“Don’t try Helsinki in the off season, no matter what the brochures say,” is the first bit of advice R. W. Apple Jr. gives in his article Helsinki’s Shining Season. Finland’s capital, during high summer, is the place to be. This New York Times Travel writer englightens us on what Helsinki has to offer.
“Seen at its radiant best, Helsinki can be hypnotic. It has held me in its thrall for decades with its genius for modern design, displayed in textiles by Marimekko, ceramics by Arabia and glassware by Iittala, created by the likes of Kaj Franck, Timo Sarpaneva, Tapio Wirkkala, Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen, to say nothing of those nifty orange-handled scissors made by Fiskars. Some names are less familiar than they should be — Aalto stands, in my view at least, with Wright, Mies and Le Corbusier at the apex of 20th-century architecture — but certainly not through any fault of their own.
Helsinki may be the world’s second most northerly capital city, after Reykjavik, and it may be lapped by the Baltic, but it can feel almost Mediterranean on a fine August day, with soft, golden light bathing the pastel-colored Italianate buildings around Senate Square, a legacy from Russian rule in the 19th century, and ferries, cruise ships and trawlers filling in a lively marine backdrop.
The truly keen will be rewarded by exploring the streets north of Senate Square [pictured here], where dealers like Kaunus Arki and Vanhaa ja Kaunista sell objects from the golden age of Finnish design.”