Named the happiest country in the world for the sixth time in a row in 2023, there’s no doubt that Finland’s captivating appeal extends beyond the mystical Northern Lights. While the Aurora Borealis may paint the night sky in hues of green and pink, this Nordic nation’s true charm can be found in its identity – a blend of natural landscapes, rich culture and innovative architectural design, all of which reflecting “Sisu”, the Finnish way of life.

Embodying courage and resilience, “Sisu” is deeply rooted in the Finnish’s approach to life, work and nature. Whether it’s braving freezing temperatures to enjoy a traditional sauna or building churches in obscure places, one can bask in the Finnish spirit through a  mixed bag of experiences the country has to offer, satisfying everyone from design and culture cravers to adventure seekers, looking for both thrills and silent refuge.

Every season in Finland is beautiful

While winter remains a popular season for Aurora hunting and winter activities, summers in Finland are just as exciting and a time when the country truly comes alive.  Between May and August, the days are long and dusk quickly transitions to dawn, allowing a spectacular display of nature - green forests, sparkling lakes, and colourful wildflowers, to shine through

It’s a lively time for the Finns, who take this season to indulge in their love for nature, beaches, and park.

It’s also a season for celebration, a time when you get to experience Midsummer, Finland’s national holiday. The summer solstice is when islands off Helsinki come alive with Midsummer dances and bonfires (“kokko”), traditionally lit to keep evil spirits away. This is also the time to witness the midnight sun – both disorientating and amazing, as it never sets.

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Summer in Helsinki

In the Summer, Finland’s capital, Helsinki is must-visit for the design and culture cravers. It’s a city that truly lives and breathes design in every aspect of its urban landscape. by

One must not miss out on Helsinki’s churches, the most famous being   Temppeliaukio Church, also named “Rock Church” because it is built directly into natural rock.  This cave-like church with its copper-dome ceiling not only allows natural light to filter through it also boasts excellent acoustics due to the exposed rough, unworked rock surfaces. One should also pay a visit to another iconic church - the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, a rounded-shaped church made from a curved wooden structure and gives off the impression of a cacoon-like sanctuary. Located in the bustling heart of the busiest districts of Helsinki, Narinkka Square, Kamppi Chapel of Silence offers a peaceful escape from the city.

Temppeliaukio “Rock” Church, Helsinki, Finland Temppeliaukio “Rock” Church, Helsinki, Finland

Temppeliaukio “Rock” Church is one of Helsinki’s most iconic landmarks.

As for neighbourhoods to visit, Design District Helsinki (south Helsinki) is an oasis for those in search of Finnish design, fashion and art experiences.  Stretched over 25 streets, this neighbourhood comprises over 200 stores, featuring everything from jewellery making to antiques, fashion, museums, art galleries, interior design shops and more. You can explore the best of Finnish design on a guided tour to drink in the art with a local perspective.

For a bout of shopping, Galleria Esplanad is a great spot for iconic local fashion brands. Keep a lookout for Marimekko, a Finnish lifestyle design brand renowned for its bold prints and colours. From high-quality clothing to accessories and home decor items like bed sheets, Marimekko’s loud floral prints perfectly embody the traditional Nordic style and are the perfect souvenirs to bring home.  Local shoe label, Minna Parikka, is also a brand to keep an eye out for. Worn by the likes of international superstars Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, Minna Parikka’s bold creations, such as the iconic bunny sneakers and lollipop heels, become head-turners the second they hit the streets.

Marimekko store at Galleria Esplanad, Helsinki, Finland Marimekko store at Galleria Esplanad, Helsinki, Finland

Marimekko, the Finnish brand known for its bold, floral patterns, is a big part of the country’s national identity.

