Helsinki is the ultimate water lovers destination, Finland’s premier city seems to consist of waterways, harbours, and land surrounded by the Baltic Sea, making the maritime history of the city apparent with every twist and turn of the beautifully rugged coastline.

Effortlessly chic Helsinki is far less concerned about looking impressive than it is about showing you a good time, with a boom in the 1930’s Helsinki has a Art Nouveau feel about the city with many building preserving the interiors in the exact style that they were designed. Charming yet modest Helsinki is one of the last undiscovered European capitals, making it an unusual and unique experience.

Showcasing the absolute best in modern design that Finland is so well known for is the ultra modern, newly opened Scandic Paasi Hotel. Colourful in design the modern interior is extremely welcoming, the rooms having a particularly Scandinavian feel with wooden floors and huge windows, many rooms overlooking the water. Bright and bold this hotel is unashamedly brash, but the clever design ensures that it all works in perfect harmony to create a space with taste and character.

To the east of Helsinki are the Rastila Log Cottages, these give the perfect opportunity for a traditional self catering stay in a building perfectly suited to its surroundings. Many of the cottages have their own sauna again adding to the authenticity of this unique accommodation.

For a budget stay in the liveliest part of town the Hostel Erottajanpuisto is hard to beat, the fifteen rooms range from singles to eight bed dormitories. Friendly and clean this is the absolute best of the budget options that are somewhat limited. In the peak months this popular hostel quickly becomes fully booked so advance booking is essential.

The regional food is good if not a little unusual, expect to see plenty of herrings and salmon on the menu, they are an absolute staple part of the Finnish diet. Hearty stews are also popular particularly when made with local elk or reindeer, root vegetables, forest mushrooms and pickles also feature heavily on the menu.

To appreciate the true maritime tradition of Helsinki there is no better way to eat than to travel across to one of the restaurants on the tiny islands that dot the gulf leading out from the harbour. The best known of these is Klippan, part of a villa on the island of Luoto. The food is excellent with locally caught seafood being the speciality.

Wanha Laamani serves great traditional Finnish food in an old converted judges chambers, the historic building with its lovely outside terrace provides the perfect place to enjoy the best of the local food and drink whilst soaking up the atmosphere of the old part of the city.

Be sure to visit the old town of Porvoo with cobblestones and brightly coloured houses providing the postcard view that you expect from historic Helsinki. The maze of narrow streets house some of the best antique stores and craft shops in the city, with many treasure troves to be found behind their doors. The beautiful town square is also home to two excellent museums, the Art Museum and the Historical Museum, both of which are well worth visiting.

One of the best ways to get a glimpse of the traditional side of the city is to take a harbour cruise around the myriad of tiny islands that surround the harbour. Your cruise will give you a completely different perspective of this gorgeous city, sailing around the gulf of Finland the guide will point out all the places of interest, which take on a completely different persona when viewed from the sea.

The climate in Helsinki although bright during the summer months does not reach temperatures much above 70F and the evenings can be quite cool; luckily the beauty of this city dos not rely on sunshine and for much of the year (spring through to autumn) is a mesmerising place to visit.

The winter months are notoriously short of tourists who reappear with the first stirrings of Spring, although beautiful all year round the hours of daylight during winter are so ludicrously short that travel is best avoided until winter is over. Summer brings the opposite effect and the beautiful summer days seem to go on forever.