The lively capital of Finland with beautiful offshore islands and spacious green parks delights with a unique way of life, a dynamic food scene, impressive design, varied architecture - and a wide range of saunas. During a longer stay in Helsinki, it's also worth exploring Espoo and Vantaa, the historic town of Porvoo, the Järvenpää-Tuusula region - famous for its artistic tradition - and the ironworks villages west of the capital.
As Finland's largest city, Helsinki and its metropolitan region have a population of around 1.4 million and can be reached easily and non-stop by plane from Switzerland in just over 2 hours. You don't want to fly? No problem, from Estonia (combine with a visit to Tallinn) and Sweden, and even from Germany, Helsinki is easily accessible by Baltic Sea ferry. In fact, the sea is one of the city's most defining features. Helsinki's archipelago consists of over 300 beautiful islands. The rhythm of the city is relaxed, the public transport network is one of the best in the world and has a metro line worth seeing. The city is also great to explore on foot and by bike. So it makes perfect sense to look for accommodation in an ideal location in the center of Helsinki. My tip: Hotel F6, which even offers its guests free bike and Vespa rental!
Once you've checked in and grabbed your bike, you're ready to go. Always along the sea. Stop where you please. Helsinki is leisurely, not hectic. Especially when the sun shows itself. In summer, it shines from the sky until shortly before 11 pm! Buy an ice cream, a cooling soft drink and pay a visit to the various neighborhoods.
Helsinki's Senate Square is often the first stop for visitors to Helsinki. Here in the Kruununhaka district, the real center of the city, people meet for open airs or a leisurely coffee. Did you know that the Finns have the highest coffee consumption in the world. 1 liter of coffee is drunk by Mr. and Mrs. Finland a day.
There is even a specialty coffee guide that lists all the cozy places where you can sit down and enjoy a good cup of coffee - like Mood Coffee Roastery in Ullanlinna, Andante serves coffee and cake in a flower store or the nice Kahvila Siili, a summer café in Helsinki's historic Käpylä district.
Helsinki's most important sight and landmark is also located on Senate Square: the bright-white Cathedral Church, which can be seen from afar and which you can almost have to yourself only in the early morning. A popular meeting place is the stairs up to the cathedral church. Be sure to take a look inside the Lutheran church, which is hard to beat for simplicity: there are only a few rows of wooden benches and a small golden altar.
Not far from the Cathedral Church, in the Katajanokka neighborhood, you will find not only the Allas Sea Pools, the Uspenski Cathedral and the SkyWheel Ferris wheel, but also many restaurants and bars! Even Kimi Raikkonen runs a karaoke bar here. The orthodox Uspenski Cathedral is perched on a small hill right next to the city center and the harbor. From here you have a great view of the city.
The port of the city is a tourist magnet par excellence. There is a lot of activity here on summer days. Especially when cruise ships "flood" Helsinki. In the harbor is not only the old market hall, also the boats to the nearby islands as well as the ferry to Talinn or Rostock depart here. Especially recommended on warm summer days: the Allas Sea Pools. Two of the pools are heated freshwater pools, the third is a saltwater pool. Of course, there are no saunas missing here either! Around the harbor basin you will find bars, terraces and restaurants and not to be overlooked the SkyWheel. How could it not be more typical for Finland, a gondola was recently converted into a sauna. Taking a sauna above the rooftops of Helsinki, unique or!?
Helsinki's sights are endless. For example, the Olympic Stadium, which served as the venue for the 15th Summer Olympics in 1952, beckons. Or visit the two-story wooden house Kappeli, which was built in 1867 and is thus the oldest house in the city. Here you eat very tasty but also not quite cheap. Also worth a visit is Temppeliaukio Church, a church built into a granite rock. The atmosphere is impressive, the building as well.
If you like shopping, I recommend the hipster district of Kallio. Here you will find numerous fashion boutiques, galleries and small bars. Especially young designers have settled here. On this occasion you can buy (still) unknown Finnish design - often they are even unique pieces. The neighborhood is also home to the much acclaimed Design Museum, where Finnish design icons exhibit.
When the sun is shining, a visit to Helsinki's "Suomenlinna" is worthwhile. The former fortress island lies just a few minutes by ferry from Helsinki and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Suomenlinna served as a defensive fortress for Sweden, Russia and later Finland. Today, a number of attractions await you here: the Suomenlinna Museum, the Ehrensvärd Museum, a submarine called Vesikko and a toy museum. The fortress island can also be combined with a stop on the small neighboring island of Lonna, ideal for a lunch break or to relax. There is of course a sauna here as well, which is very popular with the locals. If you have a whole extra day, I can recommend the "Island Hopping" ticket, which not only gets you to Lonna, but also lets you visit Suomenlinna as well as Vallisaari.
And another tip: If you always wanted to see an icebreaker up close? In Helsinki you can admire the complete Finnish fleet of icebreakers. On the Katajanokka peninsula, they are moored in the naval harbor during the summer.
Especially beautiful in the Finnish summer evenings: rent a canoe or SUP in Töölö Bay and enjoy Helsinki from the water. Simply wonderful! And later, stop at Café Regatta. Here you can grill your own Finnish makkara (cervelat sausage) over the fire. Nauti ateriastasi!
How you get there:
nonstop with SWISS
How long to go:
Weekend - can be easily combined with a visit to Tallinn
Best time to travel:
All year round
Cathedral, harbor area, Suomenlinna Fortress, Rock Church, Skysauna.