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Senate Square with Helsinki Cathedral in the background (Photograph by Hans Strand, Corbis)

Kathrin’s Helsinki

Kathrin Deter moved to Helsinki from Luxembourg in 2010 for what she thought would be a short exchange program. But the Finnish capital stole her heart, and the move quickly became permanent. Not one to look back, Kathrin now she spends her days writing about her newly adopted city for Spotted by Locals, and on her personal blog, Luminoucity. Here are a few of Kathrin’s favorite things about the place she calls home.

Follow her story on Twitter @KathrinDeter.

Helsinki is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is on a walk around the city center and around Helsinki’s southern coastline. (Here’s how you can follow my path.)

The best time to visit my city is…I can’t decide; Helsinki is so different from season to season. I personally prefer the late summer, “ruska,” when the city is dressed in beautiful autumn colors.

You can see my city best from Observatory Hill or the Torni bar, which gives you a great view. But also check out the ferris wheel at the harbor or the one in Linnanmäki park.

Locals know to skip Suomenlinna, a sea fortress built on six islands (it’s nice, but quite crowded with tourists, especially in the summer) and check out Seurasaari, an outdoor museum with tame squirrels, or Pihjalasaari, a beautiful recreational island, instead.

The Hakaniemi market hall is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like the famous composer Jean Sibelius and architect Alvar Aalto have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Ateneum because not only is the building stunning, but also both the permanent and temporary exhibitions are a great representation of both Finnish and international art history.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you can get around easily on foot or by bike. Trams and buses also provide a good and reliable service.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is along the coast or on the easily accessible islands. Also inland bay Töölönlahti and the surrounding park is very nice and in close proximity to the city center.

My city really knows how to celebrate Vappu (also known as Walpurgis Night) on May 1 because Helsinki takes on a carnival-like atmosphere, only better!

You can tell if someone is from my city if they speak excellent English and are dressed according to the calendar and not the actual weather.

For a fancy night out, I would enjoy a great meal at Juuri followed by delicious cocktails at Liberty or Death.

Just outside my city, you can go hiking in Nuuksio National Park or paddle around the archipelago in Vuosaari.

My city is known for being quite frosty and calm but it’s really lively, open, and not even that cold.

The best outdoor market in my city is probably the small market by Kauppatori.

Café Tin Tin Tango is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Fafa’s is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Helsinki This Week or the ex-pat blog HelsinkiIn.

My city’s biggest sports event is ice-hockey. Watch it live at Jäähalli.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I check for the free entrance days at museums and go to Unicafé for lunch.

To escape the crowds, I grab my bike and cycle along the eastern coast and over to Espoo.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Rooney Mara because she is small, underestimated, and a bit weird, but also an unusual beauty.

The dish that represents my city best is probably fresh salmon (crayfish in the summer), and the Salmiakki or Fisu shots are my city’s signature drinks. Sample them at Corona bar (very casual) and Navy Jerry’s (a bit more fancy).

Not very original, but the Helsinki Cathedral is my favorite building in town because it’s stunning and gorgeous without being in-your-face-overwhelming, all the while reigning over the whole city.

The most random thing about my city is the zombie walk in June. Now that really confuses people!

Nosturi and Tavastia club is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out the ’90s trash disco happening at Prkl. It’s quite a unique scene; trust me!

Heavy metal playing in a 5-star hotel lobby could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should make friends with people who have boats.

In the summer those friends should take you on boat trips to islands, where you should make bonfires and experience the “white nights.”

In the fall you should get a cup of coffee and walk around just enjoying the day.

In the winter you should get outside and go ice skating on the frozen sea.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Heureka science museum in Tikkurilla, amazing!

The best book about my city is non-existent, but check out this useful guide on How to Marry a Finnish Girl, that might give you some useful insights on things.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Dreaming Light,” by Anathema.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it combines a cosmopolitan, urban vibe with a proximity to beautiful nature.