Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki. Credit: Eetu Ahanen
This year’s European Capitals of Smart Tourism, Lyon and Helsinki, are taking innovative approaches to helping you make the most of your trip.
What is Smart Tourism and why should you care?
The European Capital of Smart Tourism, an EU initiative, was launched in recognition of the outstanding measures, put in place by EU cities, to make the visitor experience an easy and rewarding one, whether for business or leisure.
It recognises cities that excel when it comes to being accessible, sustainable, digital, cultural and creative.
For more information visit smarttourismcapital.eu.
In 2019, Lyon and Helsinki took the titles by offering a truly modern tourism experience that opened up their rich heritage while bringing recent innovations to a wider audience. Here are a few of the highlights awaiting those who visit the two.
Linking transport and attractions
Providing a joined-up transportation and tourist attraction system, the Lyon City Card is an electronic pass that gives access to public transport, access to the city’s 23 museums, a river cruise, a guided tour, discounts and more.
Assuring restaurant quality
Lyon has been renowned as a gastronomic hotspot since the 17th century (at least) and its traditional bistros are a highlight of a visit. The Bouchon Lyonnais quality label assures the standards of an establishment’s food and ambience so you can enjoy a memorable meal.
The banks of the Saône in Lyon. Credit: Martin M303/Shutterstock
Celebrating a rich heritage
Wandering Lyon’s streets is a delight, in no small part thanks to the Traboules system – covered passageways that run between buildings and courtyards. Originally designed to allow silk merchants to transport their goods safe from the elements, these passageways are maintained and cleaned by the city to ensure owners keep them open to the public. They are an unmissable part of a visit to the city.
Uniting old and new
The Festival of Lights, anchored in a two-century-old custom, takes place each year for four days around December 8. The tradition has been enlivened with modern technology. Where locals used to light candles, today artists have been brought into the mix using old and new techniques to illuminate landmarks and buildings. Videos, lasers, LEDs, sound and performing arts combine to create a memorable spectacle. Find out more about the festival at lyon-france.com
Festival of Lights. Credit: Brice Robert
During the summer months, multilingual helpers are stationed throughout the city, providing information about places, events, restaurants and shopping. Helpers also use digital service myhelsinki.fi, where all content is created by locals.
Helsinki is committed to promoting a more sustainable way of life. The city rolled out a new digital service called Think Sustainably, that enables users – locals and visitors alike – to find the city’s most sustainable restaurants, experiences, shops and accommodation easily. Visit myhelsinki.fi
Helsinki from above. Credit: Helsinki Marketing; Lauri Rotko
Simple transport solutions
Getting about in Helsinki has never been easier thanks to the Whim app, which unites all the modes of transport, from city bicycles to buses and taxis. Visitors can opt to pay as they go or get a monthly subscription for unlimited access to public transport and reduced rates in taxis and car shares.
Reinventing cultural traditions
New public saunas are popping up in the city to reinvigorate this traditional part of the Finnish culture and keep the sense of community that goes with it alive. Loyly endeavours to provide a sustainable experience and offers weary business travellers an opportunity for recuperation.