In 1808 a third of the city was destroyed in a fire and was rebuilt in a Neoclassical style. The city is often known as “the white city of the North” thanks to its light-colored architecture.
Helsinki is an incredible Scandinavian destination, well worth exploring on foot or bike. It also has an excellent public transport system! Here are 13 sites to see in Helsinki.
Table of Contents
- 1. Catch a Ferry to the Fortress of Sveaborg on the Suomenlinna Islands
- 2. Try Some Local Treats at the Old Market Hall
- 3. Take in the Beauty of the Helsinki Cathedral
- 4. Explore the Design District
- 5. Get Your Art On
- 6. Visit the Korkeasaari Zoo
- 7. Take a Moment at the Kamppi Chapel of Silence
- 8. Learn About the Past at The National Museum of Finland
- 9. Witness Architectural Innovation at the Temppeliaukio Rock Church
- 10. Experience Traditional Finnish Culture at Seurasaari Open-Air Museum – (Opening again in May 2023)
- 11. Catch a Ride at the Linnanmäki Amusement Park
- 12. Stroll Through the Central Park (Keskuspuisto)
- 13. Relax on the Beach in the Hietaniemi Area
- The Takeaway
1. Catch a Ferry to the Fortress of Sveaborg on the Suomenlinna Islands
This 18th-century Swedish fortress is one of the country’s most famed attractions. Catch a 15-minute ferry from Market Square and enjoy various walking trails and attractions including King’s Gate Drawbridge, the Great Courtyard, and the Suomenlinna Museum.
There is even a little beach for visitors to enjoy. The fortress will undoubtedly take you back to days gone by as you explore the centuries-old defensive walls and artillery.
2. Try Some Local Treats at the Old Market Hall
The Old Market Hall is the oldest indoor market in Finland. Located near the Helsinki Harbour, it has been serving locals since 1889. The hall offers a vibey atmosphere and is filled with local vendors and an array of delicatessens and restaurants. The market also has some fantastic butchers and fishmongers, so it’s an absolute must for foodies.
If you’re feeling adventurous on the culinary front, you can brave some interesting local delicacies, including Reindeer spring rolls and bear in a can. (Yep, actual bear meat in a can)
Be sure to also check out the soup stall and its famous salmon soup! Be warned, though, the booth closes once the soup sells out, so get there early.
3. Take in the Beauty of the Helsinki Cathedral
The Helsinki Cathedral is one of the country’s most famous structures and is characterized by its Neo-classical façade, small domes, and zinc statues. Enjoy gorgeous murals and sculptures as you wander around the sacred site.
The cathedral’s crypt often houses art exhibitions, and every summer, there are several changing (and free) exhibitions and shows.
4. Explore the Design District
Finland is synonymous with design, and Helsinki has been named a UNESCO city of design. Visit the Design District, comprised of 25 streets. There is so much to see here, including the Design Museum, numerous art galleries, boutique stores, and arts and crafts galore.
5. Get Your Art On
If you love art, Helsinki has much to offer in terms of galleries and exhibitions. Those who enjoy the arts should visit the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art with its interactive art displays.
6. Visit the Korkeasaari Zoo
The Helsinki Zoo is located about 30 minutes from the city center and is well-suited for families and wildlife enthusiasts. If you want to spot some Arctic creatures, such as wolverines, European forest Reindeer, and snow leopards, this is the place to be. The zoo strives to preserve biodiversity and protect the natural habitats of various species, making it a must for those wanting to support conservation endeavors.
7. Take a Moment at the Kamppi Chapel of Silence
The chapel was built so that people could escape the hustle and bustle of one of Helsinki’s busiest districts. The sound-proof dome is made of various types of wood and offers visitors a moment of serenity and calm. Around 350 000 people visit each year, basking in its tranquillity and silence.
8. Learn About the Past at The National Museum of Finland
If you want to learn about Finland’s history, dating back to the Stone Age, a trip to the National Museum is a must. Different exhibitions reflect life at different points in Finnish history. There is also an entire floor dedicated to interactive activities and playtime, making the museum a fun outing for children too. On Fridays between 4 pm and 6 pm, visitors can enjoy free entry.
9. Witness Architectural Innovation at the Temppeliaukio Rock Church
Helsinki’s famous Rock Church was designed in the late 60s by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. The church was carved from ancient rock and built directly into it. The impressive structure boasts a 13-meter copper dome and concrete ribs. The dome allows light to pour into the structure, adding to its allure. The building is used for concerts thanks to its fantastic acoustics, and visitors can book guided tours. There is also a café on site for those who fancy an interesting dining experience.
10. Experience Traditional Finnish Culture at Seurasaari Open-Air Museum – (Opening again in May 2023)
The dense forest landscape of Seurassari island is a win for anyone interested in Finish life from days gone by. It’s also an excellent spot for those who enjoy walking and wildlife and houses several lovely restaurants and cafes.
The open-air museum is the main attraction here and gives visitors a taste of 18th and 19th-century life in Finland. Made up of 87 buildings, the museum showcases traditional Finnish dwellings, and guides are dressed in traditional attire to authenticate the experience.
11. Catch a Ride at the Linnanmäki Amusement Park
Helsinki’s amusement park was opened in the 1950s and is owned by the Children’s Day Foundation. Funds go towards child welfare workers and in 2019 they donated a whopping 4.5 million euros to the cause. There are 43 rides at the park, the most famous of which is a wooden rollercoaster that has been in operation since 1951.
12. Stroll Through the Central Park (Keskuspuisto)
This green foresty space runs through the length of the city, offering visitors a 10-kilometer greenbelt through which to wander and relax. With an abundance of flora – including meadows, fields, and herb gardens – it’s a flower lovers’ paradise. During the summer months, the park is exceptionally bright and adorned with wildflowers. This is a great spot to picnic and stroll.
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13. Relax on the Beach in the Hietaniemi Area
Hietaniemi Beach is a popular sandy beach in the Töölö district. It’s a great place for swimming, thanks to its safe waters and shallow spots. During summer heatwaves, it gets pretty busy, allowing locals and travelers to escape the heat and cool down.
Hietaniemi Beach also has a play area for children and volleyball and basketball facilities, making it an excellent spot for families and those wanting to revel in some summer fun. You can also visit the nearby golf course.
Helsinki is a vibrant and fascinating city with so much to offer. If you’ve visited the white city, we’d love to hear your highlights. Check out these amazing European destinations too!
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