From Sweden to Denmark to Norway, the countries up north have been making waves in recent years for their cool capitals, progressive politics and incredible cultural output. But if you travel just a bit past these places, you’ll strike real gold: Finland. The home of August’s Napue Gin has long been overshadowed by its neighbours down south - but not anymore! See why this Nordic nation is the area’s next big thing.
1. Its capital city is seriously on the rise
Image: Sami C/Flickr
Since the early 2000s, Helsinki has been racking up awards for its vibrant culture and incredible design. In fact, design is a big part of the Finnish capital’s urban lifestyle, which you can see in everything from architecture and home furniture to clothing and art. The city even has its own Design District, home to almost 200 design attractions. But if it’s not the design you’re after, have no fear – this underrated capital has something to offer everyone. Helsinki used to be a seaside port village, so it’s got a vibrant waterfront that Finns love to enjoy. And one-third of the city is covered in green spaces, so if you prefer the great outdoors to industrial museums, plenty of activities await. With something for everyone, it’s no surprise it’s been rated one of the world’s most liveable cities!
2. It’s big on art and culture
Finland’s appreciation for art and culture spans further than the capital of Helsinki. Some of the most famous designs in the world – including James Bond’s favourite chair and the Marimekko poppies worn by Jackie O – were created by Finnish designers from all across the country. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a more vibrant art scene; with the establishment of the Kiasma Museum in the late 1990s, contemporary art in particular has become a defining aspect of this small country. Culture also plays an important role in Finnish life, and when the dark days of winter are replaced by the quite literally endless days of summer, Finns celebrate to the fullest. From food markets to film and music festivals, and even Napue’s own distillery festival in August, the celebrating only stops when summer ends.
3. It abounds with amazing, unspoilt wilderness
Possibly more than anything else, Finland has become renowned for its beautiful, true wilderness. No matter the season, there’s an incredible amount of natural beauty to be enjoyed. As Napue Gin’s Miika puts it, “You don’t necessarily come here for the climate, but you come here for the nature.” Finland’s wilderness tops travel lists worldwide, and the experiences you’re sure to have here are once-in-a-lifetime. Nicknamed the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’, on endless summer days you can experience a natural phenomena where the sun shines brightly… in the middle of the night. Or, in winter, you can spot the Aurora Borealis, the famous Northern Lights that top many a bucket list.
4. Its people are friendly… once you get past the stereotypes
‘One of the misconceptions [about Finns],’ according to Miika himself, ‘is that you can’t talk to a Finn. We’re bad at small talk, but when you open up a conversation we can be talkative!’
If that’s true, then why is the myth of the reserved and aloof Finn still alive and well? As it turns out, Finnish folk enjoy a bit of self-deprecating humour, and love to poke fun at their own shy and introverted natures – even if that’s not actually the case! In reality, they are warm, genuine and open, something you’re sure to experience first-hand if you step into a Finnish home. They’re very hospitable and casual, relishing in the opportunities to form lasting bonds over endless food and drinks. So, go ahead and befriend a Finn… you’ll have a friend for life.
5. It’s a young country with a bright future
This year, Finland is celebrating its 100th birthday, making it a rather young country compared to many other European nations. But despite its age, Finland is rushing full steam ahead into the future. It’s not only been named the third best travel destination in the world by Lonely Planet but has also been named one of the top countries to live in, thanks in large part to its progressive social policies. Finland has one of the most generous parental leave schemes in the world and continuously tops the list of best education systems in the world. Helsinki is also on track to be one of the first cities to go entirely fossil fuel free in the future, and has already started taking the steps to reduce its reliance on coal.