I have already had the opportunity to visit Helsinki twice. The visits happened at different times of the year, so they were completely different experiences. And so I have many tips to help you plan your trip to the Finnish capital.
Throughout this post, you will find tips on what is the best time of year to visit Helsinki, how many days are needed to visit the city, accommodation suggestions, what are the main points of interest and much more.
Note: the photos you will see throughout the post were taken on my two trips to Helsinki (one in June and one in December)!
What is the best time of the year to visit Helsinki?
As you would expect, Helsinki is known for its very harsh and snowy winters and not-that-hot summers. Definitely, in order to enjoy the city more, I suggest visiting the city in the warmer months – June to September.
In the winter months, apart from the rather low temperatures, the days are very short, tending to reduce the number of places we visit per day. However, in December there is a Christmas market in the city, which can be a good reason to visit Helsinki at this time of year.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: I visited Helsinki at two different times of the year and the experience was very different. In June the city was full of life, while in December the streets were much emptier. Despite the magic of the snow, I won’t deny that in winter this visit can be more uncomfortable due to the low temperatures. However, there’s nothing like wearing the proper clothes and footwear to survive the cold. Find out more here.
How many days do you need to visit Helsinki?
Despite being a European capital, Helsinki is a small city. On the longest days of the year (i.e. with the most sunlight), it is perfectly possible to visit Helsinki’s main points of interest in just one day.
However, to ensure a more relaxed itinerary, I suggest you reserve two days to explore Helsinki.
How to get to Helsinki?
Helsinki has one airport – Helsinki Vantaa which has direct connections to several cities in Europe such as:
- United Kingdom (London, Manchester, Edinburgh)
- Italy (Milan, Rome, Venice, Bologna, …)
- France (Paris, Nice)
- Germany (Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, …)
- Spain (Barcelona, Malaga, Madrid, …)
- Netherlands (Amsterdam)
Another very common option to reach Helsinki is by ferry from Tallinn, Estonia. In fact, this is how I visited Helsinki on a day trip on my first visit to the city. In the next part of this post, you can find more details about this option.
How to get to Helsinki from Tallinn?
The ferry trip between Helsinki and Tallinn takes about 2 hours, is very comfortable and relatively inexpensive (in my case the outward journey cost 29€ and the return journey 19€). The boats are huge and have many services available inside (restaurants/cafes, shops, …). There are 3 companies that offer this service:
- Tallink: offers a few trips a day in both directions and the conditions inside the boat are spectacular
- Eckeroline: also with plenty of timetable options available, but the boat conditions are inferior
- Viking Line: I have not tried this company, but the prices are similar to the others
In my opinion, the differentiating factor between these companies is the timetables available. Therefore, I suggest you choose the one that suits you best in terms of price/timetable.
💡 EXTRA TIP: If you choose to visit Helsinki on a day trip from Tallinn, I recommend trying to depart on the earliest ferry and return on the latest. For example, I left Tallinn at 7.30 am and returned at 9.40 pm, which allowed me to enjoy the whole day in Helsinki.
How to get from Helsinki airport to the city centre?
There are two ways to get to the centre of Helsinki (other than by car or taxi!) and they are both quite simple:
- Bus no. 600: the journey takes about 40 minutes and tickets can be bought online or directly on the HSL App
- Train: the journey takes about 30 minutes and can also be bought online or from the ticket machines available at the station
How to save some money in Helsinki?
Depending on what you decide to visit Helsinki and how much you plan to use the city’s public transport, it might make sense to get the Helsinki Card. This card is available in 3 different versions (24h, 48h or 72h) and gives access to the city’s public transport and some discounts at Helsinki’s points of interest.
The card prices are as follows:
- 24-hour version: 51€
- 48 hours version: 63€
- 72 hours version: 74€
💡 EXTRA TIP: If you want to buy this card in advance, but want to be safe in the event of something happening, you can buy it directly here with the free cancellation option.
Accommodation in Helsinki
I only know one hotel in Helsinki – Hotel Finn. Although the hotel conditions were not extraordinary, the hotel was very clean, comfortable and very central. It is an excellent option in terms of value for money for those looking to stay in the city centre.
Anyway, I’ll share with you other options for different budgets:
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Activities & tours in Helsinki
What to visit in Helsinki?
To better plan your trip to Helsinki, here is a map version of the main points of interest in the city.
» Kamppi Chapel
We begin this Helsinki itinerary in one of the most out-of-the-box chapels I’ve ever visited. Located in Narinkka square, this chapel is also known as the chapel of silence. The chapel is quite small and has an almost conical structure and a very simplistic design.
This space was built with the aim of promoting moments of silence in one of the busiest areas of the city. Nearby, you can also visit the Amos Arex art museum.
