All around Helsinki, I kept coming across big and small reminders of Russia’s influence in the city and throughout Finland, which was part of its massive neighbor from 1809 until its independence in 1917. You may still hear some Russian conversations, although, even though it’s the third most spoken native language in Finland, Russian now represents only 1 percent of native languages spoken. You’re more likely to see evidence of Russia’s sway in, for instance, the statue of Emperor Alexander II standing before the striking Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, and the gorgeous Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. You’ll also find it in the cuisine, and one of the top Russian restaurants in the Finnish capital, Šašlik, immediately transported me back to the era of the Romanovs. Read more >
As winter wonderlands start to pop up around the globe, white takes center stage in the form of unique flakes, shiny skating rinks, and Santa’s beard. But snow, ice, and St. Nick’s facial hair don’t hold a monopoly on the pure, unspoiled beauty of white. In fact, some of the world’s best occurrences of white have nothing to do with gelid winters and aren’t seasonal at all. Read more about the world’s top five whites >
Finland’s oldest city and its former capital, Turku is located about two hours by train from where I was staying in Helsinki, the superior Hotel Kämp. The country’s sixth-largest city has plenty to see for a full day trip, from its 700-year-old cathedral to a fantastic museum built over a 14th-century archaeological site, but Turku’s most famous landmark is the one I wanted to visit most — the largest castle in Finland. Read more >
Not that long ago, when travel by train was the preferred and quickest way to embark on a vacation or business trip, railroad companies made sure their passengers were impressed by and made comfortable in their stations, whether it was a charming small-town depot or a massive big-city terminal. Many of these stations are still in use today, offering a far more pleasant experience than generic, isolated airports with countless hassles, endless lines, and crushing rules and regulations. Although some have been repurposed to function as everything but what they were originally intended for, they remain architectural jewels in our urban landscape. These are my five favorite train stations in the world. Read more >
With 780 miles of coastline and 187,888 lakes, Finland is a seafood lover’s delight. The creative chefs in Helsinki take full advantage of the country’s maritime resources and produce some imaginative results from what is pulled from the water. Located across the street from the old food market and the busiest harbor in the city, Havis combines its highly appropriate setting with an alluring menu that has earned it warm regard as one of the best seafood restaurants in the city — a reputation it well deserves. Read more >
A little bit of luxury when you’re on vacation is always a welcome thing. In Helsinki, when you want to treat yourself and combine that luxury with a roller-coaster history, tasteful elegance, flawless service and a perfect location in the heart of the Finnish capital, you stay at Hotel Kämp. Read more >
In Rovaniemi, the 16th most populous city in Finland, straddling the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, you can visit the real Santa Claus, play with baby reindeer, watch the sun never set during the summer, sail down the Kemi River to an old island lumberjack camp for an outdoor meal, observe a craftsman as he creates knife handles out of reindeer antlers, or spend some time in Arktikum, the city’s leading museum — all of which I did.
But when the opportunity to go trekking through the woods with some husky puppies presented itself, I knew I had just hit upon something extraordinarily memorable. Read more >