A rich architectural experience gives you plenty to do in Helsinki. The city’s collection of buildings represent diverse styles, and it includes some of the most innovative and bold structures in Europe.
Besides the Finnish capital’s built environment, you can enjoy outdoor attractions and experience the country’s culture.
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Top 25 things to do in Helsinki
1. Market Square, visit one of Helsinki´s most iconic sights
One of Helsinki’s most iconic sights and a must-see during any visit is Market Square. This is where many visitors converge while they explore the old town, especially for those arriving by ferry.
Along with the harbour, Market Square is a hub of activity and represents the best of Helsinki. Local sellers offer their best produce to locals and visitors, including fresh fish.
There are also various crafts and souvenirs for sale inside the Old Market Hall. You can find everything from reindeer horns and hides to homemade jewellery and toys. There is also fresh bread, wine, cheese and other great items.
If you are visiting in October, you can visit the Baltic Herring Market.
2. Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the best things to do in Helsinki for art lovers
Opened in 1990, Kiasma’s imposing silver shell designed by Steven Holl was a controversial addition to the cityscape. Over the years, it has become an iconic landmark in Helsinki. Completed in 1998, the building represents Helsinki’s modern era.
You will find the contemporary collection of the Finnish National Gallery at the museum, which also has fine modern exhibitions.
If you like admiring urban landscapes, visit the north-facing end of the museum if you need something to do in Helsinki even if you are not a huge fan of art.
There you are treated to panoramic views of the city, including the majestic Parliament House and the contemporary Helsinki Music Centre.
3. Kajsaniemi Botanical Garden, a top attraction to see in Helsinki
Explore an array of plant life at the Kaisaniemi Botanical Garden, which traces its roots to the oldest scientific garden in the country.
In 1678, Peter Kalm opened a science-focused garden in Turku. It moved to the Helsinki University in 1829 following a fire and now offers visitors a top attraction to see in Helsinki.
From colourful flowers to sprawling plants, there are some 800 species of flora at the botanical gardens’ ten inter-connected greenhouses. In total, there are some 3,600 species across the site’s four hectares.
This is a great spot to escape from the cold during the winter, although it is a popular year-round destination for residents and travellers to the city.
4. See the Amos Rex
This art museum is in the functionalist Lasipalatsi, or Glass Palace. Amos Rex celebrates art and urban culture with a thrilling programme of exhibitions.
Whether you appreciate classic art or contemporary performances, you will not be disappointed with your visit at this top cultural attraction and a must see in Helsinki.
Amos Rex is the home of the impressive Sigurd Frosterus Foundation’s post-impressionist collection. The courtyard is another highlight. The former site of Helsinki’s bus station, it now has unique tiled domes that also double as skylights.
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5. Don´t miss Kamppi Chapel
In the bustling city centre is the Kamppi Chapel – the ‘Chapel of Silence’. This calm escape is made from Nordic spruce.
Built in 2012, the construction of the building creates a refuge of quiet and serenity, while the circular shape exemplifies Scandinavian design and style.
This ultra-contemporary Lutheran chapel features pews made from ash and alder planks in the interior. The main hall also features an interesting altar with a solitary cross.
6. Stroll around the Design District
Wander among boutiques, antique shops, galleries and much more at the Design District. Located in southern Helsinki, there are also many restaurants to enjoy a meal while you explore the city.
The Design District embodies the minimalist character of Finnish design, including in the architecture of its buildings. Amazing collections with galleries, shops and more also represent the best of Scandinavian style.
From art to interior design, there is something for everyone. Find unique clothes, handmade products and other one-of-a-kind items.
7. Explore the Helsinki City Museum
Understand Helsinki’s history and culture at the Helsingin Kaupunginmuseo – the Helsinki City Museum. The extensive site includes five buildings at Cathedral Square. It includes the city’s oldest central building that dates from 1757.
Diverse exhibitions are housed in the City Museum, which has a collection of approximately 450,000 artifacts and over a million photographs. You will find unique collections, including home décor from the 19th century and traditional costumes from across Finland.
Virtual technology helps enhance your visit, allowing you to see the city’s past from a unique perspective.
8. Visit Suomenlinna
About a 15-minute ferry journey from the city centre is Suomenlinna, a series of small islands in the South Harbour. Recognised by UNESCO for its cultural relevance, it is also known as the ‘Fortress of Finland.
You can visit the various islands to admire Helsinki’s skyline while you explore the sea fortress’s many sites.
