Helsinki In One Day For Empty Pockets
Updated: Jan 15
Thanks to my job I have been able to plan and test the "perfect tour" of the wonderful city of Helsinki in the shortest time possible and including as many characteristic and interesting places as possible. So this as far as I'm concerned is the ultimate guide of places to visit in the Northern Capital when you only have one day to spare.
Small but significant note: due to the way the city is organised, this is an itinerary that you can easily do on foot if you want to walk and if you have the strength to do it, alternatively you can rent a bike / electric scooter; the daily rental of the bikes offered by the city is 5 euros, as regards the scooters you can easily find discounts offered by the companies that supply them. Basically, if you want to follow this tour to the letter, the only effective cost will be that of an AB zone ticket because our first stop is
This cute little island has been a military fort throughout its history for the various armies that have occupied Finland over the centuries. Now it is both an extremely popular tourist destination and an actual home for about 800 people, who reside in houses marked with a "private" sign, so you don't run the risk of ending up in the private garden of some island inhabitant.
How do you get to Suomenlinna? It's very simple: from the market square, or in the local language Kauppatori, there is a kind of bus stop from which the ferries actually pass and will take you to the island in 15 minutes. It is the only occasion in which you will be asked to pay something, the € 2.80 needed to buy the ticket for the AB zones, the rest of the itinerary is completely free.
Suomenlinna is visitable on foot within a couple of hours, just follow the blue colored signs that will take you through the most important points of the small fort. You can admire the military tunnels, the cannons and if you want to visit the two museums on the island which are not free. During your walk, just pay attention to the ground to avoid trampling and endless poop deposited by the barnacle gooses that inhabit the island, they will absolutely not bother you but it is not the greatest joy to step on what they leave behind.
Once you put your feet back on the ground, turn right and head towards the Ferris wheel that stands out for its height, in fact it is its pride that it is the highest point of view in the entire city. Great spot to take some nice pictures and then head to the next spot on our list.
It is an Orthodox cathedral, justified by the very high presence of Russian people in Finland, is positioned on top of a small hill, high enough to have a spectacular view over the city and also to the Lutheran cathedral in Senate Square which is our next goal. It is really beautiful outside but also inside. The entrance is free but you have to be very respectful of the faithfuls who are there for religious reasons, so keep a low tone of voice and do not take pictures with the flash. If you want to make a donation you can do it but only with electronic payment, which is something I love very much, and it applies to all the churches in Helsinki.
If you search “Helsinki" on Google Images, most of the results you will get are of this splendid all-white structure that rests on top of a huge staircase and presents itself to tourists in all its enormous magnificence. The angles from which you will get excellent photos are endless, even in this case the entrance is completely free but the door is not where the staircase is but to its left, for a design plan that did not include the square as the central point of arrival to the cathedral.
If you enter you will notice the minimalism that characterises it, this is because the faith to which it belongs - Lutheranism - does not consider the splendour of wonderful paintings and architecture as important as you could instead see in the Orthodox church or in the Catholic ones (if you have been there).
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF FINLAND
Leaving the cathedral, go straight in front of you where the national library is located. Admission is completely free and therefore deserves a little stop; do not expect anything breathtaking but it has its own reason, it is very good for taking a couple of special photos.
COVERED MARKET (VANHA KAUPPAHALLI)
Since it is probably lunch time, the next obligatory stop is extremely touristy but also very interesting and particular, it is none other than a market square enclosed within four walls, excellent if you come to the city during the cold period and precisely for a stop to eat something typical at a price in my opinion very in line with the rest of the city and not touristy.
This church, which is literally called old church, resides in a truly delightful park that deserves a visit even just for the it, which contains some tombstones engraved in the Swedish language used before the 19th century, long before Finland became one autonomous country. The church is open from Monday to Friday from 12 to 3pm, if you are not in with the times the park is still worth a visit.
THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE
This gigantic structure is the seat of the Finnish parliament, from the outside it is absolutely a masterpiece, normally you could book a free guided tour from the site, but due to Covid-19 in July 2022 the tours are still temporarily suspended. However, it is worth visiting from the outside and admiring the magnificence of this building inaugurated during the 1920s.
KAISANIEMI BOTANICAL GARDEN
A botanical garden, which is absolutely wonderful in my opinion, you have to go around a bit to enter but once inside you will realise that it was absolutely worth it. Theoretically you can also enter the greenhouse that houses plants from all over the world, it is always paid except on some exceptional days, you can find all the information here.
HELSINKI CENTRAL LIBRARY OODI
This is the last stop of our itinerary, I put it at the bottom of the list not because it is less important than the other places we have passed, but because it is a fantastic place to sit and relax, in fact on the first floor there is an area with steps designed especially for sitting and relaxing, there are power sockets and free WiFi. But obviously this jewel offers much more than a simple refreshment area, only to card holders unfortunately. There are very powerful computers to do graphic works, a tailoring area, three 3D printers, the Music Rehearsal Hall and even the rental of musical instruments. If you go up again there is the actual part of the library with also a small area for children and a balcony on which you can eat and enjoy the beautiful view. It is by far one of my favourite places in the city and I take all the tourists I am with there.
I hope this guide has been of help to you and that you have had the opportunity to discover a colourful and particular city like Helsinki.