71 Helsinki

PopulationMetro: 1,250,000
Irreverence and saunas are the thing in Scandinavia’s emerging hot spot.

Though Helsinki was named as World Design Capital in 2012, it’s only in the few years that the Finnish capital has become popular with young vagabonds, perhaps due to the country’s impressive tourism campaigns.

A few of them are centered around Helsinki airport, which last year Travellink named “Best in the World”—the city comes in at #89 in our Air Connectivity category. Currently, the airport is carrying out a 900 million euro development program in order to prepare for serving 30 million passengers.

In 2017, a Helsinki airport sign welcomed visitors with this message: “Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome.” Looking to prove its hard-won title and bring attention to its selling point of being one of the fastest connections between Europe and Asia, last year the airport operator launched a #LifeinHEL project with Chinese actor Ryan Zhu, who agreed to live in the international terminal for an entire month, all the while sampling the airport food, evaluating customer experience and amenities. Go to the lifeinhel website and you can watch the experience through a series of videos and social media posts. The city, comes in at #106 for Instagram hashtags.

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If you do fly into Helsinki, we recommend you leave the airport and explore. Start with a visit to Teurastamo, a former slaughterhouse that is now home to restaurants, cafes, and bars. Score a table for lunch at Palema, where the chef works with whatever ingredients are in season to create simple but flavorful dishes. The cool thing about the restaurant is the cooperation with fellow slaughterhouse residents and other local small entrepreneurs: the coffee is roasted a quick stroll away, at the Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo roastery; the bread is baked on the spot, and the addictive mini doughnuts are from the Väyrynen bakery. Three doors down is Helsinki Distilling Company, which offers tours followed by a tasting at their Distillery Bar. Don’t leave the city without experiencing the sauna culture. One of the coolest is Löyly, its impressive architecture set at the edge of the Baltic Sea.