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Travel guide – Helsinki
Helsinki is a European capital that might be small in size but is certainly big at heart. And its heart beats for design, technology, food and sustainability – all the things the seaside city is also known and loved for.
The capital of Finland is a well-balanced combination of urban culture and nature, making it an ideal destination for both an active city break and a relaxing holiday.
June, July, and January are the busiest months for the capital’s tourism and the flights to Helsinki can book up fast. Travelling during the off-season can help to score lower accommodation rates and cheaper plane tickets to Helsinki.
Weather in Helsinki
Weather-wise, Helsinki caters well for all tastes and preferences as there are four distinctly beautiful seasons during which to explore the city's changing ambience.
The moderate temperatures of spring and fall are great for comfortably exploring the outdoors and sightseeing in peace.
The hotter summer climate is perfect for relaxing beach days as well as endlessly bright nights in the lively city. It’s good to know that the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, occurs between 20–22 June. In Helsinki that means nearly 19 hours of daylight and the sun barely setting during Midsummer celebrations!
In winter, the pace of life winds down and the cold gives way to beautiful snowy days you can spend ice skating, cross-country skiing or exploring the charming Christmas markets.
Helsinki’s event calendar
It’s good to know some of the most popular local celebrations and festivals to time your trip to Helsinki.
March kicks off with Helsinki Sauna Day and April follows with the biggest coffee festival in Northern Europe, Helsinki Coffee Festival. The nationwide Vappu, Finnish day for the springtime festival and May Day, is held on the 1 May.
In June, Helsinki Day (Helsinki’s birthday) is celebrated with a wide range of free events across the town. June also sees the Taste of Helsinki gourmet restaurant festival and the biggest cultural and human rights event in Finland – Helsinki Pride.
At the end of June, Finns, like many Northern European cultures, celebrate Midsummer (Juhannus) as one of the main traditional festivities. Helsinki usually goes quiet at that time of the year because locals leave to summer cottages away from the city.
August is packed with cultural events, to name a few: Flow Festival as the leading urban music and arts festival in Europe, Helsinki Festival as the largest arts festival in Finland with theatrical performances, music, dance, and visual art displays.
September is a real treat for design lovers as the largest design festival in the region, Helsinki Design Week is held. Also, the Helsinki Film Festival takes over the local cinemas in September. November attracts with an international Baltic Circle festival for contemporary theatre as well as the world’s leading start-up and tech event Slush.
Christmas season starts with the opening of the Christmas Street (occasionally in the end of November). Helsinki downtown charms with mesmerising Christmas lights and the Helsinki Christmas Market that’s one of the city’s oldest events and has been repeatedly picked among the European Christmas Markets to visit. Finland’s Independence Day is also celebrated in December (6th).
In January, a five-day Lux Helsinki light festival turns the city into a living light art piece as buildings and facades light up in mesmerizing installations.
Whether you’ve got the whole week, a long weekend or 12 hours to explore Helsinki, there is enough to do and see. The city isn’t overwhelmingly big, most of the sights are either close to one another or nicely connected by fast and reliable public transport.
Below we’ve listed some of the places that pass on the vibes of Helsinki and are both dear to locals and interesting to visitors. Make up a list of places to visit that best fits the time and type of your travel. If you have a 6-, 12- or 24-hour layover, we got you covered with itinerary options in our Blue Wings magazine.
- Allas Sea Pool - combines cherished Finnish sauna and spa tradition with modern urban culture. The venue has swimming pools, saunas, dining and drinks, concerts and wellness events like yoga on the shore of the Baltic Sea.
- Amos Rex Art Museum – the urban art Mecca does not only display art pieces but also acts as one thanks to its eye-catching architecture and location underneath the Lasipalatsi Square in the city centre. If you’re tight on time and need to skip the museum visit, have a glimpse of the place by stopping by the public square which hilly surface makes a unique location for travel snaps.
- Church of the Rock (Temppeliaukio Church) – the acoustics of this Lutheran church hewn out of the rock make it an excellent concert venue. The church is in the heart of Helsinki and sees half a million visitors every year.
