Founded by the Swedish King, Gustavus Vasa, in 1550, Helsinki was ruled for several centuries by the Swiss until Finland was conquered by Russia in 1809. It wasn’t until more than 100 years later did the country become independent in 1917, the same year that Helsinki became the capital.

Fast-forward to another hundred years, and the city has become a vibrant seaside destination known for its gorgeous coastline, fantastic saunas, amazing eateries, modern designers and urban culture. So for those of you venturing out to this Nordic city, here are some of our favorite spots we recommend you check out the next time you’re in Helsinki.

Löyly Sauna

Finns love their saunas, and it’s something you should definitely experience if you’re in Helsinki. Although there are a ton of saunas to choose from, one that we recommend is Löyly. The building, which only uses solar and wind power, offers three different saunas heated with wood, a spa area, fireplace, and a restaurant serving “organic food and sustainable caught fish”. If you’re here during the summer, you can also swim in the ocean, and if you’re here during the winter, you can swim in the hole they created in the ice called “avanto”.

Winter World Helsinki

Experience an ice world like you’ve never seen before at Winter World. It’s a little city built indoors entirely out of snow and ice and is perfect for all ages. Visitors can enjoy kick sledding, sliding down a hill, making and seeing ice sculptures and snow igloos, drinking (ages 18+) and more. Their season begins in May and goes on through the end of August, which is when they are open every day for everyone. From September to April, Winter World is only open for groups of 20 people or more, by reservation only. Don’t forget to bring your warmest coat!

Hakaniemi Market Hall

Hakaniemi Market Hall is an authentic Finnish market that’s been opened for more than a century. The market offers visitors fresh pastries, bread, fish, seafood soup, glögi and other delicious eats from different stalls. Aside from food, there are also vendors selling unique gifts, souvenirs, handmade items and various gifts to bring back home. It’s currently under renovation, but the vendors have moved over to a temporary market hall right next door. Hakaniemi Market Hall is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday through Friday, and 8am to 6pm on Saturday. It’s closed on Sunday.

Burgher’s House Museum

This small little wooden house is the oldest standing building in Helsinki that was built around 1818. Once belonged to a sailor’s wife, it’s now a museum known as Burgher’s House Museum. Entry is free and the museum is open on different days depending on the season, so make sure to check out their calendar if you do decide to stop by. The museum features furniture and a lifestyle setup that depicts what life would have been like by those living in the house during that time period. It’s a nice bit of history that you won’t find anywhere else in the city.

Liberty or Death

Looking to go somewhere a bit out of the ordinary in the evening? Then Liberty or Death may be exactly what you need after a day of exploring. This funky bar located downtown Helsinki is fun yet small, perfect for those who don’t want to go anywhere rowdy to grab a good drink. Liberty or Death offers some of the best cocktails around and has an enjoyable atmosphere for those that are with friends or a date. It’s one of the best places to kick back and relax.

Helsinki is a gem of a city, and it’s all about the experiences versus the sites. From the food to the culture, the city is full of little surprises that will make you fall in love with Helsinki if you haven’t already.

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