Day trips out of Helsinki are a must. A 15-minute ferry ride from the Market Square (Kauppatori) would bring you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna (“Castle of Finland”), a sea fortress built in 1748. A cultural treasure not to be missed, Suomenlinna offers a fascinating glimpse into Finland's military history. Visitors can explore the well-preserved tunnels and artillery pieces, as well as visit the Suomenlinna museum which showcases the history of this fortress through historical tools and clothing.

The island itself is a delight to explore, with museums, restaurants and watering holes for culture buffs and families alike to enjoy a day out of the city. If you liked the boat ride as much as the exploration, opt for an island-hopping day pass (available at Market Square) to visit the islands, Lonna (they have a sauna!) and Vallisaari, to hike its national park.

The Fortress of Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site The Fortress of Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Cannons line the coat of the Suomenlinna maritime fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

No trip is complete without food. While sourcing ingredients from local farms, also known as farm-to-table, might be a trend in other parts of the world, it is a way of life in Finland. Thanks to its long coastline, seafood served at lively farmers’ markets in Helsinki’s harbourfront are the freshest one can probably ever get.

For an affordable traditional meal, wander down to Kauppatori Fish Market by the Helsinki harbour and you will find a number of stores selling fresh or cured fish, right from the Baltic Sea. At this market, do try a salmon soup or a plate of Savulsilakka, smoked Baltic herring. If you want to try more than fish, fret not, the market also has stalls selling street food – popular Finnish sausages, reindeer meatballs and veggies, which are sure to pique your interest.

Market Square, Kauppatori near Helsinki harbour Market Square, Kauppatori near Helsinki harbour

Locals enjoy the summer days at the Market Square, Kauppatori.

One must also not miss out on indulging in the local pastry scene in Finland, for where local pastries are, you’ll find many Finns. The Karelian Pastry, a thin rye dough with porridge in the middle, is a popular must-try traditional afternoon snack, typically served with egg butter on top. Fazer Café at Kluuvikatu is a great place for it, but if it’s a warm afternoon, have it at Café Regatta by the sea.

Karelian pasties – a Finnish favourite Karelian pasties – a Finnish favourite

Karelian pasties with potato, carrot and rice – a local favourite.

And if you fancy a fine dining experience, Nolla, is a Michelin-star restaurant that takes pride in its sustainable agricultural efforts. Nolla operates on a strictly zero-waste policy and serves food from local ingredients sourced from within a 200km radius of Helsinki – indicative of the Finns’ sustainable way of life

The Finnish experience is incomplete without having a go at foraging your own food. Take advantage of “everyman’s right”, a Finnish legal  belief that everyone has the right to enjoy nature, and hop on a foraging tour. Such tours will take you through forests and lakes of parks so you can pick bilberries (North European blueberries), lingonberries, strawberries and cloudberries to your heart’s content. Towards autumn, foraging and freezing them for winter is a popular activity all over Finland. Bilberries top the berry list here, evident from its prominence in many local menus. Think bilberry soups or smoothies, pies, breakfast porridge, or even in cocktails, like at cocktail bar, Gate A21 (Annankatu 21, Helsinki).

Freshly picked bilberries, Finland Freshly picked bilberries, Finland

Finns believe in everyman’s right, a Finnish legal concept that nature belongs to everyone, and picking berries, mushrooms and flowers is free for all.

Berries are not the only food you can forage for. Another favourite of the Finns is the chanterelle mushrooms – yellow mushrooms with a funnel-shaped cap. Found at the roots of birch trees in forests, the chanterelle is the most highly-valued local mushroom, often used to accompany many Finnish dishes. For example, as a creamy sauce to go along with reindeer steak.

Winter in Lapland

While Helsinki is the perfect destination for design and culture cravers in summer, Lapland is paradise for the winter travellers. looking to immerse themselves into the snow season that starts in November and can last till early May.