- Esplanade Park – a lush green area in the heart of Helsinki that often hosts various events, street musicians and performers.
- Helsinki Cathedral (Helsingin Tuomiokirkko) – is arguably Finland's most famous and photographed building celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2022.
- Kamppi Chapel – the odd-looking wooden chapel is in the middle of perhaps one of the busiest areas in Helsinki. Nicknamed the Chapel of Silence, the sanctuary is ecumenical and welcomes all visitors to take a moment to calm and reflect if needed.
- Kiasma – the museum of contemporary art was the most visited Finnish museum in 2019 and it keeps generating public interest with showcasing the art of our time in a forward-looking way. The museum is one-third of the Finnish National Gallery alongside with Ateneum and Sinebrychoff Art Museums.
- Löyly public sauna – Löyly offers visitors the unique possibility to try out the traditional Finnish sauna by the beautiful Helsinki waterfront. It’s not your average public sauna – both the concept as well as architecture are designed to stun!
- Oodi, Helsinki Central Library – opened in 2018, Oodi (ode in Finnish) was designed to redefine the role of public libraries. It's not only the keeper of knowledge and stories but a living and functional meeting place for learning, sharing, working and relaxation. Although one of the newest, it was already listed among the ten most beautiful libraries in the world by Forbes.
- Senate Square (Senaatintori) – Helsinki Senate Square and its surroundings form a unique and cohesive architectural entity. The square is dominated by four buildings: Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland.
- Sightseeing cruises – you can explore Helsinki's jewel-like archipelago with numerous cruise operators.
- Suomenlinna – this impressive sea fortress and its gorgeous island home is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers tourists a real adventure with its tunnels, museums, submarine and fortress. One of the most popular sights in Finland is only a short ferry trip away from the centre.
- The Moomins creator’s Tove Jansson’s Helsinki – Helsinki is the hometown of the beloved Finnish artist and the creator of the Moomins Tove Jansson. Thus, on your visit to Helsinki, you have the unique opportunity to experience the city as she did, in her footsteps. You can find the tour guide of Tove Jansson’s Helsinki on My Helsinki website. The list includes the childhood home, Helsinki’s sights and museums related to the “mamma” of the Moomins.
- Fazer Visitor Centre in Vantaa – the visitor centre of the most well-known Finnish chocolate factory is just half an hour drive from the Helsinki city centre. Opened in 2016, the café, store and exhibition space make a treat for everyone with a sweet tooth or interest in modern architecture.
- Fiskars – this Finnish village less than a 1.5-hour ride from Helsinki is the birthplace of the world-famous axes and scissors with signature orange handles! Fiskars started off as an ironworks in the 17th century, adapted to copperworks along the way and continues to impact Finnish design, art and craft to this day. Its rich history is picturesquely demonstrated on every step of the way.
- Helsinki archipelago – in addition to Suomenlinna, there’s plenty of other islands to visit near Helsinki. In the south, enjoy local tasty delicacies and one-of-a-kind public sauna experience at Lonna or take in the nature and history of Vallisaari, an ex-military island that was opened to the public only in 2016. In the west, take a peek into the life of the local fishermen by visiting their old cottage and other museum buildings at Pentala or make the most of the Nordic summer by swimming and sunbathing at Iso Vasikkasaari.
- Moomin Museum in Tampere – the world’s only Moomin Museum is an inspiring and memorable experience to art and literature lovers and Moomin fans of all ages. The ride to Tampere takes approximately 2 hours, so it could be a day trip from Helsinki or an overnight stay.
- Moominworld near Turku – the magical theme park in Naantali is where the fairy-tale comes alive. Meet the Moomin family, see where and how they live and spend a cheerful family day. You might want to plan an overnight stay as the journey to Turku and Naantali lasts 2–3 hours depending on transportation.
- Nuuksio National Park – only 45 minutes from Helsinki lies the Nuuksio National Park with lovely lakes, lush forest, well-marked trails and campfire sites. To completely relax and take a break from everyday life, try therapy the Nordic way and spend some quality time in the unspoilt nature.
