Some spare hours in Helsinki
PRINT THIS PAGEYou can find a lot of advice and suggestions on the internet about what to do and experience in Helsinki. However, we thought that it might be helpful for you to get some advice. Hence, we have put together a list with things we at the International Office enjoy and like very much in the centre of Helsinki. We hope you’ll find them useful. Helsinki is quite compact so you can explore a lot by just walking around.At the end of the page, you will find some quick facts about Finland and links for more information on the happiest country in the world.
1) Stroll around in the heart of Helsinki: the Harbour Area and Senate Square
Map of (1) Allas Sea Pool, (2) Harbour Area, (3) Old Market Hall, (4) Suomenlinna terminal, (5) Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square, (6) Esplanadi park, (7) Svenska Teatern, (8) Havis AmandaStart your stroll from the Esplanade near Svenska Teatern (Swedish Theatre) and walk through the green park to discover its statues and greenery. When you have reached the end of the Esplanade you will notice Havis Amanda. The statue that university students put a student cap on 1st of May each year to celebrate that Spring is here. The statue was sculpted by Ville Vallgren in 1906 and is an art nouveau work.
"The cap, The feeling of freedom"
Emoji-image and description quote: ThisisFINLAND.fi Fun fact! For all Moomin fans: At the end of the esplanade is a hidden piece of art named Water Nymphs / Play) made by sculptor Viktor Jansson. Viktor was the father of Tove Jansson – A very famous Swedish-speaking Finn, painter and, of course: the creator of the Moomins. To find out more of Tove Jansson related art around Helsinki – check Moomin Official Website.
"Moominmamma, Unconditional love"Emoji-image and description quote: ThisisFINLAND.fi When you cross the street you are at the Market Square ("Kauppatori" in Finnish and "Salutorget" in Swedish). While here, try out some local berries or fruits or have a carelian pie (karjalanpiirakka/karelsk pirog) as a snack. Top this off with a sugary jam donut (munkki/munk) and filter coffee like a true Finn in one of the heated café tents. Beware of the seagulls trying their best to steal your munkki or ice cream when not guarded.The outdoor market opens early; Weekdays 6.30-18, Sat 6.30-16, Sun 10-17. There is a certain charm to have an early cup of coffee here while enjoying the beautiful view over the Harbour Area, the Presidential Palace, the Helsinki City Hall, the Embassy of Sweden, the Uspenski Cathedral (Orthodox Church), the Old Market Hall and the ferries to Sweden. The Market Square is not as busy in September as it is during the summer, but it is lovely to follow the life on the market when the stands are being set up for the day. Also employees from the ministries nearby use to have a morning coffee here.Vanha Kauppahalli (Eng. Old Market Hall) opened in 1889 and is located in the harbour area. Here you will find local delicacies as well as Finnish handicrafts. This is a good place to taste the Finnish salmon soup or a salmon sandwich or just another coffee.The hall is open Mon-Sat 8-18 and Sun 10-17. There are two more old market halls in the centre of Helsinki; Hietalahti Market Hall (1903) and Hakaniemi Market Hall (1914) – the latter is under renovation until 2020.
"Superfood, The feeling of tasting good, yet healthy food"
Emoji-image and description quote: ThisisFINLAND.fi
Only a stone’s throw away from the harbour area is the white and mighty Helsinki Cathedral and the Senate Square (Senaatintori/ Senatstorget). Start from the Market Square and walk up Sofiankatu – a beautiful, cosy street where you find both restaurants, some small shops, a brewery and a cinema. Sofiankatu is one of the streets located in “Torikorttelit”, which consists of three quarters between the Senate Square and the Market Square. More about this historical area “Torikorttelit” you find here.When you stand on the senate square with the cathedral in front of you, you have the main building of the University of Helsinki to the left. Take a quick look inside the building! To the right you have the Government Palace. The German architect Carl Ludwig Engel designed both the area and these buildings, after Finland became an autonomous grand duchy under Russia in 1809 and Helsinki became the capital in 1812. Historic and popular Café Engel is found opposite the cathedral, worthwhile a visit! You can enjoy a coffee with a stunning view of the cathedral. The café is open on weekdays 8-21, Sat 9-21 and Sun 10-19.More about Engel and his neoclassical buildings can be found here.On the senate square is also a bronze statue of Alexander II of Russia – which has named the main shopping street Aleksanterinkatu.Fun fact! At the senate square in front of the cathedral is annually a Christmas market built up. Concerts are also organised on the square and thousands of residents welcome the New Year here.
