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June 20: City Highlights Cruise at 11:30 is cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Read more here.

Top 10 Must-See Places and Things to Do in Helsinki

2024-05-27

Top 10 Must-See Places and Things to Do in Helsinki

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, Helsinki offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From architectural marvels to serene waterfront spots, here are the top attractions that should be on your Helsinki bucket list!

 

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1. Must see maritime thing in Helsinki: Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

This maritime fortress is one of the Helsinki must see attractions. Built by the Swedes in the mid-1800s, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a small baroque settlement. As well as being a historic site, Suomenlinna is also home to around 800 year-round residents and one of Helsinki’s districts.

Take a ferry from Kauppatori to Suomenlinna, the journey takes approximately 15 minutes. Depending on the season and the time of day, ferries run 1 to 4 times an hour from morning to night all year round. The ferry is part of Helsinki’s public transport system, so if you have a valid HSL ticket (HSL Helsinki Region transport), you can use it for the ferry ride.

The crossing is free with a Helsinki Card. With the Helsinki card, you can also get free entrance to Suomenlinna’s museums: Military Museum's Manege and Finnish submarine Vesikko.

Tip! In the summer season, you can see the wonderful Suomenlinna from the sea on our cruises such as Helsinki City Highlights Cruise. The cruise route runs along the shorelines of Suomenlinna, all the way to submarine Vesikko and Kustaanmiekka straight.

2. A breath of history: Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square

If you google Helsinki must see places, you usually get the Cathedral and Senate Square as one of the results. And no wonder, the place is impressive and beautiful. The iconic green-domed cathedral stands tall in the cityscape. Originally called St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, it’s a neoclassical masterpiece that has witnessed Finnish history from Russian rule to independence.

Helsinki Cathedral is located in Senate Square, which is a historic and scenic spot in the historic city center quarters of Helsinki. Designed by the renowned architect Carl Ludvig Engel, it serves as an allegory of political, religious, scientific, and commercial powers. At the center of the square stands the statue of Emperor Alexander II. As a modern touch, the square features a sound installation called the Sound of the Senate Square - a contemporary version of the European glockenspiel.

Tip! Senate Square is also a departure point of Helsinki Hop On-Hop Off bus. The first tour of the day starts at 10 am in the morning and the buses run every 30-40 minutes daily May-September. The last tour ends at the Senate Square at 17:30, just in time for the Sound of the Senate Square sound installation which plays at 17:49.

 

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Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo/Helsinki Partners

3. Architectural Helsinki must visit attraction: Helsinki Central Library Oodi

Located right next to the Helsinki main railway station, on Kansalaistori square, Oodi serves as a living meeting place, welcoming residents and visitors alike to explore its services, books, and creative spaces.

The Oodi building features glass and steel structures alongside a warm wooden facade. This remarkable building is definitely on the top list of must see things in Helsinki. Oodi was designed by ALA Architects. Their vision was to create a public, open-to-everyone, safe, and free-of-charge city space in the heart of Helsinki. Oodi stands as an impressive calling card for Finnish architecture, combining traditional and contemporary elements.

4. Museums of contemporary art: Kiasma and Amos Rex

Helsinki is home to many interesting museums. The Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, situated just a few steps away from Oodi in the city center of Helsinki, is a vibrant hub for contemporary art and one of the must see things in Helsinki.

Kiasma hosts a dynamic range of exhibitions, featuring both established and emerging artists. From thought-provoking installations to multimedia masterpieces, there’s something for every art enthusiast. Kiasma is also a major architectural destination, designed by American architect Steven Holl.

Another cultural gem of contemporary art is Amos Rex, a relatively new hub for art enthusiasts. From thought-provoking installations to multimedia masterpieces, there’s something for every art lover.

Amos Rex Museum’s fascinating architecture is designed by Finnish architects JKMM Architects. Most of the exhibition spaces are located underground. The roof consists of a series of domes and mounds that emerge from the ground - the domes are already part of the iconic Helsinki views that you want to see when visiting Helsinki!

Tip! Helsinki Hop On-Hop Off bus stop no 13 is located just between Kiasma and Amos Rex, so you can easily combine a visit to the museums with a sightseeing bus tour.

5. Historical Old Market Hall

The Old Market Hall stands as a testament to Helsinki’s rich culinary heritage. Nestled by the Helsinki Market Square, this iconic market hall has been serving customers since 1889. Here you can delve into the flavors, history, and charm of this beloved landmark.

Step inside the Old Market Hall, and you’ll be greeted by an array of enticing aromas. The market vendors offer an exquisite selection of cheeses, fish and shellfish, vegetables and fruits, spices, coffee, and tea. There are also cozy cafes and lunch places in the hall.

