Helsinki’s Design District encapsulates all that is chic in the city – and there’s even a touring map (designdistrict.fi/en) to help you navigate the highlights. The Design District collective is a cluster of creative businesses brimming with the very best of local design, including jewellers, antique shops, art galleries, and apparel boutiques. Membership to the collective is strictly quality controlled, and member pay a nominal annual fee that funds promotional efforts.
Pop in to the Old Market Hall (Eteläranta, 00130 Helsinki; vanhakauppahalli.fi/en) for some local produce; this landmark has served customers since 1888 and was reopened in 2014 after a complete renovation. Stall keepers who have been in business for decades have returned and are joined by attractive new restaurants and cafés. Look out for stalls hawking handcrafted teas (we brought home a loose leaf infusion of strawberry, nettle, birch leaf and liquorice root), exotic cured meats and smoked seafood (expect fresh organic pork sausages, deshelled prawns larger than your fist, and more varieties of gravlax that you can shake a stick at), and even a vegetarian store that specialises in raw and sprouted food.
Just a short walk from the Old Market Hall, past the grand Helsinki Senate Square, you’ll find the petite Helsinki Design Museum (Aleksanterinkatu 16; helsinginkaupunginmuseo.fi/en). This unique little showcase of modern Helsinki history even includes a smell room, where visitors are invited to identify a mystery smell – related to life in Finland – that changes monthly. Just an alleyway away, the speakeasy of Trillby & Chadwick (trillbychadwick.fi) is so secretive that you need to call ahead for directions. With no signage and no available images (phototaking is prohibited within the premises), finding this place is an adventure all in itself, but once you do, the dimly lit interiors, Sherlock Holmes-esque vibe, and witty cocktails are guaranteed to seduce.