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Finland’s capital of Helsinki is a cool and chilled-out coastal city. It manages to retain a small-town atmosphere while still offering all modern amenities, facilities, sights, and activities that you would expect from a world capital.
Helsinki has heaps of pretty architecture to admire. There are beaches and national parks close to hand and Helsinki has a wealth of traditional saunas, shopping streets, restaurants, bars, and everything you need to have fun while on vacation.
Finland is generally thought of as being pretty expensive. Don’t let this put you off though!
A wealth of attractions and activities await you in the Finnish capital and a trip doesn’t have to break the bank. We’ve sourced the very best things to do in Helsinki to help you make the most of your city break, covering family-friendly recommendations, budget suggestions, perfect things for loved-up couples, and more.
You really don’t want to visit Helsinki without this expert guide, and you should also check out where to stay in Helsinki and our favourite hotels in Helsinki to save you time and money on your Finnish adventure! Plus, our travel guides have prepared their ultimate adventures into one jam-packed guide – 131 things to do in Europe. Check it out!
Add Finland’s capital city to your bucket list and have a great time experiencing the best things to do in Helsinki.
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Who doesn’t want some fun when on holiday? Ramp up the enjoyment factor and discover some of Helsinki’s most fun things to do.
Explore the beautiful natural scenery of Finland’s Sipoonkorpi National Park. It offers plenty of peace and quiet, away from the city’s bustle. A biologist guide accompanies your group to help you to make the most of your foray into nature.
As an added bonus, children under the age of 16 can enjoy the trip for free when they go with an adult. You’ll take a short ride out of the city to arrive in a lush natural setting. Hike through the forests and see a variety of wildlife and plant life (some of which is rare) along with interesting glacial rock formations that date back to the Ice Age.
Pass traditional farmlands, shimmering lakes, and marshy bogs. A highlight for many is gazing upon the large and unusual stone formations known as The Trolls.
Start your interesting excursion with an overview of Helsinki as you visit several of the city’s major sights. Your local guide is full of wisdom and tidbits and will offer fascinating stories about Helsinki’s past and present.
See landmarks like Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, Senate Square, the Market Hall, the Olympic Stadium, and the Sibelius Monument, a gleaming silvery monument that resembles organ pipes and that’s dedicated to the memory of one of the nation’s most-loved composers.
Then, take the short ferry crossing to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO-listed sea fortress. Enjoy the views back towards the mainland, wander along the fortifications, admire the small Russian church, feed the ducks, and learn more about the fort’s history.
It’s often said that one of the best ways to really understand a country and its culture and people is through food. So, what could be better than taking a food and beer tour of Helsinki?!
Your guide will tell you more about the local food scene and how it has developed over the years, as well as telling you major dishes and ingredients. Sample fresh seasonal berries and vegetables at thevibrant Market Square and taste an assortment of Finnish specialities at the Grand Market Hall.
Call into a brewery and bar for a local tipple, and round off your foodie adventure with a delectable meal in a traditional Finnish restaurant. Make sure you leave plenty of space for dessert!
If you’re planning a trip to Helsinki with your significant other, romance will be high on the agenda. Create many tender and magical moments with your beloved with these inspiring recommendations.
Admire beautiful waterside views with your love on a 90-minute canal cruise in Helsinki. Settle into your comfortable seat and learn more about the city’s past through the onboard commentary.
You’ll sail along the Degero Canal and see some of the city’s striking coastline. Places of interest that you’ll see on your boat ride include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna Fortress, a large fleet of mighty icebreaker vessels, and Korkeasaari Island, which is home to Helsinki Zoo.
Sip a refreshing drink and savour a sweet and tasty pastry onboard too.
Editor’s Tip: Break up your action-packed trip with a visit to famous museums in Helsinki!
Have an authentic Finnish experience with lashings of romance (in the right company of course!) and feel invigorated with a traditional sauna. While there are many saunas around the country, nothing can quite compare with enjoying a natural outdoor sauna in postcard-worthy surroundings.
You’ll travel a short distance to Nuuksio National Park, where you can dunk yourself into the revitalising and cool lake waters and refresh in the steamy sauna cabins. Alternating between hot and cold has many health benefits, including improving your circulation and skin, not to mention reenergising your mind!
Once you are fully refreshed and glowing, enjoy a Finnish BBQ right by the picturesque lake shores.
Porvoo is a lovely medieval town within easy reach of Helsinki. You’ll travel to and from Porvoo by local bus, watching countryside and village scenes out of the window. Your friendly local guide will then lead you around the charming town, providing interesting insights into the local way of life.
Porvoo is one of the oldest towns in Finland, with a history that dates back to the 1500s. Quaint wooden homes line cobblestone streets, and it’s easy to imagine what the area must have looked like in times gone by. It’s also not difficult to see why the town was once such a magnet for creative souls like artists, writers, and poets.
Surrounded by nature, a pretty river runs through the town and the rocky, hilly slopes have many pine fragrant trees. Unwind in a tranquil coffee shop, enjoy a spot of shopping, and grab a bite to eat in a lovely restaurant—the trip can be tailored to meet your requirements.
Travelling with children can be challenging at times! You’ll need a slower pace with plenty of variety, and choosing accommodations, transportation methods, and eateries are all influenced by the fact you have kids in tow.
Remove some of the hassle and consider some of these excellent family-family things to do in Helsinki.
