Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, which is part of the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is the political, educational, financial, cultural center of the country.
Helsinki is famous for its high quality of life, with many people choosing to live and work in the city due to its livability and strong economy.
Helsinki is known for its beautiful setting, with many islands, parks, and green spaces, as well as cultural attractions, including museums and galleries like the National Museum of Finland and Helsinki Art Museum.
The capital of Finland is also famous for its architecture, which ranges from neoclassical buildings to modernist structures within a number of notable landmarks, such as the Helsinki Cathedral, the Senate Square, and the Olympic Stadium.
Some of the best things to do and see in Helsinki are taking a boat tour to see the Suomenlinna sea fortress, exploring the Design District for unique shopping, visiting the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square for architecture and history, try Finnish cuisine at its local restaurants or at the Helsinki Food Market, or strolling through Esplanadi park.
Founded by King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden in 1550 and became the capital of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812, under the Russian Empire,Tzar Alexander I of Russia.
Helsinki is also called the White city due to its buildings being constructed of a local light-coloured granite. The city has a number of festivals and events throughout the year such as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the leading orchestras in the country.
25 Best things to do in Helsinki, Finland
1. Suomenlinna Fortress
Suomenlinna Fortress is one of the best things to do in Helsinki because it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole country. It is a sea fortress located on a group of islands just off the coast of Helsinki.
The Fortress of Suomenlinna has been the Unesco World Heritage Site since 1991, comprising military fortifications built on six islands to guard the entrance to the harbor of Helsinki.
Suomenlinna Fortress means Finnish castle and has an old name, Sveaborg means Swedish castle because it was constructed when Finland was colonized by Sweden, as a defense against the Russians who may decide to attack Sweden.
A century later, Russia controlled over Finland, changed the Fortress’ name into Peter the Great’s Naval Fortress. The island now became a defensive spot against the Swedish.
You can explore six kilometers of walls, traditional Scandinavian wooden houses on the lake, 100 cannons, tunnels, and parks, as well as museums, guided tours, and restaurants.
Suomenlinna is accessible only by water. There is a ferry service departing from Katajanokka ferry port at the Market Square to Suomenlinna all year round, as well as a water bus service in summer.
The boat trip to Suomenlinna takes 15–20 minutes and offers stunning views of Helsinki. You can experience a trip through the ice-covered waters during winter.
Suomenlinna sea fortress is open to the public all year round and is free to enter.
2. Helsinki Cathedral
The Helsinki Cathedral is one of the popular cultural landmarks in the city, located close to Senate Square. This is a cathedral of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and is part of the Empire-style center of Helsinki.
The cathedral was built between 1830 and 1852, designed by Carl Ludvig Enge as the name Saint Nicholas Cathedral. The Ernst Lohrmann architect added four little domes next to the characteristic green vault.
The cathedral was known as Helsingin tuomiokirkko after Finland became independent, and changed to Helsinki Cathedral in 1959.
You will see a statue dedicated to Alexander II, a Russian tsar, in the center of the Senate Square, and a staircase that leads to the church.
There are also the sculptures of the 12 Apostles on the cathedral’s roof, and interior items such as the altar, the pulpit and the organ.
The cathedral is located at Senate Square, in the center of the city, making it easy to reach on foot and public transport on M1 and M2 metro lines and trams.
The Helsinki Cathedral daily 09:00-18:00 Monday-Saturday and 11:00-18:00 on Sunday. It is free to visit the church and the crypt, an exhibition, or concert.
3. Esplanadi Park
The Esplanade Park, also known as Espa by locals, is the most well-known park in Finland. Located between Erottaja Square and Market Square, the park is a popular place to have picnics, listen to street musicians and performers, relax and enjoy an ice cream, beer or coffee.
You can find a historic restaurant called Kappeli, opened in 1867, as well as the Espa Stage which has live music all year round, and the pool with sculptures by Viktor Jansson.
You can find the statue of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, poet and author, as well as historic wooden kiosks, and various memorials in the park.
4. Temppeliaukio Church
Temppeliaukio Church, or the Rock Church is a popular attraction, attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world to visit due to its special architecture.
Temppeliaukio Church is an active Lutheran church. The church was created by the Suomalainen brothers, Timo and Tuomo, who were architects, and it was finished in 1969.
