First, buy a one-day Helsinki transport ticket for $10 and head down to the south harbour, where you can buy a cheap fishy breakfast at the famous Kauppatori market square (salmon soup, a herring sandwich and coffee for about $12), before taking the ferry to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress (suomenlinna.fi). Spend a few hours wandering through the parks, museum exhibits and decommissioned war machinery, then sail back to town for a Russian lunch at Blinit ($10, blinit.fi), and a world-class sauna at the long-standing, wood-burning Kotiharjun steam room ($15, kotiharjunsauna.fi). Nearby, Pub Sirdie has good, cheap beer and a decent jukebox, (pubsirdie.com), then you can pick up a great falafel or kebab around the corner at Fafa's ($10, fafas.fi), before taking a room at the Omena Hotel (from $75, omenahotels.com).
EASY DOES IT
The coffee and pastries are outstanding at Johan & Nystrom, a red-brick cafe in Tullinge ($20, johanochnystrom.se/en/). Spend the rest of the morning at Kiasma, one of Europe's better but lesser-known modern art galleries ($18, kiasma.org). Then take a lunch cruise and guided tour of the offshore islands, eating your way through a Nordic buffet while sailing across the gulf of Helsinki ($45, ihalines.fi). Sit quietly for a bit at the beautiful Kamppi "chapel of silence" (free, helsinginkirkot.fi/fi/kirkot/kampin-kappeli), then head out for a noisy evening at local rock venue Tavastia (about $25, tavastiaklubi.fi), ideally preceded by artisanal beer and Finnish tapas next door at Ravintola Ilves ($30, ravintolailves.fi). The Scandic Paasi is the best of the city's modish mid-range design hotels (standard rooms from $135, scandichotels.com).
The splendidly named Krulla's Wiener Kaffeehaus has become a Viennese-style institution even when set against the very high standards of Helsinki's growing gourmet coffee culture, and does a fantastic cakey breakfast with Austrian cappuccino ($25, krullas.com). Take a private sailing tour to see the city and surrounding archipelago from the water and acquire some yachting skills while you are at it. ($460, burnoutcity.fi/en). The city's design district around Dianapuisto Park has tours to guide you according to your taste (set aside $300 to spend at design store Artek in particular, artek.fi). Go the full nine courses for dinner at Chef & Sommelier, with a bottle of Cumieres organic champagne ($230, chefetsommelier.fi), and take a "luxury" room at the wonderful Hotel Fabian ($340, hotelfabian.fi).