Experience Finland’s wintery wonderland at any time of the year at the cool—in both senses of the word!—Winter World. You’ll build up to the main child-friendly delight with a tour of major city landmarks, including the unique Sibelius Monument, the Olympic Stadium, and Esplanade Park.
Then, it’s time for the fun to really begin! Step inside Winter World and enter a snowy an icy fairytale in any season. The indoor park features a year-round igloo hotel, an ice bar, a colourful Santa’s workshop, and more.
Kids are sure to love making friends with gorgeous huskies and there are dog-sled rides too. Warm gear is provided to stop your teeth from chattering too much!
Many Finnish people are drawn to nature and the woodlands are popular places for family days out. Begin your day by visiting major landmarks in the city, such as Senate Square and the Sibelius Monument, before lunch. After lunch, you’ll visit Reindeer Park, a lovely attraction in a national park.
Spot diverse local wildlife and see what it’s like to live in Lapland … without needing to travel all the way to the north of the country. The reindeer are often a firm favourite with younger visitors, and the whole family can enjoy feeding the gentle creatures.
Sit in front of a roaring open fire and sip on a hot drink. You can also have a go at grilling buns on sticks over the fire.
Go exactly where you want to go with ease and complete convenience on a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Helsinki. There are regular services and many stops. Stops include Kaivopuisto Park, Market Hall, the Rock Church, the Sibelius Monument, Senate Square, the National Museum, the Swedish Theatre, and the Olympic Stadium.
There’s no need to worry about figuring out to get between the different sights or deal with grumpy kids when their little legs start to tire. There couldn’t be an easier way of sightseeing in Helsinki!
The onboard commentary is available in several languages, providing interesting information about the city, and you can also access free Wi-Fi on the open-top bus.
Scandinavia in general is known for having a higher price tag than many other parts of Europe, so including some of these great free things to do will help you to manage your Helsinki travel budget that little bit better. Plus, they’re heaps of fun!
Officially known as Temppeliaukio Church, the Rock Church is one of Helsinki’s more unusual sights. It was constructed in the late 1960s and it’s a terrific example of the potential for harmony between man and nature.
The place of worship was hewn into the rocks in the city centre, transforming the granite into a cavernous church. A large skylight floods the church with natural light and the jagged walls enhance the atmosphere. The church is known for its fantastic acoustics and it regularly hosts various concerts.
There are more than 30 pleasant public beaches within easy reach of Helsinki city centre, with a combination of coastal seaside beaches and river beaches. The public beaches are free to enjoy and are ideal for unwinding on a warm summer’s day.
Hietaranta Beach is one of the best city beaches and you’ll find an assortment of activities here, including swimming, sunbathing, tennis courts, and mini golf. Pikkukoski Beach, alongside the Vantaa River is a local gem. Peaceful and quiet, it boasts pretty views, clean enticing waters, a sauna, and volleyball courts.
Combine nature and seaside life at Aurinkolahti Beach, a lovely stretch of sand right next to Uutela Nature Trail. Kivinokka Beach is another secluded beauty and it’s known for its rich selection of birdlife.
Helsinki Cathedral is one of the city’s main landmarks. The large neoclassical religious building can be seen from the sea, with its gleaming whitewashed facades and blue domes.
Golden statues of the apostles sit on the roof, keeping a watchful eye over the streets below. Snap plenty of pictures from outside before climbing the white staircase to take a peek inside. While the inside is quite simple in comparison to the outside, the small chapel and crypt are well worth a look.
There’s no need to hit the hay when darkness falls in Helsinki; there are many cool ways to make your evenings and nights as memorable and as enjoyable as your daytimes.
Helsinki has a plethora of bars and nightclubs to entertain everyone. Get dressed up and hop from bar to bar along Mannerheimintie in the downtown area.
Alternatively, hit up Kallio’s bars for a more bohemian (and budget-friendly) night on the tiles. Indulge in some shots of Finnish vodka before working the dance floor in one of the city’s pulsating nightclubs.
If you’ve got an early start the next day (or have had one too many nights out on the town!), Helsinki is sure to impress you with its vibrant café culture.
There are plentiful cafes where you can chill at the end of a busy day, and the cafes are particularly busy in the colder winter months when people want somewhere to escape the cold and snow outside.
Fun fact: People from Finland drink more coffee, per capita, than people from anywhere else around the globe! It’s not so surprising, therefore, to learn that there’s an awesome café scene in the capital.
If your itinerary is jam-packed and you’re wondering where to find the time for a little retail therapy, fret not! Helsinki’s main department stores (notably Stockmann and Sokos) are open until late at night during the week.
Many shops in the Design District also stay open later than you may expect, giving you plenty of opportunities to hunt for the perfect gifts and souvenirs.
Get out in nature during the daytime or enjoy the city’s Russian-esque architecture. Luxuriate in an authentic sauna and have wintery fun with the kids at any time of year.
From meeting reindeer to exploring a rock-cut church, Helsinki has plenty of things that are a bit different to the norm. At night, choose between partying, chilling, eating, and shopping. You won’t be bored here!
With an awesome array of best thing things to do in Helsinki, there’s no reason to put off visiting any longer!
Check out these other guides full of insider tips to save you time and money on your travels!
Emma Johnson lives to travel! Born in Washington D.C., Emma is a hotel connoisseur and a staff writer at Hotel Jules. An army brat, Emma got the travel bug early and has never been able to stop. Now, she has proudly visited 70+ countries and plans to visit every country in the world! Passionate about her ukelele (obviously) and her family, Emma eventually wants to retire in Thailand and write a book about all of her travel experiences.