Insider's guide to Helsinki

“Insider’s guide” is a new series of blog post where Finnair employees from around the world share their favourite spots in their home cities. This month’s guide takes you to Finnair’s homebase, Helsinki, where Aku Varamäki, social media manager from Finnair, shares her favourite spots.

New York Times just recently listed Helsinki on their list of places to visit in 2012 and no wonder why, it genuinely is a great city. My only wonder is why Helsinki came second, not first on their list. Then again, I may be a little bit biased.

I love Helsinki. It’s a cozy little town but it still offers everything you need and there’s always something going on. Here are my tips for anyone visiting my beautiful home city:

1) The Harjutori Sauna. Your visit to Finland won’t be complete without a sauna experience and Harjutorin Sauna is the perfect spot for experiencing urban sauna culture. After and between the wonderful, relaxing heat, or löyly, as we call it, you simply step out to the sidewalk to cool off. This is one of the few remaining urban saunas left in Helsinki and a place to get in talks with the natives, if you so wish.

2) Design District Helsinki. A collection of interesting and wonderful small shops, galleries, restaurants and boutiques in the pretty streets of Punavuori and Southernmost blocks of Helsinki. Check out this map to see where to go.

3) Tavastia Club. You may want to see the new Helsinki Music Centre, simply because it’s beautiful (many Helsinkians might disagree on that though!), but if you’re into more rock, pop or indie type of music, you’ll have to check who’s playing at Tavastia. The place itself is an important part of the Finnish music scene. Classic.

4) Restaurant Juuri. A nice restaurant serving good food with a Finnish twist. Try their “sapas” (Finnish tapas) for new flavours. Oh, and I love their sausage with vodka mustard! Other nice Finnish restaurants on the more relaxed side include Kuukuu and Sea Horse a.k.a. Sikala.

5) Tintin tango. There are many nice places (for example Fanny, and Café Engel) to enjoy brunch on a weekend morning, but my favourite is Café Tintin Tango. It’s a great place to go to with a group of friends and have a tasty brunch with too many cups of coffee. I love the atmosphere, which consists of the smells of the bakery, tango playing and happy chatter in the background and people doing their laundry… Yes, you can do you laundry while having breakfast.

6) Enjoy the sea. A walk – or even better, a run! – by the sea is the best way to start your day (or finish it). If you’re in a walking mode, stop by at the funnily peculiar Café Regatta. It’s tiny little red hut by the sea, full of strange little details and a perfect spot for enjoying the sun on a sunny winter’s day. In summer time, Mattolaituri is the place to be. If you’re more into running like myself, then run around Seurasaari the island. It’s also an outdoor museum and a classic route for runners enjoying the seaside.

7) Yrjönkadun uimahalli. Us Finns, we like being naked! In this public swimming hall men and women take turns on different weekdays, some of them naked. You may also spot our president Tarja Halonen swimming here. However, the appeal of this place is not the nudity but the beautiful architecture and atmosphere of it. And don’t be intimidated – it’s OK to put your swimming suit on.

8) A pub crawl in Kallio. Kallio is a “working class” district with a lot of young people, artists and just people from all walks of life. My favourite bars in Kallio include Musta Kissa, Siltanen and Rytmi but there are plenty more to choose from, some of them a tad more rough than others.

PS. You can follow Finnair on Foursquare. You can also find this list from there and more will follow!