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10 Top Things to See and Do in Helsinki
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10 Top Things to See and Do in Helsinki

Picture of Eliza Marin
Updated: 14 February 2018
Helsinki is one of those international cities that have a distinct and charming atmosphere, yet this metropolis has a particular finesse that makes it like no place else on earth! The architecture stands out with minimalist, Scandinavian styles, and remains at once industrial, utilitarian and cool. Then there’s the city’s pallet of seasonal colors; fluctuating between vivid summer green, intense Baltic blue and the crystalline white of Nordic winter. Oh, and through it all there are some fantastic things to see and do.

The Market Square

Probably one of the first things on the line-up for travellers arriving in the old town of Helsinki – if you’re not too busy savoring a delightful cup of famous Finnish hot chocolate – is the harbor and Market Square next to the Baltic Sea. This port area is one of the epicentres of life and commerce in the town, and a veritable landmark of Helsinki as a whole. It’s here that the locals gather their best products, presenting fresh fish and Finnish specialities like reindeer horns, hand-made jewellery, souvenirs, and clothing, all packed neatly onto the quays next to the water.

Address: Eteläsatama, Helsinki, Finnland +358 931023565

The Chapel of Silence

Kamppi Chapel of Silence is located in the City Center: a sanctuary of quietude in the midst of Helsinki’s lively urban life. The 300-meter-square space is warm and calm, and offers a fine retreat, boasting thick wooden walls made of Nordic spruce that work to enhance the depth of the silence inside. The church can be accessed through three main doors, and stepping into the main room reveals wooden benches and one fascinating altar holding a thin metal cross and a bowl. What’s more, the building is constructed in an amazing circular shape that represents the height of architectural innovation in true Scandinavian style!

Address: Simonsgatan 7, Helsinki, Finland +358 923402018

Juttutupa

A swell pub and a delicious restaurant set to bold combinations of rock fusion and contemporary jazz music, Juttutupa’s history goes all the way back to 1884, giving it the distinction of being one of the oldest joints in town. It was once even the host of revolutionary socialistmeetings led by Vladimir Lenin, while today it entertains crowds of local patrons and travellers alike, who all sit and enjoy dishes like juicy burgers and pizza at the long, communal dining tables.

Address: Sparbankskajen 6, Helsinki, Finland +358 20 7424240

Helsinki City Museum

There is arguably no better place to understand how exactly the city of Helsinki became what it is today than the City Museum, which presents a complexity of exhibitions that range from traditional Finnish costumes of both women and men dating from hundreds of years ago, to displays of 19th–century home décor, complete with early prototypes of refrigerators and irons. The center also takes a look at the cultural life of the city and the incredible female presence in the political and economic environment of the last century.

Address: Helsinki City Museum, Sofiankatu 4, Helsinki, Finland, +358 931036630

Helsinki University Botanical Gardens

Revealing a year-long explosion of colorful plants from right across the globe, the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden is an exuberant oasis of life right in the center of the city. Its history does not go without mentioning, as it is the oldest scientific garden in all of Finland, inaugurated by the botanist Peter Kalm in Turku in the year 1678 (finally being transferred to the care of Helsinki University in 1829 as a result of a major fire). The garden is home to a whopping 800 species of plant in total!

Address: Helsinki University Botanical Gardens, Unionsgatan 44, Helsinki, Finland +358 919124455

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna, or the so-called “Fortress of Finland”, is located on an island just 20 minutes away from Helsinki’s harbors. It is a fine example of a military fortified structure, hailed by UNESCO for its cultural magnitude. Called Sveaborg when Finland was a part of the Swedish empire, it represented a major strategic point that was important for control of the city as a whole. Don’t miss the impressive dry dock, a real technological feat of engineering, and don’t leave without exploring the island’s greener parts – perfect for a stroll next to the Baltic.

Address: Suomenlinna C 74, Helsinki, Finland +358 295338300

Design District

Because all the best things in life are free, so is this thought-provoking visual design parcel in the heart of the city of Helsinki! With an impressive accumulation of boutiques, workplaces, antique shops, galleries and restaurants, there are plenty of opportunities to discover the unmistakable simplicity of minimalistic Finnish design here. In short, the Design District unravels the subtle power of Scandinavian design and décor though awe-inspiring collections of hand-made products, simple-cut clothing shops, and functional architecture alike.

Café Ekberg

Café Ekberg, widely regarded as the oldest café in all of Helsinki, dates from the first half of the 19th century and boasts a large, 90-seat guest room for the pleasure and delight of its patrons. Don’t leave without sampling the on-site patisserie’s Napoleon cake, which can either be sided with a strong coffee or a delicious hot chocolate with a wisp of creamy foam. It’s a great place to enjoy an early start with abundant breakfast options, oodles of hand-made pastries, biscuits and cookies.

Address: Café Ekberg, Bulevardi 9, Helsinki, Finland +358 968118660

Moomin Shop

The perfect place to re-awaken that childhood spirit is the Moomin Shop, located at the second terminal in the Vaanta Airport in Helsinki. Based on the characters of the book written and illustrated by Tove Jansson, published in both Sweden and Finland, the Moomins are distinctive hippopotamus-like characters that had life-long adventures in their stories. The shop contains all sorts of personalized items for lovers of the comic books or the television series, but not only that, because the cuteness of the characters is sure to strike any visitor!

Address: Vantaa Airport, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 586 5058

Visit a Sauna

For the Fins the sauna represents a place of meditative refreshment; a god-like delight dating from the Viking period. Besides the obvious stress relief, there is a multitude of supposed benefits on offer from the high-temperature, timber chamber: It improves cardiovascular performance; helps weight loss; soothes muscle and joint pain, and contributes to better sleep quality. For the real experience, consider joining a trip to the sauna with spot of winter ice diving – if you dare! One of the nation’s most popular sauna types, the smoked sauna, can be found at Yrjönkatu, the oldest swimming pool in the country.

Address: Yrjönkatu 21 B, Helsinki, Finland, +358 931087401