10 of the Best Things to Do in Helsinki
Are you planning on visiting Helsinki? The Finnish capital is quite the delight, with something for every type of traveller. From time spent relaxing in a sauna to action-packed events like Tuska Open Air, this unique European city has many different faces waiting for you to explore.
In this article, I’ll be sharing ten of the best things to do in Helsinki. If you have any recommendations you would like to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
Learn More: 7 of the Best Hotels in Helsinki
The Best Things to Do in Helsinki
From a UNESCO World Heritage-listed fortress to a plethora of charming museums, there’s a lot to do in Helsinki. I would love to recommend:
1. Take a ferry ride to Suomenlinna.
A Finnish treasure, Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed fortress spread across several islands. It was built as a maritime fortress during the Swedish era (1748 – 1808) and is now one of the most popular tourist spots in Finland.
Each of the six islands at Suomenlinna offer something different, from the Military Museum of Finland to beautiful coastal views…and even a beach! If you’re confident in the water, you might want to take a dip in the sea. The Blue Route is one of the best to follow if you’re looking for Suomenlinna’s main sights.
Reaching Suomenlinna is easy. There’s a ferry service that runs from Kauppatori, the Market Square. The trip takes around a quarter of an hour and is really affordable, currently costing €2.80 for a one-way trip. Visiting Suomenlinna is free, but each museum has its own entrance charge.
Learn More: Suomenlinna (Official Website)
2. Soak in Finnish culture at Seurasaari Open-Air Museum.
Perfect for history lovers, one of our favourite places to recommend in Helsinki would have to be Seurasaari Open-Air Museum. Showcasing the traditional Finnish way of life and some beautifully-preserved historic buildings, it is quite the sight.
Seurasaari Open-Air Museum first opened in 1909, transporting visitors back into the olden days. There are 87 buildings here, from old farmsteads and manor houses to Karuna Church, one of the oldest buildings at Seurasaari. It’s fascinating seeing how people lived.
Entry to Seurasaari is €10 for adults and €4 for children. It’s in Meilahti, around two and a half miles away from the city centre. You can catch the number 24 bus and the last stop is Seurasaari. Please note that the museum isn’t open during the winter months.
Learn More: Seurasaari (Official Website)
3. Go and find some of Helsinki’s beautiful buildings.
When wandering around Helsinki, it’s worth creating a little walking tour for yourself. There are beautiful buildings peppered all over the capital, highlighting everything from neoclassical foundations to Modernist designs.
I would recommend using something like Google My Maps to plan your route. This way, you can add everything that you want to see and work out the best approach for it. It’s worth stopping by Kamppi Chapel (Chapel of Silence), the National Library of Finland and Helsinki Cathedral. One of my favourite places would also be the Ateneum, but I’ll be talking about that a little later in this article.
A special stop on any itinerary would have to be Temppeliaukio Church (Church of the Rock). This unique space was carved directly into solid rock, with natural light flooding in from a skylight above. The acoustics are truly incredible.
4. Give your adrenaline a whirl at Linnanmäki.
The oldest amusement park in Finland, Linnanmäki is a great option for adrenaline seekers visiting Helsinki. There are lots of different rides for visitors of all ages, from a classic bumper car ride to Taiga, a rollercoaster that will definitely have you upside down.
One of our favourite attractions at Linnamäki would have to be the wooden rollercoaster, first built in 1951. Vuoristorata is the most popular attraction in the park and it’s one of just a handful of rollercoasters around the world to be operated by brakemasters.
Entry to Linnanmäki is free, with the option to pay for each ride separately or to buy a wristband. An adult’s wristband costs €42 and allows you to go on as many rides as you want over the course of the day.
Learn More: Linnanmäki (Official Website)
5. Spend some time looking at art in the Ateneum.
Part of the trio of museums that make up the Finnish National Gallery, the Ateneum is a worthwhile stop for any traveller. This wonderful gallery showcases Finnish art from across the past several centuries, with more than 20,000 national treasures on display.
At the time of writing, one of the collections on display is “Stories of Finnish Art”. It highlights the development of art in Finland, starting in 1809. In February, “The Modern Woman” will appear, exploring important topics like gender equality. My favourite pieces to find in the Ateneum are the ones by Tove Jansson, but many are not currently on display.