💡 EXTRA TIP: The Kamppi Chapel is open Monday to Friday from 8h to 20h and Saturday to Sunday from 10h to 18h.
» Central Train Station
We headed towards the Helsinki Train Station, which was once considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. Be sure to also pay attention to the clock tower, which also belongs to the station.
» Temppeliaukion Church
Another spot worth visiting in Helsinki is the Temppeliaukion church. Also known as the Rock Church, this church was built in 1969 directly into solid rock.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: The visit costs 5€ and tickets can be bought directly at the entrance. You can find all the information here.
» Sibelius Park
Sibelius Park is one of the city’s main parks and is named after a Finnish composer. One of the main attractions of the park is the sculpture with some metal pipes, which are supposed to represent the forest.
💡 EXTRA TIP: Relatively close to Sibelius Park, you can find one of the cutest cafés in Helsinki – café Regatta.
» Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral is probably one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and it’s easy to see why. The white façade makes the beautiful colour of its domes stand out even more.
The interior is simple and neat, and the visit is free.
Opened in the early 1900s, Esplanadi is an urban park in the city of Helsinki. It is relatively small, so you can visit it quickly.
» Senate Square
To get to Helsinki Cathedral, you will most likely have passed through Senate Square. It is a more touristy place because many important buildings are located here.
Besides the Cathedral, you can also find here the Government Palace and the University of Helsinki.
» Love Bridge
Similar to many cities around the world, Helsinki is no exception and also has a so-called Love Bridge – a bridge where couples place the famous padlocks as proof of their love.
» Uspenski Cathedral
Uspenski Cathedral is an Orthodox church and the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. The Cathedral offers spectacular photo opportunities of the other cathedral as well.
💡 EXTRA TIP: Admission to the Cathedral is free, and you can find up-to-date information on opening times here.
» Market Square
Located by the Baltic Sea, Market Square is one of the city’s best-known shopping areas. Here, in addition to the beautiful views over the Baltic Sea, you can also find the City Hall.
During the warmer season, you will also find a market with fresh produce, among other things. You can also take a walk by the sea and contemplate the old Vanha Kauppahalli market.
It is also from this square that small ferries leave for some of the small Finnish islands scattered around the Baltic Sea.
Considered a World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna is one of the Finnish islands in the Baltic Sea, just a few minutes by boat from Market Square. The island is known for its sea fort – one of the largest in the world – which began to be built in the 18th century.
During warmer months, the island has many pleasant green spaces, so we took the opportunity to have a kind of picnic in one of its many gardens.
The most recommended way to explore the island is to follow the blue route that passes by the main attractions. The route is about 1.5 km long (one way only) and is well-marked. There are several museums on the island as well as some restaurants and cafés. You can find a detailed map with everything you can visit on the island here.
How to get to Suomenlinna?
Throughout the year, there is an HSL ferry that transports people from Market Square to the main pier on the island. The ticket can be purchased at the pier and the journey takes only 15 minutes.
If you have a city day pass it is also valid for this boat trip. If you do not have a day pass, you can buy a single ticket on the pier or on the HSL App. So that you can better plan your visit, check the updated ferry timetable here.
During summer, there is also a water bus available. In this case, the daily pass is no longer valid and there are different routes available.
» Hakaniemi Market
I suggest you continue towards Hakaniemi Market. This closed market was built in the early 20th century and you can find various kinds of fresh produce there.
» Huvilakatu (streets)
This last point on the itinerary is almost a kind of bonus. In reality, it is just a colourful street that has become (sort of) famous on Instagram due to its colourful small houses.
» Extra experience: sauna
Rumour has it that there are more saunas in Finland than Finns, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a sauna in Finland. I confess that I am not the biggest sauna fan… I find them too hot, and I feel sick easily. However, I gave it a try to sauna Löyly.
Located right on the Baltic Sea, the building’s architecture is very quirky, and the space also has a restaurant/bar and an outdoor space perfect for summer days. A 2-hour sauna booking costs 19€ and includes towels, shower gel and shampoo. It is recommended to book in advance as availability is limited.
As soon as we arrive at reception, we receive all the necessary information and are taken to the changing rooms (separate for men and women). We get our bathing clothes on and then have two hours to explore the various saunas available. There are saunas for all tastes: bigger or smaller, more or less intense. Between saunas, you can always refresh yourself in the various showers available. To end this experience, how about a dip in the Baltic Sea? The location of this sauna has this unmissable advantage. It really is an unforgettable experience!
💡 EXTRA TIP: Alternatively, if you are looking for a similar experience you can also visit the Allas sea pool, which in addition to the fantastic sea pool also has saunas. More information here.
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