Last update: 01/07/2019
The main information for visiting the friendly Helsinki, capital of Finland, is in this post with the best attractions in the city and lots of smart tips, all in an interactive map to help you plan all the details and make the most of your time in the city.
THE CITY OF HELSINKI
Helsinki is the capital and also the largest city in Finland with around 650,000 inhabitants. It was founded in 1550 by King Gustav I of Sweden. At the beginning of the 19th century, Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War, annexing Finland to its territory. As a result, in 1809 he created the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. It was from that moment that the city began to develop substantially.
In 1812, Russian Emperor Alexander I moved the Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki to try to reduce Swedish influence in Finland and bring the capital closer to the Russian Empire. Even the city center was rebuilt in a neoclassical style to resemble the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Despite the tumultuous nature of Finnish history during the first half of the 20th century, the city of Helsinki continued its steady development. A landmark event was the 1952 Olympic Games, which helped to heat up the economy and aided in its development in the second half of the century. Currently, more than 80% of the main Finnish companies are based in Helsinki. The city is considered one of the best in the world to live in, in terms of quality of life for its population, which has access to excellent education (it is one of the great highlights in the world), security and excellent public health.
WHAT TO DO IN HELSINKI
To make your two days in Helsinki easier, we've put all the suggested attractions to visit on the interactive map below to help with your itinerary around the city. In addition to the attractions, we've added some important landmarks and suggestions for where to eat and shop. At the end of the post, you can still find tips on where to stay in the city, how to get from the airport to the center and much more!
DAY 1: SUOMMENLINA & HELSINKI CENTER
esplanade is a park in the city center along Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi streets. It was opened in 1818 as a special space for live music performances. The environment is very pleasant, well maintained and a beautiful piece of green, with many trees, in the heart of Helsinki. When we were visiting the city, all along the park, I was seeing a festival with several stalls with different foods, not only Finnish but also from different cuisines around the world.
2. KAUPPATORI (MARKET SQUARE)
Market Square is one of the most important squares in Helsinki and one of the main tourist attractions in the city. The beautiful buildings of the Presidential Palace and Helsinki City Hall are opposite the square. From spring to autumn, Market Square islively with stalls selling Finnish food and souvenirs. There are also many outdoor cafes. The height of the square's popularity is at the beginning of October, when the annual sardine market begins. A long-standing tradition at Kauppatori is an exhibition of vintage American cars on the first Friday of every month. Furthermore, it is precisely from this square that tour boats leave for Suomenlinna Fortress.
- Market opening hours: Monday to Friday from 6:30 am to 6 pm / Saturday from 6:30 am to 4 pm / Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm
Suomenlinna Fortress is located on 7 islands that are a little far from the center of Helsinki, but that belong to the city. It began to be built during Swedish era as a maritime fortress and operated from 1748 to 1808. In that year, it was taken by Russian forces in Russo-Swedish War and passed under Russian imperial government domain. With the Russian Revolution and the independence of Finland in 1917, the fortress passed to the Finnish government domain, being renamed to Suomenlinna ("Castle of Finland"). In 1991, the Suomenlinna fortress was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a unique monument of military architecture. This is main attraction of the city and you need to take the time to explore it as it is immense! The fortress has several museums (with paid entry), but it is also possible to just walk through the main buildings, admire the incredible views on a sunny day, among other activities.
- Address: 00190 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: vary (see this link to see all schedules)
- Entrance: free to the island; pay for museums
- Guided tours: check the options in this link
Arriving at Senate Square, where the buildings of the University of Helsinki are located, the National Library and there is always some lively event going on, go up the beautiful staircase until you reach the Cathedral. The Lutheran Cathedral of Helsinki is the most famous postcard in town and receives around 350 thousand visitors every year. In neoclassical style, it was originally built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. With a capacity for 1,300 faithful, the cathedral draws attention due to its large green dome surrounded by four smaller domes.