The interior of the church was constructed within a rock formation, and the space is covered by a copper dome that is supported by the rock walls.
The entrance fee is 5 € per person on the site or online from the website. The church fee is included in the Helsinki Card and the national Finnish Museum Card.
You can book a guided tour to learn more details and the history of the church. The church is located within walking distance from Kamppi shopping center.
5. Seurasaari Island
Seurasaari is a tranquil, beautiful green island that is the location of an open-air museum. Seurasaari is located only a few kms from Helsinki city center, connected with it by a bridge.
Seurasaari is a popular spot for outdoor activities with a number of trails and beautiful natural areas, making it a great place for hiking and picnicking.
The Open-Air Museum of Seurasaari has a collection of wooden houses over the country of the past four centuries. You can learn about Finnish history and culture.
The island is also home to the Seurasaaren Kruunu restaurant, Mieritz Cafe, Seurasaari Beach, and a kiosk.
The island hosts numerous events throughout the year such as the Midsummer bonfires, Christmas path, and Easter bonfires.
6. Uspenski Cathedral
Uspenski Cathedral is a Finnish Orthodox cathedral and the largest orthodox church in Western Europe, located on the highest hill in the Katajanokka district. Uspenski Cathedral is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.
The cathedral was created by the Russian architect Aleksei M. Gornostaev with a Russian-Byzantine style, on the highest hill in the Katajanokka district. It was finished in 1868, and it has been renovated several times.
The church is one of the most prominent symbols of Russia’s influence on Finnish history due to its golden cupolas and red brick facade.
7. Old Market Hall
Vanha Kauppahalli, or Old Market Square is located along the waterfront south Market Square. It is an operating city market that sells locally produced products and seafood.
Opened in 1889, it is the oldest indoor market in the country. You can experience Helsinki daily life at this market, and enjoy high quality Finnish snacks, food and drinks.
Old Market Hall is easy to reach from the main ferry dock of Helsinki, Allas Sea Pool, the tram station Kauppatori, and Helsinki Central Railway Station.
8. Sauna experience
Finland is the home of the Sauna, so a visit to Helsinki is not complete without trying a Finnish sauna. Some of the popular public sauna in Helsinki are:
- Kotiharjun sauna
- Allas Sea Pool
- Arlan Sauna
Saunas are an important part of Finnish culture. It is a place to clean up, warm up, relax, and socialize. Many people in Helsinki visit saunas regularly, as they are believed to have a variety of health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health, relieving stress and muscle tension, and promoting relaxation.
9. Linnanmäki Amusement Park
Linnanmäki Amusement Park is one of the best things to do and see in Helsinki for families and children. It was opened in 1950 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country,
The park has more than 40 rides, and many rides are free for children. The most popular ride in the park is the Vuoristorata wooden roller coaster, which has been open since 1951.
Linnanmäki Amusement Park is also home to many arcades, games, kiosks, restaurants, food stands, a gift shop, and an outdoor stage.
10. Crayfish parties
Crayfish parties, also known as kräftskivor, are a traditional summertime event in Sweden and Finland.
In Helsinki, you can find crayfish parties at restaurants and pubs that serve crayfish during the summer months.
These events usually involve the social gathering of friends and family, and often involve the singing of traditional Swedish and Finnish folk songs while enjoying the boiled crayfish, typically served with dill and other dipping sauces.
In addition to crayfish, these parties often feature other traditional Scandinavian dishes such as gravlax, meatballs, and aquavit.
11. Vintage Tram Ride
You can experience the olden days, you can take the vintage trams departing every 30 minutes from the tram stop at the Havis Amanda statue next to the Market Square.
There is a tram motor from 1909, manufactured by ASEA, or an open summer trailer from 1919 ride through Helsinki now every Saturday and Sunday.
The open trailer was used until the summer of 1952, when the Olympic Games were held in Helsinki, while the motor car was used for daily transportation until 1956.
12. Seaside Amble
Seaside Amble is a great place to visit, take a walk along its waterfront, and enjoy great views of the skyline of Helsinki. Seaside Amble is known as the old main port of Helsinki.
