As most of you know, I was born in Finland and have lived there most of my life. This summer we spent two days in Helsinki with my Finnish-American family just playing tourist and seeing the sites. I have never seen so many foreign visitors in Helsinki as we did this year, and I have heard that tourism has exploded in recent years. So I wanted to gather some tips here of what you should see in Helsinki if, and when you visit there.
There is of course, plenty more to see and do in Helsinki, but these are some of our favorites:
Helsinki Cathedral (Helsingin Tuomiokirkko) seems to be the place where most people start their tour of Helsinki, and why not? It is a major landmark of Helsinki after all. The cathedral was built between 1830 and 1852 and was dedicated to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It is part of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church and you can easily spot it downtown, since it is located on top of a hill.
Helsinki Cathedral is open everyday and visiting the church is free. You will find it at Unioninkatu 29, 00100 Helsinki.
Suomenlinna Fortress is a must for everyone interested in history. It is one of the most popular sites in Helsinki is a UNESCO World Heritages Site. It is located on an archipelago with a total of 8 islands and most are connected by bridges. To get to Suomenlinna you can take a ferry from the Market Square. Suomenlinna was built for protection from the Russians and construction started in 1748. There are many restaurants and cafes in Suomenlinna, but locals like to go there for a picnic. Just follow the blue signage on the islands if you want to tour around all the historical things there.
Helsinki Market Square (Kauppatori) is located in central Helsinki at the end of Esplanadi by the Baltic Sea. It’s a perfect place if you are looking for some local treats such as berries, mushrooms, fish, traditional pies or bread, and even souvenirs. Many people go there just to have a cup of coffee with Finnish pulla, a cinnamon bun, or ice cream. But be careful, there are some sneaky seagulls out there that like to snatch food out of peoples’ hands. From the Market Square you can also see the Presidential Palace.
Walk towards Katajanokka to Eteläranta, 00170 Helsinki, and you will find the Market Square.
ALLAS SEA POOL
Finland has the biggest number of public saunas in the world, and most people have a sauna at their home too. So of course there must be one in the downtown of Helsinki. Allas Sea Pool allows access to a sauna, but also to the ocean. You can swim in the pools situated on a floating deck in the Gulf of Finland, including a fresh sea water pool. And if you want to try the famous ice swimming in the winter time, this is your place!
A great way to see some of the city is to go high up in the sky. As you can see from the picture above (Allas Sea Pool), the SkyWheel Helsinki is located right next to it. The ride is done with a gondola that fits 6 people, and it goes up to 40 meters. If you want to make it extra special, they also have a VIP gondola with champagne rides, and it wouldn’t be Finland if there weren’t a special sauna gondola as well!
The Finnish parliament meets up at Arkadianmäki in the Parliament House (Eduskuntatalo) which was built in 1931. The building has five floors, which all look different and it is open for tours on the weekends. “The Little Parliament” building is an addition to the actual Parliament House, and was built in 2004.
The address to the Parliament House is Mannerheimintie 30, 00100 Helsinki
Kamppi Chapel at Narinkka Square is probably something you have never seen before. It was built in 2012 as a part of the World Design Capital Program and its architecture has been widely recognized. The chapel is mainly a place for people to calm down or enjoy the silence. There is no special events or church services in it. It welcomes everyone in regardless of religion or heritage.
Kamppi Chapel is at Simonkatu 7, 00100 Helsinki.
AMOS REX SQUARE AND THE MUSEUM
Amos Rex is a very unique art museum at Lasipalatsi which was opened in 2018. The exhibition halls are built underground, and you can see the domes of the halls up at the Amos Rex Square, where kids love to play by climbing up and down on them. The museum has become extremely popular within its first year in Finland.
Just navigate to Mannerheimintie 22-24, 00100 Helsinki to find the museum.
Temppeliaukio Church is special because it was built inside a huge rock. From outside you wouldn’t believe that there is a beautiful Lutheran church inside. It is one of the most visited sites in Helsinki and very interesting from an architectural point of view. Since everything is inside the rock, the church has excellent acoustics, and it is a popular place for concerts and events. The fee to visit Temppeliaukio Church is 3€.
The church is located at Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki. If you want to read more about our visit there, just check out this post here.
OLD BUILDINGS AT KATAJANOKKA
Walk around the Katajanokka neighbourhood to see all the old Art Nouveau buildings. They are from the 19th to the 20th century, and still used as apartment buildings or businesses. You will also see the old Country Prison which was later renovated to be a hotel. The Viking Line harbour is also in Katajanokka and it is fun to watch the big ferries come and go.
Helsinki is a wonderful city in the summer time, and in June you can also enjoy the nightless night as the sun doesn’t set at all. It’s easy to get around by hopping into either a tram, bus or metro. But all the things on this list, you can easily walk through in one day. And don’t forget to try some local treats like Fazer chocolates, rye bread and Karelian pies.