Helsinki’s many art museums are perfect for quiet immersion and appreciation of great art. The city has everything from a huge collection of classic art at the Ateneum Museum or the National Museum to contemporary art at Kiasma or Helsinki Contemporary. There are also specialist museums for photography or architecture, smaller galleries or those featuring emerging artists such as Artsi Vantaa, which specialises in graffiti and street art, or the Gallen-Kallela Museum. Street art is also common in Helsinki, particularly in the Kallio district and the Graffiti Wall.
Eating by yourself isn’t viewed as all that strange in Finland so there are plenty of high quality yet low-key cafes or restaurants where you can get a bite to eat while reading. The establishments near the city centre tend to be crowded and noisy, especially during the day, but anywhere outside of this area will be much more quiet and peaceful by comparison. Many kiosks also pop up in Helsinki during the summer to sell all manner of street food. If the weather allows, this provides an opportunity to eat outdoors, so long as you are wary of the seagulls.
There aren’t any primarily English bookshops in Helsinki, but all but the smallest shops have at least some books in English. The independent bookshops are tailored towards book lovers and invite them to sit and read. Public libraries are also free for visitors to enter. The main library of the University of Helsinki is open to everyone and contains academic texts in multiple fields and a vast digital archive to satisfy anyone’s intellectual curiosity. The National Library is situated in a beautiful building on the Cathedral Square and is also open to the public, yet is bypassed by most tourists. It makes for a perfect location for silent reading or checking out the exhibits.
Helsinki’s architecture is not to be missed, but you don’t always need to take a walking tour to see it all. Other options are the hop-on hop-off tour bus or even more cost effective is to buy a day travel pass and take either the number 3 or 4 trams, which pass by all the city’s main architectural landmarks. The pass allows you to get on and off the buses, trams, and ferries as many times as you want in a day, so it’s easy to decide upon the buildings you absolutely must see and view them at your own pace.