You can walk along the 7 kms trail to Hietaniemi Beach, a beautiful sandy bay in the city.
You can find the Sibelius Monument, an interesting figure to respect Finland’s most noticeable essayist, Jean Sibelius.
You can enjoy ice cream, watch the yachts sail by during summer times.
13. Design District Helsinki
Helsinki has a huge design vibe and community. You can explore the Design District, which is known for its concentration of design-related businesses and events.
The Design District is packed with design and antique shops, fashion stores, cool museums, art galleries, restaurants, and studios.
The Design District has more than 25 streets and 200 buildings, offering plenty of activities, and getting to know Finnish design and buying top-class Finnish design products.
The Design Museum was founded in 873, on Korkeavuorenkatu Street, in a neo-gothic style. It has exhibitions of the Finnish golden eras to modern days.
You can shop at the famous Marimekko for clothing, enjoy a cafe at the Lokal Café & Shop, visit the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and browse at the Bukowskis Market.
14. National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo)
If you are interested in the history of Finland, you must visit the National Museum of Finland which shows the history of the country from prehistoric times to the 19th century.
The museum’s collections contain over 3 million objects and documents, including art, cultural artifacts, and natural history specimens.
The building was created by Eliel Saarinen, Herman Gesellius, and Armas Lindgre, who are all famous Finnish architects.The building is one of the most significant national-romantic works of architecture of Finland.
You can find the Workshop Vintti, an interactive exhibition, on the third floor. The museum is home to an on-site café and shop.
15. Wooden House Districts
Puu-Vallila is a wooden district that was built during the beginning of the 20th century to deal with housing problems for working classes.
The Puu-Vallila Wooden House District is the first planned worker housing area on the outskirts of Helsinki city center. Many of them have been carefully preserved and renovated to maintain their original character.
The Wooden House District is home to a number of shops, restaurants, and other amenities, and it is also close to a number of parks and green spaces.
16. Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma)
Kiasma is a museum of modern art that is affiliated with the Finnish National Gallery. The museum has a collection of Finnish contemporary art, and annually changing thematic exhibitions.
Steven Holl, an American architect, designed Kiasma, which was opened to the public in 1998. Kiasma is located in the center of Helsinki, near the city’s main train station and other major attractions.
17. Helsinki Railway Station
Helsinki Central railway station is a beautiful landmark in central Helsinki, and one of the busiest railway hubs in Finland, with approximately 200,000 passengers per day, or about 73 million per year.
The station is located in the Kamppi district and it is also a major hub for public transportation, with multiple tram, bus, and metro lines converging on it. Helsinki Central railway station provides modern amenities.
The Helsinki Central railway station was designed by Eliel Saarinen and inaugurated in 1919.
The station has a spectacular exterior with a grand clock tower and two beautiful statues at the main entrance.
18. Finlandia Hall
Finlandia Hall is a landmark in Helsinki’s cityscape and is famous for its modern and functionalist design, with sweeping lines and a striking white exterior. It is the work of Alvar Aalto, a world famous Finnish architect, and completed in 1971.
The interior features a large, column-free hall that can accommodate up to 1,700 people for events such as concerts, conferences, and exhibitions.
The building also has several smaller meeting and conference rooms, as well as a restaurant. Finlandia Hall is a popular venue for numerous events.
19. Korkeasaari zoo
Helsinki Zoo, or Korkeasaari in Finnish, is one of the best things to do and see in Helsinki for families and kids.
Set on an island just off the coast of Helsinki, the zoo is home to more than 150 different species of animals, including polar bears, gorillas, lions, and wolves.
The zoo hosts exhibits including the Arctic Ring, which features polar bears and Arctic foxes, and the African Savannah, which is home to giraffes and zebras.
There is also a children’s farm and an aquarium, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes.
20. Helsinki Olympic Stadium
The Helsinki Olympic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium that was constructed in 1938, in Töölö, as the main venue for the 1952 Summer Olympics.
The Helsinki Olympic Stadium is the biggest stadium in Finland, that holds up to 40,000 seats.
The stadium is surrounded by a park, which offers visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors and take a leisurely walk, as well as a wide range of sporting events and concerts.
21. Central Park (Keskuspuisto)
Helsinki Central Park is a large park located in the city. It is a popular place for picnics and outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, or bike riding.
