Things to do in Helsinki -Helsinki Travel Guide
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Oh Helsinki! B and I did an around the world trip from March 'til May of this year. We started in Lapland Finland and LOVED every day spent there. Since we only had a few months to go around the world, we were on a tight schedule. We flew out of Helsinki but didn’t have time to hang out in the city. So I was way excited when we were invited back to enjoy a week in Helsinki during the midsummer celebration.
We spent about 4 days in Helsinki, (minus the travel days, since the time difference takes away lots of time) and were able to really enjoy the city.
4 Days in Helsinki
Helsinki is a bustling city full of restaurants, museums, shopping, and nature, with the best public transportation system around. It was so easy for us to hop on and off the train, trams, ferries, and buses to get wherever we needed to go. We got a week pass that allowed us to hop on and off whenever we needed. And the pass worked for the train, trams, and buses. Helsinki is also home to many islands, which we made sure to take some time to check out as well.
Kiasma- Museum of Contemporary Art
Our first full day there, we decided to take the day to explore and walk around the city. We started at Kiasma- Museum of Contemporary Art, and enjoyed a couple hours walking around and checking out each room.
Then we checked out Finlandia Hall. Finlandia Hall is an awesome building by Alvar Aalto, and is one of Helsinki's key architectural buildings in the city. They even have a cute little cafe where you can pop in and have lunch.
Helsinki Central Station
Central Station was one of the main places we would head each day. It's where you can take a train out of the city, and where we picked up different trams to get around the city. Theres a huge shopping center across the street too, where we ended up having dinner at Hanko Sushi...and it was delish!
City Adventure Day
Foxtrail City Adventure
The next day, we were way excited to go on the Foxtrail City Adventure around the city. It's a Scavenger Hunt around the city...chasing a "fox". It was so much fun looking for clues, solving riddles, and being able to see the city in a whole new way.
We stopped at Ravintola Lasipalatsi for lunch before the hunt, and enjoyed a 4 course meal. Everything was delicious, and we had a beautiful view of the city.
Our Foxtrail tour took us to see some awesome sites, and we got to see the famous Helsinki Cathedral. We walked up the steps, and even got to take a peek inside.
After we finished the Fox Trail Scavenger Hunt, we planned to spend some time around Central Park. Helsinki is one third nature, and they make sure to keep it that way. They love their parks, walking trails, and ponds, which makes it unique for a major city. It had just started raining for us when we finished the hunt, so we didn’t go out to do Stand Up Paddle Boarding or Kayaking, but we still enjoyed walking around the parks.
Dinner at OlO Garden
We had a delicious 6-course dinner at OlO Garden. The restaurant feels like you are dining in a garden between buildings in the city. The food was absolutely delicious, and so filling...but we managed to eat it all. The staff was very attentive, and we had a great romantic dinner together.
Of course we had to take a day to check out the islands! Honestly, I was a bit shocked that a major city like Helsinki had its own islands. I probably shouldn’t have been, but I definitely wasn’t thinking about that possibility when planning this trip.
It just so happened to be MidSummer’s Eve that day too. So we got to experience a Midsummer Eve celebration on the little island, Lonna. We first stopped at Suomenlinna and walked around while learning about the history of Russia’s invasion. We saw the bunkers, and mini windows they used, and there are still tunnels going through all of it, that we peeked in. It was a bit creepy and filled with water, so we didn’t walk in much. They even have some cannons there for you to see as well. Kings bridge was one of our favorite parts of the island. It looks so rich, and you can almost feel the history. Plus, the scenery from the island is hard to beat.
We hopped back on the ferry to take us to Lonna where they had a whole concert lineup to celebrate Midsummer. Our new friends from MyHelsinki even gave me my very first flower crown with the colors of Finland. It was beautiful and I didn’t want to take it off!
Fun Adventure Day
Our last full day in Helsinki was spent searching for the fun activities. We headed to the zoo in the morning, which is also on its own island...Jurassic Park much?!
We boarded the ferry and headed to the zoo. You do have to pay for the ferry to the zoo, but when we got there, we saw people coming in from another entrance, so we found out there are other ways to get there. You can see that info here. All the animals there, are animals who are adaptable to the climate. So you’re not going to see elephants and giraffes, but you’ll see plenty of other animals. We saw some that I had never even heard of too. Of course the main favorites, of lions and tigers and bears...”oh my!”
We spent a couple hours here before heading back to the city. We stopped at Holiday Bar for lunch, and had poke bowls which were really good.
AND, they had their Helsinki Harbor Market going too, where you could buy fruits, veggies, and souvenirs from different booths.
We had decided to go to Löyly sauna to experience the traditional Finnish sauna, where you go from the hot sauna, to the chilled Baltic Sea and back and forth. Unfortunately when we got there, we learned that you need reservations, so we weren’t able to go. So pro tip...always make reservations in Helsinki, especially if it’s during a holiday! They do have a nice cafe where we had a delicious burger, so you can eat before your reservations and then sauna.
We had a wonderful trip to Helsinki and cannot wait to go back. We recommend at least 3 days if not 4 to fit everything in.
Tips for Helsinki
-Make reservations. Especially during holiday weeks. We needed reservations at the sauna and many restaurants we tried to go to. Call ahead, and reserve your spot.
-Buy food to make breakfast at the grocery store to save money. You can save some money by heading to the nearest K-mart for breakfast items you can make in your Airbnb or apartment, or even grab pre-made breakfast stuff.
-Food can be a bit pricey so plan on that in your budget. There are, of course, fast food restaurants, and cheaper restaurants around, but sometimes it’s fun to grab a nice meal at a fancy restaurant.
-Be prepared for any weather. One day we were bundled in jackets and hoods...the next day in shorts and a tank top...the next in rain gear.
-Buy a week pass for transportation. We suggest grabbing it at the airport, so you can just hop on the train and head to the city. It’s about 40 mins from the airport to Helsinki city center on the train.
Check out all of our top picks on the MyHelsinki website, and find some new things as well! We had a wonderful time in Helsinki, and experiencing Midsummer there. We are excited to return in another season and hit everything else we missed!
Thanks to MyHelsinki for hosting us on this trip!