With a distinctive and charming atmosphere, Helsinki is a city like no other. Firstly, it has a fantastic selection of architectural styles from traditional Scandinavian and art-nouveau to more utilitarian and contemporary styles. When it comes to things to do in Helsinki, if you venture beyond saunas and the Suomenlinna, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more to this vibrant and exciting Finnish capital than first meets the eye.
From its rich design and blossoming foodie scene, Helsinki has been dubbed as the ‘new Scandi star’, not bad for a city that has a tendency to be overlooked by its Swedish and Danish counterparts. It may not have quite the breadth of things to do in comparison to say Stockholm and Copenhagen, but what it lacks for in high volumes of attractions, it more than makes up for in experiences and then there’s the foodie scene.
At less than three hours’ flying time from London, as well as the uber cool city, there are also Helsinki’s islands to explore. This lush archipelago wilderness is chock-full of pine and spruce forests and is just a five-minute boat ride from the centre of downtown.
So for the ultimate city break which comes with the ‘Ooh, i need to go there’ vibes on Insta, then head on over to the Finnish capital to explore the many things to do in Helsinki.
Sail to Suomenlinna
A cultural treasure, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular things to do in Helsinki. Spread over eight islands in the Helsinki archipelago, the Suomenlinna Fortress is the largest sea fortress in the world and its history dates back to 1748. There are six museums to explore, whilst it’s free to enter the fortress , there is a small fee of between 5 and 8 Euros for adults to visit the museums which include exhibitions on toys, military history, Finnish customs as well as the restoration of Suomenlinna. You can get there by boat and it’s just a twenty minute ferry ride away from Market Square.
Enjoy a sauna
It might be pretty stereotypical, but can you say you have visited Finland if you haven’t paid a visit to the sauna? If you are planning a trip to the Finnish capital, then you absolutely have to add this to your list of things to do in Helsinki.
Fun fact of the day – there are an estimated three million saunas in Finland. One of our favourite saunas in Helsinki includes Löyly which is one of the most popular public saunas in Helsinki and is located on the waterfront. Löyly literally means the steam that rises from the sauna stove or the heat of the sauna. It also has a fantastic restaurant with panoramic views.
The Allas Sea Pool is a real oasis of well-being in the heart of Helsinki. Enjoy a session in the sauna followed by a bracing dip in the cold sea water pool. If you prefer to enjoy your dip in slightly warmer temperatures, there’s a warm water pool that you can swim in – all you need to do is to decide if you prefer swimming under the sun or in the moonlight.
Marvel at the National Museum of Finland
Since its inception in 1916, the National Museum of Finland has been high on the list of things to do in Helsinki thanks to its impressive collection of artefacts. Embark on a time-trip through the history of Finland from prehistoric times through to the present. There are three permanent exhibitions in the National Museum of Finland and a range of temporary collections that rotate on a regular basis.
Orbzii Insider Tip – Entry to the National Museum of Finland is free on Fridays at 16:00–18:00, it tends to get a smidge busier during this time, but if you are looking to save a few pennies whilst exploring the many things to do in Helsinki, then this is an ideal time to visit.
Admire the iconic Helsinki Cathedral
One of the most iconic landmarks of the city, the cathedral is certainly worth visiting during your time in Helsinki. It was built in the 19th century as a tribute to Czar Nicholas I and is located next to the Bank Museum. Head up the 100 steps from Senate Square up to the cathedral where you can also admire the statues of the twelve Apostles. The Uspenski Cathedral is also one to add to your list of things to do and see in Helsinki.
Head over to the Design district
Take a stroll through Helsinki’s stylish Design District, it’s filled with more than 200 shops, museums, galleries and hip restaurants. Why not pay a visit to the Design Museum whilst you are in the neighbourhood. This fantastic museum showcases over 150 years of Finnish architecture and design which is an absolute must if you are looking for design orientated things to do in Helsinki. Its vast collection comprises over 75,000 objects and 100,000 drawings.
Take a selfie at the Rock Church
If you are an early riser, head on over to the Temppeliaukio, otherwise known as the Rock Church. This must-see Helsinki landmark oftens tops the list of things to do in Helsinki.
This intriguing and unique church is built directly into its surrounding rock. The walls of the chapel are made from solid granite in a myriad of beautiful black, brown and red speckled patterns. It’s best seen early in the morning when the light is at its best and there’s less crowds.
Relax in Helsinki’s green spaces
There’s no shortage of lush green spaces to be found in Helsinki. Whilst there’s so much to see and do in Helsinki, sometimes you need a bit of R&R. In fact, over a third of the city consists of parks and other green areas that you can retreat to.
From the beautiful Botanical Garden to the popular Esplanade Park, fondly referred to as ‘Espa’ among locals, which is the most famous park in Finland. Whilst there’s no shortage of delightful green spaces to enjoy some quiet time, you can also enjoy live theatre and music performances too.
Embrace your inner bookworm
The National Library of Finland is a must visit for any bibliophilie! Not only is it chock-full of an abundance of books. It’s estimated that there are a few million books to choose from, but it’s also stunningly beautiful too thanks to its ornate and decorative interior.