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Things to do in Helsinki

Things to do in  Helsinki

Welcome to Helsinki

Harborside Helsinki, the capital of Scandinavia’s less-touristy Finland, rewards travelers who make the trek with a flourishing arts scene, innovative restaurants, and plentiful islands and inlets along the Baltic. Strolling through downtown reveals an untouched art nouveau building on virtually every corner, as well as landmarks such as the Alvar Aalto–designed Finlandia Hall and the Temppeliaukion Kirkko, a church hewn into solid stone. Mannerheim Street is the city’s major artery, lined with cafes, galleries, and boutiques where visitors can find Scandinavian-design wares. Helsinki is also home base for day trips bound for the medieval town of Porvoo, Suomenlinna Fortress, or outdoor adventures in the Finnish wilderness.

Top 15 attractions in Helsinki

Helsinki Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko)

The Helsinki Cathedral is also known as Tuomiokirkko. Built from 1830 to 1852, it replaced a smaller 18th-century church and was originally called St. Nicholas' Church in homage to Russian Czar. After Finland gained independence from Russia, the church was renamed, and in 1959 it became an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral.More

Sibelius Monument

Nestled among the trees of Sibelius Park, the contemporary Sibelius Monument commemorates the life of acclaimed Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. 600 hollow, silver-steel pipes hover above the ground and evoke a range of creative interpretations. Initially, the abstract sculpture caused controversy with its modern design, so a bronze Sibelius bust was installed nearby to appease critics.More

Suomenlinna Fortress

Spread over six islands in the Helsinki archipelago, Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular destination for picnicking and leisure activities. The fortress is an important historic site with multiple on-site museums, as well as a living community with roughly 900 permanent residents.More

Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko)

Hewn into solid rock in the middle of a residential square, Helsinki’s Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) features a circular ceiling covered entirely with copper stripping. Natural light streams in through 180 window panes, while an ice age crevice in the natural rock serves as the altar.More

Helsinki Senate Square (Senaatintori)

Senate Square (Senaatintori) symbolizes the cultural heart of Helsinki. Among the many landmarks surrounding the square are the Government Palace, National Library, Lutheran Cathedral, City Museum, and Helsinki’s oldest building, which make Senate Square an essential stop on any first-time visitor’s itinerary.More

Helsinki Central Station

For thousands of commuters, Helsinki’s Central Railway Station is the main traffic hub from which buses, the metro and numerous local and long distance trains arrive and depart. In fact, with roughly 200,000 daily visitors, it is Finland’s most visited structure. The building also happens to be one of the landmarks of the city and looks back on over 100 years of history. Designed in 1909 by Eliel Saarinen and opened in 1919, the Railway Station’s most distinctive features are the big clock tower and the two towering figures of two heavily muscled, half-naked men holding big globes of light.Another notable feature is the red Finnish granite that was used to clad the façades of the Central Railway Station. The granite originated in Hanko, the southernmost region of Finland and is believed to be over 400 million years old. A more curious addition to the station, which is also unique in the world, is the presidential lounge. It was originally supposed to be reserved for the private use of the Emperor of Russia, but since Finland’s independence, the waiting area has been dedicated to the sole use of the Finnish President and his guests.More

Parliament House of Finland (Eduskuntatalo)

An impressive architectural landmark, Finland’s Parliament House (Eduskuntatalo) is home to the nation’s governing body. The imposing building looms over Helsinki on Arcadia Hill, making it both the political and geographical heart of the Finnish capital.More

Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Located a mile from the city center in the Töölö district, Helsinki Olympic Stadium (Helsingin Olympiastadion) is the biggest arena in Finland, with 40,600 spectator spots.Finland was originally meant to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, but the outbreak of World War II delayed the games until 1952, when the country finally got to host the big event. Today, the stadium is home to the national soccer team and houses big-name concerts and sports events every year.For views of all of Helsinki and its downtown, take the elevator to the top of the 72.21-meter Stadium Tower. Why the idiosyncratic height? Well, that was the gold-medal winning result of Finnish athlete Matti Järvinen’s javelin throw in the 1932 Summer Olympics, of course!Aside from its 14-story viewing tower, the Helsinki Olympic Stadium also has a restaurant, an Olympics museum and, quirkily enough, a youth hostel.More

Market Square (Kauppatori)

Helsinki’s Market Square (Kauppatori) has served as the center of city trading for more than 200 years. Located on the harbor, just a short walk from Senate Square, the open-air market takes place year-round and attracts tourists and locals alike with its range of clothing, crafts, and fresh produce.More

National Museum of Finland (Suomen Kansallismuseo)

Discover Finnish history and art during a visit to the National Museum of Finland (or Suomen Kansallismuseo. The exterior of the museum resembles a Gothic church with its stonework and tower, but inside the rooms explore different periods of local history. The museum was built in 1916 and extensively renovated in 2000.More

