Helsinki is the beautiful cultural, economic, and political capital of Finland. There are a wide variety of things to do and see while visiting the city. Here are some of the top 5 things to do/see, although be aware that some things are seasonal.
1) Sibelius Monument: It’s a beautiful visual dedication to Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. It’s hundreds of steel pipes welded together to form an abstract masterpiece, resembling somewhat of a big silver organ. Located in the center of a lush park in Helsinki, the Sibelius monument exudes a very tranquil and relaxing aura. I could have stared at the ambiguous design for hours and offered a new interpretation each time. You can walk around and under the monument from all sides so all angles are in view and open to interpretation. Adjacent to the monument is the sculpted head of Jean Sibelius, which was intended to add a figurative element to the abstract nature of the piece. It’s truly one of a kind and will leave you gawking at its artistic genius.
2) Temppeliaukio Kirkko – the Rock Church: The architecture of this unconventional looking Lutheran church is simply awe-inspiring. The copper dome roof concaves inward to give a vaulted ceiling effect and complements the earthy-toned décor impeccably. The main highlight is that it’s made entirely out of solid rock, which is what makes this church unique and unlike any other. And the texture of the rocks retains its original condition, so it gives a natural look and provides a very special atmosphere inside. It’s one of the foremost attractions of Helsinki. You can even light a candle inside for good luck. It is closed during religious services and ceremonies, so you may want to call in advance to ensure its availability. Admission is free of charge.
3) Suomenlinna Fortress: Off the harbor of Helsinki lies a block of sea fortress islands, Fortress of Suomenlinna (Caste of Finland), which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally called Sveaborg (Fortress of Svea), but the name was changed in the early 1900s for patriotic reasons. The original name is only used by Swedish-speakers now. If you are the daring and bold type, I recommend walking to the island as your mode of transportation! During the summer time, you can hop on one of the routine ferries and make your way over, but it is much more exciting to be able to walk over, which of course, is only possible during the winter months when the Sea is frozen-over! Jokes aside, that’s actually super dangerous and we did it because we were stupid teenagers at the time. If you’re going to do it, make sure you can swim.
4) Midsummer: In summer, the sun never really sets and Finns take full advantage of the 24-hour daylight to party through the night. Midsummer is also the time when thousands of locals retreat to their mökkit (summer cottages) in the countryside to enjoy the great Finnish outdoors.
5) Northern Lights: Scan the skies for a purely natural explanation for the spectacular Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), which transform the skies over Finland into a psychedelic light show during the polar night (kaamos) from November to May.