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18 Things You’ve Got to do in Helsinki

If you’ve only got the day in Helsinki then make sure you do some of these things

Helsinki has to be one of the best kept secrets in the world. Tucked away between Estonia and Sweden, Helsinki often gets overlooked by its Scandinavian neighbours, but it really is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (shhhhh, don’t tell everyone!)

Helsinki is a city you can easily lose yourself in, walking quiet back streets from the city centre through quaint parks and onto golden sand beaches (yes, they really do have beaches in Helsinki!), and at times it can feel like you’re the only tourist in the city. Wherever you look in Helsinki, there’s this certain elegance, whether it be in the centuries-old statues dotted around the city to the new modern buildings paving the way for the future. Also, Helsinki is incredibly trendy with a number of cute little coffee shops and hipster cafes to spend an hour in and watch the world go by. It’s safe to say Helsinki still is a bit of a secret, but that’s what makes it so special.

I visited Helsinki for the first time last year, but I only had one day in the city. I woke up at the crack of dawn, caught the first ferry over from Estonia, arrived at 9am, and then spent the day walking around until I caught the late ferry back to Estonia. With only 12 hours in the city, I set myself the challenge of seeing as much as I could to get a feel for the place. I drank coffee in a café that doubled up as a shop selling hats, I ate sandwiches in the park watching the white fluffy clouds sail by overhead, and I walked everywhere. You’d be really surprised at how much you can squeeze into a single day here! So, if you’ve only got the day in Helsinki then make sure you do some of these things…

1. Stand at some crossroads and stare at the architecture

Buildings in Helsinki

2. Come across churches the seem to blend into the trees

Helsinki church

3. Walk inside and get a feel for the place

Hymn books, Helsinki

4. Marvel at Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki

5. Go down to the harbour and watch the boats come in


6. Find statues and ponder who they were in life

Statues in Helsinki

7. And then go and find statues in statues too

Modern statues in Helsinki

8. Take in the beauty of Helsinki from afar

Helsinki skyline

9. Buy yourself a little picnic and have lunch in the park

Parks in Helsinki

10. Question whether you’d be brave enough to eat at ‘Dinner in the Sky’

‘Dinner in the Sky’ Helsinki

11. Stand in the shadows of Helsinki Cathedral

18 Things You’ve Got to do in Helsinki

12. Sit on the steps at Helsinki Cathedral and look out before you

Steps at Helsinki Cathedral

13. Take a tram through the city centre

Tram in Helsinki

14. Appreciate the clean lines and design of Kiasma, the contemporary art museum

Kiasma, Helsinki

15. Discover the weirdest statues in the city

Kiasma statues

16. Stand in hidden archways and smile

View of Helsinki

17. Walk into Temppeliaukio Church and have your breath taken away

Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki

18. Spend an hour lazing on the beach, then have a ice cream

Helsinki beach

Usually, when I travel, if I can only get a small snapshot of a place, even if it’s only for 12 hours, then I do. I love getting a feel for a city or a country, but a day is never enough and I always try and go back to discover other things to see and do. That’s why, at the end of this month, I’m travelling back to Helsinki again, and this time for longer than a day!

I’m heading over to Helsinki for the #HelsinkiSecret Residence where I’ll get to explore all the city has to offer for six days, all with the help from a few locals too. I’m going to really try and live like a local while I’m there, hipster hat and all, to see if my initial snapshot of Helsinki was right, so make sure you follow me on my #HelsinkiSecret adventures!

About the Author

  • Macca Sherifi

    Macca Sherifi is the founder of the multiple award-winning blogs An Adventurous World and the Great British Bucket List. Every month he inspires over 200,000 avid readers to travel the world.