The Ateneum is closed every Monday. Admission is €18 for adults, but is free of charge for anyone under the age of eighteen. You can find this gorgeous gallery right next to Helsinki’s main train station.
Learn More: Ateneum (Official Website)
6. Journey from cityscapes to nature.
Helsinki is one of our favourite cities in Europe for exploring nature. You can easily move between city streets and natural views, enjoying brunch in a café and then relaxing by the water with nothing but trees in view.
You’re never far away from the natural world. Keskuspuisto (Central Park) is more like a forest than the city parks that you might be used to. There are also lots of beaches around the capital, including the ever-so-popular Hietaniemi Beach.
Alternatively, it might be worth taking a little day trip away from the capital. Nuuksio National Park is less than an hour away from Helsinki. It’s a beautiful spot in terms of nature, offering woodland views, lakes, rivers and plenty of hiking trails.
7. Enjoy a sauna…or two…or three.
Is there anything as quintessentially Finnish as sauna? I don’t think so. Before entering a Finnish sauna, you should always shower. Many people will follow their sauna by cooling off. They do this by sitting outside, jumping into cold water or taking a cold shower, before going back in the sauna for another round of warmth.
One of my favourite saunas in Helsinki would have to be Löyly. Right on the coast, it offers every opportunity to dip into the sea when you’re done with enjoying the steam. It’s safe to say that the Baltic is certain to cool you down.
Lots of travellers find themselves drawn to Allas Sea Pool. This one is located right by Kauppatori (the Market Square) and has three different saunas. You can take dips in both a pool filled with sea water and a warm water pool (27°C).
8. Visit Kansallismuseo, the National Museum of Finland.
Ready to learn more about the history of Finland? You can travel through the centuries at Kansallismuseo, the National Museum of Finland. The exterior alone is one of the best examples of Romantic nationalism in Finland, honing in on the country’s medieval buildings.
Within the museum itself, it’s worth looking up! The frescoes feature themes from the Kalevala epic, including The Forging of the Sampo and Ilmarinen Ploughs a Field of Vipers. At the time of writing, the “Otherland” exhibition highlights a time before Finland was Finland and “Mäccmõš, maccâm, máhccan – The Homecoming” celebrates the return of thousands of Sámi artefacts.
Admission to the National Museum of Finland is €14 per adult or free for anyone under the age of 18. It’s also free for anyone to enter on a Friday evening after 4.15pm. During the later months of the year, the museum is closed on Mondays.
Learn More: Kansallismuseo (Official Website)
9. Try some Finnish treats at Kauppatori, the Market Square.
While exploring Helsinki, I would highly recommend stopping by Kauppatori, the Market Square, to try some Finnish treats. You can find everything from traditional food to handicrafts and souvenirs here, making it a worthwhile stop for any visitor.
It’s also worth stepping into the Old Market Hall, Vanha Kauppahalli. The market is just a few minutes away from Kauppatori and is full of local delicacies and fresh produce. Inside, you can find traditional stalls selling breads, cheeses and ice cream.
What Finnish treats would I recommend trying? Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pie), lohikeitto (salmon soup), salmiakki (salty liquorice) and ruisleipä (rye bread) are all delicious options. Korvapuusti, a type of Finnish cinnamon bun, goes down a treat with a warm drink. It’s worth having a good look around and trying whatever catches your eye.
10. Relax in Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden.
If you’re looking to spend a few hours relaxing, it’s worth stopping by Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden. Here, you can enjoy everything from a little slice of the rainforest in Helsinki to the desert. In the summer, the outside lawns offer one of the best picnic spots in the capital.
There are many different areas to explore here, from The Moss Garden and The Lichen Garden to The Garden of the Senses and The Tree of Life. The glasshouses are split into different rooms, including Desert Room, Palm House, Waterlily Room and African Violet Room.
The outdoor garden at Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden is open daily, but the glasshouses are usually closed on Mondays. It costs €12 for adults to enter the glasshouses and €6 for children. Children under 7 can enter them for free.
Learn More: Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden (Official Website)
Enjoy Finding the Best Things to Do in Helsinki
Hopefully my choices for the best things to do in Helsinki have helped to fill you with ideas and inspiration. It’s a beautiful city to explore, full of nature, life and fun. You can trace the history of how Finland became the country it is today, enjoy amusement rides, dive into freezing water after a hot sauna and eat delicious treats, all on the same day.
Do you have any favourite things to do in Helsinki? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.