Helsinki, Finland

Help Yourself to Helsinki! Europe’s capitals are mostly all cultural hotspots, but even amongst them Helsinki stands tall. Perfect for lovers of the art and for those who appreciate really good architecture. Sporting both old and new buildings — all done in an impeccable style — Helsinki is a feast for the eyes and more.

Helsinki was actually founded by the King of Sweden, before it was incorporated into Finland. As a result, the Neoclassical section of the city has a pretty similar vibe to that of Sweden. That means wide boulevards and open spaces, a bustling harbor, and a compact layout that is easily reachable by foot or by bike.

While the heart of Helsinki effortlessly keeps up with the times, the rest of it still has a charming blend of the old and the new. The islands of Suomenlinna, for example, still sports the fortifications of the Sveabord (“Swedish Castle”). Set foot here and you will feel that you’ve stepped into a different time period, but it’s just a 20-minute boat ride away. All you have to do is to look at the skyline and you’ll see the modern spires jutting out into the blue.

There’s also the colorful marketplace (the Kauppatori) which also serves as the main square. The stately buildings are filled with people of all races, enjoying the sights and the sapphire blue of the Baltic Sea on which the venue rests. Other notable examples of architecture include the Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, and the magnificent Sibelius Monument.

For a sneak peek into Finnish rural life of old, look no further than the open-air museum of Seurasaari island, offering well-preserved structures from way back to the 1600s. You can also get to watch traditional Finnish weaving here.

Helsinki as a whole is a sight to behold, so don’t be afraid to wander and get lost!