Fantastic Four: Helsinki hotspots
With direct flights now operating from Dublin to Helsinki, the Finnish capital is set to become a popular destination for Irish visitors.
Where: Central Helsinki
Why: Design is taken very seriously in Finland, so leave space in your suitcase for some key pieces to take home. You'll find an interiors shop on almost every street in the city, but the finest are clustered in the Design District. The area takes in roughly 200 different spots, including fashion boutiques, jewellers and museums. Check out the bright patterns of Marimekko for bold clothes and accessories, or pick up some classic tableware in Iittala (above).
How: Pick up a Design District map to find all of the store details.
Where: Sibelius Park, Töölö
Why: 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, with concerts and festivals shaping up all over the country in celebration. But whenever you visit, you'll find the Sibelius Monument in the pretty waterside area of Töölö. Unveiled in 1967, it's made out of 600 pipes, which to some resemble a musical score (though others see an organ, or a glacier). The best viewpoint is from below - look up at the sky through the pipes themselves.
How: The monument is around a 30-minute walk from the city centre.
Why: Street food festivals are hardly unique nowadays, but Restaurant Day has a pretty nifty edge. Held four times a year, the 'food carnival' allows anyone to sell their wares - not just restaurateurs and chefs. So you might buy a blueberry pie from a grandma, for example, in a makeshift restaurant she's created in her front room. People set up restaurants all over Helsinki, from city parks to spots by the waterside. Though the concept began in Finland, Restaurant Days are now held all over the world.
How: Restaurant Day, May 16.
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Why: Helsinki has just gotten an awful lot easier to get to, thanks to new direct flights from Dublin with Finnair. There's plenty to see in the city, but if you get lucky with a sunny day, take the ferry to the sea fortress of Suomenlinna for a stroll around the islands. You'll find ancient bunkers, quaint wooden houses and a striking church - book a walking tour to discover the island's secrets.
How: Finnair (finnair.com) operates six flights a week to Helsinki, from €159 return.
See: suomenlinna.fi, visitfinland.com
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