Sinebrychoff Art Museum (Sinebrychoffin Taidemuseo)

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum was once the family home of a wealthy brewing dynasty. Today, it houses treasures of historic European art, from paintings by German Old Masters such as Lucas von Cranach the Elder to the baroque Antoine Watteau to prints by Goya and Piranesi.More

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma contemporary art museum is part of the wider Finnish National Gallery, and showcases both national and international art from across a broad creative spectrum. The museum exhibits more than 8,500 works, including and has a permanent collection that includes pieces by iconic Finnish artists Tom of Finland and Kalervo Palsa, as well as international names such as Andy Warhol.More

Helsinki Swedish Theatre

The Helsinki Swedish Theatre, also known as the Svenska Teatern, is the oldest theater in Helsinki and offers performances exclusively in Swedish, the country’s second official language. Going to a theatre performance in a foreign language can seem a bit daunting, but musicals such as the timeless feel-good show “Mamma Mia” or George Orwell’s 1984 can be quite enjoyable even if you don’t have the necessary language skills. The national theatre offers a wider repertoire that caters to everyone and genres range from drama to musicals and children’s theatre. The atmosphere alone is worth the visit.Established in 1827, the once small wooden theatre used to be a quick road stop for actors en route to Saint Petersburg, but it soon became so popular that a newer and bigger building had to be constructed. The theatre seen today was opened in 1863 and was built in the neoclassical style, although during a renovation in the early 20th century, the richly decorated façade was replaced with a more functional one. It offers room for up to 700 spectators, but also has smaller stages with fewer seats.More

SEA LIFE® Helsinki

Located inside of Helsinki’s Linnanmaki Amusement Park, SEA LIFE® Helsinki is an interactive aquarium that proclaims to take visitors on a magical journey through the world’s seas and oceans. Touch crabs and sea urchins under the guidance of trained staff at the interactive rock pool or see a hermit crab change its shell. Immerse yourself inside an ocean tank via a transparent underwater tunnel. Catch a glimpse of sharks, piranhas, stingrays and tropical fish and learn about the need to protect their endangered environments.More

Finlandia Hall (Finlandiatalo)

Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall is an architectural masterpiece designed by famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Its exterior complements the local landscape and nearby park, while the inside features asymmetrical and curvy structural details, along with natural materials and colors. The multipurpose venue hosts concerts, meetings, other events, and a gallery.More
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Trip ideas

How to Spend 2 Days in Helsinki

How to Spend 2 Days in Helsinki

How to Spend 3 Days in Helsinki

How to Spend 3 Days in Helsinki

Top activities in Helsinki

Helsinki Canal Cruise
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Helsinki Canal Cruise

Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour

Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour

Magical Taiga Forest Hike with Lunch and Transportation
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Archipelago Excursion
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Archipelago Excursion

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All about Helsinki

When to visit

After hiberating all winter, Helsinki wastes no time in embracing the sunshine come summer. Plan a visit in June or July to experience the magic of the Midnight Sun—a phenomenon only observed in the Arctic—or join the crowds for events such as Flow Festival, Helsinki Festival, and Walpurgis Night (Vappu).

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People Also Ask

What is Helsinki best known for?

Helsinki is known for its design scene, diverse architecture, and easy access to the islands and bays of the Baltic Sea. The city’s compact center is a thriving cultural hot spot filled with cafes, nightclubs, and galleries, but the great outdoors is never more than a stone’s throw away.

How many days in Helsinki is enough?

Helsinki is a compact capital, and you can comfortably see its important attractions in just three days. Give yourself a little longer and use Helsinki as a base for further adventures around the hundreds of islands that make up the Helsinki archipelago and visit a nearby town, such as Porvoo.

What is there to do in Helsinki in the summer?

With long daylight hours, Helsinki is glorious in summer. Join locals hanging out in the park, island-hopping around the archipelago, and sunning on sandy beaches. Enjoy live tango music at the tent cafes of Hakaniemi Market Square, explore the sea fortress of Suomenlinna, and visit during the music- and arts-focused Flow Festival.

What is the number one tourist destination in Helsinki?

Helsinki’s most recognizable landmark is the 19th-century Helsinki Cathedral, located at the Senate Square. Visitors are permitted to enter the Cathedral’s Crypt and take part in public services and prayers at the Neoclassical-style cathedral—its bright white facade and green domes are a city icon.

Is Helsinki worth visiting?

Yes. While Helsinki is often overlooked in favor of other, better-known Nordic cities, such as Copenhagen and Stockholm, Helsinki's combination of urban culture and easily accessible nature makes it a rewarding place to visit. It should especially appeal to those with an interest in art, design, and architecture.

Is Helsinki expensive?

Yes. Helsinki is an expensive destination. However, there are ways to save. Use the city’s excellent public transportation system to get around and get a Helsinki Card to cover transportation and admission fees. Save money on food by dining at city markets and opting for lunch buffets when available.


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