How to enjoy Helsinki like a local

The locals tell me Helsinki – with its mix of vibrant city life and natural surroundings – looks vastly different from season to season.

When I visited it was winter and the city was coated in snow and the sea was frozen making it seem like land and the ocean were as one.

Helsinki is quite the winter wonderland. But life very much goes on – all around people are enjoying the outdoors, motorists take to snow-covered roads and I even came across a street which had underfloor heating which meant I could safely do a bit of shopping!

This is a city that has a vibrant heart full of Scandi-cool design shops and great cafes and restaurants. It is really easy to get around – just hop on one of the city’s trams.

Helsinki’s archipelago consists of over 300 islands, making it a destination that offers an accessible mix of city centre buzz and stunning natural surroundings. As I venture to the outskirts for a few hours away from the hustle and bustle just like the locals do I’m told this is a city that looks vastly different according to the seasons.

When rivers and sea melt the beautiful outskirts of Helsinki become a relaxing retreat. Here locals put away their skis and snowshoes and go bike riding, enjoy picnics, go fishing and take boat trips.

You will find plenty of things to see and do whatever the season making it a great year round destination.

Take a sauna: No trip to Finland is complete without a sauna. Most homes seem to have them and they can be found in public buildings, hotels and sports centres. Even in the midst of winter I’m persuaded it’s a great thing to do.

Enjoy Helsinki’s design culture: This is a city renowned for its design and you will find plenty of fertile hunting ground whether you are looking for jewellery, vintage or antique pieces, interiors or clothing. Although some of the items that you covert may not come cheap – but there’s no harm in looking is there? The city has its own design district which is also home to many bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

Get out and about and enjoy nature: The forests of the Central Park begin close to the city centre. It has plenty of walking trails and jogging paths; some become ski trails in winter and many locals journey through the Central Park as part of their commute. Or take a trip to one of the city’s islands.

Visit Uspenski Cathedral: This orthodox cathedral is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian effect on Finland’s history. With its onion domes it is a well-known landmark which sits on a hillside overlooking the city and the harbour.