Helsinki, Finland (Things to do)

The biggest city in Finland isn’t exactly big.  Although Helsinki is a vivid city located on the southern coast of Finland, it’s really a small city in big city clothes. So even with only a day or two to explore, you will have plenty of time to see all of the sites and enjoying the charming architecture.  Here are some of the top places to visit while you are in Helsinki:

Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square
Entrance Fee: None

This cathedral with one large and four small green domes is an iconic landmark in Helsinki. Don’t hesitate to walk up the many steps and take in Senate Square and the surrounding areas; then pop inside the church look around.

Uspenski Cathedral
Entrance Fee: None

This Orthodox cathedral, set up on a hill, is another iconic landmark in Helsinki.  The building was designed by a Russian architect and has a lovely interior.

Kamppi Chapel of Silence
Entrance Fee: None

Nestled in the busy Kamppi area, this chapel will certainly intrigue you from the outside. The architecture is definitely very interesting, to me, the exterior kind of looks like a giant bowl.  The perfectly smooth and circular wooden walls are very intriguing. The inside of the chapel is very small, but it is a nice refuge for those who would like to enjoy a moment of silence and tranquility amidst their busy day.

Rock Temppaliaukio Church
Hours of Operation: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Entrance Fee: Adults – €3, Children – Free

You may think that this church has a strange name, and no it’s not named after the type of music they play during services.  This church is actually built into the bedrock!  Inside the elliptical structure, there is a beautiful copper dome and large skylight which engulfs the entire church in soft sunlight. Additionally, the surface of the walls were left rough for enhanced acoustics.  The church is definitely an interesting architectural site and is definitely worth a visit.

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Hours of Operation: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (daily from 2 May – 30 September) and 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM (daily from 1 October – 30 April)
Entrance Fee: None

The fortress is located on a cluster of islands off of the coast of Helsinki and as such can only be reach via water (Ferry or Waterbus) in about 15-20 minutes.  The ferries operate year round and are part of the city transit network (so if you purchased a day pass, you can use it here, otherwise it will cost 5 each way).

There are 2 ferries available, the Service Ferry and Main Quay Ferry.  The Service Ferry departs about every hour from Katajanokka and transports goods, passengers and vehicles only on weekdays. It drops off at the King’s Gate Quay.  The Main Quay Ferry also runs about once every hour from the east side of the Market Square (opposite the Presidential Palace) and transports passengers and vehicles. It drops off at the Main Quay. The timetable for the ferries can be found here.  

The Waterbus operated by JT-Line, only operates during the summer season (May – September).  The departure is from Market Square and costs 7 for a roundtrip ticket, timetables can be found here

Suomenlinna was constructed in 1748 when Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden.  It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 as an example of military architecture of its time.

During the winter, Suomenlinna is very quiet and the scenery is quite bare. The wind was pretty intense while we were there, but even with the less than ideal weather, we did enjoy learning about the history of the fortress and to see the restoration efforts that have taken place.  It would have been a really nice walk during the spring or summer months.

Shopping in Helsinki

There are a lot of areas to shop in Helsinki, a few of the most popular areas are Kaampi and right near Esplanadi.  So if you have some extra time on your hands, these are some good areas to roam around.

Aside from all the sites to see, don’t forget to make time to stop and eat.  Helsinki has some tasty food to be had and here are some of the spots we visited:

Hakaniemen Market
Hours of Operation: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Monday – Friday), 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM (Saturday), Sunday Closed

This food hall has a variety of fresh local food products downstairs and some souvenirs and handicraft shops upstairs. We stopped by earlier in the day, so we didn’t indulge in any of the tasty looking food options, but if you’re in the area you should consider grabbing a bite to eat here.

Old Market Hall 
Hours of Operation: 08:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Monday – Saturday)

Old Market Hall was the first indoor market hall in Helsinki.  It is located right on the waterfront and you can easily walk around the harbor and see the Skywheel Helsinki and the Allas Sea Pool (if you’re brave).  To me, Old Market Hall was much nicer and upscale than the other market.  They have a little seating area in the middle of the market and a restaurant called Story where you can order from. We walked around the market and purchased a bunch of food from the various stalls and also ordered some drinks and an entree from Story for lunch. We were happy, and full, when we left!

Hours of Operation: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM (Monday – Friday), 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM (Saturday), Sunday Closed

Bryggeri brews their own beer on premises and serves them, as well as beers from other breweries, from the tap. We were told that they can make up to 1,000 liters a day and can store up to 10,000 liters! Wow!  Most beers are €8 and up and there is definitely a sufficient number of options to tickle every beer lover’s fancy. I’d recommend opting for the sampler (pictured above) to get a taste of their offerings before committing to just one. And don’t forget to ask about their off-menu selections!

The restaurant/brewery also offers an extensive and tasty menu.  We opted for the Sampler platter (€29.90/pp – minimum 2 people) and as you can see it was HUGE! The sausages and the ribs were actually quite tasty, but it was definitely more than we could finish (haha no pun intended…).

I would recommend that you hop online and make a reservation on their website.

We enjoyed our time in Helsinki and really just took our time exploring the city.  If you’re thinking of planning a trip, feel free to take a look at my Things to Know Before You Go!

Another not to miss while you are in Helsinki is at least a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia.  It’s a very quaint and lovely little city that is just a short ferry ride away.  I’m looking forward to sharing our time in Tallinn with you next week!

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