Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital, sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland.
Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital, sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. Its central avenue, Mannerheimintie, is flanked by institutions including the National Museum, tracing Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present. Also on Mannerheimintie are the imposing Parliament House and Kiasma, a contemporary art museum. Ornate red-brick Uspenski Cathedral overlooks a harbor.
10:00am-1:00pm : Aurinkolahti Beach
Located in a fast-growing neighborhood in East Helsinki, Aurinkolahti Beach features a long stretch of golden sand with lovely views of the sea. Though this is a swimming beach with showers, restrooms, and other standard facilities, travelers not used to low water temperatures may prefer strolling along the shore or visiting some of the neighboring shops and restaurants. During the summer, you can rent a boat and tour one of the nearby islets.
1:30pm-4:00pm : Korkeasaaren Elaintarha
Since it was established in 1889, Korkeasaaren Elaintarha has attracted tourists and animal lovers for more than a century. The zoo's rocky island location attracts as much awe as the animals here; in fact, the island was a national park and used for fishing in 1569 until the establishment of the zoo in the 19th century. Discover this quiet spot removed from the city center where you can view over 150 animal species and 1,000 types of plants. Walk through the site's popular cat valley and get to know the exotic creatures at one of Europe's oldest zoos.
4:30pm-6:00pm : Sea Fortress Suomenlinna
Visit World Heritage Site Sea Fortress Suomenlinna to see a sea fortress built on a collection of six islands. This ruggedly beautiful spot is a favorite among both locals and tourists. The fortress was built in 1748 and inhabited by Swedes and Russians until 1918, when it became a part of independent Finland. View the impressive fortified structure, constructed by the Swedish crown to withstand attacks from 18th-century Russia (who eventually overtook the islands in 1808). Nowadays the site supports a town with civilian inhabitants and draws visitors from the mainland of Finland.
10:00am-11:00am : Helsinki Cathedral
A product of Russian expansionism in the region, Helsinki Cathedral was built by architect Carl Ludvig Engel as the pinnacle of the city's Senate Square. The cathedral was constructed between 1830 and 1852 in the neoclassical style as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. After Finland gained independence in 1917, it became a Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral. Take in views of the structure's distinctive green domes and white pillars and walk through the church to appreciate its Greek cross layout. Over 350,000 tourists visit this cathedral every year.
11:30am-12:30pm : Senate Square
The Helsinki Cathedral, Government Palace, National Library of Finland, and main University of Helsinki building surround Senate Square and make up a collective vision of neoclassical design. This historical square boasts the architectural influence of Carl Ludvig Engel and is home to the oldest building in the city center, Sederholm House, built in 1757. Stroll the square to view these stately structures, stopping to take a seat on the cathedral's stairs and to examine the statue of Alexander II, a monument of Russian expansionism in Finland. The square hosts many events, including concerts and art exhibits.
1:00pm-4:00pm : Hietaranta Beach
Hietaranta Beach is a favorite summer getaway close to the city center. A landfill at the beginning of the 20th century, today the beach features a shallow and safe swimming area, as well as beach volleyball and basketball courts--nearby you'll find a tennis center and a miniature golf course. Refreshments are available at a cafe with a terrace overlooking the sea.
4:30pm-5:30pm : Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum
Discover Finnish folk traditions and architecture at the interactive Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum, an open-air museum with 85 buildings. Head to the forested island location to view traditional Finnish wooden homes from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Karuna Church, built in 1686. You'll experience the different regions and visual cultures of Finland through these structures, which have been transported to the site since its establishment in 1909. Take a tour from a guide in traditional costume and learn about the lives of crofters, peasants, and other Finnish groups over the past few centuries.
11:30am-4:30pm : Valkmusa National Park
10:30am-5:30pm : Nuuksio National Park
Explore Finnish wilderness on a day trip from Helsinki at Nuuksio National Park. Verdant forests and shimmering blue lakes are easily accessed thanks to the network of well-groomed and marked trails. Apart from hiking, cycling, and kayaking, visitors can enjoy picking berries and mushrooms, swimming and horse riding. During the warmer months, adventurous types can pack their backpacks for a memorable campout. Note that the large campsites within the park boundaries are free and equipped with fire pits where you can cook on an open fire. Amenities include rental huts, dry toilets, and saunas, and some areas are also wheelchair accessible.
11:30am-12:00pm : Kyminlinna Fortress
12:30pm-3:00pm : Lehman
5:00pm-6:00pm : Uspenskin Cathedral (Uspenskin Katedraali)
The largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe, Uspenskin Cathedral (Uspenskin Katedraali) stands as a symbol of Russian influence in Finland's history. Designed by architect Aleksey Gornostayev during Russian rule of the region in the 19th century, this Eastern Orthodox church was completed in 1868. Visit the popular Helsinki landmark, note its traditional Russian design, and then enjoy the view of the city from this scenic hilltop. Take time to inspect the structure's ornate interior, domed ceilings, and crypt chapel, as well as several historically and artistically important icons, including St. Nicolas the Wonder Maker and Theotokos of Kozeltshan.
10:00am-11:00am : Temppeliaukio Church
Known for its striking copper dome, Temppeliaukio Church has been carved from rock in the heart of the city. Designed by siblings Tim and Tuomo Suomalainen and finished in 1969, this distinctive Lutheran church is directly excavated into rock. Explore the church's interior, which consists of rock and marble walls, with the shining copper dome supported by concrete beams at the top of the structure. Note the light shining in through the skylight on what is commonly called the Church of Rock. Take time to listen to the acoustics, made possible by the church's exposed walls.
11:30am-2:00pm : Pihlajasaari Recreational Park
At Pihlajasaari Recreational Park you can swim at sandy beaches or jog and hike through wooded areas. This island was once a villa resort with small cottages scattered throughout its forests and seafronts. Today the 26 hectare (64 acre) site attracts sun worshipers and active vacationers from all over the country. Visit the beach by boat and spend a day surrounded by diverse wildlife and colorful cottages, or swim in the clear sea. You can also camp at a designated area. If you're hungry, visit the restaurant inside a 19th-century wooden villa for some smoked Finnish salmon.
2:30pm-5:00pm : The Esplanadi Park
Enjoy green space in the heart of the city at The Esplanadi Park, a historical park and walking area originally opened in 1812. The park is known for hosting a number of outdoor events, including the Marimekko Fashion Show and Jazz-Espa concert series. You'll find plenty of high-end shops, restaurants, and bars lining nearby streets.
5:30pm-6:00pm : Kamppi Chapel of Silence
Savor a moment of quiet reflection or prayer inside the contemporary Kamppi Chapel of Silence. While it seems to contradict its surroundings, this site is nicknamed the "Chapel of Silence." Built on one of the busiest streets in Helsinki, the chapel provides a calming atmosphere inside a tranquil space positioned in an otherwise hectic area. Step inside the chapel, which welcomes people of all faiths. Examine the contemporary architecture, designed as a part of the World Design Capital program of 2012 by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola, and Mikko Summanen.
10:00am-6:00pm : Linnanmaki Amusement Park
Experience over 40 rides at Linnanmaki Amusement Park, including the retro wooden roller coaster that has become a symbol of the attraction. This non-profit theme park opened in 1950 and now draws more than one million visitors every year. Located near the center of the city, the park is easy to access. Bring the whole family to experience thrill rides, water rides, arcade games, carnival stalls, and the park's oldest feature, a vintage carousel built in 1896. You can even take your little ones on one of the many kiddie rides.