- Address: Unionsgatan 29, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: daily from September to May from 9 am to 6 pm / from June to August from 9 am to midnight
- Entrance: free
Read more: Finland: The iconic Helsinki Cathedral
The Athenaeum has one of the largest collections of classical art in Finland. Previously, the building in which the museum is housed also housed the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Art and Design, but since 1991 it has functioned exclusively as a museum. The collection includes Finnish art from the 18th century to the present day and around 650 international works. In all, the collection has more than 4,300 paintings and more than 750 sculptures. One of the most important paintings is “Street in Auvers-sur-Oise” (1890), which made the Ateneum the first museum in the world to have a work by the painter Vincent van Gogh.
- Address: Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: Tuesday and Friday from 10 am to 6 pm / Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm / Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm / closed on Mondays
- Entrance: €15
For those who appreciate nature, visiting Kaisaniemi is a good option. this botanical garden covers about 4 hectares and, during the summer months, the place is even more attractive when you can admire the central garden and a open area with ponds and flowers, surrounded by greenhouses and rose bushes. A historic stone building intended as the king's castle now houses a herbarium in the middle of the garden. Ten greenhouses offer a glimpse into plant life of torrid deserts, humid humid forests and tropical zones.
- Address: Kajsaniemistranden 2, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm / Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm / Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm / closed on Mondays
- Entrance: €10
DAY 2: MUSEUMS, SIBELIUS PARK AND SURROUNDINGS
7. KAMPPI KAPPELI (CHAPEL OF SILENCE)
Built in 2012, with a totally innovative and modern design, the “Capela do Silêncio” is intended to be a place to soothe visitors and have a moment of silence in one of the busiest areas of Helsinki. THE chapel is ecumenical and welcomes everyone regardless of religion, life philosophy or background. Due to its distinctive shape, it ended up becoming an important architectural landmark in the city.
- Address: Simonkatu 7, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: Monday to Friday from 8 am to 8 pm / Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
- Entrance: free
The Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art displays the contemporary art collection of the Finnish National Gallery, founded in 1990. Its main objective is to make contemporary art better known and to strengthen its status. The building that houses the museum has modern architecture and was the winner of a competition to design it. At collections include works by over 4,000 artists, such as: Ahonen, Reetta, Aiha, Martti, Aken, Jan van, Andersson, Anders Gustaf, Antonio Rotta, Baron, Bernard, Baumgartner, Stig, Cornelis Bega, Nicolas Berchem, Honoré Daumier, Karel Dujardin, Nunzio Gulino, Torger Enckell, Aarne Jämsä, Ismo Kajander, Raimo Kanerva, Risto Laakkonen, etc.
- Address: Mannerheimplatsen 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: Sunday and Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm / Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 8:30 pm / Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm / closed on Mondays
- Entrance: €14
For those who want to know a little more about the finnish history, an excellent option is to visit the National Museum of Finland, which presents Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present, through objects and cultural history. Among the permanent exhibitions of the National Museum are:
- collections of coins, medals, orders and decorations, silver, jewelry and weapons;
- archaeological exhibition of Finland's prehistory;
- development of Finnish society and culture from the Middle Ages (12th century) to the beginning of the 20th century, through the period of the Swedish Kingdom to the era of the Russian Empire;
- Finnish folk culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, and country life before industrialization;
- and interactive exhibits showcasing life in Finland in the late 20th and 21st centuries.
- Address: Mannerheimintie 34, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm / Wednesday from 11 am to 8 pm / closed on Mondays
- Entrance: €12
This church is unlike anything you've ever seen. Founded in 1969, its interior was built directly out of solid rock and is bathed in natural light through the skylight that surrounds the central copper dome. The church is often used as a concert hall due to its excellent acoustics, which is created by the rough and virtually unworked rock surfaces. In fact, the initial project called for the church to be much larger than the current one, but the size was reduced due to budgetary constraints.
