Finland’s capital is a buzzing city that’s the perfect size to explore on foot, so you can discover charming bars and attractions while you wander. But look, sometimes it’s simpler to have a plan – so we’ve rounded up the city’s top attractions.
Want to get out of the city? The archipelago of Helsinki consists of around 330 islands, providing beautiful set-ups for days at the beach or weekend camping trips.
Here’s the absolute essential things to do in Helsinki…
1. Have a sauna at Löyly
You can’t come to Helsinki and not enjoy a traditional sauna experience. There’s lots to choose from, but this huge public sauna and restaurant complex in the Hernesaari is a top choice. The complex includes a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, two other wood-heated saunas, a year-round terrace and a restaurant.
You can even go for a dip in the sea to cool down in between sauna sessions.
2. Taste local snacks at the Old Market Hall
The beautiful Old Market Hall in Helsinki has been serving customers since 1889. Merchants sell everything from cheese, fish, shellfish, vegetable, fruit and cakes to spices, coffee and tea, while you can also find sleek Nordic-style cafes for cocktails and bites to eat.
3. Hit up the famous street party in Kallio neighbourhood
Just like New York’s Bushwick or Berling’s Kreuzberg, Helsinki’s Kallio district is a creative area full of independent stores and cafes with a bohemian vibe. It’s also home to the legendary summer street party, where people flock to the neighbourhood to let loose in a friendly atmosphere.
The Kallio Block Party, organised by Kallio-liike, takes place in August on the streets of Kallio – in a different location each year.
4. Visit Temppeliaukio rock church
Completed in 1969, Temppeliaukio Church is carved right into the rock in the heart of Helsinki, at the end of Fredrikinkatu. The unique church hall is lined with copper, while rainwater often falls down the natural stone walls, creating mini-waterfalls. Due to its excellent acoustics, the church is a popular venue for concerts.
5. Explore nature in Nuuksio National Park
Just a half-hour’s drive from the capital, this scenic National Park is a great place to enjoy Finnish scenery at its best, with lakes, green forests and rigged crags to explore. Pack your backpack for a family picnic or camp out under the stars.
There’s hiking and bike trails to suit all levels, as well as horse riding trails, if that’s more your style.
6. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
Kiasma is a museum of contemporary art, with a focus on Finnish artists. There’s an ever-changing display of exhibitions as well as regular live performances, all of which will spark your mind and surprise, impress and entertain. A superb place to spend an afternoon, and the museum building itself is just as much of a wonder.
7. Stroll around the Design District
Helsinki’s Design District is a vibrant hub of creativity, which is full of more than 200 boutiques, ateliers, museums, galleries and cafes, as well as internationally recognisable design labels like Marimekko. The Design District spans several downtown neighborhoods that include Punavuori, Kaartinkaupunki, Kruunuhaka, Kamppi and Ullanlinna.
Keep an eye out for open studio days to chat with local artists over a glass of wine or two, and just walk around the cobblestone streets until you’ve soaked up all the Scandi-style.