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Helsinki Attractions - Discover Finland's Capital

Cathedral - one of the most important sights of Helsinki
Cathedral of Helsinki

Explore the sights of Helsinki in one day

Here's how to discover the Helsinki sights on a stopover on a mini-ferry cruise. We were on a multi-day trip Enjoyment trip by ferry from Tallink Silja from Stockholm via Helsinki to Tallinn and back. We had only planned a one-day stay for Helsinki. A mistake, as we found out. Because the city deserves a longer stay. A few hours is not enough. Since our journey has been through us for several weeks Sweden we just did not have the time. We wanted to get a first impression of the city. The ferry from Stockholm arrives in the morning in Finland's capital. In the afternoon we crossed over to Tallinn.

Helsinki Card

If you have at least one day in the city, we recommend buying the Helsinki Card *, These are available with a validity period of 24, 48 or 72 hours. It allows free use of public transport, free entry to attractions, discounts on food, shopping and sightseeing tours. You can use it to design your visit to Helsinki according to your interests and wishes. Another big advantage is that you save the waiting time when buying admission tickets. However, since our stay in the city lasted only a few hours, we renounced it and resorted to other offers.

How to discover Finland's capital best

We did not have much time on ours Mini cruise through the Baltic Sea with the Tallink Silja Lineto take a look at Helsinki. Helsinki in one day is only with detailed preparation. Therefore, a good planning of our stay was important. Our ferry out Stockholm reached the port of Helsinki (Map) at 09.55 in the morning, just in time for the timetable. In the afternoon at 16.30 o'clock our onward journey to Tallinn, 80 kilometers away, was planned aboard a ferry with Tallink Silja. What made it a little tricky was that the ferries use different ports in Helsinki (Map). That meant for us that we needed time for the transfer during our stay. So we have solved our visit to the Helsinki attractions in the time available to us:

Rock Church - a must see among the attractions in Helsinki
Helsinki Sights - rock church

Sightseeing on a city tour of Helsinki

Since we knew that we could only get a first impression of Helsinki during this time, we booked one one and a half hour city tour with panorama *, So we wanted to get an overview of the Finnish capital Helsinki. It was clear from the start that we would not see everything in one day. You clearly need more time for this. The advantage of this tour is that every passenger is given headphones through which they can hear the explanations of the sights in their own language. A total of 12 languages ​​are offered: Chinese, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and even in the Helsinki dialect. The bus was waiting for us directly in front of the port terminal, where we still had enough time to bring our luggage to the luggage storage. At 11.00:XNUMX a.m. the bus leaves from the port to the most interesting Helsinki sights.

Experience the Helsinki Old Town on a city tour from the harbor

  • Not far from the harbor start the Hop on / hop off tours * through Helsinki, where you can get on and off at sights on the way. We would probably do this next time because it offers more opportunities to take a closer look at the attractions that are interesting.
  • Private guided tour with a local guide * through Helsinki. Meeting point at any place in the city center. Helsinki with a Local - that's what we recommend if you want to get to know the city with a local.
  • Panoramic journey on the bus * with a stop at the rock church and at the Sibelius monument - this tour we did
  • Helsinki by bus and boat *, Hop on / hop off bus tour combined with a boat tour. That's an exciting combination. For a stopover on a mini-cruise, however, 3 hours were too long for us. We also wanted to have some time to see Helsinki on our own.
  • 3 hour excursion in small groups * from the harbor. Here is the same, as for the tour Helsinki by bus and boat - the tour is too long for a short stay on a mini-cruise. There is hardly any time left for your own ventures.

