Head to Helsinki for a weekend shopping break
Experience this stylish Finnish city bursting with stunning architecture and innovative design
This elegant Finnish city is 2012's World Design Capital - an honour reflected in a fascinating programme of events taking place here throughout autumn.
It doesnt matter when you choose to visit, however, as the quiet streets with beautiful and bustling shops can be enjoyed all year round. And theres no better place to buy well-made clothes, homewares and accessories.
Finlands best-loved designers set out their stalls in the Design Forum Shop on Erottajankatu, in Design District Helsinki. Here, you can shop for everything from astonishing hats to extraordinary furniture, Even the citrus squeezers are works of art. You won't find anything cheap, but everything is good value.
Within the district, you can buy china from Iittala, handmade Finnish rustic goods from Lande Shop, interesting textiles from Okra and comfortable yet smart clothes from NansoStore.
But the Design Forum Shop is at the heart of the district. This tasteful enclave is the perfect destination to shell out on gifts. And you can pick up a map here, which will guide you to all the subtly stylish shops, galleries, museums and restaurants nearby. A shopping highlight is Marimekko store on Pohjoisesplanadi, also in the Kamppi shopping centre. This famous Finnish brand is a riot of colour, selling bright and gorgeous linens, accessories and vibrant clothing for all ages.
Pop in a Shop is a biannual event to encourage people to visit Helsinkis specialised shops. For information, visit www.poikkeaputiikissa.fi. For the true shopping enthusiast, Stockmann, the stately department store on Aleksanterinkatu, is a must-visit. Here, you can blissfully trawl the aisles for quality cosmetics and accessories. And, dont miss the deli for fabulous fresh fruit, breads and cheeses, in addition to more unusual treats, such as reindeer pâté and rhubarb chocolate.
Getting around is easy, both on foot or by using the efficient tram service. The city is also great for cyclists, with dedicated cycling lanes and hotels offering affordable bike hire. Leave your shopping behind and enjoy freewheeling around city lakes, along the Baltic coast or through the capitals many green spaces and art nouveau architecture. And there are great cafés around for that much-needed pit stop.
Jump on a tram to the coast at Munkkiniemenranta to visit the home/museum of legendary architect Alvar Aalto.
Enjoy an open sandwich at the charming Café Torparanta where, in the summer, you can still watch traditional rug washing. Lunch costs around £15.
For a spectacular view of Helsinki, head to the Ateljee Bar in Sokos Hotel Torni.
For beautifully cooked and presented Finnish dishes, try sapas (like tapas) at Juuri. Order a selection of dishes, such as lingonberry- marinated salmon and grilled salsify with rosehip jam, for an unusual feast. Dinner with wine costs around £30 per person.
Fly to Helsinki with Finnair from £169 return. Visit www.finnair.com
Stay at the centrally located Helka hotel, for tasteful rooms, hearty breakfasts and a friendly service. A double/twin room costs around £110 per night. Visit www.helka.fi
For more information on the World Design Capital, visit www.wdchelsinki2012.fi/en. For more on Helsinki, visit www.visitfinland.com