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We spent a week in Finland in April and were in awe of the beautiful culture, nature, food, and design. Even though it was still cold and snowy when we went, the days were getting longer so there was plenty of sunlight to enjoy. One of my favorite things was how calm and peaceful it felt everywhere we went, even the airport. Finland has been voted the happiest country in the world, and it really did feel like there was a general sense of contentment and calm, and very safe and clean. While we would have loved more time, we were able to do a lot in just a week. We spent about 4 days in Helsinki, 3 days in Central Finland, and one day trip via ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.


The Aalto Home

The home of Alvar Aalto and his family is located in the Munkkiniemi neighborhood of Helsinki, and was my favorite place we visited. I've been a long-time admirer of Alvar and Aino Aalto's work, particularly their bentwood furniture and glass designs. Getting to see their home, which they designed, has been preserved beautifully as a museum, and is full of their designs, art, and photos, was a magical experience. It began with an informative guided tour followed by some time to explore and enjoy the home and gardens on your own. The Alvar Aalto Foundation offers tours of both their home and studio, which are within walking distance of each other, so we booked back-to-back tours.

Alvar Aalto Studio

The Alvar Aalto studio was equally as interesting and beautiful, and is still in use today! Aalto designed this space once the business outgrew their small studio in their home.


Artek is where you can still purchase Alvar and Aino Aalto's designs, and they have a storefront in Helsinki city center. It's worth a visit even if you don't plan to shop - inspiration galore!

Design District

We stayed in the Design District of Helsinki, a neighborhood just south of the city center that is a bit more calm and laid back. We had a lovely and simple AirBnB that was just down the street from Gateau Ullanlinna, a sweet bakery. Two of my favorite antique shops were also nearby - Helsinki secondhand oy and Ritva Blomquist & Co. They were both full of Finnish designs, like Iittala and Arabia Finland, at good prices.

Vanha kauppahalli (Old Market Hall)

We enjoyed a morning stroll through the old market, which has vendors with prepared food, wine, meats/cheeses, and other goods. We ate breakfast at Story and picked up some traditional smoked salmon and other meats to bring with us to our lakeside cabin.

Finnish Design Museum

This is a really nice museum on the smaller side in the design district. The main exhibit was under construction when we were there, but it was still worthwhile to learn about some classic Finnish designs and designers, like Fiskars, Marimekko, and Tapio Wirkkala.

Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden

We love visiting botanic gardens anytime we go to a new city. This one was lovely, and very old - founded in 1678! I imagine the outdoor gardens are amazing during the summer months.

Helsingin Tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral)

We didn't go inside, but the cathedral worth walking by - it's beautiful! And very close to downtown.


Nordic countries have the most beautiful department stores - and Finland is no exception. Stockmann was really fun to explore, I enjoyed getting to see some of my favorite brands and designs in-person. There is also a great cafeteria on the top floor for a quick lunch.


This was our first Finnish dining experience and it did not disappoint. Löyly is a public sauna and restaurant on the water in the southern area of Helsinki. Saunas are a huge part of Finnish culture, and it's not uncommon for Finns to have saunas in their homes and apartments. While we didn't venture into the sauna, we had a delicious meal - Cary tried the reindeer tartar (he loved it), and I had a salad with salmon soup.

Hotel St. George

We treated ourselves to a night at this fabulous historic hotel right in the center of Helsinki. It has a really beautiful cocktail bar, Wintergarden, a Michelin-approved restaurant, Boon Nam, a great basement bakery, and an amazing spa and sauna.


We decided to eat here last minute, and it ended up being our favorite meal of the trip. Amazing food and wonderful service. Our experience with Nordic cuisine is that they are skilled at combining interesting textures and flavors to create a really unique experience - they did this very well at Natura.

Ateljé Finne

Another wonderful experience - delicious food, a beautiful atmosphere, and the most friendly service.

Liberty or Death

A very cozy and cool cocktail bar. Two other bars we visited and enjoyed were the Hotel F6 bar and a speakeasy called Trillby & Chadwick.

Central Finland

Alvar Aalto Museum

We had a quick trip to Jyväskylä to visit the Alvar Aalto Museum and to stock up on groceries for our time at the cabin. While I enjoyed the museum, I wouldn't necessarily recommend a special trip for it. The Alvar Aalto house, studio, and Artek provided the perfect amount of information and inspiration.

Cabin Lake Retreat

This was the highlight of our trip - three days of R&R in a modern cabin on a Finnish lake. We read books, cooked salmon soup, went on walks in the woods, drank wine, relaxed in the sauna, and just really enjoyed some peaceful time together. While it would have been amazing to be able to swim in the lake and then run back to the sauna (the lake was frozen), it was so quiet and peaceful I wouldn't have changed a thing.

An Appreciation for Nature

Finnish culture puts a large emphasis on nature, and it's not hard to see why. Finland is a beautiful country and I'm so glad we got to see a little bit of the countryside. I can't wait to go back.


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