Day One

  • City Centre

If you're arriving by rail, Helsinki's central train station gives you an immediate feel for the city's stunning National Romantic art-nouveau architecture. From here it's just footsteps to Kiasma to catch modern and contemporary Finnish and international art in striking contemporary surrounds. More art is on display at the nearby Ateneum, Helsinki's – and Finland's – premier showcase for the country's ‘golden age’ from the late 19th century through to the 1950s.

After lunch, stroll through the city's central strip of green, Esplanadin Puisto, and visit central Finnish design shops such as renowned glassware manufacturer Iittala and new emporium Tre. Continue your stroll through the city's beautiful botanic gardens, Kajsaniemi, and its 10 interlinked greenhouses.

  • Dinner Swish bistro dining on the upper level of Strindberg.
  • City Centre

Book ahead to take in a concert at the Musiikkitalo, which hosts everything from classical to jazz, rock and pop. Even if you don't catch a performance, its bar is a great place for a nightcap.

Day Two

  • Kruununhaka & Katajanokka

Get an early start to beat the crowds at Helsinki's Lutheran cathedral, Tuomiokirkko, a masterpiece from architect CL Engel, then head to another resplendent church, the Finnish Orthodox Uspenskin Katedraali, built as a Russian Orthodox cathedral and still topped by its distinctive gold onion domes.

  • Lunch Make reservations ahead for Michelin-starred modern Finnish cuisine at Olo.
  • Kruununhaka & Katajanokka

Make your way to the kauppatori and board a local ferry bound for Suomenlinna, the 'fortress of Finland', set over a series of islands in Helsinki's archipelago. Spend the afternoon exploring its fortifications, bunkers and numerous museums. Highlights here include scrambling through the Vesikko, the only WWII-era submarine remaining in Finland.

Return by ferry to the kauppatori. Take in a stunning panorama of Helsinki aboard the Sky Wheel then finish with a swim and/or a sauna at waterfront swimming complex Allas Sea Pool, which also has dazzling skyline views.

Day Three

  • Kruununhaka & Katajanokka

The most scenic way to reach the island of Seurasaari is to take a ferry from the kauppatori to the adjacent island of Kuusisaari, where you'll find two outstanding art museums, the Didrichsen Taidemuseo and Villa Gyllenberg. From Kuusisaari it's a 400m stroll to Seurasaari. Its delightful open-air museum, Seurasaaren Ulkomuseo, shelters a collection of 87 historic wooden buildings relocated to the island from around Finland.

  • Lunch Bring provisions for a picnic lunch on the island, or head to a cafe here.
  • Kamppi & Töölö

Return from Seurasaari by bus and make your way to the rock-hewn church Temppeliaukion Kirkko with its stunning copper roof and sublime acoustics (check the agenda to try to align your visit with a concert). Afterwards wander through the Kansallismuseo to learn about Finnish history, and check out contemporary-art exhibitions inside the Tennispalatsi at the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM).

  • Dinner Traditional Finnish fare at Alvar Aalto–designed Kosmos.
  • Kamppi & Töölö

Enjoy a post-dinner glass of wine at Vin-Vin or a sensational cocktail at steampunk-themed Steam Hellsinki, before catching a film at art deco Orion Theatre or jazz at Helsinki's best jazz club, Storyville.

Day Four

  • Punavuori & Ullanlinna

Kick-start your day with a coffee and pastry at Helsinki's historic market hall, Vanha Kauppahalli, before making your way to the city's Design Museum. Glassware by Aino Aalto, a Paimio bent birch plywood chair by Alvar Aalto and a semi-spherical fibreglass Ball chair by Eero Aarniio are among its iconic designs. Be sure to get a combination ticket for the neighbouring Museum of Finnish Architecture.

  • Lunch Designer Finnish dishes at Juuri.
  • Punavuori & Ullanlinna

Flex your credit card at the Design District shops. Standouts include Jukka Rintala, Awake, Lokal and Art.fi, but there are countless others to explore. While away the afternoon in the seaside park Kaivopuisto and relax afterwards with a sauna at Löyly Sauna.

  • Dinner Check out more of Alvar and Aino Aalto's work while dining at the Savoy.
  • Kallio

Make your way to the creative neighbourhood of Kallio to check out its nightlife – the streets of Helsinginkatu and Vaasankatu in particular have plenty of buzzing bars. End the night at top Helsinki club Kuudes Linja, famed for experimental beats.