Hot, in a "cool" kinda sense, as in: why are Helsinki and Finland such popular destinations for travellers?
When I moved to Helsinki in 2010, most people were quite surprised and they didn't really have anything in mind when hearing about Helsinki. Most people didn't really have an image in their minds when they hear about Finland, except for maybe saunas and cold winters. This has vastly changed over the years, nowadays people ask me what made me stay here, but they aren't surprised that I did. The same goes for visitors - Helsinki is known for being the edgy Nordic secret destination, in almost any season. Whenever I had people visit me, they were surprised by what the city had to offer, and I never really had trouble convincing anyone to go on a trip up here. What has changed, what catches peoples eye and what makes Finland so appealing?
Hear me out - I know that the chilly Northern temperatures are not exactly what most people are looking for and the frosty, dark winters scare many away as well. But look at it from the other side: whereas this year pretty much all of Europe was suffering from a severe heatwave, droughts and water shortages; the Finnish summer was gracing us with mild temperatures, nightless nights and cool, crystal clear lakes.
Same goes for the winter, while central Europe complains about muddy grey, slushy winters that are more like an endless autumn, Finland will take your breath away with white forests, magical Northern Lights and a true winter experience that you most certainly won't find in most countries. There is still a real winter here, so make use of it while you can. Want to become a husky guide or an Aurora spotter? These jobs exist here too. Read more about these opportunities here.
The Sound of Silence
Maybe it's a generational thing, that the typical Finn is known for being an introvert and it's hard to get to them. There's no denying that the Finns are a more quiet folk but in a respectful and (in my opinion) enjoyable way. With many cultures being known for being very extrovert, passionate and full of temper, the lower volume of life in Finland has created a different kind of appeal. Compared to life elsewhere, where you're exhausted by hectic life around you, Finland comes with a natural serenity. And less useless conversations.
While the selection of restaurants and going out options seemed somewhat limited 7 years ago, all of us living here could pretty much watch the city bloom in front of our eyes. The locals learnt to love their city again, take matters in their own hands and revolutionise life with amazing things like Restaurant Day, Sauna Day, the local Block Parties and grand festivals, water sports centres and embracing nature. Finally, Helsinki had an appeal that was present again and everyone noticed. These things caught international attention and the rest is history.
It has been a unique experience to witness this transformation and to be a part of it. Additionally, local tourism boards have done an amazing job in making sure that the word gets out there.
Safety and the feeling of freedom
When looking at potential travel destinations, your personal safety is always something to take into account. Especially women travelling by themselves always mention how important it is that they feel safe when wandering alone, and Finland is probably the best place to do so. Basic common sense gets you far around here. Low crime rates and the absence of sketchy neighbourhoods give everyone a distinct feeling of safety and it shows in the way of life and also in the feedback coming from tourists. This goes for both the cities as well as the nature. Wild camping, picking blueberries and mushrooms as you please while not thinking about what kind of trouble you might get it? Priceless. Not having to worry about certain things puts your mind at ease and is the perfect place to find peace - whether you live here or visit.
The cool, edgy and minimal style of Finnish design has left its mark already many years ago, even though the most famous brand Marimekko stands out with bright patterns rather than with simplicity. My favourites? LUMI accessories and R/H fashion, Super Mukava.
It's not just fashion, but also architecture in general or interior design that bring Finland on the map of international visitors. Design is an integral part of life, local brands are well represented amongst any Finn's wardrobe or home. It stands for durability, sustainability and uniqueness, pretty much everything that's such a big part of Finnish lifestyle in general. Also, Helsinki has its entire own Design District! Being World Design Capital in 2012 was only the beginning of the international take-over.