Finland – the ultimate Nordic destination famous for its lakes, amazing landscapes, heavy metal and most importantly, the Northern Lights. Finns, the happiest nation in the world will give you a friendly welcome if you find yourself in ‘the White City of the North’ – Helsinki. A day probably won’t be enough to completely experience one of the most attractive cities of the North, so here is a little guide to help you get the most out of those 24 hours.
08:00 – It is a fact that Finns are the number one coffee drinkers in the world, so follow their example and head to one of the cafés, coffee shops or roasters around Helsinki. Café Regatta, located in a quaint red cottage on the waterfront, is famous for their coffee, fresh cinnamon buns, blueberry pie and other delicacies. For a classier experience visit the Strindberg Café located near the city centre. If your stomach is growling more than usually check out the Ekberg Café, Finland’s oldest café and bakery. Try their ‘buffet-type’ breakfasts that include various meat and cheese delicacies, vegetable dishes and great pies.
09:00 – You can’t come to Helsinki and miss the Fortress of Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most historically important places in all of Finland. It is situated on a group of islands near Helsinki. Catch the ferry at the Market Square, the most famous market in Finland, but only after you have bought some nice souvenirs. The fortress itself is a sight to see, but if you grow tired of the old stone walls there are also six different museums that you can visit, such as the Military Museum or the Toy Museum. Should you grow tired of exploring visit the Viaporin Deli & Café, a great place for brunch!
11:00 – After you take the ferry back to the mainland it would be a great idea to buy the one-day ticket (9€) for metro to make your visit easier. Apparently, the best things in Helsinki are free, well, at least the Museums are free at certain times on certain weekdays. Discover the history the city in the Helsinki City Museum where the entry is always free. Can’t get enough of that Finnish culture? Then visit the National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo) where you can learn about Finnish history from the stone age to the present day. If you are interested in contemporary art visit Kiasma museum, one of the leading museums of contemporary art in the Nordic region. The great thing is that all of these museums are all within a walking distance from the Market Square.
12:30 – The local cuisine is a fusion of Eastern and Western traditions with lots of seafood and game dishes. Finnish classics are creamy salmon soup, cabbage rolls, reindeer tartar, and their beloved wholegrain rye bread. The most famous restaurant in Helsinki, Löyly, is an architectural marvel that sits on the waterfront. Whether you choose to eat inside the amazing wooden structure or enjoy the air at one of the terraces you can’t go wrong. For a great traditional Lappish meal visit the Lappi restaurant and try some of their delicious cheese, roasted venison, or fried whitefish – the restaurant’s speciality. Restaurant Nokka will offer you farm ingredients prepared on in a modern Finnish style. After your meal try out one of Finnish customs, coffee and cake, or as they call it, kakkukahvi.
14:00 – Finns love their coffee, and they also love their sauna, and how could you visit Finland and not experience the magic of an authentic Finnish sauna? The urban oasis Löyly also offers a luxury sauna experience. If you want a more authentic experience visit the Kaurilan Sauna where you can enjoy a genuine wood heated sauna located in a 19th century sauna building. But, the most adventurous way to try the sauna is to go on the Helsinki Skywheel. In one of its sky saunas you can enjoy this Finnish custom and the view of the city at the same time.
15:00 – Time to explore the oldest and the main point of interest in the city. On the Helsinki Senate Square you can find some of the most important landmarks such as the Statue of Alexander II or the neoclassical Helsinki Cathedral. The Governmental palace overlooks the Square, it is closed to the public, but you can always admire its Neoclassical exterior. Near the square you can also see the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, its red bricks, multiple towers, spires topped by golden cupolas and the equally impressive interior make it an eye-catching attraction.
16:30 – You still have some time left to take a walk in ‘the green heart of Helsinki’, the Esplanadi park, located south of the State Square. Here you can enjoy the beautiful scenery, admire a couple of bronze statues or even go for a meal at the Kapelli restaurant. Across the Kapelli is the Espa stage where the longest music festival in Finland takes place each year from May to August. On both sides of the stage are pools with two beautiful bronze sculptures, Water Nymphs and Hey There. East from the park there is another beautiful sight – the Havis Amanda statue.
17:30 – In front of the Market Square is the Old Market Hall, the oldest indoor market in all of Finland and one of the main attractions of Helsinki. Here over 20 shops and cafes are serving tasty dairy, drinks, bread, meat and many other local and international food products, so why not try them out? If you’re in the mood for shopping head southwest to the Design District and try to get your hands on some of that modern Finnish design!
18:30 – A 25-minute drive from the Senate Square is the Sibelius Park, here you can see one of the most famous monuments in Helsinki – the Sibelius Monument. This abstract art sparked a lot of controversy when it first was unveiled, but it still is a sight to behold, especially during the night. Another sight you should not miss is carved directly into the solid rock of the Helsinki peninsula – the Temppeliaukio Rock Church. The Church is also used as a concert hall due to its excellent acoustics.
20:00 – Hungry again? Well, if it’s authentic Finnish cuisine you’re after try Zetor, advertised as a 110% Finnish restaurant. With its real Finnish food and a lovely nostalgic atmosphere Savotta restaurant attracts many tourists and locals. If you are more into elegant but relaxed vibe head to the Roster restaurant where you can enjoy high quality food and superb service.
21:00 – Time for a night out. In Helsinki there are many different nightclubs, bar and pubs, so even you can find something to enjoy. Who doesn’t like karaoke? The Wallis Karaoke Bar is the most popular place at the moment and it’s open 7 days a week. For some great cocktails go to the Liberty or Death, while beer lovers should visit BrewDog Helsinki and try some local beers like Karhu or Lapin Kulta. Steam bar attracts many with its great gin and steampunk atmosphere. Every metalhead visiting the Capital of Heavy Metal should pay a visit to the Riff for some headbanging. Some of the best places for clubbers are Kaarle XII (the oldest nightclub in the city), Club Helsinki or Club Capital with its largest dance floor in all of Helsinki.
If you are in the city between September and March, you might even catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights. The best place to enjoy this spectacle in Helsinki is the Observatory Hill.