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DESTINATION


WORDS MOLLY DYSON


Helsinki’s trams run even in the heaviest snow


FULL STEAM AHEAD


The Finns say saunas are the key to striking good business deals, which may explain how diminutive Helsinki has become a global powerhouse


T


HERE IS A FAMOUS STORY about Finland’s Cold War president, Urho Kekkonen, inviting Soviet


diplomats to join him in the sauna at his official res- idence – completely nude, of course – to negotiate on future relations. To this day, Finns believe the best business deals are struck while steaming together. In Helsinki there are dozens of public saunas where people hold hushed business con- versations in 100°C heat. The Finnish capital may


be one of Europe’s smaller business centres, but the city is a powerhouse in the digital and services sectors. A glance at the office build- ings in the centre reveals big-name companies, including Deloitte, Elec- tronic Arts, Google, KPMG, Microsoft, and, of course, the Finnish giant Nokia. Helsinki contributes about one-third of Finland’s GDP. For meetings and events, the city is home to some of the most ambitiously


142 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019


designed buildings in Europe, including the Central Library Oodi, the architecture of which is based on the structure of a bridge that allows its 10,000sqm of space spread across three floors to remain largely open plan. Businesses can use the cinema, auditorium and meeting rooms for events. And if you need quiet space to work, Sofia Future Farm offers co-working spaces and soundproof booths.


FOOD WITH A TWIST But Helsinki isn’t all work and no play. In terms of restaurants, I loved the trendy Yes Yes Yes, with its vegetarian cuisine made with locally foraged and sourced produce. Dishes here are a fusion of Asian flavours with a Finnish twist – I recommend the avocado, pistachio, par- mesan and basil dip with tandoori flatbread. Meanwhile, the Sofia


Future Farm “urban hub” also offers two restaurants,


buyingbusinesstravel.com


one of which is, in my opinion, well on its way to earning a Michelin star. There is also a wine bar, event spaces and a loft room designed for wellness activities, such as yoga.


GETTING AROUND Being such a small metropolis, pretty much everything you could want is within easy walking or commuting distance. Cycling is popular in the warmer months, while throughout the winter the city’s trams and metro run with little delay even in the heaviest snow. Public transport into and out of Helsinki is easy to navigate, including the airport, to which Finnair flies up to seven times a day from Heathrow in under


Central Library Oodi


three hours; a train (€5) whizzes to Central Station in just half an hour. For now Helsinki does seem to suffer from a lack of capacity when it comes to large-scale exhibitions and conferences, which normally take place at the Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre. However, investment is ongoing; during my visit, I stayed at the new Lapland Hotels Bulevardi, and nearby is the Hotel St George, Hotel Indigo Helsinki and Radisson Blu Aleksanteri. At the Messe- keskus itself is the newly reopened Holiday Inn Helsinki – Expo, which has undergone a renovation. Sauna diplomacy or not,


Helsinki is the place to be for modern businesses.


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