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Holiday Guides for Scandinavia - Finland

Helsinki Holiday

The Finnish capital of Helsinki - a mish-mash of Scandinavian and Russian architecture and culture – is still sparkling brightly as one of Europe's most in-vogue holiday destinations.

The northern city is smaller and more intimate than its Scandinavian counterparts, yet the lack of high-rise buildings and a bustling noisy city atmosphere can come as a welcome relief for seasoned city-hoppers.

Situated on the south coast of Finland, Helsinki is hemmed on three sides by water from the Gulf of Finland, and picturesque waterways thread through the city creating a calm temperament for the capital.

Old-town-style 19th century streets dotted with beautiful character buildings line the many green spaces and areas of Helsinki, while its friendly inhabitants stroll the entertainment-filled boulevards in summer and cosy-up in the many bars and cafes in the winter.

Helsinki was established as the nation's capital in 1812, and was comprehensively rebuilt following a fire four years earlier. The city thus benefits not only from the architectural styles of the Russians, who annexed the country from Sweden in 1809, but also from the German-born architect Carl Ludwig Engel and local architect Johan Albrecht Ehrenström who spearheaded the project

One of the best times to visit is the height of summer from June to September, when the locals leave the city to stay in their holiday cottages in the country, leaving the never overly busy Helsinki to be explored by tourists and travellers.

At night the city springs into life, recently becoming the pumping heart of Scandinavia's club scene.

Bars, cafes and clubs rock, disco and boogie their way through the small hours and into the morning, as the trendy and sophisticated young Finns get down and party, setting the trend for the rest of Scandinavia to follow.

During the day visitors can easily use up their hours visiting the many museums and cathedrals in the city, as well as the Sea Life centre and the Korkeasaari Zoo, which was founded in 1889.

Other sights worth seeing include the Linnanmäki Amusement Park, which has been entertaining families and visitors since the 1950s, the Helsinki City Winter Garden – opened in 1893, and containing over 200 species of plants – and the Gardenia-Helsinki, a unique tropical garden built in 2001.

Authentic Finnish cuisine is also worth experiencing, and Helsinki is the best place in the country to dine Finnish-style. The city boasts a huge range of traditional restaurants, as well as the many foreign cuisine eateries found in any modern Western city.

Although beautiful and accessible in the summer, Helsinki is a dark and gloomy place in the winter, with the average temperature ranging from minus three to minus five in the thick of the cold months.

But with 25C days in the summer, Helsinki's weather allows lots of variation between the months.

Flights to the capital leave from most popular European airports, with many low-cost UK airlines operating cheap flights from around Britain.

So for visitors looking for a plush blend of Scandinavian cool with Russian flair and some of the best nightlife in Europe – look no further than the oft-unseen Helsinki.