A major political and commercial center, Helsinki serves as the capital of Finland and is also the largest city in the country. Located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland in Southern Finland the city is around 80 km north of Tallinn in Estonia, 400 km north east of Stockholm in Sweden and 300 km west of Saint Petersburg in Russia. Finnish is the official language of the city spoken by majority of the people followed by Swedish and others. This is one of the most liveable cities in the world as declared in the Economist Intelligence Unit's August 2012 Liveability survey. The metropolitan area of Helsinki is the fourth largest Nordic metropolitan area and is the third biggest Nordic city after Stockholm and Oslo. In the year 2009, Helsinki beat Eindhoven to become the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. Overview All the flights flying to Helsinki land at the Helsinki Vantaa Airport which is a major airport in Finland and the most important airport in of the Helsinki metropolitan region. The airport is located around 5 km west of Tikkurila, the center of Vantaa and around 17 km north of Helsinki city center. The city has a humid continental climate which is marked by vast seasonal temperature differences, ranging from warm to hot and humid during the summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) during winters. The winter months are short and last only 3 to 4 months from November to March. Due to the city’s proximity to the water body daily temperatures are a little cooler and night temperatures are higher during summers. The best time to visit is during the months from July to September. The month of August sees a lot of events and festivals; hence it is one of the best times for a holiday in Helsinki. City Attractions There many place to see in Finland. The Mannerheimintie Street running northwest from the Central Railway Station is one if the finest buildings known for its 48-meter-high clock tower. A few coffee shops and museums located on the street also make for an interesting visit. The Finnish National Museum of Arts, which is also known as the Ateneum is another popular tourist spot famous for housing Finland's finest art collection of historic works as well as contemporary art. The Finnish National Museum contains an inclusive collection of material on the culture and ethnography of Finland. The Finlandia Hall Helsinki Olympic Stadium, Rock Church, Gallen-Kallela Museum and Senate Square are of the other historical and heritage attractions tourists can visit in Helsinki. A unique place of interest is the Inland of Seurasaa which has an open air museum with old peasant houses and a church. A 20 minute ferry ride takes the tourists to the fortified islands of Suomenlinna has been declared as a world heritage monument by UNESCO and houses a museum, a park, and an arts venue. The sandy beach of Hietaniemi is another major draw and offer several open fields which are frequently used as soccer parks, several restaurants, and a public sauna. The Linnanmäki amusement park is another popular tourist destination suited for all ages and includes a water tower, a switchback, and a giant wheel. The Central Park, which is located in the middle of the city is filled with bike and walking trails along with other activity areas and is perfect for a relaxed evening. Eating and Shopping The local people of Helsinki prefer Finnish cuisine which comprises fresh and natural ingredients that vary according to the season. Having an influence of both west and east, the cuisine of Finland is categorized by its simplicity and purity. The city has a multiethnic outlook therefore wide menu and cuisine options are available. Some of the traditional dishes one should savor in Helsinki are - Kaalikääryleet, Hernekeitto, Leipäjuusto, Viili, Perunamuusi, Lihapullat and Palvikinkku and palviliha. While water and coffee are the most common drinks in Finland, Finnish beer is also a popular beverage. Pork, fish, mushroom, whole grains and berries are some of the most common ingredients used in Finnish cuisine. Numerous cheap as well as fine dining restaurants are available across Helsinki to suit the pocket of every traveller. The city if filled with shopping malls and luxury brand stores offering everything under the sky. The city also has some local markets that sell the most fresh and exotic produce. Market Square is the most popular shopping hub that offer varieties of souvenirs and eating places. Dolls, fur, crafts and clothing are some of the things people can buy here. Finland is very popular for its designer jewellery, high quality food items, confectioneries and luxury items which can be purchased from various departmental stores and shopping centers scattered across Helsinki.
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