Helsinki – a little bit Baltic, a little bit Scandinavian. The feeling in this little city is a unique one, which doesn't quite fit into a cookie cutter mould. Helsinki is often relegated to merely a day trip due to its compact-size and port, but to whizz around it in only 24/48 hours would be a mistake. But more on that to come in the Helsinki City Guide. If you really don't have much time though, then at least make sure that your short stay takes place over the 1st May bank holiday weekend. Why? Well, here's 10 reasons for a start:
1. PROSECCO BY THE BEACH - YES, YOU HEARD ME
On 1st May the whole of Helsinki packs up the bubbly stuff and heads to the seaside to celebrate the arrival of spring. Don't question why, just do.
2. SAILOR HATS GALORE
Sailor hats signify graduating high school and/or university in Finland. It's traditional on 1st May weekend to flaunt that fact, so don't be surprised to see a sea of white sailor hats wherever you go.
3. PICNICS IN THE PARK
As well as the Prosecco, it's tradition to picnic with loved ones and munch on yummy things. Just because you're travelling solo doesn't mean you have to miss out though – join the throngs of people hanging out in the park and you're bound to make some new Finnish friends.
4. RAIN, SNOW, SUNSHINE – EXPERIENCE 3 SEASONS IN A DAY (PROBABLY)
Just because it's May doesn't mean that the sun will shine. In fact, the in-joke between most Finns is that it wouldn't be May weekend without a little mix of rain, snow and sunshine in a mere 24-hour (or even 2-hour) window.
5. THERE'S A MOOMIN CAFE – NO EXPLANATION NEEDED
I said it already: no explanation needed.
6. JOIN THE STUDENTS ON THE HILL AS THEY PARTY AWAY THE WEEKEND IN OVERALLS
Multicoloured overalls will adorn most of the twenty-year olds you see during this weekend. Why? Well, like the hat, it's tradition. Plus, apparently it saves their clothes from all the beer stains bound to occur across the weekend (handy eh?)
7. WARM UP IN A FINNISH SAUNA AND THEN BRAVE THE ICY SPRING SEA
Visiting Finland without experiencing Finnish sauna culture would be a travesty: so drop your trousers, grab a towel and head to your nearest local one. I should mention that those three things should be done in the opposite order to which I listed them.
8. MAKE LIKE THE FINNISH – EAT A CINNAMON BUN AND JUST CONTEMPLATE LIFE
In Finland Fika is sacred (time for coffee and cake). So make sure you don't offend and grab yourself some caffeine and something sweet to while away a few hours.
9. BE DARING AND DEVOUR RUDOLF (AND HIS FRIENDS) AT THE MAY FOOD MARKET
Yes, I'm serious, Reindeer is on the menu.
10. ADMIRE THE CATHEDRAL - YES IT'S TRADITIONAL TOURISTIC SIGHTSEEING, BUT IT'S WORTH IT
And while you're doing so, get planning your summer visit.