2) Take a short boat trip to Suomenlinna/Sveaborg Sea Fortress
Suomenlinna. Photo: Dorit Salutskij / Suomenlinna Governing Body / Helsinki MarketingExperience the Finnish archipelago with a 15 min ferry from the Market Square (Kauppatori/Salutorget) to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress – you only need to pay the regular public transport fee for the ride! There are several museums on the island, but just walking around this historic and former fortress island is a view out of this world. The residents of Helsinki enjoy this as much as the tourists do. Don’t forget to enjoy breathing in the fresh Finnish air!Fun fact! Suomenlinna is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sitesFun fact! The air quality in Finland is the best in the world according to the World Health Organization and you can follow it in real time here.
3) Have an outdoor swim at Allas Sea Pool or Löyly
Could you imagine swimming in the Baltic Sea at the heart of Helsinki? At Allas Sea Pool (Katajanokanlaituri 2A) you get the view of the beautiful white Helsinki Cathedral and the historic Presidential palace on one side and the deep blue Finnish Baltic Sea and harbour area on the other! There is a pool area directly connected to the sea, a heated pool – and of course: a sauna.Fun fact! “Sauna” is a Finnish word and the sauna is said to have been invented in Finland. There are 5.3 million Finns and 2 million saunas here. :)Löyly Sauna (Hernesaarenranta 4) is a public sauna located at the beautiful Eira (Hernesaari) beach area. The public sauna was in 2018 on Times Magazine’s top 100 Greatest Places – and who would disagree? It is an architectural work of art in wood! Take a swim in the Baltic Sea and top this off with a morning yoga class.Fun fact! Did you know that the Finns are the happiest people in the world? According to UN Report 2018 and 2019 Finland was ranked number one in the World Happiness Report.You can also visit Löyly just for a coffee or a drink or just to enjoy the scenery – the view over the open sea is breath-taking. You can reach Löyly in 10-15 min by bus 14 that starts from Kamppi, by bike in the same amount of time.If you decide to walk from the Market Square to Löyly it takes approx. 35 minutes by following the coastline. On the route, you will have great views, the park Kaivopuisto and beautiful buildings in Ullanlinna and Eira on one side and the archipelago with small islands on the other.Sauna etiquette: Traditionally among family and friends, you wear no clothes in the sauna. Please note that wearing a swimming suit is not allowed in the saunas in public indoor swimming halls (e.g. for hygiene reasons problems for some). There are, however, separate saunas for men and women in public indoor swimming halls. If it feels too intimidating to wear nothing, you can wear a bathrobe or a towel.
Note! In public saunas like Löyly and Allas Sea Pool you have to wear your swimming suit in the mixed saunas.
Allas Sea Pool. Photo: Lauri Rotko / Helsinki Marketing
4) Have a break in one of our favourite cafés
"Cup of coffee,The feeling of dying for a coffee.
