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Best Things to do in Helsinki

With so many things to do in Helsinki, it's easy to see why the Finish capital city is a popular European destination. As soon as the snow starts to melt and the sun shines for longer hours, Helsinki becomes a joyful place, a city which we very much loved. For us, Helsinki was about disconnecting from work for a bit and taking a week just for ourselves. We wanted to explore it hand in hand and get the chance to walk, eat and immerse in the cultural scene of the city.

In this guide, we will show you the top things to do in Helsinki, including where to eat, what to see and what to do.

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Things to do in Helsinki

If we were to pick our favourite thing about Helsinki, we absolutely have to say the Finnish sauna. We enjoyed it so much, we explored three different locations where we steamed and relaxed like never before. We found some similarities between some spas and saunas and the Japanese onsen. Another thing to do in Helsinki is to restaurant hop. Quite literally. We were surprised to find so many restaurants which were totally excited about preparing something vegan just for us. I'm not sure if you remember, but we travel vegan and sometimes it's difficult to find traditional restaurants which tailor for such strict dietary requirements. Luckily, at no point, we found any restaurant who didn't change the menu for us. This sure made our trip more exciting.

Best things to do in Helsinki

Allas Sea Pools

We already told you how much we enjoyed the outdoor pools but let us reiterate. At Allas Sea Pools you have a changing room with sauna and showers. After a sauna session, simply jump in the heated pools or, if you dare, in the pool filled with sea water. We didn't dare, as we found it cold enough to be outdoors after the sauna session. We recommend going during sunset so you can enjoy a myriad of colours.

It is open daily until 8 or 9 pm. You can read more here.

Address: Katajanokanlaituri 2a, 00160 Helsingfors, Finland

Allas Seas Helsinki

Finlandia Hall

Finlandia Hall is a congress and event venue. The building was designed by architect Alvar Aalto, and completed in 1971. We enjoyed the Nordic Magic Photography Exhibition by Finnish photographer Kirsi MacKenzie.

Address: Mannerheimintie 13e, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Market Square

The market square in Helsinki is one of the most popular tourist attractions. From Spring to Autumn you can find many vendors selling Finnish foods and souvenirs. During our time in Helsinki, we loved this spot for photography purposes.

Address: Eteläranta, 00170 Helsinki, Finland

Market Square Helsinki

Ateneum Helsinki

Of course, you have to come to Helsinki for its design, but what about its amazing art? In all honesty, we didn't expect the Ateneum to be our favourite art museum in the whole city. We spent hours walking around, enjoying all the beautiful paintings and sculptures. An absolute must if you love paintings and want to learn more about Finnish art.

Address: Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Lunch at Ateneum Bistro

Since you are already at the Ateneum, we say don't skip lunch. After spending a week in Helsinki, our favourite meal was indeed at the Ateneum. It was also the cheapest. We both enjoyed a pulled oats salad which was the best vegan discovery ever. If you love veg and want a great meal, this is the place for it.

Address: Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Sauna at Löyly

Löyly is a modern sauna, also referred to as an urban oasis. This sauna fascinated us the most. It has a large indoor restaurant with terrace, as well as saunas and access straight to the Baltic Sea. It also has a common room with a beautiful fireplace in the middle and a traditional smoke sauna. We were meant to enjoy the sauna, then jump in the Baltic Sea. During winter, the staff makes a hole in the ice so people can still enjoy a bath in the sea. However, as you appreciate, we totally skipped this part. We both tried but chickened out at the last second.

Address: Hernesaarenranta 4, 00150 Helsinki, Finland

Loyly Helsinki

Design Museum

Let us start by saying that we are both obsessed with industrial and graphic design. Mainly because we've been working in the industry for the past 5 years (or 10 in G's case). So naturally, we couldn't miss the Lorem Ipsum exhibition at the Design Museum. We loved it but found it surprisingly small. We could have easily enjoyed a never-ending Design Museum.

Address: Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Art Museum

The Helsinki Art Museum looks after over 9000 works of art. The art collection also belongs to the people of Helsinki can be found beyond the walls of the museum, in parks, centres and libraries. We visited at a time when the museum was preparing for a new exhibition but still very much enjoyed a large collection of photos and paintings.

