Each and every season in Finland is nothing short of a dreamscape, whether you’re leaf-peeping in the heart of Helsinki or conquering the snow in the quiet wilderness of the Finnish Lapland. In fact, seeing the best of both worlds within one trip is the way to go, especially for the traveler who appreciates a good change of scenery. Here’s our ideal long weekend in Finland for lovers of both urban life and the great outdoors.
Where to Stay:
When in Helsinki, stay at Hotel U14, a 117-room family-owned boutique hotel located in the waterfront Kaartinkaupunki neighborhood. Between the prime location, eclectic design, spacious rooms and excellent food and drink programs, you’ll feel right at home while just steps away from some of the city’s best sights, shopping destinations and restaurants.
No trip to Finland is complete without a visit to Levi in the heart of the Lapland, the country’s northernmost region where, if you’re lucky, you can see a stunning Northern Lights display in the crisp, clear blackness of night. While you’re here, Design Hotel Levi and Golden Crown Levin Iglut are two exceptional places to stay—both properties are designed to showcase the breathtaking nature that surrounds them. The latter, as you might have guessed, has a steadily-growing fleet of glass igloos that are absolutely worth booking during your stay, even if just for one night under the stars.
Where to Eat:
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Restaurant Version serves sustainably-minded Scandinavian-Californian fare made using fresh, local ingredients and, at the bar, you can expect a quirky-yet-approachable wine list alongside creative craft cocktails. Nearby, Restaurant Alexanderplats, Nolla and Finnjävel are not to be missed.
In Levi, King Crab House is a must for fresh Arctic seafood, from the featured catch of the week to, of course, live king crab. While in the area, be sure to reserve a table at the Golden Crown’s Restaurant Utsu, where guests seated on the upper level can lean back in their chairs to gaze up at the sky through the building’s specially-designed glass roof before heading back to their igloos for the night. And, if you happen to be visiting during ski season, spend some time lounging in at least one of Levi’s numerous slopeside restaurants, cafés or bars. Most importantly, don’t leave without tossing back a mug or two of hot chocolate spiked with Finnish peppermint liqueur Minttu (trust us on that).
What to Do:
Sauna is an absolute essential when visiting Finland in any capacity. Helsinki is full of fun and unique sauna and spa experiences, including a highly exclusive Burger King sauna as well as one inside a cabin on an active Ferris wheel, though Löyly was by far our top pick. When you’re ready to retox, swing by The Helsinki Distilling Co. for a tour, tasting and food and drinks. Skiing is one of Levi’s most popular wintertime activities and, for good reason—the slopes, which are generally open from October to May, are pristinely manicured with various terrains for skiers of all levels. If you venture outside of Levi, the Tonttula Elves Village is a fun year-round attraction for families. For the adventurous, spend a day with the dogsledding pups at All Huskies (yes, you can dogsled) and finish out the evening with the wonderful HaliPuu family, who have cared for their serene forest for decades and now share its beauty with visitors through a variety of creative wilderness experiences. Tree-hugging, Arctic cocooning and homemade open-fire chai, anyone?