Nestled deep in the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi, Lapland’s capital, invites a different kind of As the official hometown of Santa Claus, the Santa Claus Village is a must-visit place where Christmas magic lasts all year-round. Besides meeting Santa Claus, swing by Santa’s cheerful post office where millions of letters from around the world arrive each year. Create your very own special memory when you buy and send home a postcard stamped with the special Arctic Circle postmark! At Santa Claus Village, you can also cross the Arctic Circle line, shop for traditional Finnish handicrafts and enjoy a hearty buffet at the Three Elves Restaurant.

Just a two-hour drive from Rovaniemi is Levi, Finland’s most popular ski resort. With over 48 slopes ranging from beginner to intermediate, Levi caters to the novice looking to learn and the experienced skier seeking a new challenge. Well-groomed slopes, modern facilities and stunning panoramic views of snowy landscapes, what’s not to love.

Other than skiing, head to Tundra Huskies Huskyfarm, a paradise for animal lovers and experience a husky sleigh ride. Riding through the pristine wilderness pulled by eager and friendly huskies is definitely the most thrilling and immersive way to explore the stunning winter landscapes. One should not miss out on visiting Sammuntupa reindeer farm as well, where you can meet, feed and learn more about these creatures from a genuine reindeer herder.

For winter sports enthusiasts, cross-country skiing and night snowshoeing are also great activities to do with friends and family. But to truly immerse in the Finnish experience, one must check out ice swimming. Even in freezing temperatures, the Finnish would strip down to their undergarments and plunge into icy waters. Also known as avanto swimming, or “ice hole swimming”, the Finns believe this frosty tradition has benefits – it gets your blood pumping, making you feel revitalised.

Ice hole swimming in winter, Finland Ice hole swimming in winter, Finland

Ice swimming is not for the faint of heart, but a must for true adventure-seekers.

Ice Swimming is typically followed by heading to a sauna.  Sauna culture is a way of Finnish life, its is a place of physical and spiritual cleansing, but also a place of bonding. Even toddlers join their families in the sauna. While the popular sauna-and-swim experience can also be had in summer, there’s something extra comforting about stepping into a sauna in the dead of winter.

How to catch the Northern Lights?

If you still intend on chasing the Northern Lights while in Lapland, this year is your best bet. According to National Geographic, 2024 will bring the best Auroras in the past 20 years, with the mystical lights appearing in regions they are not usually spotted at.

November to February offer the darkest skies and the longest evenings for the brightest lights. To truly maximise your chances, it’s good to take note of the following tips:

Firstly, the sky needs to be clear. Secondly, move away from artificial lights, like streetlamps and houses. Instead, be near lakes and hills. Thirdly, find a spot facing the North. Fourthly, you can download Aurora applications like “My Aurora” to help track the lights. And last but not least, don’t forget to be patient!

Bright aurora above glass igloo in Finland Bright aurora above glass igloo in Finland

Glamp up and enjoy the Aurora Borealis in comfort, warmth and style.

Don’t miss your chance to win return air tickets to any of the 26 cities from A to Z

If you’re a travel enthusiast who wants to explore the world from A to Z, Changi Airport’s ‘Travel A to Z’ campaign is your chance to win return air tickets! 

From 1 to 31 March 2024, simply guess correctly the city featured in a video each week on the ‘Travel A to Z’ page and you will be entered into a Grand Draw to win return air tickets to any of the 26 cities featured. The more correct answers you submit, the greater your chances of winning the Grand Draw!

What are you waiting for? Head over to ‘Travel A to Z’, pack your bags, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure.


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Best time to visit

For a different Nordic holiday, visit during the summer months, June to August. The best winter holidays can be had from December to February. Regardless, be sure bring a jacket when out and about as even summer evenings tend to be chilly.


When in Helsinki, walking is your best option to see the city. But you could also bike, hop on a tram, or take the metro. The local rail and ferry services will take you out of the city.


The official currency of Finland is the Euro. Finns use less physical cash in their transactions, but ATMs for cash withdrawal are common. Most major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard and EuroCard can be used for payment in most shops and restaurants.

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