Address: Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Reserve private spa time

If you are like us and want to spend some quality time as a couple, we recommend asking your accommodation to help you reserve a private sauna. We stayed in Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments which has a private sauna available to book. We loved it so much, we reserved it twice. We are not joking, it was the highlight of the trip. Who thought we will enjoy the sauna culture so much? You have to try it and tell us what you think.

Private Sauna Time

Sokos Helsinki

No trip to Helsinki is complete without a trip to a local department store. G had to work on a project during the day, so I decided to use that time to shop. I was so lucky to enjoy my shopping experience during the Spring sale, so I purchased an amazing array of Finnish products, including blueberry shampoos, a snow like a face cream and a couple of outfits. Moral of the story: visit Sokos, it will be fun.

Address: Mannerheimintie 9, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Eat at Latva

Wondering where to have an exquisite lunch in Helsinki? Head over to Latva, sit back and relax. Remember that Latva is a popular restaurant, hence reservations are encouraged. The normal menu didn't have any vegan options but we asked the staff if they can accommodate us. The chef was happy to prepare a three-course lunch meal which not only looked fantastic but tasted incredible as well.

Address: Pohjoinen Makasiinikatu 9, 00130 Helsinki, Finland

Latva Helsinki

Drink Lapponia Lakka

Lakka or Lakkalikööri is a liqueur produced in Finland. We tried the Cloudberry liquer and fell in love with the taste. So much so, that we then tried the Blueberry and the Cranberry ones. These liquers taste sweet but can be mixed with all sort of sour juices (like bluberry or cloudy apple juice) to balance the taste and enjoy an amazing cocktail.

Admire Helsinki from above

The first thing you will notice in Helsinki is that there aren't many skyscrapers around. There are just a handful of buildings which dominate the skyline and the Solo Sokos Hotel Torni is one of them. At the top of the hotel, there is a bar called Ateljee Bar which has two terraces with open views over the city. We recommend enjoying a wonderful sunset over Helsinki.

Address: Yrjönkatu 26, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki From Above

Have breakfast at Ekberg

For a lovely couple's brunch, head over to Ekberg and enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet. There are various salamis, jams, and cheeses, as well as coffees and teas. Sadly, there weren't many vegan options so we settled for locally baked bread with jam, and filter coffee with oat milk. Once you finish your brunch, head next door to the Ekberg bakery and get delicious macaroons and baked goods. We bought rosemary infused extra virgin olive oil and special salts for cooking.

Address: Bulevardi 9, 00120 Helsinki, Finland

Enjoy a smoothie bowl at Goodio

Want a bowl of goodies? Head over to Goodio and get vegan chocolate, delicious shakes and nourishing smoothie bowls. In fact, this was our first ever smoothie bowl we ever tried. The decor at Goodio is also excellent, with lots of green plants and exposed brick. A true joy, just minutes away from the Market Square.

Address: Kanavaranta 7, 00170 Helsinki, Finland

Smoothie Bowl Goodio

Have the best vegan tapas at Yes Yes Yes

Wait, did someone say vegan tapas? Yes, Yes, Yes! As in, that is the name of the restaurant. Yes, Yes, Yes gets very busy, so booking in advance is essential. We had cocktails and an array of great dishes made with love. The venue was intimate and colourful, loved the tailored service and the food. Overall, it's fair to say that our meal at Yes, Yes, Yes was the best dining experience during our week in Helsinki.

Helsinki Senate Square

The Senate Square in Helsinki is one of the oldest parts of the city. The Senate Square is a main tourist attraction in the city with various art happenings, ranging from concerts to great shows. In the square, you can enjoy Carl Ludvig Engel's architecture which is meant to be a unique allegory of political, religious, scientific and commercial powers in the centre of Helsinki, Finland.

Address: 00170 Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Square

Temppeliaukio Church

Temppeliaukio Church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. This church was built in a solid rock and it is used for concerts due to its excellent acoustics.

Address: Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Indulge in Finnish brands and products

There are so many amazing Finnish products and brands which we couldn't wait to try and buy. We arrived in Helsinki thinking it's going to be mild weather, but instead, we literally almost froze after 20 minutes of walking around the city. Luckily, we discovered the Makia Clothing parkas (life saviours), the Vai-ko hats and Nokian boots. Don't forget to eat lots of locally grown blueberries and try Finnish specialities which can be found at any supermarket.

