Less known than Oslo or Stockholm, Helsinki is the ideal place to warm you up. Some say that there are more saunas in Finland than cars! Going to the sauna is an old tradition in the country, so don’t be surprised to bump into a group of Finnish dressed with just a towel, talking with a beer in hand when you will stroll around the streets of Helsinki.
The city is a good option for a little stay, it’s not overcrowded with tourists, and you will be delighted by its modernity and history. In Northern Europe, Helsinki is a major city of architecture with its Art Nouveau buildings. You can have a glimpse by visiting the Design District, an area full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms.
If you are into organic products, go to the renewed 110-year-old Hietalahti Market Hall, the first organic market hall in Finland where you can find a broad variety of fresh foods or just enjoy a quick snack or a lunch at the popular restaurants and cafés.
For a thrill of excitement, experience Linnanmäki, the city park with 43 different rides. At the end of the summer season the whole area is full of free concerts, performances and light attractions for the Carnival of Light.
During your stay, take the opportunity to visit the surrounding islands that you can easily reach by ferry at Market Square. Suomenlinna, popular with tourists and locals, is perfect for a summer picnic. For sunbathing Pihlajasaari Island is better, especially if you're looking for a nudist beach with a gay section.
But in Helsinki, a sauna session is not to be missed! In Northern Europe, and particularly in Finland, bathhouses are a place to relax for everyone and very well-liked by Finnish. Open recently, Kulttuurisauna center is a new urban public sauna located on the Helsinki waterfront, in Hakaniemenranta. For a gay sauna, the only one in the country is Sauna Vogue located in the 5th floor of a building at Sturenkatu. With its two Finnish saunas, steamroom, bar, video and dark room, you’ll enjoy the terrace to cool down between two hot sessions.
Where to go out
The city is very gay-friendly and there is a lot of venues for every taste. Start the night at Hugo's Room, a lounge place with many cocktails where you can find a mix of different people.
For a more relaxed place on a sunday night, prefer Kulmakahvio, a small and cosy café in Kallio. Once a month a show is performed and during summer you’ll enjoy the terrace and maybe have a chance to see a drag bear race!
For clubbing, DTM is a very popular club for twinks and girls with its electro dance music. If you prefer a older and more manly atmosphere, go to Hercules. And for karaoke and bears fans Mann’s Street will suit you with its retro design.
Finally, Peijakas, a group claiming for “queer feminism”, organize queer/lesbian club nights every 3 months (more information: http://www.peijakas.net).