Travel & Living

Exploring Finland

There are many reasons to fall in love with Finland; the people, arctic adventures and secrets.
Reading time 15 minutes

Far away on the shores of the Baltic Sea in the Northern Europe, hugged by Sweden, Norway und Russia, there is a land almost completely covered in woods; the land of hundreds of thousands lakes. Finland is a hidden gem tucked into the far up North; exactly between the East and West. It is a treasure waiting to be discovered. There are many reasons to fall in love with Finland; the people, arctic adventures and secrets. This country is full of interesting contrasts: the four seasons, the Midnight Sun and winter darkness, urban and rural, East and West. When you think you have seen and experiences it all, then it is time to explore Finland.

Four distinct seasons continue to call you back. If you are thinking what would be the best season to visit Finland, I can tell you it depends on what you’d like to experience: for plenty of snow and winter activities, December to March is the best time. For springtime sun and the revival of nature after the winter, April to May is the period. For long and warm summer days and plenty of events, opt for June, July and August. For autumn magnificent leaf colors, visit in September-October.
 

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In northern Lapland the lights shine about every other clear night between August and April. In southern Finland they are visible on about 10-20 nights a year. Auroral activity peaks often occur at the beginning and the end of the season. Also in Lapland. In Utsjoki, the very north of Finland, the sun stays above the horizon for more than two months between mid-May and late July. In southern parts of Lapland, the sun stays up constantly for a month in June-July. However, nights are white throughout the country for most of the summer.

And Finland is a very safe country. It’s one of the few countries in the world where lost wallets and mobile phones get returned to their rightful owner.

One of the great concepts in Finland is called “Everyman’s Rights”. This gives you the right to roam freely in natural areas like forests, fells, lakes and rivers, without permission from landowners. The concept has evolved over time and started as an unwritten code created by a sparse population living in a vast, densely forested country. Just to know: you can pick wild berries and mushrooms, but not someone’s apples or plums. You can go canoeing and camping, but not too close to someone’s house. In many areas, fishing requires a permit. Don’t leave litter, and leave the place the way you found it. Simply put: Enjoy the great outdoors, but be responsible and respect nature as well as other people and their property.

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ENJOYING HELSINKI

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a vibrant seaside city of beautiful islands and great green parks. It is known for being winter wonderland, but summer is when the city truly heats up. Making the most of a sunny summer is a big part of Finnish culture. The city’s rhythm is laid back yet at the same time refreshingly active in terms of both the number and quality of restaurants and nightclubs. An outdoorsy, artsy and quirky in all the right ways - Helsinki is a city with an array of flavors – from fine art to fine dining, mountain treks and groundbreaking design. FlyDubai has daily flights to Finland’s capital. As a starting point in visiting Finland, Helsinki is definitely a menu to be sampled. This is a compact city easily explored on foot. Design, architecture, culture and shopping are all great exploration angles; and large park areas, forests, lakes, and the coastline with numerous islands sprinkled off it make certain there’s no shortage of natural presence. Needless to say, there’s something going on in Helsinki every day of the year.

A modern airport, expanded and updated to accommodate travelers is making good on the city’s claim to being the most direct route between Europe and Asia; a newly vibrant dining landscape hosted by exceptionally talented homegrown and returning chefs; and a design industry shouting loud enough about Finland’s longstanding contribution to the milieu are shaping this city’s coming of age.

Helsinki is a thriving hub of design. In addition to Marimekko and Artek, there’s a whole host of up coming names to discover. The annual Helsinki Design Week in September is an excellent place to explore local talents. Walk through Design District - a creative neighborhood in the centre of Helsinki, and you will discover creativity, uniqueness, experience, design and Finnish urban culture. 

Influenced by Classicism and modernized by Functionalism, Helsinki is possibly best known for its Art Nouveau architecture. Some connoisseurs have even suggested that certain features of Batman’s Gotham City were influenced by Helsinki’s majestical Central Railway Station. Modern, easy to walk, and enchanting, Helsinki is known for its design, technology, architecture wonders, cool boutiques, delightful restaurants, and beguiling bars, as well as its easy access to Stockholm and St. Petersburg. Its unique character comes from its bridging role between East and West and from its close proximity to the sea. Not to be missed are the main railway station (a majestic early 20th-century creation in the National Romantic style) and The National Theater (an Art Nouveau masterpiece by architect Onni Tarjanne). Indeed, fans of Art Nouveau will want to be sure to stroll the city’s Katajanokka, Kruunuhaka and Eira neighborhoods.

A third of Helsinki is covered in green areas. Along with a score of sports grounds, there are so many great possibilities for outdoor activities and relaxation. The large Central Park and its forests spread out just outside the city centre.

