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Things to do in Helsinki

Hiking and cycling

Nuuksio National Park (www.nationalparks.fi/nuuksionp) is a rolling terrain of lakes and forests just north west of Helsinki, and makes a fabulous place to go trekking or biking. The 4km-long (2 miles) Haukankierros Trail gives a good introduction to the park, and climbs over high rocks, affording great views towards Haukkalampi and Brook Myllypuro valley.

Join a nation of swimmers

Helsinki is renowned for its swimming halls: Mäkelänrinne Swimming Centre (www.urheiluhallit.fi/eng/makelanrinne.html) is the largest in the country, whilst Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall (www.helsinkicard.com/attraction/yrjonkatu-swimming-hall) is Finland's oldest indoor public pool and offers the atmosphere of a Roman bath. If you're brave/mad enough, Kuusijärvi Recreation Centre (www.cafekuusijarvi.fi/english/) offers ice swimming in winter.

Saunas

There's little so Finnish as stripping off and sweating up in a sauna: to immerse yourself in this local tradition, head to Sauna Arla (tel: +358 09 719 218; www.arlansauna.net) or the Kotiharju sauna (tel: +358 09 753 1535; www.kotiharjunsauna.fi). The latter is oldest public wood sauna in the city and the perfect location for this distinctly Finnish experience.

Take it to church… underground

Whether or not you're religious, a trip to Temppeliaukion kirkko (church) is a must for anyone with an affinity for unique architecture. With its domed roof propped up by a circular wall of hewn stone and vast glimmering indoor skylight, its somewhere between church, farmhouse and extraterrestrial landing base.

Take the mic in a karaoke bar

Finnish people are second only to the Japanese in their ardent love for a night spent wailing their troubles away in a karaoke bar, and you shouldn't leave town without at least one shared rendition of 'You Can Call Me Al'. Check out Karaoke Bar Pataässä (tel: +358 09 626 076; www.karaokebar.net/pataassa) or Anna K (+358 09 676 128; www.karaokebar.net/annak).

Featured Hotels

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CheapSleep Helsinki

This hostel does what it says on the tin, offering affordable accommodation in a notoriously expensive city. The humorous tagline of its website sums it up: "Sleep cheap, stay rich". With 10 private rooms and 118 dorm beds, take your pick from this modern, comfortable and clean hostel, which benefitted from a refurb in 2012. There's free Wi-Fi throughout, a supermarket on the ground floor, kitchen, 24-hour reception and free lockers.

Crowne Plaza

The 349-room Crowne Plaza benefits from an excellent location opposite the Finnish National Opera on Mannerheimintie close to most of the attractions in Helsinki. The hotel offers wireless internet access in all areas. Creature comforts include saunas a spa and pool and a restaurant and bar.

Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre

The thoroughly modern Holiday Inn in Helsinki benefits from an excellent location in the centre of Helsinki, next to the train station, the terminus for buses from the airport and the new music centre. There are 174 rooms and suites with modern amenities, plus a restaurant and lobby bar. There's also a gym and a kids play area.

Hilton Helsinki Strand

Just north of the centre, in the Hakaniemi district, the Hilton Helsinki Strand makes the most of the water views from its rooms, restaurant and rooftop sauna, pool and gym complex. The 192 rooms have every convenience, including wireless internet access, and the Helsinki hotel offers excellent services for families, including a babysitting service. The hotel is less than a mile from shops and entertainment areas in the city.

Hotel Kämp

Founded in 1887, the Hotel Kämp has attracted high fliers for more than a century, and its public areas swim with period charm. Restored throughout, the Helsinki hotel offers 179 spacious rooms with luxurious amenities and high-quality dining at the elegant Kämp Café Brasserie & Bar and Yume, which serves innovative Japanese/Scandinavian fusion cuisine. Other facilities include a gym, spa, sauna suite and a stylish bar and nightclub. The hotel has five meeting and conference rooms, plus the flamboyant Mirror Room, with banqueting space for 120.

Hotel Helka

Housed in a building designed by architect Wivi Lönn in 1928 and furnished with furniture designed by Alvar Alto, this inexpensive and comfortable Helsinki hotel also scores points for its convenient location, just west of the centre. Refurbished throughout in 2006, Hotel Helka has 150 rooms, sauna facilities, a restaurant and bar. Limited parking spaces are available.