The Finns have a wonderful down-to-earth sense of humor
The Finns have a sense of humor
The Helsinki Market Square with the city hall in the background - landmarks and a famous sight of Helsinki
Helsinki Sights - the market square with the town hall in the background

One-and-half-hour Helsinki City Tour with the Panorama Bus to the sights in Helsinki

We see the Helsinki old town, the port region, the government palace, the town hall, the parliament, the Finlandia Hall and also the opera house. However, there is not much time to get out on the way so that we can see the Helsinki sights. There are only two stops we make on this trip. We look at the Helsinki rock church and the Sibelius monument. Nevertheless, we reach the city center with a little delay around 12.45 p.m. This time, however, the bus driver lets us get out in the city center. The port terminal is no longer on its schedule. From there it is about a fifteen minute walk to the port terminal, so we still have time for a walk in the city center and at the harbor basin. We take a lunch break in one of the harbor cafés between the market square and the market halls. This also gives us the opportunity to watch people stroll through the market or around the harbor basin. If you are looking for other restaurants in the city center, we give tips for you culinary visit from Helsinki near the sights.

There are Helsinki city tours with boat tours that take three hours. That was too long, though. At least we wanted to have some time for our own ventures. We also had to transport our luggage after the tour from one ferry port to another. As there are no regular taxis after the arrival of the morning ferry, we had to wait for one to pass. That will cost you another time. Therefore, it is better to schedule a little more free time. Otherwise the transfer will quickly become a hectic undertaking.

Cruise by boat - so you can see the sights in Helsinki from the water

  • 90 minutes through the Canals of the city *, Departure from the marketplace of Helsinki. Especially in good weather this is a great alternative to a Helsinki city tour by bus.

Side entrance to the market halls of Helsinki - one of the older buildings at the harbor
Helsinki Sights - Side entrance to the market halls

Against 15.00 clock we make our way to the docks, where we pick up our luggage. We have to wait for the taxi in front of the harbor building, because at this time there are not always those in front of the building. But there is one in time, which brings us to the west port of Helsinki (about 10 minutes drive), where finally our ferry leaves for Tallinn.

To give you more opportunity to see the city in detail, we recommend at least one or two nights in Helsinki. Here you will find well located hotels near the harbor at different prices.

Downtown hotels near Helsinki attractions

  • The Scandic Grand Marina Hotel * is located at the harbor basin where the ferries from Stockholm dock. Scandic hotels are common in Scandinavia. We stayed in Stockholm in two of them.
  • The Radisson Blu Aleksanteri Hotel * It is also conveniently located within walking distance to all of the city's attractions. Radisson Blu Hotels usually offer good comfort.
  • A reasonably priced, centrally located hostel The Yard Concept Hostel *, There are single to shared rooms. However, all use a shared bathroom - not our thing. However, it offers a very reasonably priced accommodation.
  • If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Helsinki, then we recommend you this Helsinki hostels.

Helsinki landmarks city map and hotels


Attractions in the city center - the old market halls of Helsinki
Helsinki Sights - the old market halls

How do you pack for a short break in Helsinki?

If you only make a half-day stopover in the Finnish capital Helsinki and continue on to Tallinn the same day, then you can store your large luggage at the harbor. This belongs in your day luggage:

  • It's best to take one City backpack with the things you need during the day.
  • Do not forget yours camera, There is a lot to photograph on this day.
  • Practical is also one slickerif it rains on the way, as it was the case with us. Then you save yourself wearing the umbrella and can take pictures in spite of rain.

Which sights in Helsinki are within walking distance?

If you do not want to take a city or boat tour through Helsinki, these are the sights that you can easily reach on foot from the harbor:

  • The cathedral
  • The Senate Square
  • The Uspensky Cathedral
  • The harbor
  • The market
  • The Tori Quarters
  • The Esplanade Park

All others - except Suomenlinna - are a bit further from the harbor. Although they are within walking distance, it takes more time to get there.

What attractions do you have to see during a short stay in Helsinki?