As the snow falls, the idyllic summer town is replaced with something completely different, but equally alive with opportunities for a great time. Helsinki is a compact town, in the best possible way. As the snow envelops the city in an expectant silence, there’s always action around the corner and you never have to trek very far.

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The heart of Helsinki has set the stage for the capital’s newest landmark – Hotel St. George, a 153- room ode to new luxury, where numerous elements of art, transformation and healing all combine for a wholly sensory experience. Opened in May 2018, Hotel St. George presents 148 guest-rooms and five suites spread across a historic building located opposite the capital’s Old Church Park. Rooted in this thriving neighborhood, the hotel is a re-imagination of the ‘grand hotel’ in the most contemporary sense and meets tomorrow’s travelers with a seamless amalgamation of new luxury, and authentic, original experiences.

With the concept of transformation being a key component in the story of Hotel St. George, it is fitting that the hotel is carved from a former printing house that was one of the earliest designs of Finnish architect Onni Tarjanne and completed in 1890. Now, the seven-story Neo-Renaissance stone building - once home to the Finnish Literature Society - has been sympathetically reinvented and connected to an adjacent five-story Art Nouveau Rationalism building, also designed by Tarjanne. This modern reincarnation is characterized by elegant, light-filled spaces, accented with contemporary interiors and modern art for a metamorphic reawakening. A number of original details remain and have been carefully reconditioned, including the decorative tiling and balustrades in the connecting stairwell between the two buildings, and a series of gold statues on the edifice’s façade. Elsewhere, numerous significant design features have been introduced, overseen by the local interior design office of Carola Rytsölä.

The entire property is bound together by an impressive art collection curated by Kullberg, the driving force behind the property’s aesthetic. The most prominent piece in this standout compilation is an awe-inspiring sculpture by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, which takes center stage in the entrance gallery. The huge, floating polycephalic dragon, entitled Tianwu, is crafted from bamboo and clothed in white silk, and is the only piece of work by Ai Weiwei to be displayed in a public space. Its presence is suitably underwritten by a curated art program supported by Helsinki Art Museum and the National Gallery, which is presented in the form of over 300 pieces of art displayed throughout the hotel. These are framed by a palette of soft mint greens, pearl grey, and delicate browns, and appear alongside elegant furnishings that include pieces by Eero Saarinen and Nikari.

Located in a city that spends a significant amount of time cloaked in darkness, Hotel St. George presents a series of singular social spaces which invite guests and locals alike to lounge, dine and relax. Restaurant Andrea, helmed by Mehmet Gürs, is a contemporary destination restaurant that marries Nordic and Mediterranean flavors via a menu of sharing plates and slow cooked meats, served in an atmospheric space filled with wall-mounted sofas and wooden chairs. St. George Bakery, meanwhile, is a small subterranean grocery store and deli that offers high quality fresh bread and coffee in addition to light and healthy breakfasts and lunches, and also includes the first ever Monocle Shop in the Nordic countries, located at the bakery’s rear.

The jewel in the crown is the Wintergarden, which sits underneath a glass-roofed inner courtyard that harks back to the great 18th-century interior gardens, and is flooded with natural light during Helsinki’s precious summer months. Theatrical and grand, the space is dominated by Finnish artist Pekka Jylhä’s specially commissioned overhead sculpture, Learning to Fly, and hosts to a monthly changing schedule of events that sees the space adapt for dining, debate and wellbeing. The Garden Bar, the Wintergarden Restaurant -conceived by famed Finnish restaurateur/musician Antto Melasniemi - and three distinct adjoining salons for private events and meetings complete this dramatic space, which embodies Hotel St. George’s commitment to sensory experiences and art.

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Another hotel opened in 2018 in the centre of Helsinki is an elegant Lapland Hotels Bulevardi. The interior decor of this hotel inspired by the mythical nature of Lapland and the most fascinating northern legends, speaks of everything from snowy fells to the midnight sun.

Its hallways display ceramic artwork, designed exclusively by renowned Finnish artist Anu Pentik. The interior materials shine brightly with gold and copper hues. Two thirds of their 182 larger-thanaverage hotel rooms are suites or deluxe standard. Every room on the penthouse floor offers a terrace view over Helsinki’s rooftops. All rooms have a luxurious spa bathroom. 102 of their rooms have saunas and some of the rooms have a bathtub as part of the northern luxury. This hotel of international standards emphasizes straight- forward Lappish hospitality.

Hotel’s Kultá Kitchen & Bar restaurant brings the most intriguing Lappish ingredients and modern flavors from Lapland to Helsinki. Among other things, Kulta’s menu features Arctic char, ptarmigan, whitefish and spruce sprouts – as well as reindeer.

