When talking about the most beautiful places in Finland, of course, the country’s capital Helsinki would be right there on the top of the list. Helsinki has been named the world’s most livable city, and it is easy to see why.
The combination of unspoiled nature and big-city life makes the Finnish Baltic metropolis of Helsinki so attractive as a vacation destination.
Helsinki is beautiful at any time of the year; winter, summer, rain, or bright sunshine, the capital of Finland has something to offer for everyone. Much of it is even within easy walking distance and often not far apart.
Whether it’s a weekend trip or a long vacation, anyone who spends their free days in Helsinki will discover a lot. In addition to impressive buildings and rugged forests, it is also the friendly Finns who make a stay in the city a unique experience.
Helping you have the best trip to Helsinki, here is our list of the best things to do in Helsinki and the top places to visit.
The Helsinki Cathedral is simply impossible to miss. With Scandinavian clean lines, pared-down architecture, and its brilliant white color, the capital’s gigantic cathedral is visible from miles around.
The city’s landmark, with its striking green dome, was built 1830–1852. Helsinki Cathedral is a real gem and quite different from most churches. From the outside, the cathedral is completely white, and the interior is also very minimalistic.
There are hardly any paintings and decorations; everything looks very bright and open. The cathedral steps are remarkable, too, where you can just sit for a while and watch the city’s hustle and bustle.
Among other things, the architect of the cathedral here also gave the university and the old Senate building its creative touch.
While on Senate Square, where the cathedral is located, there are other notable buildings that you shouldn’t miss as well. They are not only fantastic photo opportunities, but also let you experience history up close.
The exact opposite of the Helsinki Cathedral is the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. Famous for its onion domes, the Uspenski Cathedral was designed by a Russian architect, and it is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe.
The Uspenski Cathedral is not only a complete contrast to the Helsinki Cathedral with its red brick, but also with it being relatively overloaded as usual for Orthodox churches. The interior is lavishly decorated with lots of gold and different icons.
The Uspenski Cathedral has a total of 13 domes that rise into the sky of the Finnish capital with golden spires, still bearing witness to the long Russian rule over Finland, which ended in 1917. The Uspenski Cathedral is one of the best places to visit in Helsinki, Finland.
Impressive buildings can be found in abundance in Helsinki, and among these impressive buildings is the Temppeliaukio Church, AKA Rock Church.
The Rock Church has quite an exceptional architecture as it was completely hewn out of granite rock. The very special Temppeliaukio Church was built only in 1969. The church’s large copper ceiling is a masterpiece on its own, which on closer inspection, is reminiscent of the annual rings of trees.
There are also numerous windows in the roof, ensuring that sunlight can still penetrate the building. The Temppeliaukio Church is one of the most beautiful churches you will ever see in your life, and a visit there is one of the top things to do in Helsinki; you don’t want to miss it.
4-Hiking in Nuuksio National Park
If you spend a little more time in Finland’s capital than just a weekend, you shouldn’t miss the unique nature of the surrounding area! Because for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts, Finland is a real paradise.
Nuuksio National Park, which is not far from Helsinki, is ideal for taking a day off from the city and getting to know the more natural sides of the country with some provisions. You can reach the park by bus, which runs several times a day.
5-Admire Modern Art at Kiasma
Fans of modern art will find what they’re looking for at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, which was designed by Steven Holl.
Interested visitors can view the works of various artists on the four floors of the modern building. With its exhibitions, the museum aims to bring contemporary art into everyday life and make it accessible to a broad audience.
At Kiasma, everything is different: the exhibits are interactive, they appeal to all the senses, are well but briefly explained, and it’s just fun to move through the exhibition. There is a lot to see at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma; it is the best and most exciting museum you will ever go to.
6-Partying in Helsinki
The Ääniwalli club is one of the best clubs in Helsinki; it is a disused factory building that offers night owls an excellent musical mix of techno and house on two floors, an open terrace for drinking, smoking and relaxing, and of course, a darkroom.
The crowd is pleasantly adult, and because the location is a bit off the beaten path, it’s not overpopulated with tourists.
7-Sweating at the Famous Kulttuurisauna
Surely, no visit to Helsinki is complete without a sauna session! There used to be over 100 public saunas in the city, but today there are only 5. The still relatively new Kulttuurisauna is one of them. Designed in 2012 by a Japanese designer and a Finnish architect, the minimalist design building is made entirely of wood, and it is modern, light, and airy inside and out.
Those who want to cool off after a sauna can do so directly in the Baltic Sea, in winter, by the way, a hole is drilled in the ice layer, especially for this purpose. Going to a sauna is one of the best things to do in Helsinki.
8-Taste the Finnish Coffee
Finns drink the most coffee in the world, around a liter a day! Fittingly, there’s good news and very good news: Helsinki has delicious coffee almost everywhere; however, we recommend checking the Good Life Coffee in the hip Kallio neighborhood.
The cozy little café also serves excellent breakfasts, buttery soft cinnamon buns and snacks. The in-house coffee tastes so good and comes in pretty packaging, and it makes a perfect travel souvenir. Coffee is the elixir of life for Finns, and you have to try it while in Helsinki.
9-Learn More About Science in Heureka
Heureka is Finland’s largest science center. Here, interested visitors can learn and discover a great deal about science and technology through changing exhibitions and various activities. You can even do experiments here, where you can get hands-on with technology and science.
There is also a planetarium that shows amazing films from outer space. A visit to this science center is suitable for all ages, and even the very youngest have things to do here. If you visit Heureka during the summer, there is even a great outdoor area with various exhibits.
10-Visit the Historic Central Station
Helsinki’s Central Station is one of the oldest and best-preserved train stations in the world. The building was constructed from Finnish granite, and this charming building includes a bell tower and four statues guarding the main entrance.
The station was opened in 1919, and today, the station is considered one of the most characteristic and significant buildings in Finnish architecture.
11-Best Beaches in Helsinki
Most people probably associate Finland with cold and snow. What many don’t know is that Finland can get really hot during the summer months. That’s when you can sunbathe well at up to 30 °C or even go swimming.
There are over 300 islands in Helsinki alone, and the coastline is almost 100 kilometers long. The most popular beach in Helsinki is Hietaranta bathing beach, which has everything you need for a relaxing day at the beach.
Even in winter, the Hietaranta beach is worth a visit; instead of sunbathing and swimming, you can enjoy a walk on the beach in the beautiful winter landscape. A visit to the beach is one of the most fun things to do in Helsinki.
12-Shop in Helsinki Design District
Finland is known for its design and designer brands, such as Marimekko and Iittala, which are very popular worldwide. If you want to see more Finnish design and maybe buy something for yourself at home, visit Helsinki Design District.
This district is located between Esplanadi and Punavuori and consists of 25 streets in total. Here you can find many stores and galleries with jewelry, clothing and much more from different designers.
The stores are often very modern, and even if you don’t want to buy anything, you will spend a nice time strolling through the district.
13-Market Square and Old Market Hall
You won’t be able to get past Helsinki’s Market Square. It is located in the middle of the city, right by the harbor, and it is within walking distance of most Helsinki sights.
The market has food stalls, traditional handicrafts, and plenty of souvenirs for guests of the cruise ships that push through Helsinki every day. Next to the market is an old market hall that also has many delicious food stalls. Make sure to pay the markets a visit and grab a bite to eat, the food is really good!
Helsinki is one of those cities that you fall in love with instantly, and there is no wonder here. The city has so much to offer and stunning places to visit. If you are looking for more great vacation destinations in Europe, check our picks here.