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Best things to do in Helsinki

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Finland  /  Uusimaa  /  Helsinki

Top 15 things to do in Helsinki

1. Sea Fortress Suomenlinna

Visit World Heritage Site Sea Fortress Suomenlinna to see a sea fortress built on a collection of six islands. This ruggedly beautiful spot is a favorite among both locals and tourists. The fortress was built in 1748 and inhabited by Swedes and Russians until 1918, when it became a part of independent Finland. View the impressive fortified structure, constructed by the Swedish crown to withstand attacks from 18th-century Russia (who eventually overtook the islands in 1808). Nowadays the site supports a town with civilian inhabitants and draws visitors from the mainland of Finland.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Helsinki Cathedral

A product of Russian expansionism in the region, Helsinki Cathedral was built by architect Carl Ludvig Engel as the pinnacle of the city's Senate Square. The cathedral was constructed between 1830 and 1852 in the neoclassical style as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. After Finland gained independence in 1917, it became a Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral. Take in views of the structure's distinctive green domes and white pillars and walk through the church to appreciate its Greek cross layout. Over 350,000 tourists visit this cathedral every year.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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3. Temppeliaukio Church

Known for its striking copper dome, Temppeliaukio Church has been carved from rock in the heart of the city. Designed by siblings Tim and Tuomo Suomalainen and finished in 1969, this distinctive Lutheran church is directly excavated into rock. Explore the church's interior, which consists of rock and marble walls, with the shining copper dome supported by concrete beams at the top of the structure. Note the light shining in through the skylight on what is commonly called the Church of Rock. Take time to listen to the acoustics, made possible by the church's exposed walls.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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4. Uspenskin Cathedral (Uspenskin Katedraali)

The largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe, Uspenskin Cathedral (Uspenskin Katedraali) stands as a symbol of Russian influence in Finland's history. Designed by architect Aleksey Gornostayev during Russian rule of the region in the 19th century, this Eastern Orthodox church was completed in 1868. Visit the popular Helsinki landmark, note its traditional Russian design, and then enjoy the view of the city from this scenic hilltop. Take time to inspect the structure's ornate interior, domed ceilings, and crypt chapel, as well as several historically and artistically important icons, including St. Nicolas the Wonder Maker and Theotokos of Kozeltshan.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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5. Senate Square

The Helsinki Cathedral, Government Palace, National Library of Finland, and main University of Helsinki building surround Senate Square and make up a collective vision of neoclassical design. This historical square boasts the architectural influence of Carl Ludvig Engel and is home to the oldest building in the city center, Sederholm House, built in 1757. Stroll the square to view these stately structures, stopping to take a seat on the cathedral's stairs and to examine the statue of Alexander II, a monument of Russian expansionism in Finland. The square hosts many events, including concerts and art exhibits.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. Helsinki Central Railway Station

Noted for its design and use of Finnish granite, Helsinki Central Railway Station functions as the center of public transportation in and around Helsinki. Navigate the city from this railway station, which services about 200,000 passengers every day, making it the most-visited building in the area. If you're not headed anywhere, simply stop by the landmark to admire its famous architecture. Built by Eliel Saarinen in 1919, the current structure is considered to be one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe. Most people come to admire the clock tower, the statues flanking its main entrance, and its granite finishings.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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7. The Esplanadi Park

Enjoy green space in the heart of the city at The Esplanadi Park, a historical park and walking area originally opened in 1812. The park is known for hosting a number of outdoor events, including the Marimekko Fashion Show and Jazz-Espa concert series. You'll find plenty of high-end shops, restaurants, and bars lining nearby streets.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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8. Kansallisgalleria

At the grand national monument Kansallisgalleria, view international and Finnish works of art from the 18th century and beyond. This museum, opened in 1887, was named after Greek goddess Pallas Athena, who represents warfare and wisdom. Learn about Finnish art history from the likes of Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and other important Finnish artists. The site also houses works from famous foreign artists including Van Gogh, Rodin, and Cezanne, as well as Russian and Karelian pieces. After touring the museum, you can head to its cafe, bookshop, or reading room.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Nuuksio National Park, Espoo

Explore Finnish wilderness on a day trip from Helsinki at Nuuksio National Park. Verdant forests and shimmering blue lakes are easily accessed thanks to the network of well-groomed and marked trails. Apart from hiking, cycling, and kayaking, visitors can enjoy picking berries and mushrooms, swimming and horse riding. During the warmer months, adventurous types can pack their backpacks for a memorable campout. Note that the large campsites within the park boundaries are free and equipped with fire pits where you can cook on an open fire. Amenities include rental huts, dry toilets, and saunas, and some areas are also wheelchair accessible.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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10. Korkeasaaren Elaintarha

Since it was established in 1889, Korkeasaaren Elaintarha has attracted tourists and animal lovers for more than a century. The zoo's rocky island location attracts as much awe as the animals here; in fact, the island was a national park and used for fishing in 1569 until the establishment of the zoo in the 19th century. Discover this quiet spot removed from the city center where you can view over 150 animal species and 1,000 types of plants. Walk through the site's popular cat valley and get to know the exotic creatures at one of Europe's oldest zoos.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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11. Kamppi Chapel of Silence

Savor a moment of quiet reflection or prayer inside the contemporary Kamppi Chapel of Silence. While it seems to contradict its surroundings, this site is nicknamed the "Chapel of Silence." Built on one of the busiest streets in Helsinki, the chapel provides a calming atmosphere inside a tranquil space positioned in an otherwise hectic area. Step inside the chapel, which welcomes people of all faiths. Examine the contemporary architecture, designed as a part of the World Design Capital program of 2012 by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola, and Mikko Summanen.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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12. Market Square Kauppatori

Find fresh seafood, moose meat, and authentic Finnish souvenirs at Market Square Kauppatori. Nestled on the Baltic shore at the hearth of Helsinki, the market is also a departure point for ferry cruises to nearby islands. This popular tourist destination and shopping location bustles with activity from spring to autumn, with the October herring market being the highlight of the season. Try salmon soup with rye bread or "lihapiirakka," a traditional Finnish meat pastry, at one of the many outdoor cafes. Watch for hungry seagulls while you're eating, as they've been known to take food from unsuspecting tourists.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. The National Museum of Finland

Experience Finnish history from prehistoric times until the present day at The National Museum of Finland. View the Romantic-style exterior of the museum before stepping inside to the Art Nouveau interior for viewing archaeological objects and cultural artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages. Look up at the entrance hall ceiling, adorned with frescoes about the Kalevala, the Finnish national saga. Learn about 10,000 years of history through the museum's permanent exhibits, including collections of coins, jewelry, metals, and weapons. See visual representations of Finnish folk culture up to the time of industrialization.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Nature & Wildlife Tours

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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15. Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum

Discover Finnish folk traditions and architecture at the interactive Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum, an open-air museum with 85 buildings. Head to the forested island location to view traditional Finnish wooden homes from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Karuna Church, built in 1686. You'll experience the different regions and visual cultures of Finland through these structures, which have been transported to the site since its establishment in 1909. Take a tour from a guide in traditional costume and learn about the lives of crofters, peasants, and other Finnish groups over the past few centuries.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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