Where the lake-riddled Finnish landscape finally gives up and surrenders itself entirely to water, that’s where you’ll find Helsinki. Facing off Tallinn across the Gulf of Finland, this has always been an outward-looking capital combining cultural sophistication and natural beauty.
Day 1: Helsinki's Sightseeing
Start with a morning of Helsinki highlights, including Tuomiokirkko, or Helsinki Cathedral, whose Russian-influenced neo-classical columns and proud green domes make it the city’s best-known landmark. It watches over elegant Senate Square, home to important government and university buildings. Your route will also take you past the Presidential Palace, City Hall and the clean Scandinavian lines of Finlandia Hall and the Opera House. Not forgetting one of the city’s unique sights: Temppeliaukio, a church burrowed into rock and topped with a copper dome.
Day 2: Helsinki's Islands
It’s hard to resist the lure of the water and Helsinki’s numerous
islands. A mighty Baltic fortress makes the island of Suomenlinna a
stand-out, and a monument to Finland’s troubled relations with Russia.
Inside the World Heritage-listed fortifications you’ll find restaurants
as well as exhibition and performance spaces; outside you’ll find parks
with stunning views of the gulf. The fortress was designed by a Swedish
military officer whose fine 18th century residence is preserved as
Ehrensvärd Museum on adjacent Susisaari island, along with a World War II submarine. Alternatively, head to the island of Seurasaari,
where an open-air museum displays rugged wood cabins, stately mansions
and other housing styles from all over the country.
Day 3: Helsinki Museums
Scandinavian style and ingenuity is admired the world over; trace the
evolution of this rigorous aesthetic at the Design Museum. Finnish fine
arts may be less known, but a visit to the Ateneum will show you what
you’ve been missing. Follow this with the nearby Kiasma Museum whose
contemporary collection is housed in a superb modern building which
follows a long, graceful curve. Finish up with the history of the
Finnish capital itself in the Helsinki City Museum, which also
incorporates a whole preserved street detailing various stages in the