FINLAND - Visitors to Rovaniemi will likely transit in Finland's capital Helsinki. Here's how you can spend a day or two in the buzzy, design-centric city.
The Helsinki Central Library Oodi, which opened in December last year, was designed to function as a living room for Helsinki residents. Undulating ceilings, sloped floors and large skylights house recording and photography studios, a movie theatre and makerspace containing three-dimensional printers and sewing machines. It is a great place to immerse in local life.
All are welcome at the Kamppi Chapel, also known as the chapel of silence. It is a spherical wooden church where you can find solitude in the middle of Helsinki's bustling city centre. Alternatively, visit the Temppeliaukio Church, which was carved out of natural bedrock and covered with a copper dome.
Go for a swim at Allas Sea Pool, a swimming complex located next to Helsinki's South Harbour in the heart of the city. Take a dip in the saltwater pool, with brisk temperatures even in summer, or pick from one of two heated pools. Saunas located in the changing rooms will warm you up if the sea breeze gets nippy.
Graze on sapas, or Suomi tapas at Juuri (Suomi is the Finnish name for Finland). The small restaurant uses local ingredients such as arctic char, a cold water fish similar to salmon, and Finnish cheese. Bread is served with a side of pan-fried butter, which is fried at high heat so the sugars caramelise. Worth the indulgence.
The Old Market Hall, located near Allas Sea Pool, is Finland's oldest indoor market. Join the throngs of cruise-ship day-trippers and have your pick of smoked fish or salted salmon seasoned with toppings such as rose pepper or dill. Sit at one of the Market Hall's communal tables, or take your food outdoors for a harbour view - but beware the seagulls.
Vintage lovers will delight in the many thrift stores in and around the Punavuori neighbourhood, such as second hand chain store UFF and the boutique-like Frankly My Dear. Most thrift stores carry a curated range of clothes, accessories, bags and shoes.
Sami music from Finland's indigenous people welcomes guests at Lapland Hotel Bulevardi, which opened in January this year. Rooms are decorated with dark wood, slate grey and warm lights; some come with a private sauna. Sample Finnish specialities at the breakfast buffet such as reindeer liver pate, smoothies made from spruce sprouts that grow on the tips of spruce tree branches, and reindeer blood sausage.