One of the lessons the pandemic has given to society is that our lives can change from one day to the next. The change can be forced by something external, in this case a virus, but it can also come from the inside. Given the urgency to curb emissions, both travelers and destinations ought to think better what place tourism has in our lives, and the effects our traveling decisions have on the planet.
Some destinations have seen the need to mitigate climate change as an opportunity to do things in a smarter way, more sustainable. The city of Helsinki wants to become the most functional city in the world, to adapt to the changing climate and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. To that end, the city has invested in the development of the Think Sustainably digital service, which provides residents, visitors and business owners with practical tools to rethink their daily behavior and make more sustainable lifestyle and business decisions. Winner of the prestigious Place Marketing Award 2021 in the category for Tourism, the Think Sustainably service helps to choose more sustainable ways of living in Helsinki and enjoying the city.
Users can find restaurants, shops, events, experiences and accommodation, each benchmarked against tailor-made criteria developed by the City of Helsinki in collaboration with the independent think tank Demos Helsinki, local interest groups and sustainability experts. The service also includes a route planner feature that enables choosing emission-free transportation options to the wide variety of experiences on offer in the city.
Are you dreaming of long summer days under a pristine Nordic sky, of the possibility to experience innovative design and architecture, a sober yet daring cuisine, all with a renewed sustainable spirit, then Helsinki ought to be on your radar. Below you’ll find a proposed itinerary for a weekend full of sustainable discoveries.
Have breakfast at the Scandic Grand Central Helsinki, which will both delight your taste buds as much as your eyes. It is hotel in an art nouveau building of historical value, designed by Eliel Saarinen. Centrally located at Helsinki Railway Station, it was completed in 1909. In addition to the charming restaurant ambiance, the covered terrace in the hotel’s courtyard provides space for spending time in the best spot of the city. The Grand Ballroom, the hotel’s thrilling banquet hall, provides timeless elegance and glamour for unforgettable events for up to 500 people.
Go for an easy stroll and learn about the unique character of Helsinki. The guided walking tour will introduce you to the main attractions of Helsinki as well as to some of the hot spots of the local design scene, plus the diverse urban settings and venues that the city has to offer. You will also discover a few delicious secrets of Helsinki’s food culture.
If you feel that your glucose level has gone done, make a quick pit stop at the Way Bakery, not far from the Karhupuisto park in Kallio. Sourdough bread, pastries and coffee, as well as natural wines and food based on the best organic produce. You’ll have difficulties choosing only one.
Hop on the ferry to visit the Suomenlinna, the small islet off of the coast of Helsinki. The first thing that will get your attention is the impressive defensive construction on site, which is one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site. Suomenlinna is not only an important part of the history of Finland, but also a lively district of Helsinki, which offers something for everyone: nature, culture and history.
To end your day on a high note, dare to be like a Finn and relax in the public sauna in Helsinki, located on the island of Lonna, which you can easily reach on a short ferry ride. In the 1880s, Lonna island was used by the Russian Navy to store mines, while in the 1920s it was used as a base for clearing mines. In the post-war period ships were demagnetized there. In May of 2014, a trendy café and restaurant was opened in a charming red brick building. Today, Lonna is a recreational island with restaurant, bar and since May 2017 a public sauna. Don’t forget to take your own swimsuits with you.
Start your day by having breakfast at Relove Stockmann. Enjoy the smell of freshly brewed coffee while admiring the unique and colorful setting. Relove has been an inspiring pioneer in the sale of second hand products since 2016, when the first shop was established in the heart of urban Töölö. Experientialism and unhurriedness are Relove’s most important values, which are also emphasized in the atmosphere of the café. Relove chooses primary producers as well as more environmentally friendly options.
In the morning you’ll be dazzled by Amos Rex, a new type of museum in the heart of Helsinki. A protean space that can readily take on various forms, Amos Rex is open to experimentation and new forms of collaboration. The new museum, designed by architectural firm JKMM, connects to a functional style building from 1930’s called Lasipalatsi. The old “Glass Palace” will retain its distinctive character while the adjacent Lasipalatsi square will undergo considerable modernization. In connection with the construction of the art museum, the protected building has been gently renovated to its original glory.
After a quick stop at Amos Rex’s souvenir shop, head to Oodi, Helsinki’s new Central Library and a living meeting place on the Kansalaistori Square. Oodi is a venue for events, a house of reading and a diverse urban experience. It will provide its users with knowledge, new skills and stories, and will be an easy place to access for learning, story immersion, work and relaxation. Oodi is a library of a new era, a living and functional meeting place open for all. The library is designed by Finnish Architect studio ALA Architects, awarded in the 2020 Detail Prize for it’s outstanding design.
Recharge your batteries at Pikku Finlandia (Little Finlandia) and have lunch at the Finlandia Cafe&Wine. You’ll be able to admire the world known architectural piece with all its unique design details. The building is a masterpiece of the circular economy and wooden construction. Little Finlandia offers top-class services and catering. It invites guests to enjoy experiences, take their creativity and imagination to a new level. Visitors will draw inspiration from the peace and quiet of the Töölö Bay.
After lunch, prepare yourself for some Finnish fashion immersion and head to ‘Garden – Center for Finnish Fashion’. Located in the Kämp Galleria, Garden showcases the best of Finnish fashion for both Helsinki locals and visitors. The brands Arela, Samuji, Terhi Pölkki, éN Hats, Hálo and Nomen Nescio have opened their own shops in the centre. Garden also hosts the natural cosmetics brand Jolie and Tre Gallery & Books, with a book and magazine selection curated by the independent Helsinki bookstore Nide. Tre Gallery & Books host an assortment of shop-in-shops to the venue, with Klaus Haapaniemi as the first of these. Several events are often held there such as fashion shows, presentations, discussions, sales events and guided tours of Finnish fashion. The first fashion gallery in town, Garden Room, highlights young designers and rising talents.
In the late afternoon, take a moment to visit Kiasma, a museum of contemporary art under the umbrella of the Finnish National Gallery. The museum hosts changing exhibitions and is constantly expanding its collection; there’s also research and presentation of the works. The primary focus in the museum collection is on Finnish contemporary art. The collection is presented to the public in annually changing thematic exhibitions, and is supplemented by commissioning new work.
You cannot leave Helsinki without having dinner at Nolla restaurant. Nolla (‘zero’ in Finnish), is the first zero-waste restaurant in the Nordic countries. It offers experiences based on the best, local and organic produce, without waste. The idea of a zero-waste restaurant was born out of Nolla’s frustration in the wastefulness of the restaurant industry. The creators strongly believe that the contemporary waste management practices of the industry are outdated, and they wanted to do something about it. The dinning experience will be unforgettable.