1 Esplanade Helsinki's Pohjoisesplanadi is a great place to wander around and soak in the city's atmosphere. Roaming string quartets entertain cafe-goers with renditions of lively classical music - such as Brahms' Hungarian Rhapsody - till the wee hours of the morning. People dance on the pavements, and rock bands belt out modern numbers in English and Finnish. There are many fine restaurants, as well as pubs and cafes where the strong, full-bodied taste of Lapin Kulta, the local beer, is the favoured brew. 2 Suomenlinna sea fortress One of the world's largest maritime fortresses, Suomenlinna was built in the 1700s across six islands off Helsinki's coast and has been a Unesco World Heritage site since 1991. The 15-minute ferry ride to Suomenlinna from Market Square is fun and provides a view of the magnitude of this enormous fortress from the sea. The Suomenlinna Museum on the main island chronicles its history, and is certainly worth a look. The Swedish, who once ruled Finland, built the fortress as their main point of defence to counter the ambitions of Russia's Peter the Great. Suomenlinna is very much a living museum: its 1,000 or so residents, who commute to the mainland to work, live in charming wooden heritage houses or barracks that have been converted into apartments. It's a popular place for Helsinki day-trippers who love sunbathing on the rocky cliffs or just idling the time away in one of the sea-view cafes. The many tunnels of the old fortress are fascinating to explore, but be prepared for a lot of walking ( www.suomenlinna.fi ). 3 Senate Square Senate Square has historical importance for Finns. It was planned when Finland became part of the Russian empire in 1809. The cathedral, Government Palace and the university were designed by C.L. Engel, Finland's most prominent 19th-century architect. The cathedral is an imposing work of art that dominates the square with its stark, white walls and green domes. Engel worked on it from 1818 until his death in 1840. The architecture around the square is 19th-century neo-classical, and is impressive. In the centre stands the only remaining statue of Russian tsar Alexander II. The south side of the square is lined with 18th- to 19th-century merchant houses that have been converted into offices, shops and restaurants. 4 Sibelius Park The main reason to visit is to see the strange monument that was built in honour of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. This enormous work is fashioned from silver tubes in an artistic interpretation of the pipes of an organ. Sibelius' music is played everywhere in Finland. His best-known work, Finlandia, is a turbulent and emotional piece that signifies the awakening of Finland as a nation. 5 Market Square Cans of reindeer meat, several varieties of smoked salmon, smoked Baltic herring, yellow berries and packets of smoked moose are some of the delicacies sold at the stalls in the indoor Market Hall. At the outdoor stalls, by the waterfront, the strawberries are plentiful and juicy during summer. Souvenir stalls that sell the likes of wooden animals, Finnish knives and pelts stand against a backdrop of pastel-coloured historical buildings, including the creamy yellow President's Palace and the blue City Hall. The red brick and golden cupolas of the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral add a mysterious air to the skyline. 6 Temppeliaukio (The Church in the Rocks) Designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the rock church is a unique place of worship. Excavated from a rocky outcrop, it looks like a modest cave. It has a 25-metre circular copper dome with steel-framed skylight windows that allow the light to shine through onto rough-hewn granite walls. Sit and soak in the ambience while listening to the strains of Sibelius' music in the background. 7 Finlandia Hall Helsinki's architectural mixture of ancient and modern makes it an interesting place to see. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki's main concert hall, is a modern building that's distinctively Finnish. Cubist shapes and marble walls combine to form a decorative entity, while its design is both ornamental and functional. It has a tower-like section with a sloping roof that covers the whole building. The large asymmetrical auditorium has no right angles. There's a 1,700-seat hall and a smaller, 340-seat auditorium that are separated by a landscaped foyer. Alvar Aalto was the designer ( www.finlandia.hel.fi ). 8 Saunas The best way to experience some quintessential Finnish culture is to head for a sauna. In Helsinki, sitting in a steamy room full of strangers with not a stitch of clothing on seems to be the most natural thing in the world. Most of the saunas are well-patronised. For those not used to being nude in public, try to ignore the initial discomfort - the embarrassment will pass. There are separate sections for men and women. The Kotiharjun Sauna is popular and convenient. The Finnish Sauna Society has five firewood saunas and three traditional smoke saunas to choose from. Kotiharjun Sauna: Harjutorinkatu 1, Helsinki, tel: (358) 9753 1535; Finnish Sauna Society ( www.sauna.fi ), tel: (358) 9686 0560. 9 Beach and summer fun In summer, Helsinki's only beach is packed with people sunbathing, swimming or just enjoying a beer. The sun is out almost 23 hours a day, and the people of Helsinki have found many ways to enjoy it. Take advantage of the extensive bicycle tracks that lead around the foreshore, the trampoline areas, bungee-jumping facilities, water activities and green parks. Among the more unusual sights you might encounter are people bungee-jumping in gorilla suits or washing their carpets in the sea. 10 Museums Invest in a Helsinki Card for unlimited use of public transport and admission to most of the city's 80 museums. The Cygnaeus Gallery, set in a lovely wooden villa, has a great collection of 19th- and 20th-century Finnish paintings and sculpture. There are Finnish woodwork, ceramics and fine arts exhibits at the Helsinki City Art Museum. And for transport buffs, there's a good aviation museum with more than 70 aircraft on display, as well as a fascinating tram museum.