A return trip to Finland's unofficial style capital. By Laragh Halldorson
Helsinki's central downtown core is located in the Kamppi and adjacent Kluuvi districts. Though it's the busiest area of the capital, home to loads of global brands and chain stores, it's also peppered with pockets of independent boutiques and hard-to-find emerging designer collections.
On the large scale, the unmistakable Stockmann Department Store is well worth a visit, and once you tire of the bustle of the high street, head west across Mannerheimintie and discover a sleepier warren of streets that stock an impressive selection of high-end Scandinavian and European labels. Eerikinkatu in the Kamppi neighborhood is located to the north of the Design District and near the central bus station. Luckily, it's this quiet street and the adjacent Yrjonkatu that houses some of the best fashion and design finds in Helsinki.
Artist and illustrator Jenni Rope opened this shop to showcase an amazing collection of illustrated books, small scale artwork, and possibly the most incredible shoes in Helsinki. Recently, Napa Illustrations helmed by Marjo Granlund, joined Napa Books to form Napa Gallerists, a space given over to young Finnish artists and designers to display their work. The gallery shop also sells art books and comics from Le Dernier Cri, Nieves, and Finnish publishers Daada, HuudaHuuda, and Napa. As this is the only place in the city to pick up envy-inspiring Finsk shoes by London-based Finnish designer Julia Lundsten, plan ahead as the shop is only open Fridays and Saturdays from noon-6 p.m.
Don't miss this shop if you're a fan of architecturally inspired fashion. Originally from Tokyo, YAT himself designs the in-house label featuring beautifully tailored pieces with an edge. The clothing is also complemented by footwear and accessories from labels not found anywhere else in Finland. Be sure to say hi to Miina, who is more than happy to discuss the beautiful pieces by Maison Martin Margiela (Lines 1 & 4), A.F. Vandevorst, Comme des Garçons, and American transplant to Finland, jewelry designer Linda Toye.
• Helsinki 10, Eerikinkatu 3, +358 (0)10 548 9801
This emporium of Scandinavian street style offers women's and men's pieces by hot Swedish labels Whyred, Tiger of Sweden, Hope, and Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, as well as Bernhard Willhelm, Raf Simons, and Vanessa Bruno. There's also a large selection of Adidas footwear and a small, mainly '80s-influenced vintage section at the back featuring clothing, accessories, and unique design objects.
• Arabiakeskus, Hämeentie 135, +358 (0)2 0439 3507 (take Tram #6 from the city center)
Design addicts will want to make the trek to the Arabiakeskus, Finland's largest outlet store offering house wares and objets from Finland's top names: Iittala glass, Hackman cooking utensils, Arabia ceramics, and Finlayson linens. Pick up a discounted Alvar Aalto wave vase before heading to the great little café frequented by students at the Helsinki University of Art and Design located in the same building. This multi-purpose complex also houses the Arabia Museum and Gallery, a library and a selection of lifestyle and décor stores.
• Café Strindberg, Pohjoisesplanadi 33, +358 (0)9 681 2030
Connecting the busy harbor and market to the central artery Mannerheimintie, the posh Pohjoisesplanadi (North Esplanade) is hands down the best spot for people-watching in the city. Strindberg is a traditional European brasserie offering light lunches, some of the best coffee in town, and a scrumptious selection of pastry or pulla. Grab a chair on the outdoor terrace and sip your tea among a mix of artists and ladies-who-lunch.
• Café Aalto, Pohjoisesplanadi 39, second floor Academic Bookstore
This literary café was designed by Alvar Aalto and his second wife Elissa in 1969. Decked out in cool white marble and slick brass lighting fixtures, this café is always full of book lovers sampling the wide variety of teas, coffees, and pastries on offer. While you are there, browse the aisles of the bookstore, which displays the largest selection of foreign-language books in Helsinki.
• Kuurna, Meritullinkatu 6, +358 (0)9 670 849
The only indication that this delightful harbor area restaurant exists is a small black and white ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œRavintolaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? (restaurant) sign hanging above the door. Once inside this tiny boîte, be prepared to be amazed by the fresh fish and impressive wine selection. Be sure to make a reservation as the 20 seats fill up quickly with locals, and no one is in any hurry to push you out the door.
•Ateljee Bar, 13th Floor, Hotel Torni, Yrjonkatu 26
For stunning views of the entire city, head to the 13th floor of the Hotel Torni, where on a clear day you can see all the way to Estonia. Take the elevator to the 12th floor and then climb the narrow spiral staircase to the rooftop bar. Locals hit this convivial spot for after-work drinks on the outdoor terrace. Don't miss the floor-to-ceiling windows in the washrooms—the most memorable WC visit in Helsinki.
This 1928 building designed by one of Finland's most famous female architects, Wivi Lönn, was extensively renovated in 2006 and is a modern design fanatic's dream. Inspired by Finnish design and nature, and filled with Artek furnishings, this centrally located hotel offers a rooftop sauna complex and apartments at reasonable rates for those looking for an longer stay.
A return trip to Finland's unofficial style capital.