Satu Maaranen was born and bred in Helsinki and is currently working as a head designer at one of Finland’s most well-known homewares and fashion brands Marimekko. As such, she’d be a source you’d trust for tips on stylish places to eat, play and stay in Finland’s capital city, Helsinki.
Maaranen says the thing people most get wrong about Finland, in general, is the people. “Finns are the nicest and most helpful people, who love having those strange conversations after a bit of warming up,” she says.
As for how long you should plan to spend in Helsinki, Maaranen says that while a weekend can suffice to get an overall understanding of it, she’d recommend you plan for a long weekend.
“There is so much to see and do in Helsinki from visiting the museums, exploring the famous architecture and visiting the many islands of the archipelago,” she says. “I think how long you should spend here depends on what one’s interests are.”
Ahead, Maaranen shares her picks for the best areas to stay in, as well as accommodations, and where she recommends you eat, what you do and where you sauna. Tervetuloa! (Welcome!).
Best Accommodation in Helsinki
“The Punavuori district, within the Design District of the city, is very classic Helsinki with nice boutiques and cute cafés. It’s an easy commute from here to all the tourist sites. My favourite hotel is Hotel St. George. Other great recommendations are GLO Hotel Art and Hotel Lilla Roberts.”
Best Restaurants in Helsinki
“For breakfast, I would recommend Levain Bakery Eatery for its amazing bread, Café Strindberg for its atmosphere and Way Bakery for its delicious pastries. For lunch or dinner, definitely try the set menus at Savoy, Grön and Mat Distrikt.”
Best Saunas in Helsinki
“My absolute favourite sauna is Kulttuurisauna, which is an intimate sauna with mainly regulars. It’s a bit outside of the central city area, but definitely worth the trip. The sauna was founded by a Finnish-Japanese couple and its stunning architecture is a representation of the two cultures intertwined. Other saunas worth mentioning are Löyly and Sompasauna.”
Best Places to Shop in Helinski
“There are several nice secondhand stores in Helsinki, such as Flea, Kaunis Veera, Relove and UFF. I would also mention Artek’s flagship store and the Artek 2nd cycle store with beautiful vintage Artek pieces. For a good selection of boutique shops, I would recommend visiting streets Aleksanterinkatu and Esplanadi.”
Best Things to Do in Helsinki
“You should definitely visit the Oodi Helsinki Central Library for its beautiful architecture inside and out, as well as Studio Aalto, which is the former home and atelier of the legendary Alvar Aalto.”