November 3 2011 by James West
When thinking of summer vacations, one typically doesn't think of Helsinki, Finland. Nonetheless, it is one of the most beautiful places to visit during summers. While it doesn't have the wildly famous attractions as a Paris or London, there is plenty to see, do and experience in "The Land of a Thousand Lakes."
One of the coolest things about being in Finland in the summer is that because it is so far north, the sky is lit up long into the night. The "night" isn't really that dark at all. It's more like dusk. This gives the locals an energy that is much needed after long, cold, dark winters. The Finns appreciate summer because of the dismal winters and it shows. People are out on the streets until 11 pm and midnight just to enjoy the light and beautiful weather. Because Finland isn't a huge tourist country, all the people outside are locals so you're guaranteed to get an authentic experience.
In Helsinki, the capital of the Finland, there are a quite a few cruise liners that come in the summer where hordes of tourists come into the harbor marketplace for authentic finnish food and souvenirs. It's an exciting atmosphere but you won't get pushy sales people. The Finns are extremely friendly and helpful people. They can sometimes be reserved but almost all are fluent in English so don't worry about the language barrier. They also had multiple information booths set up in downtown with helpful people to give out maps, explain public transportation and give advice on sightseeing.
The weather is insanely gorgeous the entire time we where there and we wish we would have made it up to the Arctic Circle, but time did not permit. In case you didn't know, Santa Claus is from Finland and you can actually visit the North Pole and see him throughout the entire year!
Finland has a very rich history and gorgeous architecture. We visited Suomenlinna, an island previously used as a fortress, historic churches, harbor cruises, shopping and even toured the Finnish chocolate maker, Fazer, factory. With some help from locals, we were able to schedule a tour of this factory where they make some of Europe's best chocolate. Mid way through the tour, you are presented with buckets and buckets of different chocolates and you can eat all you want!! Only stipulation...you can't drink anything while you do it. Once we had stuffed ourselves with as much delicious chocolate as we could, we finished the tour where they gave us a goodie bag with even more chocolates to take home with us. Definitely something most visitors do not get to experience but boy was it worth it!
Have any of my fellow travelers ever been to Finland or plan to go in the future?