Scandinavia: 36 hours in Helsinki

From the smell of fresh berries from the archipelago arriving at the harbour by boat, to the visual overload of the flagship stores that line its streets, Helsinki is a treat for all your senses. Immerse yourself in this hub of modern design.

09.00: Start with breakfast and browsing at Moko Market Cafe & Store. Enjoy the handmade organic food, while taking in the vintage furniture, interior accessories and Indian cabinets.

10.00: If you’re passionate about interior design, there are two flagship Finnish stores in Helsinki you mustn’t miss—Marimekko and Artek. Visit Marimekko to kit yourself out in colour and pattern; go to Artek for inspiration from one of the masters of midcentury modern interiors. Artek was founded by the legendary Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto, who created the iconic Stool 60 in 1933, among other key innovative designs.

12.00: Pop back to Hotel Indigo Helsinki — Boulevard for lunch in its very own Restaurant Bröd (“bread” in Swedish) and fill up on signature Finnish fish dishes: deep-fried vendace and tomato dressing or vendace roe toast.

13.00: Hop on the Metro, admiring the beautifully designed seats on the platforms, and make the short journey to Alvar Aalto’s home and studio. There’s only one line, so you can’t get lost. Pick up plenty of interior design inspiration. Parts have been left exactly as they were in Aalto’s day, with every drawing his architecture practice still kept.

16.00: Head back into town and swing by the Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (Academic Bookstore) in the city centre. Founded in 1893, this store was also designed by Alvar Aalto to round off your day of Aalto-spotting.

18:00 Pop into Bar & Co for a glass of bubbly and to see an example of contemporary interior design – the bar was designed by interior architect Joanna Laajisto and features a six-metre long marble bar, a ‘library’ with sofas and lounge chairs, and ‘the butchers room’, complete with butcher’s block island.

19:00: Have dinner at Story—with its on-site bakery, menu of seasonal produce and founding dream-team of four friends, it is traditional Finnish food at its best.

21.00: Head back to the hotel and get a decent night’s sleep for another active day tomorrow!

Day 2

09.00: Head to the harbour. If it’s winter, stay for the buffet breakfast in the hotel and then go for a bracing walk along the water’s edge. In summer, you can buy an amazing selection of berries including Nordic specialities like lingonberries and gooseberries from the stalls at the water’s edge. Grab some yoghurt and honey from a local corner shop and enjoy breakfast with a view of the Baltic.

10:00 Hit Kiasma—Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art, designed to some controversy by American architect Stephen Holl, rather than a local, but filled with art from all over the world.

12.00: Take the majestic Central Railway Station. In 1904, Architect Eliel Saarinen won a competition with a ‘romantic’ design for the station, but it was overturned by demands for a modern, rational style for all major public buildings in the city.

13.00: Pop into Deli Cafe Maya for lunch. Choose from their salad buffet, soup of the day with homemade bread, or a selection of main courses from moose sausage to carrot burgers, with plenty of veggie and vegan options from the kitchen.

14.00: Explore Helsinki Design Museum in the afternoon. With over 75,000 objects, 45,000 drawings and 125,000 photographs in a collection dating back to the 1873 Vienna World Fair, there’s sure to be something to capture your imagination.

16.00: Make the short journey to the Iittala Factory to see their glassblowers in action (book tours in advance) and explore the Iittala Glass Museum, housed in an old cowshed, converted by architect Juhani Kivikoski. Founded in 1881, Iittala is one of Finland’s most famous and beloved design brands. Pick up a souvenir on your way out.

18.00: Stroll past the Bio Rex cinema – built in 1936, it’s one of Helsinki’s four oldest cinemas and worthy of a snap for Instagram, even if you can’t catch a film.

19.00: Pop into the small but perfectly formed Liberty or Death for reputedly the best cocktails in Finland. If you’re feeling adventurous, skip the classics and ask the barmen to recommend one of their own creations.

20.00: For the perfect end to your Finnish adventure, treat yourself to the taster menu at Finnjavel. With innovative chefs Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen at the helm and food from Finland’s forests, lakes, fells and fields, you won’t be disappointed.

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