- Porvoo – the second-oldest city in Finland dates to the 14th century and is an ideal day-trip destination just a 40-minute ride from Helsinki. Porvoo’s cobbled streets, iron-red warehouses outlining the riverside and adorable cafés, shops and houses in Old Town will make you believe time travel is possible!
Helsinki is overflowing with unique and sustainable design and quality goods, offering amazing shopping experiences to all. Many of the famous top-class Finnish brands like Marimekko, Iittala, Arabia, Artek and Oura have their flagship stores in Helsinki. Below we’ve listed some of the best places for shopping in Helsinki.
- Design District Helsinki – 25 streets filled with design shops, galleries, showrooms, museums and restaurants make up the Design District Helsinki. It’s the place for finding timeless Finnish design pieces as well as discovering the newest trends. Helsinki values usability so it’s no wonder the Design District also has its own map to simplify finding the right shops and places for you.
- Market Square – the outdoor market by the harbour is Helsinki’s most popular marketplace. You can stock up on market foods, handicraft, souvenirs or just travel memories of one of the iconic places in Helsinki. The last one is for free!
- Shopping centres – the best malls in Helsinki combine excellent shopping opportunities, good food, entertainment and wellness services. The most popular malls are Kamppi in the city centre, the biggest shopping centre in the Nordics Mall of Tripla, Kämp Galleria showcasing the finest Finnish fashion design, historically significant Stockmann, Kluuvi Shopping Centre etc. The shopping centres are an important part of the urban culture and act as meeting places.
- Vintage and second-hand stores – the best flea markets, vintage and second-hand shops are typically in the Kallio district. There are places that sell all kinds of cheap goodies such as UFF and Fida, as well as stores that focus on certain brands like Mekkomania that collects vintage Marimekko pieces. We encourage you to check some of the many thrift shopping recommendations for Helsinki online!
The capital’s vibrant and inventive food and drink scene showcases the best of Finland’s food culture – clean, naturally nutrient-rich and exciting flavours. Knowing the choice of excellent restaurants, cafés and bars in Helsinki is wide, you will surely find the ones fitting your preferences. We’ve listed some of the local food and drinks that are good to know when travelling to the capital of Finland.
- Berries – Nordic berries are wholesome, packed with vitamins and delicious. Locals skillfully use the berries in various dishes, for example, you could try some strawberry sorbet, cloudberry parfait, blueberry tart, or lingonberry crème brûlée.
- Coffee – Finns are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world and kahvi has an important role in social interaction and café culture. The coffee in Finland is usually a lightly roasted filter coffee.
- Cinnamon buns – pastries, especially sweet buns go hand in hand with coffee, but freshly baked cinnamon buns (korvapuustit) are a must when in Helsinki. If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, how about a cardamom one?
- Drinks and beverages – one’s appreciation of the craft of beers or spirits gets rewarded in Helsinki. There’s plenty of local craft beers or award-winning Finnish gins to try.
- Fish and seafood – With thousands of lakes, hundreds of rivers and the Baltic sea, Finns know and love their fish and seafood. A trip to Helsinki is an excellent opportunity to try the local fish and seafood dishes such as smoked fish (salmon, arctic char, perch etc), creamy salmon soup and the delicate seasonal crayfish. Did you know that Finns like Swedes arrange special crayfish parties in August?
- Rye bread – rye bread (ruisleipä) to Finns is what ciabatta is to Italians – a fundamental part of their food culture. The fibre-rich bread could be enjoyed with butter and a pinch of salt.
- Sweets – salted liquorice candies (salmiakki) are a classic Finnish favourite and can be found in every supermarket. Finland’s most notable confectionery brand Fazer has its own selection of salmiakki products, but their milk chocolate Fazer Blue remains the Finnish brand’s most iconic sweet.
- Traditional Finnish dishes – to point out a few, karjalanpiirakka is a pastry with a rice or potato filling, kalakukko is a fish dish inside a loaf of rye bread and baked in the oven for several hours, sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes is a delicacy originating from Lapland.
PS, the Finnish food-delivery service Wolt, founded and based in Helsinki, makes discovering and getting great food from some of the best cafés and restaurants in Helsinki incredibly easy. Find what you're craving for, order via the app and have great food delivered to you to a vacation rental or the greenery of a park.
