11 Things to do in Helsinki

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Helsinki is an interesting city that you may not think of for an exciting city trip. Yet it is a great city with a beautiful coastal location. In addition, there are a lot of historical sights in Helsinki. But culture, beautiful parks and a vibrant nightlife will also welcome you here. It's a lovely city, but beware; it's definitely not a cheap location!

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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During your trip to Helsinki, the still young city will surprise you. The capital of Finland is dominated by modern architecture, but other styles are also present. The influence of the Russians is still clearly visible and there are still a lot of historical sights in Helsinki to spot. The climate, with cold winters and perfect summers, also provide the necessary tourists. Especially in the summer months, a city trip to the capital of Finland is very popular. During this period there is a lot to do in the city. Many festivals and events then fill the streets and the locals enjoy coming back outside after a cold winter.
Nature in the immediate area of the city is also a major attraction. Don’t miss this city during your holiday in Finland!

what to see in Helsinki

1. Sauna’s of Helsinki

Did you know that one in three inhabitants of Finland have their own sauna? The sauna is therefore the pride of Finnish society. For people who don’t have their own steam room, there are lots of saunas in Helsinki.
My personal favorite is Löyly, about 20 minutes walking from the city center. For a unique experience with a smoke sauna, you can also go to Kuusijärvi, but it’s quite far from the center.
Don’t forget, just like the Finns, to plunge into the freezing cold water after coming out of the sauna. The feeling afterwards is amazing!

loyly sauna Helsinki

De Löyly sauna in Helsinki. My favorite sauna! Once you can’t handle the heat anymore, I jumped into the ice cold sea. Best feeling ever!

2. Suomenlinna

Due to its seaside location, the port is located in the center of Helsinki. From here you have access to the islands of Suomenlinna. You can visit this huge fort island by ferryboat and admire the beautiful six surrounding islands. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular things to do in Helsinki with its surprisingly beautiful nature and interesting history. A day trip takes an average of 4 to 5 hours. On the island there are some boutiques and small kiosks, but the price of a simple snack can be quite high.

Suomenlinna things to do in Helsinki

Suomenlinna is a gigantic island only a short distance away from the mainland.

3. Uspenski Cathedral

Helsinki has a large number of historical buildings. These enrich the cityscape strongly and attract many tourists as well. The Uspenski Cathedral is a red-bricked cathedral with turquoise towers. This building is visible from pretty much anywhere because it towers over the skyline of Helsinki. The Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Orthodox cathedral of Western Europe. Because of the eye-catching architecture, the building is a strong remainder of the Russian influence on the country in the 19th century.

uspenski cathedral things to see in Helsinki

Just next to the harbor you can see the Uspenski cathedral. Sober on the inside, but richly decorated on the outside.

4. Temppeliaukio church

It’s a difficult tongue twister, but this unique building is beautiful to see and again a nice addition to the list of best things to do in Helsinki. The Rock Church, another name for the Temppeliaukio church, is made of granite and has perfect acoustics because of the copper dome. As a result, the church is used for church services as well as concerts. It may be a little difficult to find the entrance, but eventually you’ll find it. Where else can you find a special church like this?

Temppeliaukio church things to do in Helsinki

The Temppeliaukio church or the Rock Church is an impressive finnish monument!

5. Helsinki Cathedral

A third religious building in the city is also the most famous one: the Helsinki Cathedral. The fun of seeing all these churches and cathedrals in Helsinki are the architectural differences. The Cathedral of Helsinki is built in neoclassic style and, in addition to the modern granite church and the Russian-style Uspenski Cathedral, once again a highlight within the city. The white cathedral is located on top of a small hill so you have to climb some of stairs to get in. But those few steps are more than worth it! The tall tower with its green dome extends far above the city, making this building one of the most important things to see in Helsinki!

helsinki cathedral what to see in helsinki

The best-known monument of Helsinki is of course this gorgeous cathedral. The white building towers over the city.