"Emoji-image and description quote: ThisisFINLAND.fiWhen your legs get tired and you start to feel that urge for a coffee/tea and something to eat: it is time to try Karl Fazer café. The café is open weekdays 7.30-18, Sat 9-18 and Sun 10-16. Fazer is a family-owned business and one of Finland’s most famous brands known especially for its sweets and chocolate. The company is named after its founder Karl Fazer (a Finnish businessman and son of a Swiss-born furrier) and it all began in 1891 with this very café on Kluuvikatu 3 that still is popular as ever!Café Ekberg founded in 1852 on the beautiful Bulevardi 9 is another elegant café with a nice atmosphere. This café is open weekdays 7.30-19, Sat 9-17 and Sun 9-17. Here you can enjoy specialities like Napoleon cake, ‘Champagne corks’ and Brioche.On Pohjoisesplanadi (north Esplanade) you’ll also find nice cafés with terraces, such as Strindberg (open weekdays 9-21, Sat 10-21 and Sun 12-19) and of course: Café Esplanad (open weekdays 8- 21, Sat 9- 21 and Sun 10-21). Bring out the inner Finn by drinking coffee and eating Finnish cinnamon buns called korvapuusti (örfil). We recommend trying the korvapuusti at Café Esplanad – one korvapuusti is good for two people or one hungry person :)Café Succès (on Korkeavuorenkatu 2, open on weekdays 8-18, Sat 10-17 and Sun 12-17) in Ullanlinna is a cozy little café from the 1950’s. It is the sister café to Café Esplanad and similarly offers huge cinnamon buns as well as other great treats.If you’d like to enjoy a coffee (or maybe lunch or a glass of wine) at the sea and you like walking as much as we do, you could have a nice stroll along the coastline to Café Ursula (Ehrenströmintie 3) about a 30 min walk from the Senate Square. You can also take bus 17 for a short bus ride (4 min) and an additional 10min walk.Fun fact! Did you know that the Cinnamon Roll Day is celebrated each year on the 4th of October in both Finland and Sweden?Fun fact! Finns drink the most coffee in the world: In 2015, the average coffee consumption per capita was 12,2 kg.
5) Places for lunch and dinner
Finnish food tradition is a mixture of east and west. The autumn is the harvest season and this means that recipes with different kinds of root vegetables, apples, cloudberries, lingonberries, crayfish, fish and all kinds of meats are common.You can try the soup of the day, a salad or a salmon sandwich for lunch e.g. in the Old Market Hall (Eteläranta). If you want to try out some local/Nordic cuisine in a more of a fine dining fashion (both for lunch and dinner), we recommend Restaurant Salutorget (Pohjoisesplanadi 15) also on the Esplanade. Restaurant Maxill on Korkeavuorenkatu 4 is a nice and relaxed neighbourhood restaurant.Famous restaurants with a history that serve Finnish/Nordic/European cuisine are Restaurant Elite (Eteläinen Hesperiankatu 22) in Töölö (near Hanken) and Restaurant Kosmos (Kalevankatu 3) in the inner city. Many customers here have traditionally belonged to the cultural elite, but today the restaurants are appreciated by a very mixed clientele. The restaurants opened in the 20s and 30s and you can still feel a little of that time’s atmosphere. In Restaurant Seahorse (Kapteeninkatu 11) you can enjoy excellent food in a kind of Kaurismäki film atmosphere (Kaurismäki is a famous Finnish film director, in his films the actors/actresses hardly say a word :)If you are craving for hamburgers – try Friends and Brgrs (Mikonkatu 8) just in the centre. A Finnish hamburger chain known for their fresh and local ingredients. Or try out Green Hippo Café (Punavuorenkatu 2) in hipster district Punavuori to check out the urban Helsinki.Check out ”eat and drink” for more nice places.
6) Shopping – Finnish brands in Helsinki
One of the main shopping streets is Aleksanterinkatu culminating with Stockmann which is Finland’s largest department store. Many Finnish design shops such as Aarikka, Arabia, Iittala, Kalevala Koru and Marimekko, are located on fabulous Pohjoisesplanadi. Shopping centre Kämp Galleria is also situated here (Pohjoisesplanadi 33).However, we also recommend Fredrikinkatu and Korkeavuorenkatu which are cosy shopping streets worthwhile strolling. They belong to the so called Design District.The district is a cluster of design businesses such as design, antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms.