The cathedral in the center of Helsinki

Nobody can pass him. You already see its dome when you enter the harbor by boat. The Dom in the Union Gatan 29 It is just a short walk from the harbor. With his portico and the domes, he looks impressive, you look up from the Senate Square to him. The interior of the cathedral, however, is kept simple. In summer, the steps leading up to the cathedral are a popular meeting place. Many spend their lunchtime with a snack or a book in the sun below the cathedral of Helsinki.

The Senate Square of Helsinki
The Senate Square in Helsinki © Andreas Hobi, Flickr

The Senate Square at the cathedral

Just below the cathedral is the Senate Square. In the center stands a statue of Alexander II. The place is very large. Around him are grouped impressive administrative buildings. On one side of the square is the Helsinki University Museum, Its permanent exhibition “The Power of Thought” deals with the history of science, teaching and the university.

Restaurants on the Senate Square in Helsinki - perfect for a lunch break

You will also find restaurants such as Restaurant Sunn or Restaurant Savotta. Between both is Café Engel. So the Senate Square is also a good place for a lunch break.

The Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki
Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki © Antonio Caiazzo, Flickr

The Uspensky Cathedral

More impressive than the cathedral interior, however, is the interior of the Uspensky Cathedralbelonging to the Finnish Orthodox Church. The church is built in Russian-Byzantine style. It was created as a symbol of Russian rule over Finland. It was inaugurated 1868.

Restaurants near the Uspenski Cathedral - Varied cuisine in Helsinki

The area around the cathedral also has several dining options. The restaurants Ravintola Nokka or Shelter and the coffee roaster Johan & Nyström. If you want to taste Russian cuisine, you can do so at the Bellevue restaurant located on Rahapajankatu street.

The port of Helsinki © Cha Già José, Flickr
The harbor of Helsinki © Cha Già José, Flickr

Helsinki harbor - what is there to see

From the Uspenski Cathedral, it takes only minutes to get back to the harbor. A walk around the harbor basin brings you to the market of Helsinki.

The Helsinki Market - Try Finnish specialties

There is the market with stalls and sidewalk cafes along the harbor promenade. The market is open for street food and snacks sold at the market stalls. If the weather does not play along, you can visit the market halls instead.

The Tori Quarters - Where the inhabitants of Helsinki like to go out

On the other side of the harbor you will reach the city center in the old part of Helsinki. Here the Finns go out. Restaurants, bars and cafes, shops, Helsinki City Museum, City Hall and courtyards with terraces are waiting to be explored.


In the Esplanade Park of Helsinki © Dan Lundberg, Flickr
In Esplanade Park © Dan lundberg, Flickr

The Esplanade Park - perfect for a walk from the harbor of Helsinki

Just steps away is this park, which runs between two boulevards. Here the inhabitants of Helsinki meet after work. At midsummer there are dances or jazz concerts.

Restaurants around the Esplanade Park - Well-maintained restaurants

In and around the Esplanade Park you will find plenty of opportunities to eat. The park is home to the historic café-restaurant Kappeli, which has been welcoming guests for more than 150 years. Japanese cuisine is available at Kita Esplanadi in the Eteläesplanadi street. In the same street near the park are these restaurants. The pompier Espa serves lunch from 11 to 13 pm and an a la carte menu from 17 pm. Are you looking for a nice view to eat, then you should remember the Savoy. You can eat Italian next door at Presto. Asian cuisine is available at Ravintola.

Along the Pohjoisesplanadi you will also find restaurants. There is the Café Esplanad. A café, a restaurant (1 Stock) and a bar are available at the Strindberg. Do you have an appetite for afternoon tea? Then remember the Brasserie Kämp. Or do you want to try Finnish cuisine? You can get it at Ravintola Aino.

The rock church © Flöten, Flickr
The rock church © flöschen, Flickr

The rock church - one of the highlights of Helsinki

Exceptional is the rock church. It is also one of the main attractions of Helsinki. This church is built in the granite rocks. Such cave churches have been around since the Middle Ages in Finland. This church was completed 1969. Admission is required.

