Best Things to Do and Best Places to Visit in Helsinki (Finland)

Finland’s capital was founded in the 16th century but the city you see today really took shape in the 1800s. This was when the Russians laid out Helsinki along similar lines to St. Petersburg, with its broad streets and neoclassical mansions.


Board the ferry from Kauppatori and in a few minutes, you’ll be in one of the most amazing man-made places in Scandinavia, if not the world. Suomenlinna is a giant maritime fortress spread across seven islands. It was put up by the Swedes in the mid-1800s to defend their eastern territories, but Helsinki was overrun by the Russians at the start of the 19th century.

Helsinki Cathedral

The tall green dome of this landmark soars above the Helsinki cityscape, and from the water at night it seems to shine like a beacon. Whatever your reason for visiting Helsinki, this whitewashed neoclassical cathedral is one of the sights you need to check out. When it was built it in the mid-19th century was called St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, in honor of the Russian Tsar Nicholas I who was also Grand Duke of Finland.


Known to locals as “Espa”, this is a finger of green space right in the middle of the city, a place where tourists and Helsinki residents come to take picnics, relax and be entertained in summer. At this time of year, the space in front of Cafe Kappeli is the Espa Stage, an outdoor venue with an exciting schedule of shows and live music performances.

Temppeliaukio Church

Safe to say there aren’t many churches in the world quite like this one. Temppeliaukio was the result of a post-war design competition, won by Suomalainen Brothers and was inaugurated in 1969. The building is partly underground and has been hewn from the bedrock, which forms the interior walls. Around the central dome is a circular skylight, through which sunlight floods into the main chamber during the day.

Seurasaari Island

Taking up a whole island a few kilometres north of the city centre is an open-air museum that has put together a collection of typical Finnish buildings from around the country. The museum is open all summer and this is when trained guides are decked in traditional garb can tell you about life and work in rural Finland over the last 400 years.