Anne Lind, Visit Finland’s head of trade relations, outlines her homeland’s highlights.
What does your job entail?
Visit Finland does not have its own offices abroad, but we have overseas representatives, and I coordinate the marketing activities in the different countries. Our biggest market is Russia, then Sweden and Germany, and the UK is fourth. It’s an important market – it contributed 446,792 overnight visitors in 2014.
Where do you live now?
In Helsinki – it’s very lively and a popular city break. August is a good time to visit because we have the Helsinki Festival.
Where would you recommend to eat out?
I have just discovered Pompier in the city centre, which is good for lunch. They do home-baked bread and lovely salads. For dinner, Sundmans Krog opposite the Old Market Hall is good – they serve great fresh fish.
Can you escape the city?
There are two national parks near Helsinki, just half an hour away by bus. I enjoy nature and love walking. Ferries depart the city centre like buses. Ten minutes from Helsinki by ferry is the island of Suomenlinna. It is a maritime fortress and has six museums – a good place for a picnic.
Where do you recommend visiting after Helsinki?
Try Tampere. Ryanair flies there in summer. Children love the Moomin Valley Museum there. Moomins are characters in the books by Tove Jansson (pictured). Lake cruises depart the city centre and can last anything from an hour to several days.
What’s Finland’s top wildlife watching experience?
You can see brown bears in the north – the best time is summer because the bears hibernate in winter.
Have you seen the Northern Lights?
I have. This year, we’ve seen the lights in Helsinki. They are marvellous, like magic. You can see them on TV, but there’s no substitute for seeing them with your own eyes. The same applies to the Midnight Sun. In northern parts, the sun doesn’t set at all in high summer. It’s a rare feeling being awake at midnight and the sun is shining.
How is Finnish cuisine?
We tend to use seasonal ingredients, so when berries are in season, for example, our desserts often include them. Increasingly, Finnish people are returning to the forests to gather “wild food”. How does Finland differ from its neighbours? Finnish is not the same language as Swedish, Norwegian or Danish. We have a similar language to Estonia – we can’t understand them but some sounds are the same. We also have a great number of lakes – 188,888 at the last count. And we are renowned for our Finnish designers.
What’s the biggest draw for Brits to Finland?
Lapland – every year it gets more popular. You can meet Santa, take a husky safari, visit a reindeer farm, sleep in an iglu and maybe see the Northern Lights. It’s very romantic to get married surrounded by snow. Our weddings are legal – couples receive a Finnish marriage certificate.
What about the national obsession with saunas?
We have 1.4 million saunas. Hotels nearly always have one, and newer hotels have in-room saunas, so the guest has their own private one. It’s part of our life – we can’t live without saunas. It makes us feel relaxed.
Do you have a sauna?
Yes – every evening at my lake house, we go for a sauna and swim. The combination of the sauna and the cold water is very good for the circulation.