The capital and largest city in Finland, Helsinki is a neat, compact city gathered around its South Harbor. It's known for being clean, tidy and ordered, although recently the city's gulls have learned how to steal ice cream (signs tell people to shield their cones with a hand). Meeting venues in Helsinki share the town sense of tidiness and great design; and, thanks to the Gulf Stream, visitors will experience relatively clement temperatures.
Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (HEL), 12 miles north of the city center, has excellent connections to North America and the rest of Europe. Finnair dominates, but American Airlines does have a direct flight from Chicago in the warmer months.
Chief among Helsinki convention venues is the Helsinki Exhibition & Convention Center, which has six exhibition halls and 43 meeting rooms, as well as a direct connection to the 244-room Holiday Inn Helsinki.
Hotel venues in Helsinki's city center include those with modern, old-world or practical styling. The 360-room Scandic Simonkentta has nine meeting rooms; the 270-room Sokos Hotel Vaakuna has seven meeting rooms and a ballroom able to cater to up to 700, and the 262-room Radisson Blu Royal, with 13 meeting rooms and a ballroom able to host 400 persons.
There is no lack of event space in Helsinki. A short boat trip (20 minutes) to the city's historical fortress-island of Suomenlinna is a must and an excellent way of experiencing how close bucolic, countryside-inspired Finland is to its (only slightly less stressful) capital city. It has several restaurants, space to roam, a permanent population, UNESCO heritage status and several event spaces inside and out, including two banquet halls, Pirunkirkko for 120 persons and Tenalji con Fersen for 200. Both are in arched, castle-like spaces. Back on the mainland are the Design Museum, in an 1894 building that can host groups after hours in exhibition rooms (up to 700 persons) and anytime in a lecture room and a meeting room, and the House of Nobility, known in Finnish as the Ritarihuone, which dates to 1862 and contains the Assembly Hall that can seat 400 for dinner. Far larger is Finlandia Hall, which can organize dinners for up to 700 persons and receptions for up to 5,000; its new extension, right on Toolonlahti Bay, was completed in spring 2011.
Helsinki cuisine is known for fresh fish and healthy looking vegetables and fruits. Dating to 1827, Aschan Café Jugend contains arches, great design, group space for 40 persons, a Pohjoisesplanadi address and a delicious menu; while Ursula, in peaceful Kaivopuisto Park, can be booked in its entirety for up to 200 persons. Another tranquil choice is the very popular Saaristo on Luoto Island (also called Klippan). It involves a two-minute, private ferry ride, views the South Harbor and has room for 430 persons in a round room; the food might just be the best in the city, too.