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travel guide: postcards from Helsinki

Travel: postcards from Helsinki

This year Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence and what perfect excuse to visit its beautiful, harbour-side capital, Helsinki. Just before Christmas last year I headed there for a work trip, I’d been once before in the summer, but this time the white skies seemed to bring out the earthy tones of the buildings and the low sunshine cast long shadows across the cobbled streets. It was certainly crisp and cold, but cosy dips into coffee shops and boutiques thawed the toes and warmed the soul. Slightly overshadowed in many ways by its Scandinavian cousins Stockholm and Copenhagen, it’s taken time for the Finnish city to find its own identity. The country was first governed by Sweden, and then by the Russians, so the city’s architecture sits somewhere in-between east and west, Europe and the Baltics – its neoclassical buildings and long boulevards bear influences from Leningrad and Moscow, while the cathedral was modelled on St Petersburg’s. In the 20th century it was Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto that helped put the city on the map, from Saarinen’s art …