Restaurants at the Felsenkirche - No big choice

There are not many options for a quick meal near the Felsenkirche. Only Café Cafetoria on Runeberginkatu street is a few steps from the church. There are better ways to spend your short time during a day's stay in Helsinki.

The Sibelius monument to the great composer of Finland

Outside the city center is the monument, reminiscent of the composer Jean Sibelius. He is one of the most famous composers in Finland. Above all, his Finlandia and the Karelia Suite and the Valse Triste are known. In total he composed seven symphonies. The monument is located in the district Töölo, just steps from the sea.

Restaurants at the Sibelius Monument - It's better to eat in the Old Town of Helsinki

Also near the Sibelius monument there are not many options for eating. The beachfront Café Regatta is here. The food scene in Helsinki is more varied.

Suomenlinna, the fortress of Sweden © Timo Newton-Syms, Flickr
Suomenlinna, the fortress Sweden © Timo Newton-Syms, Flickr

By boat to Suomenlinna, the Schwedenburg - A trip, if time permits

The Sea Fortress is not in Helsinki itself, but on an island. This can be reached after a fifteen minute ferry ride from the port of Helsinki. For the island, you should definitely take your time. There are several museums there. Guided tours are offered. There are also restaurants and cafes on the island where you can spend a nice afternoon.

Restaurants on Suomenlinna, which are located near the ferry to Helsinki

Suomenlinna has a number of restaurants and cafes near the ferry terminal where boats dock from the center of town. The brewery dates back to the Swedish time of the city. In the associated restaurant, of course, the beer plays a big role. The Bastion Bistro serves pizzas and burgers. Café Vanille serves coffee and cake or soups for the little appetite.

With the exception of the Rock Church, the Sibelius Monument and the island of Suomenlinna, you can explore all Helsinki attractions on foot during the short stay available. Granted, we can not say that we know Helsinki. This takes more time. But we knew that before. We have received an impression of the Helsinki sights, the capital of Finland, its government buildings, the city center and the residential areas on this tour. She has made us curious about more. Maybe Finland and Helsinki will soon be back on our itinerary. Who knows?

More Travel Ideas for Finnland


Find more Slow Travel Tips you find here. Discover more Cities Tips for Slow Travelers, On Helsinki attractions pdf you can generate here.

Source for Helsinki sights in one day: own research on site. We thank the Tallink Silja Line for the invitation to this mini cruise Baltic. However, our opinion remains our own.

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline


  1. Eve
    | Reply

    I have not been to Helsinki yet. You were lucky with the weather right? Looks beautiful.

    • Monika & Petar Fox
      | Reply

      Hello Eve,

      It was not perfect, but we were happy with the weather in Helsinki. It is a manageable city for the capital of Finland. We liked that nature is so close.


  2. Nicole
    | Reply

    Half a day would probably not be enough for me in a city, even if you have solved this challenge well. I'll look at Helsinki next year, then plan on 2 days. I always need enough time to have breakfast in a nice cafe in the morning and find a great Aussicbt, then makes me such a city trip happy :)

    • Monika & Petar Fox
      | Reply

      Dear Nicole,

      basically I agree with you. We are usually Slow Travelers who spend a lot of time exploring a city or region. Here it was not different. And I am sure that there are also many people who do not stay in Helsinki on such a mini-cruise through the Baltic Sea, but continue on to Tallinn, as we did. On this trip we were already more than three weeks on the way, so the time was not enough for a longer stay.

      Best regards,

  3. Ricarda Christina Hollweg
    | Reply

    A nice summary of the main sights of Helsinki. I especially liked the Uspensky cathedrals and the market halls back then. The rock church unfortunately passed me by. It looks interesting.

    Best regards,

    • Monika & Petar Fox
      | Reply

      Dear Ricarda,

      the rock church is just outside the city center. We got on the city tour. This is a very unusual church, built directly in the rocks.

      Best regards,

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