I’ve been living in Finland for the last decade and though I only lived in Helsinki for a total of five years, I’ve grown fond of the city’s laid-back lifestyle despite its high cost of living. I’ll try to provide as much useful information to you guys as I tackle some of my local tips on the things to do in Helsinki for first-time visitors!
Helsinki is better known as the “Daughter of the Baltic” is a young city filled with innovative young creatives who keeps on making Helsinki one of the most interesting places to live at. Also, this beautiful city ranks on the top as one of the world’s most favorable place to live due it is almost zero crime rate, peaceful surroundings, equality amongst men and women, great educational system, and of course, the world renown healthcare system. Of course, all these wonderful things applies to Finland as a country and not just Helsinki.
However, this post aims to give visitors a great overview of what to expect and the cool things to do in Helsinki. I’ll concentrate on places which the locals would also enjoy going to and not just the main touristic places which every single other blog post already have (but I’ll include them in here, as well).
Nonetheless, there are also tons of other places to visit in Finland and quite a few are easily accessible from the capital and can be done on a day trip from Helsinki! There are also different sort of tours in Helsinki you can partake to see more of the city in short amount of time. Check out some acitivities in Helsinki you’d be interested at!
Top 10 Things To Do in Helsinki, Finland
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Go for a relaxing time at Helsinki’s oldest public Sauna!
- 2 2. Go for a Hike at Nuuksio National Park – A Day Trip Close to Nature
- 3 3. Enjoy the chill vibes at Kallio neighborhood
- 4 4. Go for a day trip to Porvoo!
- 5 5. Feel the local culture vibes at Korjaamo
- 6 6. Visit Helsinki’s beautiful market halls and sample local delicacies
- 7 7. Check what’s the jazz over at Teurastamo in Kalasatama
- 8 8. Party at Kaiku and Kuudes Linja for some good music and beers
- 9 9. Have a korvapuusti and coffee at Cafe Regatta
- 10 10. Tuomiokirkko (The big white church)
- 11 Planning to visit Helsinki? Let me help you!
- 12 Related Posts
1. Go for a relaxing time at Helsinki’s oldest public Sauna!
If you are planning to visit Helsinki or Finland for that matter, then I am assuming that you have heard about the importance of Sauna in the Finnish culture. But truly, what is a sauna? Basically, it is a room with a sauna stone (with stones on top) either heated by electricity or wood and you heat the whole room up by throwing water on the hot stone thus creating hot steam.
Sauna claims to have many health benefits and it is one of the foundations that stabilizes the Finnish culture. For instance, a family gathers weekly to enjoy the sauna either in their homes or they gather in their summer cottages whereas they have a sauna by the lake. It is a custom that is well loved by the Finns which has been carried on through out history. In fact, in Finland alone you’ll find over two million saunas all over the country, that is almost one sauna per three citizens!
This brings us back as to why you should try out sauna if you ever plan a trip to Helsinki. You see, when Finns started moving down south to Helsinki, public sauna became in demand because of the hustle and buzzle of the city that keeps its citizens with almost no time to visit their cottages for some sauna time.
Public saunas in Helsinki became the hub for the locals to rejuvenate and keep the custom going. The first one to be opened is located in the Kallio neighborhood and it is called Kotiharju Sauna, it has been in operation since 1928!
If you’re interested in trying out this one, here are few other sauna places to visit in Helsinki:
- Sompasauna (due to close very soon, so hurry up!), located in Kalastama
- Arla Sauna, located in Kallio, as well
- Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall, located in the heart of Helsinki center
- Löyly Helsinki, located in Hernesaari
- Kulttuurisauna, located in Merihaka
Note: These public saunas in Helsinki are located not far from the heart of the city.
2. Go for a Hike at Nuuksio National Park – A Day Trip Close to Nature
This national park is not exactly in Helsinki but in Espoo, a city and municipality just outside of the capital city. If you’re keen on hiking and nature, then a day trip from Helsinki to Nuuksio is certainly your kind of thing!
About one hour away from the heart of Helsinki, you’ll leave the busy city and enter Nuuksio National Park‘s splendor as you inhale the freshest air and expect a more relaxed environment in the care of mother nature. Apart from all that, you’ll also witness some of the finest Finnish sceneries, forest, lakes, and all that shebang.
If you come in Autumn and granted that Finland had a good summer, you’re in for a good surprise as wild berries and mushrooms are in full bloom at this time of the year. Just make sure that you don’t put anything in your mouth unless you know exactly what wild goodies you have or there’s a tour guide to tell you what’s good or not. There are poisonous berries and mushrooms in Finland so watch out!
3. Enjoy the chill vibes at Kallio neighborhood
If you’re keen on doing anything cool and hip, then Kallio is your ‘hood. This Helsinki neighborhood is the hub for students, artists, and musicians so you can just tell by that that Kallio is indeed the equivalent of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest where all things weird and awesome happen.
For the young locals, Kallio neighborhood is the place to be because all the cool parties happen there and not to mention, cheap-ish rent (Helsinki, in general, is expensive y’all! Rents are never cheap). However, what is it for travelers and the tourists? Well, if you like beer and drinking in a vibrant atmosphere then I suggest bar hopping in Kallio!
