12hrs in Helsinki
12hrs in Helsinki


Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is situated on the shore of the Gulf of Helsinki, an arm of the Baltic Sea.

Good to know: Helsinki is the only city in Finland that has trams and subway trains.
More women than men live in Helsinki. Females make up 53% of the population.
The city was founded by a Swede, King Gustavus Vasa.

Population (metro area): 1.4 million
Currency: Euro (€)
Language: Finnish & Swedish


Can cities be trendy? Countries? Whole regions even? We think so. Case in point: Scandinavia. It seems like everybody looks to that Northern part of Europe right now, searching for inspiration. Many things make this area of the world special: The minimalist fashion. The smart furniture design. Exceptional food. But also the collective countries' take on big issues like feminism and culture and welfare.

Dressing, decorating and eating like a Scandinavian is all the rage from Berlin to Brooklyn, and so is visiting the friendly Europeans way up North. The two most obvious destinations that are all the rage are of course Copenhagen and Stockholm. But there surely must be more?

Oh yes, there is! A bit further up north and to the east, Finland lays quietly, waiting for us to discover it.

A quick look on Momondo, one of our favorite flight search engines, revealed lots of direct connections. We compared prices on the website, picked our favorite offer and just booked. None of the 12hrs team had ever been to Helsinki or even Finland, so we had a lot of catching up to.

Rounds of research left us a bit cold. There were a few sights in the city that everybody seemed to recommend, but not a whole lot more. Reading up on a destination can tell you a lot about it (after all, that's why we write these travel guides). But no amount of research can ever live up to the actual experience.

So while our first impression of Helsinki from afar was a bit lackluster, our idea of the city changed rapidly after just a few hours in the Finnish capital. What an amazing city! Being in Helsinki feels like a perfect blend of Scandinavia in one city. It's clearly a Northern town, surrounded by wild nature and lots of open water. Citizens have a mindful eye on design and especially architecture. There is a sense of community there that is quite hard to describe. People are extremely welcoming and friendly, and that weird, weird language is no barrier at all, since almost everyone speaks fluent English (and perfect Swedish, if that is your thing).

If you feel for exploring Scandinavia and haven't made your mind up yet where to start, consider going off the beaten path and visiting Helsinki instead of the more obvious destinations in Denmark or Sweden. You'll have a blast, a lot to tell your loved ones back at home, and we promise you won't regret it. Now let's crawl out of bed, check the weather (sunscreen or a scarf? maybe both!) and get going. In summer it's light here well into the night, so we have a long and wonderful day ahead of us. Let's spend 12hrs in Helsinki!