Helsinki Travel Tips And Tricks – 10 Things To Do In Helsinki
Helsinki is a gorgeous city with a lot to offer visitors. But it doesn’t take long to explore everything there is to see. So here’s my guide to seeing the best sights in Helsinki in just one day.
The best way to start exploring Helsinki is to head straight for the sea. A stroll along the waterfront promenade offers stunning views across the water to nearby islands. And if you want to stretch your legs a little further, walk out onto Suomenlinna Island. This island fortress was built in the 17th century and now houses museums, art galleries and restaurants.
If you’re looking for something a little more active, why not try some high speed thrills? Take a ride on the world famous Tinkertoy rollercoaster, which opened in 2011. Or rent a bike and cycle around the city centre. There are over 300km of cycling routes in Helsinki, including a dedicated cycle path running alongside the harbour.
For lunch, I recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Kultaranta. Located near the National Museum of Finland, Kultaranta serves up delicious traditional dishes like salmon soup and reindeer stew. For dessert, stop off at the iconic Löyly ice cream shop, which has been selling mouthwatering treats since 1935.
After lunch, spend the afternoon strolling around the city centre. Start at the open-air market, Vesteri, located next to the train station. You’ll find stalls selling local produce, such as cheeses, bread and jams. If you’re feeling hungry, grab a snack from one of the many food stands. Then wander through the streets and admire the architecture. One particularly impressive building is the Lutheran Cathedral, which dates back to 1856. Finally, end your day with a drink at one of the many bars lining the Esplanadi waterfront promenade.
Popular things to do in Helsinki
Visit the Post Museum
The Finnish Postal Service Museum is located in Helsinki, Finland. It tells the story of the postal service in Finland, from the earliest days of the postal system in 16th century, to the present day. Visitors can see artifacts from the early days of mail delivery, including sledges and horse-drawn carriages used to deliver letters.
There are many galleries and displays showcasing the evolution of mail delivery technology over the centuries. These include examples of stamps, letter writing equipment, and even some old-fashioned telegraph machines. In addition, there are short films about how the postal service works today.
Take a free walking tour of Helsinki
Helsinki is one of those cities where it’s easy to fall in love with. There’s something about the Nordic charm that just makes you feel good inside. And the people are friendly too. So why not take advantage of that and go on a free walking tour of the capital?
There are plenty of different options out there, and each one offers a slightly different insight into the city. Some offer a guided walk, some let you explore on your own, and others even include food and drinks along the way. All of them give you a chance to learn about the city’s history, architecture and culture.
And since most of the tours start from the central train station, you won’t miss anything important either. Just pick up a map, pack a bottle of water and head off to discover what Helsinki has to offer.
Experience a Finnish Sauna
Finland is known for being super chill. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there are tons of saunas around the country.
But if you’re looking for something different, Löyly offers some truly unique experiences. This sauna is located on the shoreline of the Baltic Sea, so you can take a dip and cool off while soaking up the sun.
The sauna itself is pretty awesome, too; it’s got a wood stove, a bench, and even a fireplace where you can sit next to the flames and warm yourself up. Plus, the atmosphere here is very relaxing and intimate, making it feel like you’ve found a real gem.
In addition to the sauna, Löyly also has a restaurant attached to it, serving really good food and drinks. There are lots of choices, including burgers, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads, and desserts.
Löyly isn’t just about sitting in the sauna though. They offer plenty of activities outside of the sauna, too. For example, you can walk along the beach, rent kayaks, play volleyball, or swim in the Baltic Sea.
If you decide to make use of the sauna, you’ll pay €15 per person. However, if you opt for the full package, which includes the sauna, dinner, and drinks, you’ll pay €25.
Helsinki ice park
The Finnish capital city of Helsinki boasts a number of attractions during the cold months of the year. One of the most popular ones is the Helsinki Ice Park, where visitors can enjoy a day of fun and entertainment under the snow.
The large skating rink is a perfect place to try out your skills against the experienced locals, while kids can play on the playground nearby. Visitors can even take part in some group activities such as figure skating lessons.
There are skates available to hire, and there are also sledges for those who want to go faster. You can also bring along your dog, and dogsledding tours are offered here too.
Just make sure you’re wearing appropriate attire, especially woolen socks.
Visit Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral is an impressive landmark that is your first impression of this beautiful Nordic capital when arriving by sea. It stands out even further thanks to its imposing size and unique architecture. Situated along the northern side of Senate Square, it dominates the square like no other structure. The exterior is dominated by large columns, blue domed roofs and golden stars, while the inside boasts a magnificent ceiling decorated with gold leaf.
The interior is slightly plain when compared with the grand and elegant exterior, however, there are several interesting features including a small chapel with a statue of Christ above the altar. A must see for those interested in history, architecture and art.
Try local Finnish Food
Helsinki is one of those cities that offers visitors a variety of experiences. From museums to culture, there’s plenty to do. But what about trying some local Finnish food? If you’re looking for something unique and delicious, it’s worth checking out Restaurant Savotta.
The restaurant specializes in serving traditional dishes like reindeer meat, elk, salmon, cod, lamb, beef, chicken, and even wild mushrooms. You’ll find them all on the menu, but make sure to check out the specials board because sometimes you can find items on sale.
You can dine indoors or outdoors. Inside, the space is decorated to look like a log cabin. Outside, you’ll enjoy views of the Cathedral Square. And don’t worry about reservations; the restaurant accepts walk-ins during lunch hours.
