Helsinki is the perfect introduction to Scandinavian shores and sights, and the Finnish capital also makes an ideal base camp for exploring the south coast or hopping over the border to Estonia. Here are our top picks for day tours from Helsinki.
Suomenlinna Island – 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast
If you don’t want to stray too far from the city center, Suomenlinna Island makes an easy side trip, as it’s just a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland. Suomenlinna’s principal attraction is its fortress, built by the Swedes in 1748 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come summer, the grounds of the castle are crammed with picnicking locals.
Espoo – 12 miles (19 km) west
As the second-largest city in Finland, Espoo has plenty of arts and cultural sights to explore. It’s also the gateway to the Nuuksio National Park, the country’s newest, dating back to just 1994. The ideal place to take a break from urban life, the park offers 18 miles (30 kilometers) of walking and biking trails along with a number of swimming spots, camping areas, and climbing hills. Join local families fishing or berry-picking on summer afternoons, or enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing during the winter months.
Porvoo – 32 miles (52 km) northeast
The 14th-century fishing port of Porvoo has been put forward for the UNESCO World Heritage list, so pay a visit while it’s still unknown. Characterized by its colorful wooden buildings and delightful waterside cafés, Porvoo is a world away from the big city, and its cobblestone streets are crammed with shopping boutiques and crafts stalls. To see the town at its most atmospheric, time your visit for the holiday season, when a vibrant Christmas market takes over the center.
Tallinn, Estonia – 54 miles (87 km) south
Taking the overnight ferry to Stockholm, Sweden, is a popular excursion from Helsinki, but with only one day to spare, the Estonian capital of Tallinn is a closer destination. High-speed ferries land you in the historic city, where you can explore the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Old Town, hit the Viru Keskus shops, and climb the famous Toompea Hill. Make sure you spend an hour or two relaxing on the city’s beaches before making your way back to Finnish shores.
Turku – 105 miles (169 km) west
Founded in 1229, Turku was once Finland’s capital. Despite handing over its title in 1812, the city remains a lively cultural hub and is linked to Helsinki by regular trains and buses. Stroll around the Old Town, where you can visit attractions such as Turku Cathedral and the restored Turku Castle, dating back to the 13th century; get a taste of life in 1950s Finland at the Kuralan Kylamaki, a re-created farming village just outside of the city center; or take a ferry out to the Aland Islands, a popular summer vacation spot.