Helsinki is the capital city of Finland which is part of Scandinavia. Here are a few things to do in Helsinki;
- Suomenlinna – UNESCO Site
- Helsinki Cathedral
- Temppeliaukio Church
- Uspenski Cathedral
- Railway Square
- Seurasaari (An open air museum on an island)
- Kamppi Chapel
Similarly to all of Scandinavia, hotels in Helsinki can be incredibly expensive. Definitely check out prices on Airbnb.
Suomenlinna (UNESCO site)
In 1748 the Swedish ruled Finland and built Suomenlinna Fortress which was originally called Sveaborg, or Viapori in Finnish. Then in 1808, the Russians took over this part of the world including the Sveaborg fortress. It wasn’t until 1918, shortly after the independence of Finland that this island became part of Finland and renamed Suomenlinna which translates to Castle of Finland.
Exploring Suomenlinna Fortress
I would say that the best way to photograph the fortress would be from above on a helicopter tour or with a drone camera. However, not all of us have this equipment therefore you’ll have to explore the island on foot to find the best place to take photos! To fully explore the islands and its museums, I recommend you plan a full day on Suomenlinna.
How to get the Suomenlinna Helsinki Ferry
To get to Suomenlinna you must take a boat which leave from Kauppatori regularly. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO world heritage site and the Suomenlinna website claims that a visit here is comparable to a visit to the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon or the Acropolis in Athens. I wouldn’t put it in the same bracket as these but it’s definitely worth a boat trip over from Helsinki. Once on the Suomenlinna ferry be sure to pick up a free information leaflet with a map of the island. When you travel on the ferry, many of the things to do in Helsinki are visible from the panoramic view on the roof.
Alternatively, you can visit Suomenlinna on an organised day trip.
The iconic building of Helsinki is the cathedral. It was built in the 19th century and somewhat resembles a temple. As a matter of fact, Helsinki Cathedral is a top Instagram spot in Helsinki. The reason being that it’s surrounded by elegant steps rising from Senate Square.
Something very unique in Helsinki is Temppeliaukio Church. It’s a church built directly into a solid rock also known as Rock Church or Church of the Rock. You may be thinking, why did someone build a church into rock? Because the rock walls enhance the acoustics of the church. For this reason, when visiting Temppeliaukio Church be sure to check out the huge organ.
The Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. It’s located on a hill and is visible from all over the city. If you visit, there’s an interesting crypt area beneath it. Furthermore, you’ll find similar style cathedrals in neighboring Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
National Theater, Railway Square
If you arrive in Helsinki by train, one of the first things you’ll see is Railway Square. I was lucky there was a huge ice skating rink in the middle of it when I visited. As a result, photos of the square were seriously enhanced with a shiny reflection. Lastly, a particularly Instagram worthy building on the square is the Finnish National Theater.
Suomenlinna Island is the most famous tourist attraction of Helsinki. However, there is another noteworthy island worth visiting known as Seurasaari. This island features an open air museum about the traditional Finnish way of life. At the same time, you can relax, admire the island and view the local wildlife.
The Kamppi Chapel is one of the most unique places of worship in the world. In fact, you’d be forgiven if you mistook it as a bow of a boat. The idea behind the chapel is that you can experience peace or pray in the center of a huge city. If you go inside, you’ll immediately forget you’re in a major European capital. All religions are welcome.
How to get from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry
From Helsinki port, which is a 20 minute walk from downtown Helsinki, you can take a passenger service on a cruise ship to Tallinn, Estonia. The crossing is 2 hours and costs about €15. I used the Tallink Silja line which has regular crossings. There are restaurants, a Burger King and a supermarket on-board as well as free WiFi.
How to visit Russian without a Visa
I have to mention St Peter Line foot passenger service. If you use this service it’s possible to visit St Petersburg, Russia for up to 72 hours without a visa. If you’re in this part of Europe and want to add another country to your list, then a visit to St Petersburg will be perfect for you. You need to plan it well with the cruise ship times though.
2 hours on that cruise ship seems like a good way to get across…Tallin is on my list and thanks to your post, I have some more information in my databank now.
Oh Hell!!! Why did I miss Finland when I was in Europe???!!!! How the hell did I not know of Suomenlinna UNESCO Site??!!! Too bad, I missed it!!! I really really hope I’ll get another chance in Europe…
Just 2 hours on that cruise ship and you reach another land!! Wonderful. Helsinki seems to have so many things to do. By the way, noticed from your pic, it has something like the london eye. What is it called?
I want to visit Finland so bad! I think I will have the time of my life when I finally get there! By the way, I didn’t know that it is possible to visit St Petersburg without a visa if you’re there for a short period of time. It goes for other cities in Russia too?
Unfortunately it’s just for St Petersburg and only when arriving on the ferry company I mentioned.
I have always dreamt of visiting Finland in deep winter to enjoy snow trek and the amazing views it has to offer when everything is so white. After reading your post, I learned that Finland is beautiful even when there is no snow. I would love to explore the world heritage site .
I visited Finland in late september last year and wasn’t prepared for how cold it would be. I had only taken a fleece and no coat!! I did the trip to the fortress, it was amazing to walk around but I was so cold and constantly looking for shelter from the wind. It’s a great city though and I did enjoy my visit there from Tallin.
I love Helsinki, it is such a lovely city and full of friendly people. I have visited twice, once in summer and once in winter. I was planning on taking a trip to St Peterburg but ended up taking an epic road trip north.
The ice skating near the train station was really fun. I think that next time I visit I will head into Russia for a visa free trip and then take the boat over to Tallinn to the rest of Europe
Helsinki is a such a beautiful place. Would love to visit this place during winters. The photo of the castle in the background looks amazing. We are so interested to visit the igloo hotels as well. That’s a great tip to visit three countries at one go. 😉
Short and sweet! I like how you summarised the main attractions of Helsinki. I ought to visit that place soon!
I hope you enjoyed my home country. Hopefully you get to visit during summer time next time and enjoy the midnight sun. Taking a ferry to neighbouring countries is definitely always fun!