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Explore the National Museum of Finland
When I visited Helsinki in June, I had no idea there was such a great museum here. I was blown away by how much the Finnish people have accomplished since World War II. This is a must see for anyone interested in world history.
The National Museum of Finland opened in 1916 and covers the history of Finland starting from the Stone Age up to today. The building itself is beautiful and the exhibits are well organized and detailed. There is a lot to learn about the Finns, including some fascinating artifacts like a wooden sled used during the Viking raids. Also included are displays on the Winter War and the Continuation War.
To give you an idea of just how big the museum is, the entrance is located inside the Kiasma Art Gallery. You enter through the same doors, then head down a long hallway lined with art galleries. At the end of the hall is a grand staircase leading to the main exhibition space.
I highly recommend taking advantage of the free guided tours offered daily at 11am and 2pm. They’re 45 minutes long and include a tour of the permanent exhibit, a short video presentation, and information about the history of the building.
There are several cafes throughout the museum where you can grab lunch while exploring. One of my favorite spots is Cafe Kultasanterä, which serves sandwiches, salads, and soups. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays 10am to 4pm.
If you want to take a break from walking around the museum, you can sit down to watch a movie in the cinema. The movies shown vary depending on the season, but typically feature documentaries related to science, technology, and history.
Relax on Hietaranta beach
Helsinki has more than 30 public sandy beaches, many of them located on the sea side. One of the most popular ones is Hietaranta beach, where you can find a wide range of facilities including restaurants, cafés, shops, sports equipment rental and even a mini golf course.
Previously used as a landfill, the site was converted into an area storing sand at the beginning of the 1900s. The sand was never used however, with the locals adopting the space as a venue for their favorite beach activities in 1929. The sand became part of the city’s heritage and was protected. In the 1990s, the city began considering ways to use the land again.
The idea of turning the place into a park came up, but the local residents did not want to lose access to the sea. After several discussions, the decision was taken to convert the area into a beach. This happened in 2008 and today, the beach is open to everyone.
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See the Finnish Museum of Photography
This museum houses an awesome collection from both Finnish and international art. There are rotating exhibits as wells as exhibitions by new and emerging photographers, including some that are part of the permanent collection.
There’s always something interesting here so you might want to check the website to see whats on display during your visit, especially since there are several special events throughout the year.
The museum is located in a beautiful building designed by architect Alvar Aalto. You can find it at Tallberginkatu 1 in Helsinki.
Stroll Around the Central Market
For souvenir shopping, tasty locals food, fresh produce (especially lots of berries in the spring and summer), and great people watching, be sure to head to Central Market. Located near the harbor, which is on the coast of the sea, it’s open daily except Christmas Day.
In October, the herring season opens and lasts about six weeks. During this period, the market becomes very busy with vendors selling fish, meat, and seafood. There are even heated tents during the winter months.
While it is often crowded with tourists, I’ve been able to speak some Finnish and hear enough English to know you won’t find a total tourist trap here.
Open 6:30am – 6pm Monday through Friday, 6:30am – 4pm on Saturdays, and 10am – 5pm on Sunday.
Public Transport in Helsinki
Helsinki is known for having some of the best public transport systems in the world. In fact, it has been voted one of the most liveable cities in the world. So how does it achieve such high scores? Well, let me tell you about my experience travelling around the city.
The Helsinki metro operates every 15 minutes during peak hours and takes just over 30 minutes to travel around the whole network. Trains run along four lines and connect the main train stations. They are very clean and comfortable, and even have free WiFi.
If you want to take the bus, there are buses running almost everywhere 24/7. However, I found that the bus routes weren’t really great. You could end up taking a long journey just to go somewhere near where you wanted to go. But that’s why Helsinki has a fantastic tram network. Most of the tram stops are located within walking distance of each other. This makes it super convenient to hop on a tram and head off to explore the sights of the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even buy tickets for the trams online.
There are many different ticket options, including single journeys, day passes, weekly passes, monthly passes and season passes. Some of the most popular ones include the Helsinki Card, which gives unlimited access to the entire tram network for three days for €19.50; the Helsinki City Pass, which allows unlimited travel for seven consecutive days for €29.90; and the Helsinki Sightseeing Pass, which offers unlimited travel for 14 consecutive days for €49.90.
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Day Trip to Porvoo
Helsinki is known for being beautiful, but did you know there are some great places to go within an easy 2 hour car ride? This little town of Porvoo sits just outside of Helsinki and offers up a few attractions including a medieval quarter, a castle, and a church.
The town itself is home to over 20 different churches, many of which date back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest towns of Finland. If you want to see what the place looks like during the day, I recommend heading here around 11am to catch everything at its quietest.
There are plenty of shops and cafes to explore too. If you’re looking for something to eat, I’d suggest trying the local speciality – herring. It’s served everywhere in the form of soup, sandwiches, casseroles, and even ice cream.
If you’ve got an extra day in Helsinki, why not take a short trip to Porvoo? You’ll love it.
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Grab a Coffee at Fazer
Fazer Cafe is a chain of coffee shop located around the world. In Helsinki, it’s the place to go to relax and enjoy a great cup of coffee. If you haven’t been there, we recommend you make sure to check out their Instagram account where they post daily shots of what’s happening inside the café.
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