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Helsinki is best explored in small bites, at an easygoing pace. There isn’t a lot of flash and sizzle, but that’s part of the charm. As you tour, you’ll no doubt be drawn in by shops, cafés, and the city’s fascinating hodge-podge of architectural delights. Rest assured that, because of the city’s manageable scale, you’ll have plenty of time to stop and admire them all.

Things to do in Helsinki

Ateneum Art Museum

Though highlighting Finnish paintings and sculptures (look for Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s depiction of the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic), this notable museum also houses an international collection with 650 works by European masters.

Kaivokatu 2, 011-358-9-1733-6228,
Tags: art | things to do | culture | history | museum

Design Museum

Head to this Beaux-Arts building to learn the basics of Finnish design through the late 20th century. Finland’s signature form-follows-function sensibility, now established worldwide, was revolutionary in its time. Once you’re done, head out to explore the adjacent Design District.

Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 011-358-9-622-0540,
Tags: design | art | things to do | culture | history | museum


Steps from Senate Square and adjacent to the harbor, the main market square offers stalls with crafts, cutlery, fresh berries from the countryside, and more. For prepared takeout snacks, head next door to the Kauppahalli (Old Market Hall). The Herring Festival is held here in October.

near Senate Square,
Tags: things to do | culinary | market

Kiasma Museum

As notable for its avant-garde building (opened 1998) as for the works inside, this contemporary art museum is a popular meeting point and cultural center. Look for changing exhibitions of Finnish and international art, or catch a program in its theater.

Mannerheiminaukio 2, 011-358-9-1733-6501,
Tags: art | things to do | culture | museum

Senate Square

When Russia took control of Finland from Sweden and made it a grand duchy, the capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki, and government buildings were constructed around this grand plaza, often the site of municipal celebrations.

Senate Square,
Tags: things to do | architecture | history | free

Sumoenlinna Fortress

Originally constructed in 1748 under Swedish rule, this island makes an enriching excursion. Wander the sprawling ramparts, explore the old church, visit museums of toys, arms, and more, and stop at one of the many cafés for coffee and cake.

, 011-358-9-4132-3300,
Tags: things to do | culture | history | museum | free

Synebrichoff Art Museum

Finland’s most significant collection of works by old masters (mostly Italian, Flemish and Swedish) is housed in a former brewery. That’s fitting, since the collection was begun by a brewer and his actress wife, who encouraged their social set to make donations, a trend that still continues.

Bulevardi 40, 011-358-9-1733-6460,
Tags: art | things to do | culture | museum

Temppeliaukio Church

In the late '60s, architects (and brothers) Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen came up with the design for this quietly inspirational landmark, a bowl hewn from the bedrock of a hill just north of the town center and covered with skylights and a copper dome.

Lutherinkatu 3, 011-358-9-494-698
Tags: things to do | culture | architecture | free


The Lutheran Cathedral (1852) gleams like a white beacon over Senate Square. Though the decoration inside is minimal, its exterior often serves as backdrop for celebrations such as New Year’s.

Unionkatu 29, 011-358-9-709-2455
Tags: things to do | culture | architecture | free

Uspenski Cathedral

Sitting at the crossroads of Russia and Western Europe, it’s only natural that Helsinki has a Russian Orthodox cathedral topped with classic onion domes. Inside, look for the wall of icons.

Kanavakatu 1, 011-358-9-634-267
Tags: things to do | culture | architecture | free

Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall

This central municipal pool and sauna is one of the most beautiful anywhere, a classical 1928 edifice with curtained booths for privacy on the upper floor and a café for that all important post-sauna beer. Since swimming is clothing-optional, opening days are separated by gender – inquire before setting out.

Yrjönkatu 21b, 011-358-9-310-87401
Tags: swimming pool | things to do | architecture | history

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