Best Finish Products

Lunch at Juuri

Juuri is a Finnish restaurant which combines authentic flavours, passion and love for artisan products. Needless to say, that these guys had almost no vegan options on the menu, yet the chef was happy to accommodate our needs. We enjoyed a three-course lunch including the best dessert one could possibly ask for. It was a combination of sorbet with sweet syrups and true love.

Address: Korkeavuorenkatu 27, 00130 Helsinki, Finland

Nuuksio National Park

Leave the bustle of the city behind, and make your way to Nuuksio National Park for a day. We went there during the weekend and enjoyed a silent afternoon in nature. The lake was fully frozen and the trees were beautifully covered in snow. An absolute must during your trip to Helsinki.

Nuuksio National Park

Eat at Ravintola Lasipalatsi

Ok, you can tell we enjoyed a lot of food in Helsinki, but honestly, these guys really know how to cook. After my shopping spree in Sokos, I met G for lunch at Lasipalatsi, a nice restaurant with excellent food choices. Although vegan, our three-course meal was satisfying and delicious.

Address: Mannerheimintie 22-24, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Take the Tallink & Silja Line to visit Tallinn for a day

I promise to write a dedicated article about this, as we really enjoyed crossing the Baltic Sea from Helsinki to Tallinn. Make sure to book your tickets in advance and don't forget to check the business lounge which gives access to complimentary drinks and food for the whole duration of the cruise. We recommend taking the first ferry in the morning so you have the whole day dedicated to exploring a new city. How exciting that you can visit two major capitals in one go?

Frozen Baltic Sea

Practical Information

To get to Helsinki city from the airport, board the train I or P. The journey takes around 40 minutes. The trains are comfortable, fast and efficient. We recommend getting the Helsinki Travel Card which will cover all transport methods for the duration of your stay. Your card will cover the journey to and from the airport as well as the train and bus needed for Nuuksio National Park.

For accommodation, we recommend the Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments where we stayed for a whole week. We enjoyed the studio, but if you need more space or are travelling with your family, you can get bigger apartments to suit your needs.

Helsinki is relatively cold all year round. Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately. We recommend waterproofs, a hat and fluffy scarves.

There are plenty of sections in the supermarket which sell products suitable for all dietary requirements. In our case, we found plenty of vegan options which we could use to cook in our own apartment.

Finish products Amazing Lip Balm

Helsinki is an expensive city, so make sure you make a list of all the things to do in Helsinki, calculate the money you need and budget accordingly.

Make sure you have lip balm and moisturising face cream with you. The weather can be a little harsh, so it's best to keep your skin hydrated.

We covered the cost of our own insurance. We used World Nomads for our travel insurance, which we strongly recommend.

This post is brought to you by My Helsinki, who hosted us in full on this trip and covered most of our expenses including round-trip flights from Budapest to Helsinki with Finnair, accommodation in Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments and most meals. We paid for some of our meals, shopping, drinks, staff gratuities, incidentals and some gear. All reviews are transparent and honest and all opinions are our own.

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What did you think?

Did you like this article? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.

Responses

L
15 Apr 2018

I'm so glad you enjoyed visiting Helsinki! It's always amazing to hear people say good things about Finnish culture such as using the sauna or Finnish art & design. It's also great that you found Helsinki restaurants accommodating for vegan choices. I agree that pulled oats are one of the most awesome vegan proteins ever!

L
23 Apr 2018

I've already commented on here once, so hello again! I wanted to let you know that I linked to your article in my latest one on Helsinki Side Quest: http://www.helsinkisidequest.com/five-helsinki-articles-from-the-travel-... Keep up the awesome blogging! :)

C
23 Apr 2018

Thank you so much, Linda! Much appreciated x

J
Jenni
31 Aug 2018

Hi!

As a Finn I really enjoyed the post! I would probably recommend the same places to visit as you did. I had not previously heard about Yes, Yes, Yes. Have to visit there the next time I go to Helsinki. Only thing I would change in the post would be the incorrect spelling of 'Finnish'. :) I hope you visit again!

C
07 Sep 2018

Hi Jenni,

Thank you for your message. I am sure you are going to love Yes Yes Yes. We just amended the text, thank you for pointing that out. We love Finland and Helsinki was a dream. We hope to visit again, soon.

Kind Regards,

Cory