- Address: Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: from June to August from Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm / Friday from 9:30 am to 8 pm / Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm / from September to May it usually closes earlier
- Entrance: €3
11. SIBELIUS PARK & MONUMENT
Sibelius Park is a very famous municipal park in Helsinki that houses one of the most famous monuments in the city, the Sibelius Monument. The monument is a tribute to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957). It is a 24-ton sculpture whose design shows about 600 stylized organ steel tubes. Although it aimed to capture the essence of the composer's music, it ended up generating a lot of controversy because few Sibelius songs were created to be played on organs.
- Address: Mechelininkatu, 00250 Helsinki, Finland
This beautiful winter garden has been a meeting point in the city for over 120 years. It is made up of exotic plants and flowers, such as tulips and azaleas, which are grown in the city's parks. In all, the garden is home to more than 200 different plants, including camellias that are over 100 years old! In addition, it has a beautiful lake with several carp.
- Address: Hammarskjöldintie 1 A, 00250 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: Tuesday from 9 am to 3 pm / Wednesday to Friday from 12 pm to 3 pm / Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm / closed on Mondays
- Entrance: free
NICE TOURS AND EXCURSIONS IN HELSINKI
ECONOMY TIP: HELSINKI CITY CARD
This card provides a unique visit to the capital of Finland. It includes free public transport, free admission to sights and museums, free tour and discounts on restaurants, shopping and tours. You can choose the card in three different versions: 24, 48 or 72 hours. Check more information in this link.
WHERE TO EAT IN HELSINKI
For those looking to get to know some of the typical finnish dishes, our tip is to go to Savotta Restaurant (we tell our experience about it in the post Helsinki: Typical Finnish Food at Savotta Restaurant). We also separate other suggestions to taste in the city:
- Vapiano (Italian restaurant chain)
- NAUGHTY BRGR (Burger)
- kappeli (contemporary cuisine)
- Virgin Oil Co. (Italian culinary)
- Wayne's Coffee Lonkka (breakfast and light meals)
- Savoy (typical Finnish cuisine)
- Villetta (Italian culinary)
WHERE TO BUY IN HELSINKI
If you have a little time left to do some shopping in Helsinki, here are tips for interesting places in the city:
- Vanha kauppahalli / Old Market Hall (Municipal market with stalls selling various items, including food and crafts)
- Esplanade Gallery (gallery of various stores)
- Kamppi Center (shopping center)
- Forum (shopping center)
- Kluuvi Shopping Center (shopping center)
- Kauppakeskus Citycenter (shop gallery)
WHERE TO STAY IN HELSINKI
Finland is an expensive country to stay in, so we had to do a lot of research to find a well-located and pocket-friendly option. That's how we found the economic omenThe Hotel Helsinki City Center, which is located in the city center, in a great commercial area, full of restaurants, shops and shopping mall. In addition, the hotel has the convenience of being located 5 minutes walk from the central train station from Helsinki.
Read more: Finland: Cheap Accommodation Helsinki Tip
See other interesting accommodation options that are on sale in the city of Helsniki:
BOOK NOW your hotel and save up to 50%. Travelers readers are with a SUPER DISCOUNT! And the best, with FREE CANCELLATION*!
*check the hotels with free cancellation on the website
HOW TO GET FROM HELSINKI AIRPORT TO THE CENTER
Helsinki airport is actually located in the city of Vantaa, 20 km from downtown from the capital. That's why its official name is Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. We have already written a very detailed post with several ways to get to the city center from the airport. The way we liked the most was by train.
GET TO KNOW: TALLINN, CAPITAL OF ESTONIA
A tip that we highly recommend is to take advantage of your visit to Helsinki to get to know another city (and country) that is very close (about 80 km away). Tallinn is a beautiful city, which has a medieval old town full of cool things to see and, the best part, it can be accessed from Helsinki by boat!
- How to get from Helsinki (Finland) to Tallinn (Estonia) by ferry
- Estonia: What to do in Medieval Tallinn – 2-Day Itinerary
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