Helsinki delights travellers with its sea-facing landscape, diverse architecture, world-famous design, and Nordic cuisine. Finland’s capital is compact enough to explore on foot, and many reputable hotels are in the centre of the action. Among its many sights are unique churches, a UNESCO-listed fortress, and traditional marketplaces dating back to the 19th century. Helsinki’s nightlife scene attracts alternative music fans with numerous concert halls and live bars hosting heavy metal gigs almost every evening. Each year, the city hosts one of Europe’s largest music festivals, featuring renowned metal bands from all over the world. Make the most out of your holiday by checking out for our guide of things to do in Helsinki.
Experience Finnish Sauna at Löyly
Sauna in Finland? Groundbreaking. No, it isn’t unexpected and doesn’t exactly help to break the perception of Finland that foreigners have. But if you’re after a true holistic Finnish experience, then you must pay a visit to a sauna! Every public sauna has character and a personality of its own, and the pièce de résistance of all public saunas in Helsinki is in the heart of the city. Welcome to Löyly!
Built from sustainably sourced wood, Löyly offers you the primal Finnish experience of sweating out toxins, followed by a refreshing dip in the sea. If you’re visiting Helsinki in wintertime, they make a hole in the ice just for this activity – we hope you’re feeling brave! Löyly also serves as a restaurant and cocktail bar, cooking up organic food and sustainably caught fish.
- Price: €19 per person for a two-hour sauna session. It’s a little on the pricier side, but in all honesty Finland is an expensive country and this is the top place for a sauna
- To get there, take bus 14 or 18N from Kamppi
Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden
The Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden features 10 glasshouses that cultivate over 1,300 plant species from deserts, rainforests and tropical wetlands around the world. The Palm House exhibit is particularly popular as it houses the world’s biggest seed and colourful orchids, while the Waterlily Room is where you can see the gigantic Santa Cruz lily pads, which span 2 metres in diameter and can hold an adult human. The glasshouses are open from 10am till evening, and closed on Mondays. If you’re not keen to pay €9 to explore these glasshouses, the 10,000 sq m outdoor gardens are free to explore all year round.
Nuuksio National Park
Nuuksio National Park, located 40 km northwest of Helsinki, attracts nature lovers with its scenic forests, valleys, and diverse wildlife. There are over 80 lakes and ponds within the park, with Lake Pitkäjärvi being a popular spot for canoeing. The park is typically busy during the summertime, as you get to enjoy activities such as camping, rock-climbing, and walking along nature trails. You’re also free to explore the forests and forage for mushrooms and fresh lingonberries during the late summer.
Visit Suomenlinna Island
As you probably already know from many Instagram posts, Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands. But none hold a torch to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, which has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This historically significant cluster of six linked islands offers a total contrast to Helsinki’s city centre, with its uneven hills, cobblestone paths and cannons dressed in cobwebs. Yet it’s only a 15 minute HSL ferry ride from the Market Square! Visit this peaceful spot where Finns hang out on summer days to enjoy picnics, soak up the sun and wander the quaint streets and restaurants that are conveniently located in the heart of the island.
Shop in Helsinki’s Design District
Helsinki’s Design District spans more than 200 buildings, from fashion boutiques, furniture shops, and jewellery workshops to designer studios, museums and art galleries. Shoppers get to enjoy a day of perusing Finnish brands such as Marimekko, Lumi Accessories, and Vietto, while art and design lovers frequent the Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture. You can reach the district on the Helsinki tram by getting off at Johanneskyrkan.
Temppeliaukio stands out from most churches in Europe as it’s partially underground, having been quarried out of a natural bedrock. Located 700 metres southwest of the National Museum of Finland, the Rock Church features a central copper dome with a circular skylight and an altarpiece that’s carved out of rock dating back to the Ice Age. Entrance to Temppeliaukio costs around €3, but the Sunday morning services are free to attend.