a concentrated way is the rooftop bar at Hotel Troni. Built in 1928, the hotel was once the city’s tallest “skyscraper.” The small Atelje Bar is located on the fourteenth floor and is always full—in terms of the view, nothing else comes close. The entire city and the nearby archipelago, with more than a hundred islands, is literally at your feet. The Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox cathedral in Western Europe, looms majestically.