Helsinki is a lovely city with enough attractions to keep you busy for weeks. With such a buffet of choices, how do you pick the best out of all? Taste Helsinki, See Helsinki, Experience Helsinki and Feel Helsinki – these are the four categories to filter out the best spots I have personally experienced. The following are the very best spots from MyHelsinki List. Read about what I was in Helsinki for here.
The Best Spots – Feel Helsinki
There’s no better way to feel Helsinki than being in it and traveling around like a local. Public transportation allows you to see people from all walks of life and you see the diversity very clearly at the Central Railway Station. The good thing about the transportation in Helsinki is that they can be accessed with the same Travel Card or Helsinki Card. The travel card is also good for the public Suomenlinna ferry which gets you to Soumenlinna fortress. There are four main options and they are rail, metro, bus and tram. The rail gets you to and fro the airport, basically to outer Helsinki and beyond. Metro and buses function similarly and have different routes so it depends on where you want to go. Taking the tram is a good way to experience the heart of Helsinki because they have specific routes which run through the city and it’s a fun way to see the sights. The Journey Planner is a good way to find out how to travel from point A to point B in Helsinki.
Another fantastic way to travel will be to cycle! Firstly you save time walking to the transportation stop or station, the waiting time and then walking time again to your destination after alighting. On a bike, you get to experience the great vibes on the streets, people-watch and be a part of the happenings – stuff that you may not get to see whilst you are underground on the metro. It gets you to your destination faster, especially if you are moving around the city center. Furthermore, there are bike lanes on most roads to ease your route accessibility. You can choose to rent a bicycle or join one of the bike-sharing schemes available around the city. We are blessed with the pretty Pelago Bikes provided by MyHelsinkiResidence and we took full advantage of it!
Bike sharing was launched in 2016 and you see tourists and locals using them often
The Best Spots – See Helsinki
- Market Square is one of Helsinki’s most famous markets for some street food and other products such as souvenirs and handicrafts. Drop by early in the day because they close by evening time (at least in autumn). The Ferry Terminal is also here if you are heading to nearby islands such as Suomenlinna.
- Suomenlinna Sea Fortress (18th century fortress) is a Unesco World Heritage Site and I highly recommend to visit this. You can easily spend a few hours to a day here knowing about the history of Finland the gorgeous walking paths. ‘Open prison’ runs here and inmates work on this island which is frequented by tourists all year round. There is also the Suomenlinna church in which its tower serves as a lighthouse for air and sea traffic. The island can be reached by public ferries at the Market Square and runs throughout the year.
Cafe Silo on Suomenlinna (right picture)
- Temppeliaukio Rock Church is literally built into a rock and it is just a splendid creation in the heart of Helsinki. The normal entrance fee is EUR 3. The tickets can be bought inside the church with most credit cards and cash. The tickets can also be bought from the cafe during June, July and August. Some of the souvenir shops in the area also sell the tickets. With an advance ticket from the cafe or somewhere else you don’t have to queue in the ordinary ticket line and thus will have a quicker access to the church.
- Amos Rex is one of the newest addition of art venues in Helsinki that has been recently gaining popularity internationally. We visited teamLab’s exhibit and were mind-blown by the creative works featured there.
- Kaivopuisto Park is one of my favourite areas to cycle to catch the sunset. There is a point of interest, also the highest point of the park which is the old Ursa observatory. From there, you have the option of looking out into the beautifully clear autumn-y skies for a small fee. Being one of Helsinki’s oldest and most well-loved parks, it is simply a must-go to see and experience Helsinki like a local. Or you can simply go just to have your lunch by the cafes and restaurants whilst people-watching.
The Best Spots – Taste Helsinki
- Helsinki Distilling Co produces one of the best gin and spirits in Finland or maybe the world. Sign up for their open tours every Friday and Saturday which gives you a detailed introduction to their distilling process and production. You can’t leave without going for the tasting session after!
- Ultima is the place to go to for an authentic Finnish flavour. It is founded by two of Finland’s top chefs, Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen, who wanted to test how effectively a circular economy can work in a restaurant in an Arctic country. They combine top Finnish food tech and most importantly, their ability to prepare delicious food sustainably to produce a flavour explosion in your mouth. We love how more than 90% of the ingredients are directly sourced from local farms within Finland and the menu we tasted was just simply sensational!
Top notch chefs Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen were both in the kitchen!
- Green Hippo Cafe is one of the hippest joints serving all-day brunch on Sunday. It’s not just a brunch cafe, but one with very healthy selections. There is an outdoor and indoor seating area and is super instagram-worthy! Personally, I have not tried the non-brunch menu. But with such fantastic brunch, I bet it is equally as delicious.
- Hoku is a Hawaiian-Japanese restaurant located in Kamppi centre which is in the heart of Helsinki. If you are looking for something Asian or a fusion of East and West, this is the best spot to go to. And on the top of my list is Salmon Teriyaki with rice – best tasting Teriyaki dish ever! Here’s a tip top for this restaurant: go for any of the mains in the menu during lunch and they will be EUR10 cheaper than it is for dinner. You are welcome.
The Best Spots – Experience Helsinki
There can never be a better place to experience the naked Finnish sauna culture other than the capital Helsinki itself! Read about my post on being naked in Finland.
- Allas Sea Pool is a good place to relax around the harbour area, they have both the heated pool and the open-sea pool. There is also another shallow pool for dipping which is mainly for children. The saunas, both single gendered and mix gendered are on-site and included with the entrance fee. There is also an outdoor gym for a good work-out whenever you want. The main catch here is the heated swimming pools with the views of the harbour, perfect for sunset!
- Löyly has a different concept from Allas Sea Pool though they are both Finnish saunas. There is a lovely restaurant on site which serves a nice menu. Great place to watch the sunset or to have a drink after the sauna session. The attraction here is the platform leading out to the Baltic sea which you can jump in for a cool dip after your sauna session. As a whole, the design of Löyly is unique and is in the Worlds 100 Greatest Places-List by Time Magazine. My best advice is to book in advance because it gets crowded towards evening and they restrict the amount of people inside at any point of time. Personally, I waited an hour just to get in!
Do you dare to take the dip of faith into the icy water?
The top part of the photo with 2 stairs is where you take the Baltic dip! (Photo credit: Joel Pallaskorpi, My Helsinki)
Did I miss out any spots that you think should be included? Come share your thoughts!