Say hello to artistic Helsinki: Where to dine, shop and explore in the Finnish capital

Hockey fans flocked to Helsinki for the 2022 IIHF World Championship this May, but the Finnish capital is always a magnet for lovers of Nordic cuisine, cutting-edge fashion and artistic innovation. Over the years, I’ve travelled to Helsinki more than 20 times to cover hockey games or visit family, and on my latest trip, the city of 650,000 reinvigorated me with its brisk Baltic Sea breeze and stony, stark beauty. It’s awash in architectural showpieces, from neo-classical to art nouveau, beautifully balancing tradition with modernity.Stroll past the green-domed, 1852-built Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, enjoy coffee and chocolate at the harbourside Old Market Hall, or shop the main street of Mannerheimintie for local labels, including Moomin cartoon-themed running shoes at Karhu and sea-inspired streetwear at Makia. It’s easy to get around on foot, the excellent Metro or even the rentable e-scooters.For Finnish fine dining: Ateljé Finne (Arkadiankatu 14)Johan Gunnar Finne was just 66 when he died in 1952, but the award-winning sculptor’s legacy lives on at Ateljé Finne, where Finnish ingredients inspire seasonal dishes in his former studio. A classic red neon “Ravintola” (“Restaurant”) sign greets diners, and Finne’s carvings of stoic male and female nudes adorn the white-painted brick walls. From a melt-in-your-mouth reindeer Wallenberg — encased in thin pastry and served with cherry tomatoes and greens — to an oat cookie with hyssop ice cream and dried raspberries, the food delights at every turn.For a cool cafe with amazing architecture: Pikku-Finlandia (Karamzininranta 4)While architect Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall, the legendary conference hall on Töölö Bay, is under renovation through 2024, you can visit the landmark’s new sibling. Lapland-raised architect Jaakko Torvinen designed neighbouring Pikku-Finlandia (“Little Finlandia”) as a temporary alternative — it’ll later be relocated and converted into a school. The forest-inspired building, spanning more than 24,700 square feet and made with 95 Scotch pine pillars, opened in March and features an airy cafe with floor-to-ceiling windows. Lunch on chef Mika Jokela’s revitalizing dishes, such as smoked pike with potatoes or anise fennel soup.For a boutique fashion foray: Klaus Haapaniemi & Co. (Pohjoisesplanadi 33)Tucked away on the second floor of Kämp Garden, Klaus Haapaniemi’s eponymous flagship boutique offers whimsical textiles and home decor. The collection — mostly silk, velvet and linen — blends the designer’s childlike love of nature with a psychedelic flair. Highlights include his cushions with a red whale soaring through outer space and the Taika Blue Owl plates, a collaboration with iconic Finnish tableware maker Iittala. Haapaniemi also teamed up with Icelandic pop star Björk to design furniture for her summer house.For a futuristic library experience: Oodi (Töölönlahdenkatu 4)Made of curved glass, Finnish spruce and steel arches, Helsinki’s 2018-opened central library spans 185,600 square feet and cost 98 million euros ($132 million). But never mind the numbers: It’s the remarkably playful vibe that makes Oodi worth visiting. You might spot two girls playing a Nintendo Switch game with VR headsets in a glass cubicle, or Veera — one of Oodi’s three mobile robots — trundling out of an elevator with books. Otto Karvonen’s spiral staircase — adorned with words welcoming such diverse groups as “masochists,” “visionaries” and “tourists” — is among the many design highlights. A third-floor terrace offers a sweeping view of Kansalaistori Square.For a new hub of modern dance: Tanssin Talo (Kaapeliaukio 3)The Cable Factory has housed everything from rubber and marine cable manufacturing in the 1940s to the Helsinki Coffee Festival, held annually. Now, the latest creative tenant to occupy the capacious, revitalized waterfront building is Tanssin Talo (Dance House Helsinki), which launched in February and joins the on-site museums dedicated to hotels, theatre and Finnish photography. At Finland’s first purpose-built modern dance facility, events have ranged from new West African dance choreography to spoken-word performances by soon-to-be-released prisoners, set to live flamenco music.Writer Lucas Aykroyd travelled as a guest of Helsinki Partners, which did not review or approve this article.SHARE:JOIN THE CONVERSATION Anyone can read Conversations, but to contribute, you should be registered Torstar account holder. If you do not yet have a Torstar account, you can create one now (it is free)Sign InRegisterConversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

Say hello to artistic Helsinki: Where to dine, shop and explore in the Finnish capital

Hockey fans flocked to Helsinki for the 2022 IIHF World Championship this May, but the Finnish capital is always a magnet for lovers of Nordic cuisine, cutting-edge fashion and artistic innovation. Over the years, I’ve travelled to Helsinki more than 20 times to cover hockey games or visit family, and on my latest trip, the city of 650,000 reinvigorated me with its brisk Baltic Sea breeze and stony, stark beauty. It’s awash in architectural showpieces, from neo-classical to art nouveau, beautifully balancing tradition with modernity.