Helsinki’s public transport is managed by the Helsinki Region Transport (HSL). Visit their website or download the HSL app to use the route planner, buy tickets and see traffic updates.
- Tram – Helsinki’s tram network of 11 lines is one of the oldest and supposedly easiest electrified systems in the world.
- Metro – it's the fastest public transport in the capital city area and as it runs only in two directions it's truly easy to use.
- Bus – buses complement other means of public transport in Helsinki and vice versa. The network runs like clockwork!
Taxi – in addition to traditional taxis, ride-hailing apps such as Uber are available and typically used to get a ride in Helsinki.
Bikes and scooters – In addition to Helsinki’s own city bike system, numerous other companies offer shared micro-mobility services like electric scooters and bicycles. Roughly 1200-kilometres of bike paths make cruising through the city easy and rewarding.
On foot – Helsinki is a very walkable city with its numerous walking routes, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and sustainable mindset. Strolls, even when occasionally combined with public transport, will make your travels greener and allow you to see the little yet meaningful things about Helsinki.
- Airport - Helsinki Airport (HEL) is located 18km north of the city (30 minutes by train). We recommend fast and easy online check-in before arriving at the airport or using self-service check-in kiosks available in the departure hall of Terminal 2.
- Currency in Finland – euro (€)
- Electricity in Finland – 230 volts and type C plug, in other words, the two-wire plug with round pins is what you need to have with you.
- Language – Finland's official language Finnish (alongside Swedish) is frequently listed as one of the most difficult languages to learn. But worry not – 90 percent of the population speaks some or good English so basic communication won’t become an issue when visiting Helsinki.
- Payments – foreign cards are well-accepted everywhere in Helsinki.
- Tips – not a must as service charges and VAT are included in the bill in the restaurants and hotels, but you can leave extra if you wish.
- Time zone – Helsinki (Finland) UTC/GMT +2. That means if it’s lunchtime 12 p.m. in Helsinki, it’s 5 a.m. in New York and the alarm clocks haven’t gone off yet, 10 a.m. in London where the workday is in full swing, and 7 p.m. in Tokyo – time for dinner.
- Visa requirements – Finland is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Area. Citizens of the European Union or Schengen countries do not need a visa when travelling to the member countries. Check the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland for detailed information.
- Wi-Fi – public Wi-Fi is available in most of the Helsinki's cafés, restaurants, hotels, and vacation rentals as well as public spaces such as city squares, museums, harbours and the airport.
Finnair has many direct flights to Helsinki from numerous global cities, including London, Munich, Zurich, Brussels, Stockholm, Berlin, Manchester, Osaka, and Tokyo. You can also fly to Helsinki from other Finnish destinations such as Oulu, Rovaniemi, Kuopio, Ivalo, and Kittilä.
We use the spacious A350 aircraft on most of the long-haul and some short-haul flights to Helsinki, particularly on routes from London and Asia. The planes have large windows, soothing LED lighting, high-resolution in-flight entertainment screens that guarantee entertainment for the entire flight and advanced air filtration that changes the cabin air every two to three minutes.
The flights to Helsinki arrive in Finland’s biggest airport, the Helsinki Airport (HEL). Getting to the city from the airport is possible by train, airport bus, taxi, or a rental car - whatever suits your needs the best. The train ride to the city centre takes about 30 minutes.
Book your cheap flights to Helsinki with Finnair and start planning your trip to the cosy yet captivating capital of the Nordic’s well-kept treasure Finland.
Did you know that
... Finland is considered one of the happiest countries in the world? If asked, Finns tend to owe an explanation for their happiness, so it's safest to go and see it for yourself!
... Helsinki has some of the cleanest tap water as well as air of all the big cities in the world?
... when 12 wallets were deliberately lost around Helsinki in an experiment, 11 were returned to their rightful owner? Helsinki is safe and welcoming.
... over 320 islands make up the Helsinki archipelago. You could plan a weekend getaway from the city for 6 years in a row before you would have visited them all.
... if you're still reading this then chances of you finding helpful and interesting tips from our Helsinki travel guide are high!
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