Explore Helsinki in 1 Day
Helsinki, Finland is a city that is a mix of old and new buildings with a unique brand of Finnish architecture and design thrown in. While it is certainly possible to spend several days thoroughly exploring Finland’s capital, for those visitors whose time might be limited, it is certainly possible to see all of the main sites in one day and leave feeling satisfied.
Helsinki Cathedral is probably the country’s most famous landmark, and it is impossible to miss during a visit to Helsinki. The cathedral, which dates from the mid-19th century, is the head church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and is located in Senate Square, which is just a stone’s throw from Market Square. The area of Senate Square is also a great place to relax and do some people watching while sitting on the steps leading up to the church.
For those who are interested, it is possible to see the interior, which is extremely spartan and minimalist. It is even possible to attend the church for religious services since the building is still used for religious functions along with weddings.
Uspenski Cathedral is the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland and dates from the mid-19th century. The cathedral is located not far and within very easy walking distance (10 minutes at a leisurely pace) from Helsinki Cathedral on a hilltop that overlooks the city.
The church is free to enter and is certainly worth seeing the interior of since it serves as a stark contrast to the extremely spartan interior of Helsinki Cathedral. However, while it is permitted to take pictures inside, it is not permitted to use flash.
Suomenlinna is a large sea fortress that dates from the 18th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an absolute must-see site while in Helsinki. In fact, a visit to Suomenlinna can actually be a day trip in itself since there are many things to see, and it is impossible to see everything thoroughly in one day. Because my time in Helsinki was very limited, I decided to make a stop at Suomenlinna and still see Helsinki in the same day. As a result, I had to somewhat rush through the area, but if this is done as a day trip, a visitor will have more than enough time to check out everything that the sea fortress has to offer.
Suomenlinna is a fascinating place to visit since it still has a resident population of about 800 people that live and work there. The sea fortress also has several museums, such as the Suomenlinna Museum, Military Museum, Toy Museum, and Ehrensvard Museum, which is dedicated to Augustin Ehrensvard, who was the first commandant of the fortress, and the Customs Museum.
Getting to Suomenlinna from Helsinki is very easy. The sea fortress is accessible only by ferries. The ferries depart from Market Square, and the price of a roundtrip journey is only 5 euros. The ride is quite pleasant and takes around 20 minutes. Upon arrival, the Suomenlinna Visitor Center is very close to the dock along with a shop to buy food and drinks, so a visitor will not have to worry about going hungry since there are also numerous cafes on the island as well.
National Museum of Finland
I absolutely love visiting museums when I travel, so this place was definitely on my list of must-sees while in Helsinki. The National Museum of Finland is a wonderful place to spend a couple hours in the afternoon, especially if the weather is not so good. The general price of admission is 12 euros and is definitely worth the price if you are interested in history since it is a great place to learn about the story of Finland.
The Museum’s collection documents the history of Finland from the Stone Age to the present. For me, the most interesting part was the reconstruction of the drawing room from Jakkarila Manor (picture). I was certainly not expecting to see something like this since it looked more like something from eighteenth-century France or Central Europe.
This is a famous and well-known church in Helsinki that is also known as “the Rock Church” because it is built directly into solid rock. The interior of the church is lit by natural light by means of a copper dome. The church is located fairly close to the National Museum of Finland, so it is a great place to visit after checking out the museums. Of all the places on this list, I only personally saw the church from the exterior since by the time I arrived, it was about to close. However, I would definitely recommend paying a visit and stopping inside if you have the chance.
While there are many more sites to see in Helsinki along with a plethora of interesting museums, such as the Design Museum, the Helsinki City Museum, and the Ateneum, which is very close to Helsinki Central Station, for the visitor who only has a limited amount of time in Finland’s capital, these are some very easy must-see sites that should not be missed.
What else should a visitor to Helsinki check out? I’d love to hear from you!