Built when Finland was part of Sweden, the fortifications were originally known as Sveaborg. It served as a strategic defence point for southern Finland and featured an impressive dock, an architectural marvel that still stands.
The site also includes interesting museums and pleasant green spaces, and there is a fine restaurant on Lonna island.
To gain a better perspective on this area’s history, consider taking a guided tour.
9. Marvel at Oodi, Helsinki´s Central Library
Helsinki’s Central Library, Oodi is an exciting architectural wonder for you to see in Helsinki. There is a café and restaurant along with a cinema in this beautiful yet functional building.
You can admire 3D printers or use sewing machines, or even spend time in a recording studio. This is a bold book repository like no other.
On the third level, you will find a welcoming terrace. From there, admire some of Helsinki’s most famous landmarks like Parliament House, the National Museum, Finlandia Hall, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and more.
If you are looking for something unique to do in Helsinki, this is a great place to start.
10. Experience finish sauna at Kotiharjun Sauna
The quintessential Finnish experience is visiting a sauna, a tradition that dates to the Vikings. Along with relieving stress, saunas are also visited to help lose weight, soothe muscle and joint pain and even improve cardiovascular performance.
Meditate and relax at the Kotiharjun Sauna, one of only three traditional public saunas that remain in the city. If you have little time to spare to go to a sauna in Finland’s more rural areas, this is a great place to enjoy a classic experience during your visit.
11. Ateneum, Finland´s premier art gallery
Housed within a lavish neo-Renaissance building from 1887, the Ateneum is Finland’s premier art gallery. This is the place to go to see the country’s most celebrated art, including paintings and sculptures.
The collection at the Ateneum includes works by Albert Edelfelt, Helene Schjerfbeck, Pekka Halonen, Hugo Simbery, the von Wright brothers, and others. The Kalevala is a celebrated masterpiece from Akseli Gallen-Kallela and one of the museum’s highlights.
12. Café Ekberg and try Napoleon cake
Known as the oldest café in Helsinki, Café Ekberg is arguably the most elegant café in the city. It is a great spot to start your day with a delicious breakfast and flavourful coffee before exploring the city. It is also a fine place to end your day and unwind.
Opened in 1852, the classic café’s highlights include mouth-watering patisserie like its famed Napoleon cake. The menu also has a wonderful array of cookies, biscuits and pastries to tempt you.
13. Check out the Design Museum
If you love design, you need to visit Helsinki’s Design Museum. The museum explores the roots of Finnish design, including its ties to nature and cultural traditions. The focus is mainly on contemporary works, including clothing and décor.
You can combine a ticket with the Museum of Finish Architecture and visit both museums during your stay in the city. During the summer, both museums host a shared pavilion where students create a sustainable structure.
MOST POPULAR GUIDED TOURS IN HELSINKI
14. Have a great time at Allas
At the edge of the South Harbour is Allas, a fantastic recreational facility for you to unwind.
There are three outdoor pools, including a heated one that can even be enjoyed on the coldest days of the year. One pool is reserved just for kids. There are also saunas to help you relax.
Watch boats sail past from a terrace on the top of the wooden pavilion. After your relaxing day at Allas, you can enjoy dinner at Allas Wine & Dine. Concerts are also hosted during the summer, where top musicians from Finland and abroad entertain the masses.
15. Explore Seurasaaren Ulkomuseo
On an island northwest of the city centre is Seurasaaren Ulkomuseo, an outdoor museum with 87 historic buildings.
Reach the island of Seurasaari via a long footbridge to enter this leafy oasis with reconstructed rural architecture, offering you a glimpse of life outside the city from bygone eras.
You will find a manor house, barns, cottages and a timber church. You can visit the island for free, but tickets are needed to enter the buildings.
The island’s Festival Stage hosts folk dancing during Midsummer, when newlyweds also light bonfires on the coast after their wedding ceremony.
16. Visit the Kansallismuseo
You might mistake the Kansallismuseo for a Gothic church thanks to its imposing square tower and heavy stonework. Opened in 1916, the museum is one of Finland’s top-tier museums.
From prehistory exhibits to collections from every period between the 13th and 19th centuries, the museum has a rich collection covering the breadth of Finish history.
This is a fun destination if you are looking for something to do in Helsinki with little ones. The hands-on Workshop Vintti makes learning about history fun and exciting for children.