Shopping map of central Helsinki.
7) Experience Art Nouveau District
Helsinki’s Art Nouveau (Jugend) district include the neighbourhoods of Ullanlinna, Eira and Kaivopuisto. Take a walk around the district and admire the beautiful architecture, wander the cosy street of Korkeavuorenkatu with its restaurants, cafés and boutiques, stroll down the absolutely gorgeous small Huvilakatu and enjoy the views from Merikatu. From here you can reach the coastline in some minutes. The Kaivopuisto area (next to the park) is a lovely surrounding with villas and embassies.
Huvilankatu. Photo: Jenna Pietikäinen / Helsinki Marketing
There are several interesting museums just a stone’s throw from the Central Railway Station: Ateneum Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki Art Museum HAM, Amos Rex, National Museum of Finland and Finnish Museum of Natural History to name but a few. More about museums can be found here.If you just have an hour time – choose Ateneum Art Museum opposite the Central Railway Station. Here you can e.g. enjoy Finnish masterpieces from the regular collection, such as Albert Edelfeldt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck, Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Eero Järnefelt and Hugo Simberg. This will give you an immersion into the Finnish mind and soul.For a quick history lesson of Finland – visit the the Mannerheim Museum in Kaivopuisto This was the home of the Marshal of Finland, Baron G. Mannerheim (1867-1951), who was also the President of Finland.The museums are usually open from 10 or 11 until 17-20 depending on the day. Most museums are closed on Mondays, however, Amos Rex is closed on Tuesdays and open the rest of the week.
9) Take a tram ride in beautiful surroundings
When you want to just rest your feet but still get a look of Helsinki – try the tram 3 (and 2) that goes past the Olympia ferry terminal and continues through the beautiful Eira neighbourhood and past Boulevardi (part of the Design District) and back to e.g. Mannerheimintie.
Map of tram route lines 2 and 3 through Ullanlinna.
10) Rock Church Temppeliaukio around the corner of Hanken
Just around the corner of Hanken is the Rock Church Temppeliaukio - a church built inside a rock. It was very discussed when it was built in 1969. It is also very popular for concerts of various kinds because of the great acoustics. Worthwhile a short visit!The church is open 10:00-18:00 Mondays to Saturdays and 12:00-17:00 on Sundays. The entrance fee is 3€.
Bonus: Finland emojis
You might wonder what the emojis along this text is about. The ‘Finland emojis’ are developed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. They describe situations and things specific to Finland.Fun fact! Did you know that Santa is from Finland and that he lives in Santa Claus village in Lapland?
"The original Santa,The feeling of the never-ending wait for Santa Claus."Emoji-image and description quote: ThisisFINLAND.fi
Emoji-images' source: ThisisFINLAND.fi
- 5.5 million inhabitants, 18.1 per km² (46.6 per square mile.
- Form of government: Republic, parliamentary democracy
- Head of State: President of the Republic, elected every 6 years, two-term maximum. Currently Mr Sauli Niinistö.
- Independence: Declared on December 6, 1917. Previously a grand duchy in the Russian empire for 108 years, and a part of Sweden for 600 years before that.
- Official languages: Finnish (spoken by 87.9%), Swedish (5.2%)
- Official minority language Sámi: The mother tongue of about 1,900 members of the indigenous Sámi people of northern Lapland
- Religion: Christianity; 70.9 % Lutheran and about 1.1% Orthodox. In practice society is fairly secularised.
- GDP per capita: 40,612 euros (2017)
- Key features: High standard of education, social security and healthcare, all financed by the state
- Main exports: Electrotechnical goods, metal products, machinery, transport equipment, wood and paper products, chemicals
- Life expectancy: Men 78 years, women 84 years
Sources / More information on Helsinki and Finland - the happiest country in the world:
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