Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is a hidden gem in the northern corner of Europe. Despite being a small city, Helsinki is packed with history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for any type of traveler. Helsinki offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition.
Helsinki’s city center is compact and easily walkable. Start your exploration at the iconic Senate Square, where you can see the impressive Helsinki Cathedral and the statue of Alexander II. From there, head to the bustling Market Square, where you can try some traditional Finnish foods, such as grilled salmon and reindeer meatballs.
Helsinki is known for its cutting-edge design scene, and the Design District is the perfect place to experience it. This area is full of design shops, galleries, and museums, as well as some of the city’s best cafes and restaurants. Make sure to stop by the Design Museum to learn about the history of Finnish design. While in the capital of Helsinki, our stay was spent at Hotel Katajanokka, an active prison from 1837 up until recently 2006. We toured the newly re-opened Helsinki City Museum, took a 20-minute ferry ride outside the city to the small island of Vallisaari, spent a moment meditating in the diligently designed Chapel of Silence and paid a visit to the Marimekko, Finland’s most prominent design house!
Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit attraction in Helsinki. This sea fortress was built in the 18th century and is located on a group of islands just off the coast of Helsinki. Explore the fortifications, tunnels, and museums, and take in the stunning views of the city from the fortress walls.
Saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture, and Helsinki has plenty of options for visitors to experience this relaxing tradition. You can visit a public sauna or book a private one to relax and unwind. One popular spot is Löyly, a modern sauna complex located on the waterfront. Other options include Kotiharju Sauna, which has been in operation since 1928.
Helsinki has a thriving nightlife scene, with plenty of bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. Head to the Kallio neighborhood for some of the best options, such as Siltanen and Kuudes Linja. For a more sophisticated night out, check out the rooftop bar at the Hotel Torni, which offers stunning views of the city!
The last two days in of the trip we took a train to Finland’s oldest city of Turku, a quaint town nestled along the Aura River. Turku Castle dates back to the late 13th century and it was amazing to get a peek into castle life throughout the centuries. Maybe I just wasn’t expecting much by the food or restaurant scene in Finland, but i was totally blown away by the level and quality of the food and service across the country. It’s true I never had a bad meal my entire trip. I tried reindeer for the first time at Nokka, soaked in the beautiful interiors at Bronda, enjoyed the spring-inspired asparagus menu at Kappeli, was floored by my astounding lunch at Olo, had too many courses to count at Juuri, and Smör.
- Restaurant Savotta: For a very traditional dinner with a view of Senate Square, book a reservation here. Their menu has traditional platings like game meat log to traditional stews. It’s a must dine at for a taste of Finland while in Helsinki.
- Yes Yes Yes: Great for a vegetarian option! A bustling bar & restaurant where food just happens to be vegetarian. … Yes Yes Yes is a restaurant with a vibrant atmosphere and seasonally changing menu!
- The Cock: The Cock is a reliable, all-day full-of-life neighborhood restaurant and bar where everyone feels welcome, even if you’re in town just for the night.
- Herkku at Stockman: For a more unique dining experience, head to Herkku at the Stockman Grocery store. It may seem strange to dine in a grocery store but it’s a high-end experience centered around a bar at the back of the restaurant. The salmon tartar was delicious and fresh.
- Sushibar + Wine – This is carbon-neutral sushi, handmade from fresh, certified, and sustainable ingredients. They also have some great organic wine and some friends for an enhanced experience.
- Nokka – Forest to table – Wild food & small farm cuisine North harbor, Helsinki. Lead by Ari Ruoho & Terhi Vitikka.
- Bronda – A modern, contemporary brasserie in Helsinki blending the best techniques, ingredients, and tastes from France, Italy and Spain.
- Kappeli Restaurant – Located at the eastern end of the Esplanadi park, opened in 1867. The restaurant was known as a local favorite among poets, writers, and artists during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Olo – Michellin-starred since 2011! T his fine dining venue presents innovative tasting menus & wine pairings amid understated decor. Great spot for a fine dining lunch!
Coffee & Bakeries:
- Kaffecentralen (multiple locations)
- Kaffa Roastery
- St. George Bakery
- Ekberg Cafe
- Visit a museum:
- Tour the Marimekko Fabric Factory
- Relax at Kaivopuisto Park
- Shop at the Central Market
- Visit the Kamppi Chapel (Chapel of Silence)
- Walk Around Senate Square
- See the Helsinki Cathedral
- Ride the SkyWheel Helsinki
- Take a tour of Alvar Aalto’s studio
- Take a boat To Suomenlinna
- Ferry ride to Vallisaari
In conclusion, Helsinki is a unique and fascinating city that offers a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in architecture, sauna culture, or just enjoying good food and drink, you’re sure to have a great time in this vibrant Finnish capital. So pack your bags and head to Helsinki for your next adventure!