Finns are what they used to be

Live it up like royalty at a splendid spa and pay Santa a visit at the top of the world.

Live it up like royalty at a splendid spa and pay Santa a visit at the top of the world.

Nuuksio National Park

This stunning park is packed with forests, wilderness lakes, valleys, ravines and some infertile crags. If you fancy a spot of PYO, there is plenty of mushroom and berry picking on offer. Cross-country skiing features high here during winter.

By car: motorway 1 west, then route 118; journey time approx 40 minutes. By train: frequent electric trains, E, L, S or U, to Espoo, then bus 88T to Siikaranta; approx 50 minutes.

Porvoo

Porvoo, Finland's second oldest town, founded in 1346, is on the Porvoo River. It has retained much of its charm as a wooden medieval town and boasts a delightful selection of sights, including the cathedral, the Town Hall Square and the home of Finland's national poet, J L Runeberg. Don't miss the Doll and Toy Museum and the craftsmen's workshops by the river.

By car: E18 and follow signs; approx 30 minutes. By train: Porvoo Museum Train from Helsinki station; one hour.

Hackman Arabia Museum and Factory Shop

One of Scandinavia's best-known and best-respected names in household design, Arabia produces ceramics, crockery, glassware, cutlery, wine goblets, plates and all sorts of vases, with a distinctive look. The museum has changing exhibitions of work from the past century. Want to stock up on goods? The factory shop also sells cutlery, pots and pans and kettles etc. along with award-winning designer ware.

By car: head northeast on Hameentie street; approx 20 minutes. By tram; frequent service on tram no 6; approx 30 minutes.

Suomenlinna Island Fortress

Built on six islands, this maritime fortress, more than 250 years old, is one of Finland's most important monuments and a Unesco world heritage site. But it is much more than just a museum with more than 900 people living here and around 350 working here. Expect a fine brewery, good restaurants, concerts, numerous galleries, a doll and toy museum, a submarine, great Christmas events and you won't be disappointed. In summer there is a theatre festival

By boat: frequent ferries from the pier at the Market Square; approx 15 minutes.

Santa Claus Village

Meet the great man, visit the craft shops and take a sleigh ride pulled by reindeer or huskies. Crisp, cold dry air and frequent sightings of the wondrous Northern Lights create an enchanting experience.

By plane: regular service to Rovaniemi with Finnair from Helsinki; approx 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Haikko Manor

The Russian royal family used to live it up here and spend part of their summers in this sumptuous grand manor, stunningly situated on the coast. Today, this historic manor is a splendid spa and hotel offering loads of treatments, pampering and great but healthy eating..

By car: take the E18 to Porvoo and follow signs; approx 45 minutes. By bus: frequent service to Porvoo, then taxi; approx 55 minutes.

Cresta (0870 161 0900; www.crestaholidays.co.uk) offers a two-night b&b weekend break at the three-star Helsinki Hotel from £325 per person, including returns from Heathrow. Europcar (0870 607 5000; www.europcar.com) offers weekend car hire in Helsinki from £141.90 (€222).

Comments