6. Senate square

Just in front of the cathedral lies the grand Senate Square. The Senate Building, where the square got its name from, is opposite the university. There is also a big library. The buildings are neoclassical and are known throughout the country. During a holiday in Finland, these important points of interest can not be missed. The Senate Square is both literally and figuratively the heart of Helsinki. There is always something to do. A concert, demonstration, market or even festivals with lots of locals and tourists.

senate square helsinki

From the most central square in Helsinki you can get everywhere. On this picture you see a cosy christmas market.

7. Porvoo

At 50 kilometers (31 miles) away lies the adorable village of Porvoo. An idyllic town with typical Finnish houses and a cozy center. This day excursion is perfect if you want a little change during your stay in Helsinki. It has some nice views and cool activities. You can go hiking through nature, fishing on the lake and a lot more outdoor activities. In addition, Porvoo offers a number of nice restaurants and cafes, but again: beware of the high prices. You pay a lot of money here for a simple meal and alcoholic beverages are also very pricey.

porvoo things to do in helsinki and surroundings

You can reach Porvoo quite easily with public transport or a rental car. Visit this city for a look in the real life of Helsinki.

8. Esplanade park

Helsinki isn’t an extremely busy city, as you actually expect from a capital. But the Esplanade city park is still a wonderful place to escape. Located in the middle of the city it’s surrounded by greenery and has the best places to rest. On weekends it’s frequented by the locals and it’s the place to do something in Helsinki. Sometimes, events are also organized. Especially during the summer months, it’s well worth a visit as the Esplanade Park offers a welcome change between the many buildings and busy streets. Around the park are shops. During your city trip in Helsinki you shouldn’t skip shopping too. Helsinki isn’t directly described as fashion city, but the big brands are found here as well!

esplanade park helsinki attractions

During summer everyone comes together in this park. In winers there’s lonesome christmas decorations while the whole city flees to the warm shopping centers.

9. Central Station

Even if you’re not traveling by train, the Central Station of Helsinki is worth a visit. The big railway station is one of the top things to do in Helsinki and is a busy place with as many as 20,000 passengers a day. The special building was designed by the famous architect Eliel Serienen. In the immediate vicinity of the station there are several theaters and museums, so if you’re not going to travel by train, you can always have a cultural day. Want to do some more shopping? Then you are in luck! Because nearby you’ll find a lot of shopping centers as well.

central station helsinki

From the outside it may look a bit strange, but it’s definitely unique from the inside!

10. Nuuksio

If you’re staying in Helsinki for a number of days or if you’re organising a road trip through Finland, you must definitely head into the nature. Escaping the city and enjoying the beautiful nature is best done in Nuuksio. Public transport takes you there within an hour, after which you can enjoy breathtaking landscapes. The National Park is worth the short drive. You can breathe in some fresh air while strolling next to the tall coniferous forests next to the lake. If the weather permits it, you can even arrange a picnic.

nuuksio things to do around Helsinki

You can’t leave Helsinki without having seen at least a bit from the gorgeous Scandinavian nature! Nuuksio is closeby and offers amazing landscapes.

11. Tallinn

Tallinn may be the capital of Estonia, it’s also located very close to Helsinki! You only have to take the ferry, and within the shortest time you already arrive in the Estonian capital. There is a lot to see and experience in Tallinn. In addition, it’s a lot cheaper here in comparison to Finland. So, go ahead and splurge! Go visit one of Tallinn’s great restaurants or cross the picturesque city. With one day in the city you have enough in my opinion.

excursions from Helsinki Tallinn

Tallinn actually has a lot more to see than Helsinki. So I can really recommend a day excursion (or a new citytrip) to the Estonian capital!

Excursions in Helsinki

You don’t want to waste anymore time and already book all your activities and excursions for Helsinki? Fortunately, you’ll find many nice things to do in Helsinki, which you can also book online. Take a look at these activities:


» All tours and excursions in Helsinki

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