If you’re not a drinker, don’t fret, there are also tons of fusion restaurants to visit and as well parks to hang out. You’ll find tons of locals just chilling around during the summer so it is certainly the best time to visit Helsinki to see what the cool kids are up to.
How to get to Kallio? Take tram number 3 and it will take you from the city center to Kallio.
TIP: If you take tram 3, take a round trip with it as it will take you to all hyped neighborhoods in Helsinki (Töölö, Punavuori, Kamppi, and Kallio). The locals call it the scenic tram ride because it literally takes you to all Helsinki points of interests.
4. Go for a day trip to Porvoo!
Colorful wooden houses, nature, and history – all the things you’ll witness if you visit Porvoo. About one hour away from the city center, you’ll find yourself on a day trip from Helsinki to the old medieval town that once existed in Finland.
Porvoo is the second oldest city in the country and is one of the main attractions in Finland you must visit. It served as the trading center back in the days but nowadays it is a functioning city that adapted with modernity while retaining its historical vibes.
If you visit in summer, you’ll find all sorts of things to do in Porvoo such as visiting live exhibitions, sampling local handmade crafts, visiting cute cafes, and try out some of its local restaurants.
To travel from Helsinki to Porvoo is fairly easy, there’s a bus line that runs frequently all day and you can catch the bus to Porvoo from Kamppi (city center) and it will take you between 50 minutes to 1.5 hours to get there and will cost you between 11.50-17USD for a one-way ticket.
5. Feel the local culture vibes at Korjaamo
A total culture hub filled with everything artistic, Korjaamo is for all sorts of people who appreciate culture and arts mixed together. If you’re interested in involving yourself in theater, music, and fine arts – Korjaamo is without a doubt something you’ll enjoy.
In summer time, there are numerous free programs you can attend to and you can also visit its galleries that have different exhibitions all-year round. Apart from that, there’s also a nice cafe and bar you can check out!
6. Visit Helsinki’s beautiful market halls and sample local delicacies
If you’re interested in local cuisine and want to taste some of Finland’s local delicacies, visiting some of Helsinki’s market halls are not only a treat for the eyes because of its marvelous architectural design but also for its wide range of epic dishes and ingredients you can find in some of its stalls.
There are several market halls to visit in Helsinki but the best one I can recommend is Hakaniemen Kauppahalli which is located at the heart of the neighborhood in its market square. In summer time, there are tons of happening around these market halls and you’ll find outdoor stalls selling traditional Finnish summer foods such as fried vendace and salmon soup.
In winter, however, you’ll find tons of different seasonal dishes inside the market halls you can sample. That said, the market place is not open for long so you must visit during lunch time at best so you won’t miss out on some of the lunch places!
7. Check what’s the jazz over at Teurastamo in Kalasatama
Kalasatama is a great place to visit in Helsinki to start with, it is located beside Sörnäinen and in there you’ll find Teurastamo, an old slaughter house turned into a conventional cultural hub where you can just either chill out with a pint of beer or eat your way out.
In summer time, they often have parties in the area and it is notable for its laid-back jazz festival which invites everyone to witness and enjoy. Apart from that, the growing food culture in Helsinki is strong in Teurastamo so be sure to sample some of the restaurants in the area!
8. Party at Kaiku and Kuudes Linja for some good music and beers
Located in Kallio neighborhood, Kaiku in Helsinki is an underground club where the cool kids of Helsinki release their inner Danny Zuko and break the dancefloor when the beat hits the right spot. They often play techno music (the good kind) so it really warms up your groove!
Kuudes Linja, on the other hand, has rather similar vibes as Kaiku only they play different sorts of music from electronica to anything you can think of. I think they even played Barbie Girl by Aqua once I was there and it was pretty legit cool.
9. Have a korvapuusti and coffee at Cafe Regatta
A very small cafe, almost unnoticeable if you passed by it, standing cozily by the lake overlooking the vast nature of Helsinki’s Sibelius Park in Taka-Töölö comes Cafe Regatta – famous for its cinnamon buns and laid-back atmosphere, this tiny cafe is certainly one of Helsinki point interest you must not miss!
One tip I could give you is to hit two birds with one stone (not literal) and buy a package of Makkara or Finnish sausage with you and grill it on the open fire they have ate Cafe Regatta which anyone can use as long as you make sure you clean after yourself! This is also one thing to do in Helsinki most locals do themselves (me included).
So, korvapuusti, makkara and coffee and that almost equates to a proper Finnish experience sans the beer and sauna.
10. Tuomiokirkko (The big white church)
Ah, the big white church. It has a name you know, it is called Tuomiokirkko but most people refer to it as the big white church.
Tuomion Kirkko, or Helsinki Cathedral, is one of Helsinki’s point of interest as it is usually the face of every guide book you’ll find about Finland. It is a Lutheran church and is famous for its astonishing architecture and it certainly takes your breath away once you witness it for yourself.
It is free to go inside the church but I would suggest that you dress appropriately and perhaps don’t snap too many photos inside but knock yourself out taking tons of selfies from the outside. Respect, you know, it is a church after all.
Visiting Tuomiokirkko will not take long, so visit this if you’re on your way to Suomenlinna as the market square, where the boat departs to the sea fortress, is not far along.
Planning to visit Helsinki? Let me help you!
- Are any of these things to do in Helsinki interest you?
- If yes, which ones?
- Let me know in the comment section below!
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