6. Allas Sea Pool is one of the top 10 things to do in Helsinki

Allas Sea Pool is an urban seaside pool complex where you can swim, sauna, and enjoy sea views. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

Here you can try out the Finnish national hobby, the sauna. You can do as the Finns do and combine a hot sauna with a swim in the natural water. In winter it is naturally icy. The combination is healthy, relaxing and unforgettable. It's quite a sight to walk by in the middle of a cold winter and see Finns running out into the freezing cold air in their bathing suits.

Tip! Would you like to learn more about the Finnish sauna culture? Read more on our Practical information site where you can find not only the Sauna Master Class but also other useful tips & tricks for how best enjoy your stay in Helsinki!

7. For shopping lovers: Stockmann Department Store

Stockmann is definitely one of Helsinki must visit places. It’s Northern Europe’s largest department store, founded in 1862. Stockmann’s Flagship Store in Helsinki is located on Aleksanterinkatu street, in the heart of the centre, offering an impressive 50,000 square metres of shopping space spread across ten floors. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion trends, trendy cosmetics, world-famous Finnish design, souvenirs, or much more, Stockmann has it all.

8. Charming cafés of Helsinki

Helsinki is a city that embraces both tradition and modernity. Its café culture is no exception. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or just looking for a cosy place to unwind, Helsinki’s cafés have something to please your taste buds and aesthetics.

The Iconic Café Ekberg is a Helsinki must visit. It holds a special place in Helsinki’s heart. As Finland’s oldest bakery, patisserie, and café, it has been serving locals and visitors since 1852. Located on the atmospheric Boulevard, Café Ekberg invites you to step back in time and enjoy delicious delicacies in a cosy atmosphere.

Tip! Enjoy your coffee moment of the day on our Beautiful Canal Cruise. You can take in Helsinki's beautiful seascapes and enjoy the sweet and salty delicacies of the onboard cafe-bar at the same time. How about a Finnish afternoon treat: coffee with korvapuusti (sweet cinnamon and sugar filled bun)?

9. The green oasis of the city: Esplanade Park

Esplanade Park has been a central gathering place since the mid-19th century. Designed by Helsinki’s chief architect Carl Ludvig Engel, it invites both locals and visitors to enjoy its tranquil beauty, cultural events, and café life.

Whether you’re looking for a moment of peace, a taste of history, or simply a sunny spot for a picnic, Esplanade Park welcomes you. As you sip your coffee under the leafy trees, remember that this green oasis has witnessed generations of Helsinki life.

If you visit Helsinki during the Holiday season in December and beginning of January, don't forget to go and check the wonderful Christmas light decorations in Esplanade Park!

Tip! Our popular sightseeing tour by bus, Helsinki Panorama Sightseeing departs daily from Esplanade Park in the winter season.

 

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Photo: Jessi Ristilä/Linnanmäki

10. What are the must sees in Helsinki for families?

Two of the most beloved family attractions in Helsinki are Linnanmäki Amusement Park and Korkeasaari Zoo.

Linnanmäki, established in 1950, holds a special place in the hearts of all Finns. Operated by the Children’s Day Foundation, this amusement park combines fun with a noble cause. For decades, it has maintained and developed Linnanmäki to raise funds for Finnish child welfare work.

Korkeasaari Zoo is a unique gem located on an island in the Baltic Sea, just a short distance from Helsinki’s city center. Established in 1889, it’s one of the world’s oldest zoos. Korkeasaari is home to over 150 animal species. From majestic Amur tigers to tiny pygmy marmosets, you'll meet creatures from all over the world.

Tip! Linnanmäki Amusement Park is one of the stops of Hop On-Hop Off bus tour, so combining these two, a bus tour and an amusement park, makes your holiday day fun for the whole family. And don’t forget to show your Helsinki Card at the entrance to Korkeasaari Zoo: adults get a €2 discount off the entrance fee and children get a €1 discount.

Map of most interesting places to visit in Helsinki

Already planning your Helsinki itinerary? Check here where to find all these interesting sites!

 

Four adults walking in the Esplanade Park in Helsinki on a sunny day. The Martket Square and the Havis Amanda fountain can be seen on the background. eee
Four adults walking in the Esplanade Park in Helsinki on a sunny day. The Martket Square and the Havis Amanda fountain can be seen on the background. eee

Staying in Helsinki for only one day?

Read more ideas for what to see & do in Helsinki!

Four persons sitting on a bench in the Esplanade Park, Helsinki. They are reading a map.
Four persons sitting on a bench in the Esplanade Park, Helsinki. They are reading a map.

Helsinki Practical Information

Tips & tricks for how to make your visit to Helsinki run smoothly!

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