Known for its fish and saunas, the Finnish capital is a happy city with a lively start-up scene. Founded by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 as a trading post on the southern coast of what is now Finland, Helsinki has grown to a population of more than 600,000.
There has been a wave of cultural launches in the Finnish capital in recent months, including Amos Rex, a contemporary art museum in Lasipalatsi Square. The museum’s René Magritte exhibition this spring will be the first time the Belgian surrealist’s work has been shown in Finland.
Other new spaces include the Oodi central library, which opened in December on the eve of the 101st anniversary of Finland’s independence. The first Maritime Biennale for Public Art will be held in the city in 2020.
Finland ranked first in the world for safety and security, according to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum. It has also been named the happiest country, topping the World Happiness Report, produced for the UN, based on six key factors: income, freedom, trust, life expectancy, social support and generosity.
Helsinki is bursting with innovative start-ups and the sector is growing rapidly: 2017 was a record-breaking year for Finnish start-ups. According to technology magazine Wired, Finnish companies garnered €349m in funding. Slush, one of the world’s leading start-up events, takes place in Helsinki every year. The 2018 event hosted around 20,000 entrepreneurs, along with 3,100 start-ups and 1,800 investors.
Finland’s economy is finally gaining momentum following the financial crisis, with its first sustained upturn since 2008. The economy grew by 2.8 per cent in 2018 and will maintain that rate of growth in 2019, according to Helsinki-based non-profit organisation Pellervo Economic Research. Helsinki contributes 34 per cent of Finland’s gross domestic product, according to the OECD.
Hot sauna scene
Ready to sweat it out? Saunas are a popular leisure activity in Finland, as well as being a good way to socialise — there is nothing like getting half-naked with your new neighbours to break the ice. Sauna Hermanni, a traditional public sauna, has been “raising steam”, it says, since 1953. It has been joined by several new developments, including the sleek-looking Löyly. Completed in 2016, the complex is in the Hernesaari quarter, overlooking the shore on the southern tip of Helsinki.
Photographs: Oleksiy Mark; Amos Rex; Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images; Bloomberg; Dreamstime; Kuvio