Helsinki: The beautiful heart of Finland

Helsinki: The beautiful heart of Finland
By Susan Fourtané
Published on
March 2010

Getting to know the heart of Finland means discovering what really matters in Helsinki: Its wondrous nature.

The best way to see and experience Helsinki is to do it from the sea. A sightseeing cruise to the islands around Helsinki is a ‘must’ when visiting the Daughter of the Baltic. A unique archipelago of three hundred green islands surrounds the city center. A Nordic Lunch Buffet on board in a relaxed environment can make the experience even more memorable.

The historical island fortress of Suomenlinna has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Dating from 1748, Suomenlinna offers a variety of cultural events being the home of many local and international artists. Suomenlinna is a wonderful place to spend the day exploring the island, visiting the picturesque cafés and restaurants without forgetting a visit to an old WWII-era submarine in dry-dock.

Many important things in the Finnish culture begin with an ‘S’: Sibelius, salmiakki, sisu and sauna. Finnish sauna is an essential part in the life of the Finns, and Finland is the only place in the world that offers a proper and real Finnish sauna. Don’t skip the unique chance to have a Sauna Ship experience.

A bungee jump and picnic in Kaivopuisto is a magnificent combination for giving your adventurous side a quote of adrenaline followed by a traditional summer picnic in Helsinki’s most famous park. Kaivopuisto’s cliffs offer astonishing views of the city and archipelago. Across the road that lines the shore is the popular Café Ursula.

Both Esplanadi and Bulevardi are elegant streets for a walking tour stopping at one or two cafés for a coffee and “pulla” and do a little Finnish design shopping in famous stores like Marimekko.

Helsinki offers beauty, a wide range of activities and festivals in all its four seasons. For me it is hard to tell which one I prefer. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen a more beautiful summer than the Finnish summer anywhere in the world. The days around the Finnish Midsummer are simply full of a unique, enchanting magic that culminates with the Midnight Sun during the Summer Solstice.

Cultural Note

The other three important S words in Finland:

Sisu: is a unique Finnish concept that cannot be fully translated into English. It could be explained as a special strength and determination to continue when someone else would have given up. Sisu has been called by The New York Times as “the word that explains Finland”, and the Finns’ “favorite word” – “the most wonderful of all their words.” During the famous Winter War of 1939-1940, the Finnish perseverance in the face of the invasion by the Soviet Union popularized this word in English for a generation, in what might have been the first use of sisu in the English language, on January 8, 1940

: is a Finnish candy that Finns are crazy for –and only a few foreigners who live in Finalnd, like me, too. Fazer’s Salmiakki was first marketed by them in 1939. The Salmiakki candies are traditionallyrhomb-shaped (to the extent that “salmiakki” also means a rhomb shape in Finnish.) Super Salmiakki candies are round and flat, but have rhomb pattern imprinted on them. Finland even has a society of Salmiakki lovers (Suomen Salmiakkiyhdistys Ry).

Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer of the later Romantic period whose music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity. Finlandia, composed in 1899, is one of his most well known and beautifully emotive pieces.


About Susan Fourtané

As a citizen of the world, Susan began her search for her place in the world back at the beginning of the year 2000. After many travels looking for her place in the world, her soul found that place in Finland in September 2006. She has been living in Helsinki ever since, where she combines fiction and non-fiction writing with Philosophy studies and teaching.
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