The park is home to several paths and trails, as well as basketball and tennis. You can also find ponds and streams, monuments and statues inside the park.
Helsinki Central Park is a popular destination for cross-country skiing in the winter.
22. Sibelius Monument and Park
The Sibelius Monument is a sculpture, created by Finnish sculptor Eila Hiltunen to honor the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The monument consists of 600 steel pipes arranged in a wave-like pattern, and it is over 20 meters tall.
The monument is set in the Sibelius Park, which is a popular park and recreation area in Helsinki, in the Töölö neighborhood.
Sibelius Park is named after the composer, who is considered one of the greatest Finnish musicians of all time.
23. Gallen-Kallela Museum
If you are interested in Finnish art or culture, the Gallen-Kallela Museum is a great place to visit. The Gallen-Kallela Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
The museum is located in a beautiful building that was designed by the artist himself, and it contains a large collection of his paintings, drawings, and other works of art.
Some of the highlights of the museum include Gallen-Kallela’s illustrations for the Kalevala, a national epic of Finland, and his paintings of the Finnish landscape.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions of other Finnish artists and cultural events.
Tapiola is an area in the Espoo city, which is part of the Helsinki metropolitan area. It is famous for its modernist architecture, green spaces, and diverse range of amenities.
Tapiola was designed in the 1950s and 60s as a garden city or city in a park, and it is considered a pioneering example of urban planning and design.
The neighborhood is home to a wide variety of shops, restaurants, schools, libraries, cultural centers, and other amenities, as well as numerous parks and green spaces.
The Tapiola swimming pool, for example, is a popular attraction that features both indoor and outdoor pools, as well as saunas and a gym.
Tapiola is also home to the Tapiola Sinfonietta, a professional chamber orchestra, and the Tapiola Choir, a mixed choir with over 200 members.
Hanko is a town and municipality in the region of Uusimaa, 100 kilometers west of Helsinki. The town is known for its beautiful beaches and natural surroundings.
There are many things to see and do in Hanko, including visiting the Hanko Peninsula Nature Reserve, hiking in the nearby forests and hills, and enjoying the local cuisine.
There are also a number of museums and cultural attractions in the area, including the Hanko Museum and the Hanko Art Museum.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Helsinki best known for?
Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland, located on the southern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, close proximity to the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is best known for its cultural and historical sights like the Helsinki Cathedral, Suomenlinna fortress, and Helsinki Central station.
Is 2 days in Helsinki enough?
Two days in Helsinki is enough time to get a taste of the city, but it may not be enough to fully experience all that it has to offer. To make the most of the 2 days, it is best to prioritize which sights and activities you want to see and do, and consider staying in the city center.
Is Helsinki worth visiting for a day?
Helsinki is definitely worth visiting for a day because the city has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and plenty of things to do and see, including museums, shopping, and trying delicious Finnish food.
What to do in Helsinki for a day?
Spend a day in Helsinki by visiting the Senate Square, the Helsinki Cathedral, or take a boat tour to visit the Suomenlinna sea fortress. You can enjoy traditional Finnish food and lively nightlife in Kallio.
What are the unique things to do in Helsinki?
Some of the unique and interesting activities to do in Helsinki are visiting the Suomenlinna sea fortress, taking a stroll through the beautiful botanical gardens, visiting museums and art galleries, or enjoying the outdoor activities like beach trips and hikes in nearby Nuuksio National Park.
What to do in Helsinki in winter?
Some popular activities to do in Helsinki during the winter months include visiting the Helsinki Zoo, museums and galleries, skiing at the nearby ski resort, and taking a trip to the famous Helsinki Ice Hall to go ice skating. You can enjoy traditional Finnish dishes and various holiday markets.
What are the best things to do in Helsinki in summer?
Some of the best things to do in Helsinki in the summer include visiting the Suomenlinna sea fortress, exploring the city’s many green parks, trying traditional Finnish cuisine, taking a boat tour of the nearby archipelago,hiking in the nearby forests, visiting the local markets, and enjoying the city’s vibrant nightlife.
See more: Where to Stay in Helsinki
So there you have it, the best things to do in Helsinki, Finland for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.