The tales of the land of the midnight sun was told over a coffee in Primrose Hill on a bitterly cold February morning, by Shosh, the owner of Fuse Communications. The half Finnish PR genius told me vividly about her fond childhood memories and Summers spent in Finland. By the end of it I was ready to run home and plan my a trip for the family!
The Midnight Sun captured by Shosh on holiday
I have to admit my vested interest in Finland as I am actually half Finnish. It seems like Finland is one of those countries you don’t tend to visit unless you have a reason to but once you’re there, you wonder why you didn’t visit earlier!
Shosh as a child, on one of many summer holidays in Finland
What to bring?
Unless you’re accustomed to the Nordic climate, I would definitely recommend visiting Finland during the summer months. My absolute favourite time to visit is during Midsummer (21 June) when the country experiences almost 24 hours of daylight. It’s quite a unique phenomenon and you need to see it to believe it! It’s hard to imagine a country which is so totally immersed in darkness during winter, experiencing such long light days during the summer months, but it is truly magical!
So, in terms of what to pack, as you should definitely make your first visit to Finland a summer trip. A practical wardrobe is definitely all you need and comfortable shoes, particularly as the pavements in Helsinki are all cobbled, so if you do bring high heels make sure they are wedges! It can be lovely and warm in summer and is often warmer than the UK. It’s also usually sunnier than it is here so you’ll be surprised at how little you actually need to bring with you!
What’s the first thing you do?
My first stop is always Spice Ice, a Finnish ice cream chain for some ‘Softis’. ‘Pehmis’ and ‘Softis’ are two brands of soft ice cream, which is pretty much a national obsession.
Finns eat ice cream at all times of the year and even manage to enjoy their ice cream during the bitter winter months thanks to the underground network of shops and restaurants in Helsinki. The Finns literally go underground during winter and do everything from eat out and shop in these underground shopping networks.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
I would spend a couple of days in Helsinki and walk around the city centre or hire a bike as the city is a lot more geared up for cyclists (whilst Finland is three times larger than the UK, the total population is only 5 million in total!). The harbour is a lovely spot in Helsinki to people watch, take a boat trip around the islands or visit the Russian Church.
Print art postcards of Helsinki, by muumuru.com
I would then escape the city and hire a summer house in the countryside for a few days to really immerse yourself in the local culture. My uncle has a summer house in a charming village called Matilda Dahl near a town called Salo which is only 90 minutes from Helsinki by train. Most Finns own a summer house which they tend to visit most week ends and holidays. They tend to be located near one of the many lakes and forests and are magical places for both kids and grown ups. Days are long and you can spend quality time catching up on reading, taking a row boat out on the lake and having a quick dip before warming up in the sauna. I love taking long walks in the forests and foraging for chanterelle mushrooms (only if it’s been raining) or even hunting out wild strawberries that look like red jewels hidden on the ground. You can also find blueberries growing wild which taste nothing like the blueberries we’re used to in the UK.
A berry that is indigenous to Finland is the cloudberry which looks like a yellow blackberry. These berries have a very short season and are notoriously hard to find but are well worth the hunt as they taste like nectar! If you can’t track any cloudberries down, you can always cheat by buying a bottle of Cloudberry liquor at the duty free on your way home!
This sounds like a random suggestion but I would also recommend a visit to the beautiful Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki. It is serene, beautiful and immaculate and a surprisingly uplifting place. The cemetery is situated by a beach which is popular with the young locals and after a contemplative walk it’s nice to kick back and relax on the sand at the beach.
Where’s the best place to stay and where to eat when in Helsinki?
Hotel Kamp is Helsinki’s only 5 star hotel which is located on the Espalande which is one of Helsinki’s main shopping streets. A slightly cheaper option is Hotel Glo which is owned by the Kamp and is actually part of the same building so you benefit from the great location but at a cheaper rate. The Kamp has a great restaurant with outdoor seating and if you’re there on the first Friday of the month during summer, grab a seat and enjoy a parade of 1950s American cars.
The main harbour in Helsinki has a great indoor and outdoor food market which is the perfect destination to try the local specialities. During summer, Finns love to munch raw peas which grow in abundance in the country. They don’t cook them and the sweet peas make a delicious snack. Strawberries are also super sweet and can be found on all the market stalls. You buy them by the litre and they are delicious served with white ice cream. Other local specialities are the Karelian Pies which are delicious savoury cakes made using rye flower and filled with potato or rice. They are unique to Finland and are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are delicious served with butter and egg mayo! Finnish coffee is delicious and the perfect accompaniment is a cinnamon bun which is locally called Korvapuusti. Robert’s Coffee is Finland’s equivalent to Starbucks and they have locations throughout Helsinki and it’s all about their filter coffee. Fish is delicious and incredibly fresh in Finland and the Finns love smoked fish. Try ‘Lohi’ if you can which is a hot smoked salmon which can be eaten hot or cold.
Finnair serve their Business class Finnish specialities on board featuring Marimekko tableware
What to avoid when in Finland?
Try to avoid the mosquitos if you can! As Finland is known as the land of the lakes, this means that mosquitos are abundant during Summer!
What to bring home?
Finland is known for it’s incredible design and if you’re there during summer, you’ll also be there during the sales which helps as Finland isn’t the cheapest country in Europe. There are Iittala and Marimekko shops throughout Finland where you can pick up great homewares, textiles and clothes but if you fancy a bargain you can also look out for Stockmann outlets throughout Finland. Stockmann is Helsinki’s equivalent to Selfridges and their outlets often sell Iittala and Marimekko seconds at discounted prices.
Fazer is Finland’s equivalent to Cadbury and their chocolate is delicious! There’s a Fazer shop just off the Esplanade near Hotel Kamp which has mini versions of all its chocolates so you can try all the flavours before you decide!
See more of the land of the Midnight Sun at VisitFinland
Fuse Communications is a boutique PR agency specialising in fashion and lifestyle brands. Clients include Coco de Mer and Italian jewellery brand Nomination and her children’s brands include Danish kids brand Mini A Ture, online kids concept store Little Fashion Gallery, US swaddling brand aden + anais, the Step2wo children’s concessions in Selfridges & Harvey Nichols, Anorak Magazine and many more. fusecommunications.co.uk