Stroll past the green-domed, 1852-built Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, enjoy coffee and chocolate at the harbourside Old Market Hall, or shop the main street of Mannerheimintie for local labels, including Moomin cartoon-themed running shoes at Karhu and sea-inspired streetwear at Makia. It’s easy to get around on foot, the excellent Metro or even the rentable e-scooters.

Art by the late Johan Gunnar Finne adorns the walls at Ateljé Finne, a restaurant in his former studio.

For Finnish fine dining: Ateljé Finne (Arkadiankatu 14)

Johan Gunnar Finne was just 66 when he died in 1952, but the award-winning sculptor’s legacy lives on at Ateljé Finne, where Finnish ingredients inspire seasonal dishes in his former studio. A classic red neon “Ravintola” (“Restaurant”) sign greets diners, and Finne’s carvings of stoic male and female nudes adorn the white-painted brick walls. From a melt-in-your-mouth reindeer Wallenberg — encased in thin pastry and served with cherry tomatoes and greens — to an oat cookie with hyssop ice cream and dried raspberries, the food delights at every turn.

For a cool cafe with amazing architecture: Pikku-Finlandia (Karamzininranta 4)

While architect Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall, the legendary conference hall on Töölö Bay, is under renovation through 2024, you can visit the landmark’s new sibling. Lapland-raised architect Jaakko Torvinen designed neighbouring Pikku-Finlandia (“Little Finlandia”) as a temporary alternative — it’ll later be relocated and converted into a school. The forest-inspired building, spanning more than 24,700 square feet and made with 95 Scotch pine pillars, opened in March and features an airy cafe with floor-to-ceiling windows. Lunch on chef Mika Jokela’s revitalizing dishes, such as smoked pike with potatoes or anise fennel soup.

Find whimsical textiles at the flagship boutique of Finnish designer Klaus Haapaniemi.

For a boutique fashion foray: Klaus Haapaniemi & Co. (Pohjoisesplanadi 33)

Tucked away on the second floor of Kämp Garden, Klaus Haapaniemi’s eponymous flagship boutique offers whimsical textiles and home decor. The collection — mostly silk, velvet and linen — blends the designer’s childlike love of nature with a psychedelic flair. Highlights include his cushions with a red whale soaring through outer space and the Taika Blue Owl plates, a collaboration with iconic Finnish tableware maker Iittala. Haapaniemi also teamed up with Icelandic pop star Björk to design furniture for her summer house.

Oodi is Helsinki's central library and an architecturally impressive landmark.

For a futuristic library experience: Oodi (Töölönlahdenkatu 4)

Made of curved glass, Finnish spruce and steel arches, Helsinki’s 2018-opened central library spans 185,600 square feet and cost 98 million euros ($132 million). But never mind the numbers: It’s the remarkably playful vibe that makes Oodi worth visiting. You might spot two girls playing a Nintendo Switch game with VR headsets in a glass cubicle, or Veera — one of Oodi’s three mobile robots — trundling out of an elevator with books. Otto Karvonen’s spiral staircase — adorned with words welcoming such diverse groups as “masochists,” “visionaries” and “tourists” — is among the many design highlights. A third-floor terrace offers a sweeping view of Kansalaistori Square.

The lobby of Tanssin Talo, Finland's first purpose-built modern dance facility.

For a new hub of modern dance: Tanssin Talo (Kaapeliaukio 3)

The Cable Factory has housed everything from rubber and marine cable manufacturing in the 1940s to the Helsinki Coffee Festival, held annually. Now, the latest creative tenant to occupy the capacious, revitalized waterfront building is Tanssin Talo (Dance House Helsinki), which launched in February and joins the on-site museums dedicated to hotels, theatre and Finnish photography. At Finland’s first purpose-built modern dance facility, events have ranged from new West African dance choreography to spoken-word performances by soon-to-be-released prisoners, set to live flamenco music.