On the first floor, step out onto the balcony and admire frescoes on ceiling arches. These works by painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela tell the story about Kalevala, the national epic.
17. Relax in Kaivopuisto
Situated on the waterfront, Kaivopuisto is a large park dating from 1834. The popular greenspace includes sprawling lawns for picnics and sunbathing.
There are also meandering paths to explore alongside sculptures. Paths also connect you to other attractions, like the Mattolaituri café and Kaivohuone bar.
Visit the park if you are looking for something laid-back to do in Helsinki. During the winter, tobogganing is a favourite pastime on the park’s slopes.
In the summer, you might catch a concert. From classical music to the latest pop songs, the sounds of different genres echo through the park.
18. Helsinki Zoo, something to do in Helsinki with kids
On the island of Korkeasaari is Helsinki Zoo. This is a fabulous day out to do in Helsinki if you are visiting with kids. Founded in 1889, the zoo has approximately 150 animal species and 1,000 plant species from Finland and beyond.
Animals are housed in large natural enclosures, and there is also a farm at the zoo.
You can travel to the zoo by ferry, offering a unique experience and great views of the coast off Helsinki. There is also a café and terrace at the site if you need to rest or grab a bite to eat.
19. Visit the Helsinki Olympic Stadium
Built in 1938, Helsinki Olympic Stadium is a fine example of Helsinki’s functionalist architecture. The venue was the main stadium for the 1952 Olympic Games. Now, it hosts concerts along with national and international sports events.
At 72 metres or 235 feet, the Stadium Tower lets you see Helsinki from a unique perspective. You can look out for central Helsinki’s most famous buildings while admiring the view.
The Olympic Stadium is also the site of the Finnish Sportsmuseum and the bistro Stadion restaurant.
20. Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square
One of the top things to do in Helsinki is spend time in Senate Square. There are fine examples of neoclassical architecture, including Helsinki Cathedral, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland.
The Government Palace is also found here. Carl Ludvig Engel designed all four buildings, and a statue of Alexander II is at the heart of the square.
Helsinki Cathedral is one of Finland’s most iconic buildings. It is also something you must see in Helsinki. The oldest stone building – Sederholm House – in the city stands on the square’s southeast corner. There you will find the Helsinki City Museum.
21. Relax in Löyly
A public sauna, Löyly is on the southern edge of Helsinki in the Hernesaari district. The complex includes two wood-heated saunas and a traditional Finnish smoke sauna to help you recharge. From the saunas you can step into an outdoor seating area by the sea.
There is also a terrace and restaurant that are open at this year-round attraction.The restaurant serves a menu with local ingredients for brunch, lunch and dinner on Saturdays.
22. Erottaja Rescue Station
Built atop a hill, Erottaja rescue station was completed in 1891. At 42 metres above the city, the station’s tower offers fabulous views of the city. On clear days, you can see Tallinn from the tower.
The rescue station is home to the second oldest municipal professional fire brigade in Europe’s Nordic countries. There is also a fire museum within the station’s courtyard.
23. Chill out in Esplanade Park
Known locally as “Espa”, Esplanade Park is one of Finland’s most popular parks. People flock to this greenspace to enjoy a picnic or watch performances. Designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, the park features tree-lined paths, monumental sculptures and colourful flowerbeds.
Located close to Market Square, the park is also home to one of Helsinki’s most iconic restaurants. Kappeli was built in 1867 and designed by Hampus Dahlström. Across from the restaurant is Espa Stage, which hosts concerts from May to August.
24. Tennispalatsi, a must-see in Helsinki
The Tennis Palace or Tennispalatsi offers top quality recreation and culture. Built in a functionalist style, the building features vaulted halls and served as the city’s main tennis venue and hosted basketball during the 1952 Olympics.
The building houses the Helsinki City Art Museum (HAM), which draws fans of contemporary and modern art. The museum’s collection has more than 9,000 pieces.
The Tennispalatsi also features several cafes and restaurants plus Finnkino, the largest cinema complex in Finland.
25. Have fun in the Linnanmäki Amusement Park
People have flocked to Linnanmäki Amusement Park since 1950. There is a great collection of rides if you are looking for something fun to do in Helsinki. Rides thrill and excite, but there are also fun and more laid back rides if you want to avoid really scary attractions.
Built in 1951, a wooden rollercoaster at the park is one of its most popular rides. There are also fun games to play and test your luck. Outdoor performances are also staged at this wonderful amusement park.