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Teemu Selanne's Helsinki

Ducks superstar Teemu Selanne, now retired from hockey, loves to talk about his native land, and especially his hometown, Helsinki.

One of Finland’s favorite sons is also one of Southern California’s favorite sports heroes. Ducks superstar Teemu Selanne, now retired from hockey, loves to talk about his native land, and especially his hometown, Helsinki. Like Selanne, it is one-of-a-kind, a stylish player on the world’s stage. Before the Finnish Flash skated his way to the top of the hockey world, he was a kindergarten teacher in Finland, and he treasures the time he and his family spend there each summer, when Helsinki harbor and the Gulf of Finland glisten in near-perpetual sunlight.  As co-owner of Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach, Teemu loves Orange County, but his roots run deep in Helsinki.  –He spoke with Rosemary McClure.

Why Helsinki?
Helsinki is truly a beautiful city by the Baltic Sea with a great people vibe. It’s cosmopolitan with its many restaurants, old and new architecture, museums and other cultural attractions, yet its harbors and parks are within easy walking distance and its different districts each has its own personality. It’s a city whose small population, around 600,000 people, is welcoming, friendly, fun, creative and proud of where they live.

Time is right
Definitely visit in the summer – July and early August is the perfect time to go. The days are long; there is almost no darkness and everybody is in a holiday mood. There are outdoor concerts – both planned and spontaneous, everyone is picnicking in the parks, the markets are spilling over with local treasures. It’s great to stroll around and window shop, and of course visit coffee houses, dine al fresco and drink at cafes and bistros.

Best bite
The city is full of great restaurants where you can find anything you want to eat. At many of the newest, hottest restaurants people are passionate about the New Nordic Movement – some even say that Helsinki’s Scandinavian food scene is at least as strong or better than what’s going on in Norway and Copenhagen. Some of my favorites, not necessarily New Nordic, are Pastor, a casual fun Peruvian spot to share plates; Gaijin, a modern Asian restaurant and the only place in Finland serving certified Japanese Kagoshima and Kobe beef; and Farang, which has modern Southeast Asian cuisine. I like the curries and pork dishes. I also like to eat at Gastropub Emo. For those who want to enjoy high-end Lapland food like reindeer, bear and elk, I recommend Lappi Ravintola.

Must Do
My family and I like to ride city bicycles all over Helsinki. It’s the easiest, most eco-friendly and best way to both exercise and explore. We love to visit the marketplace in the heart of downtown in the morning. Another must do: a sightseeing cruise around the city and its lovely little islands.

Insider’s Tip
Helsinki is a very clean, safe place to visit. The people are hospitable and ready to help travelers whenever they can, and almost all of the people who live there speak English and want to share their pride in this capital city with everyone who visits.

After Dark
Favorite late-evening hangouts are Teatteri, very stylish with an international vibe; Namu Food & Lounge – wild design, great music and a wonderful place to party with friends; and Apollo Café and its Apollo Live Club. Pataassa and Erottaja are great karaoke bars.

Buy In
Helsinki is famously known for Nordic design – minimal, functional and simple. For great Nordic design, I recommend visiting the Design District. I think that the malls and small boutiques in downtown are the best place to go for general shopping. Also, young cutting-edge fashion designers work in neighborhood clothing ateliers, and you can even hear their sewing machines humming as you stroll by.

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