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LEVI - SKIER’S PARADISE

Traveling further north, chasing Aurora, you will arrive in Levi. Blue moments, below zero degrees and snowfields in the sunny spring can make your search for the Northern Lights magical. Despite its arctic location, Levi is very easy to reach. Kittilä Airport is only 15 minutes away from the Levi village. Levi is one of the largest ski resorts in Lapland. Situated 170km north of the Arctic Circle, Levi is nowadays Finland's most popular ski holiday resort. The Levi fell is 531 meters above sea level. There are some 50 ski slopes in Levi and the skiing and snowboarding season is particularly long, typically lasting from mid-October to the beginning of June. Levi has been chosen the best domestic skiing resort in Finland several times. All the snow activities you can imagine (and many more!) are here to be found: kiting, hiking and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobile, running, winter walking and biking routes, skiing pistes, lifts and tracks. And all of it on the natural snow!

The pistes of Levi are loved by both families and the hottest alpine stars. Skiing season at Levi begins usually by the end of October and lasts until midMay. Easy or challenging - Levi has it all! Lots of blue pistes for beginners, red ones for intermediate and black pistes for experts. Free-skiers can enjoy the Lappish style South Park and Street. Kids Land and Leevilandia for the little ones. Levi offers skiing fun with 27 lifts. The newest one is 2nd magic carpet lift at South pistes. Have you ever tried cabin lifts called gondolas, pome lifts, t-bars or carpet lifts? There is a total of 27 lifts: 2 x chair lift, 2 x cabin lifts, 14 x t-bar lifts, 3 x covered magic carpet lifts, 6 x pome lifts, with the total capacity 33.942 persons/ hour.

The first World Cup race at Levi became reality in February 2004, when Levi hosted its first women’s slalom race. One of the biggest milestones was reached in 2006, when the event adopted its current form as an annual opening races in both the ladies and men’s slalom seasons. Between 22-24.11.2019 slope Levi Black turns into the heart of the racing. At the same time Levi fills up with Lappish exotic side events and you can merely touch the buzz of the racing world. Stay tuned at worldcuplevi.com.

Levi has a tourist accommodation capacity of 25 000 beds. The Levi Central Booking Office manages over 800 apartments and a large number of hotel rooms. Be it a hotel suite, glass igloo, sky view cabin, an alpine style apartment located in the middle of the village or a lovely log cabin in the woods, the experts at the Visit Levi Office will find it for you. Visit Levi Office is a perfect partner for anyone starting to plan their holiday in Levi. Their team can provide everyone with accommodation, activities, transfers, catering and other services if need be. All in one place at at www.levi.fl.

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Levin Iglut - Golden Crown hotel close to Levi resort is definitely the top end of the luxury accommodation option. Spending the night in Levin Iglut igloos is unforgettable. This exclusive glass igloo hotel in Finnish Lapland is located on the slope of a fell at a height of 340 meters. The centre of Levi is just 10 km away. The distance from the lights of the centre and the unobstructed view of the northern sky from the slope make it an ideal place for admiring the Northern Lights. The glass-roofed Levin Iglut offers a luxury next to the wilderness: a view of the rugged fell landscape and the northern sky, high-end accommodation and personalized heartfelt service. In the glass igloos, you can fall asleep under the northern lights and starry magical Arctic sky and enjoy the astonishing fell landscape immediately after waking up. The luxuriously equipped Northern Lights House building has its own sauna and a private terrace with a hot tub, among other things. Why not try both of them out during the same holiday?

And while aurora borealis is blazing across the sky, you can enjoy the phenomenon in the restaurant Aurora Sky as well. Similarly to the igloos, the walls and ceiling of the second floor of the restaurant are entirely made of glass, offering an unobstructed view to the horizon. During daylight time, the magnificent fell landscape adds its own spice to the gourmet moment. Stylish downstairs floor, on the other hand, delights with the blaze of log-fire and an intimate atmosphere. Clean flavors in Scandinavian style are offered in Aurora Sky. Their menu, based on seasonal ingredients, pays homage to the clean northern nature and its varying seasons. www.leviniglut.ne

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It gets cold in Finland in the winter. But that’s no reason to stay indoors – just gear up right and make the most of the fresh white season. Depending on location, winters in Finland last from four to six months between November and April. Temperatures range from zero to –35. Enjoying the Finnish winter is all about dressing right – and dressing right is all about layers. Many are surprised by the fact that –20 doesn’t feel as cold as they’d imagined. That’s because the air is really fresh and dry. With the right outfit it is simply enjoyable winter weather.

Still not convinced? Well, the fact is there’s no real winter without snow and no snow without sub-zero temperatures. And winter is all about fun activities in the snow. Now gear up and get out there!

For more information on traveling to Finland, visit: flydubai.com, visitfinland.com and discoverhelsinki.fi

 

Author: Tanja Beljanski

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