Edging its way into the Baltic Sea on a series of inlets and islands, Helsinki is a trendsetter. It’s one of the best design cities in the world, filled with art studios, galleries, and off-the-wall boutiques. Even the craft beer bars and coffee shops here seem just a little bit cooler than most. One look at the exterior (and the interior) of the contemporary art museum called the Kiasma will tell you just how imaginative this city can be. But even though Helsinki is diving headlong into the future, its past is still on proud display.

Start at Railway Square, the heart of the city with the central railway station, the Finnish National Theater, and the Ateneum classical art museum. If you’re not afraid of heights, head down to the harbor to take a ride on the SkyWheel and get a fantastic view of Helsinki and the beautiful Uspenski Cathedral. Hop aboard a ferry to Suomenlinna, a formidable fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site built on six islands just off the coast, to take a close look at Finland’s military and maritime history.

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