Helsinki is a modern Scandinavian city along the side of the Baltic Bays, and the capital city of Finland is one of those cities you don’t hear people rave about a lot.
Due to its forward-thinking and head-on modernization, people visiting Europe expecting to experience European medieval roots may be disappointed when they arrive in Helsinki but if you brush that expectation aside and come to Helsinki with no expectation, you are in for quite a quirky amazing time.
I recently got to spend a few days visiting the capital, Helsinki, and one of the first things I noticed was that everyone was outdoors – the cafes were lined with people enjoying their coffees al fresco, friends were meeting for picnics in the park, the Baltic Sea was full of sailboats going out for a day on the water – it was so lively!
How To Get Around Helsinki
Helsinki is not a cheap city so I would recommend sticking to walking as much as you can.
If you book the hotel I recommended, then everything will be within walking distance. If you are planning to go to places like Kallio or the Sauna I recommended then taking the metro is the most reliable, easy and not too expensive with the cheapest price at only €2.20.
From the airport – Getting into the city from the airport is super easy. You can either hop aboard the Finnair City Bus which will get you there in 30 minutes for 6 or 7 Euros, or alternatively, you can take bus # 615 which will get you there in 40 minutes for 5 Euros. Both buses will drop you off in front of the main train station right in the centre of Helsinki.
Things To Do In Helsinki
My days started early and ended late – it sure helped that the sun was up by 5 a.m. and setting at 9:30 p.m. – but then again, who needs sleep when you have perfect weather and a city waiting to be explored?
The following post is a little city guide for summer in the Finnish capital. I’ve included some of my favourite things to do in Helsinki, as well as some tips on where to eat, where to sleep, and how to get around the city. I hope you’ll find it useful!
You have to drop by Senate Square to have a look at the city’s best known attraction: Helsinki Cathedral.
This white church with a green dome dominates the skyline, and I think it’s a cool attraction because it’s quite different from other churches you’ll encounter in Europe.
While the typical European church is very elaborate and full of relics, sculptures, and paintings, Helsinki Cathedral is a blank canvas.
The interior is stark white and it has a minimalist feel.
The Helsinki Cathedral is that huge white-domed building you have probably seen on every blog post about Helsinki, and visible throughout most of the city. It is located just behind Helsinki’s harbourside market.
Since i was there in the summer, you will find peoples chilling out on the stairs with a cold beer or cider for sunset.
The top of the stairs offers a great view of the old city. And best of all, it’s completely free!
The harborside market square is located at the eastern end of Helsinki’s harbour.
This is an open-air market where you will find roughly 40 small stalls operated by independent sellers.
There are lots of fresh fruits for sales here. You will find just about every type of berry you can think of, such as; blueberries, strawberries, cloudberries, raspberries, and more. Typically, a punnet of blueberries is just 3 Euros, cheaper than you will find in many other countries.
The Market Square feels a little more touristy than the Old Market Hall just down the road, however, it is still a great place to visit in Helsinki any time of the year.
Helsinki has a thriving design district where you’ll be able to check out the latest in Scandinavian design.
Iittala is a cool shop if you want to browse ceramics, glassware, and general home interior – everything in here is trendy and innovative – and then you have Marimekko, the biggest name in Finnish fashion.
This brand is known for its bold colours and fun prints, so it’s worth a browse when in Finland.
You seriously can’t walk more than a few blocks without spotting a Marimekko store, so just go in and have a look.
it’s one of those flavours that you either love or hate. In case you’ve never heard of salmiakki before, it’s a salty black liquorice made with ammonium chloride. To say the taste is repugnant is an understatement
If you’re interested in visiting the Salmiakkikioski, it’s located on the southeast corner of Runeberginkatu and Eteläinen Hesperiankatu.
Kamppi Chapel of Silence
Situated in the heart of Helsinki’s commercial district, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence is meant to provide a quiet retreat in the middle of all the hustle and bustle.
It’s a very cool building, and the rounded wooden exterior will immediately catch your eye.
The interior of the chapel is very earthy and in a way it makes you feel connected with nature.
The walls are made out of wood, and there’s a cluster of pillows on one side of the room which resemble smooth pebbles.
The Ultimate Suomenlinna Fortress
Suomenlinna is a sea fortress that was built across 6 islands, which are part of Helsinki’s archipelago. This is a very popular spot during the summer months, especially on weekends when locals like to escape to the islands for picnics or a bite of food at the many cafes and restaurants.
In just 15 minutes, you can escape the urban life of the city and immerse yourself into natures paradise over the water.
But, there are a few things to know before you visit Suomenlinna fortress.
You need to plan how to get to Suomenlinna island, how much time you need to visit Suomenlinna and what there is to see and do in Suomenlinna fortress while you’re here.
The public Suomenlinna Ferry from HSL (Katajanokka)
This is the most popular way to get to Suomenlinna fortress and you can board at Katajanokka ferry port which is located near to the Old Market. It takes 15 minutes and drops you off at the main dock in Suomenlinna. It doesn’t stop at any other part of the island
This ferry is run by HSL (Helsinki Regional Traffic) and so if you have a Helsinki transport card or have purchased a Helsinki Card that allows you to use public transport and enter attractions too, you can board the ferry for free.