Dynamic and exciting, Helsinki is a sea town at heart, marked by bays, inlets and a smattering of islands. The capital has a friendly energy that combines a big-city vibe with small-town charm, bursting at the seams with natural beauty, welcoming people and tangible history.
Immerse yourself in the city’s history at the National Museum of Finland, which charts the country’s history from the prehistoric era to today. Interactive exhibits teach visitors about Finland’s archaeological, natural, cultural and ethnological history, providing a good foundation for understanding the spirit of Helsinki.
The city’s history comes alive at Suomenlinna, the great Baltic sea fortress built in the mid-1700s. Although many buildings and fortifications remain, the biggest draw of the site is its beautiful views and sprawling yards that are just perfect for an afternoon picnic.
During the spring and summer, locals crowd the city’s many green spaces to soak up the rare sun and breathe the fresh air. The University Botanical Gardens are particularly pedestrian-friendly, and the footpaths take visitors through a wonderfully sensory experience marked by water lilies, orchids, cacti and other exotic plants. The seaside park of Kaivopuisto is another great place to people-watch and take in the peaceful view of sailboats on the water.
Peaceful respite can also be found in the city’s churches, the most notable of which is the Temppeliaukio Church in the Rock. Literally blasted into solid rock in 1969, the underground church is a thrilling example of modern architecture at its best and most interesting. The church is barely visible from above, but the interior is positively dazzling. Natural light illuminates the space, making the copper wire ceiling glisten and glow. Visit during a free classical concert to experience some of the greatest acoustics in the world.
Visit during the warm months to take advantage of the Seurasaari Open Air Museum, located on a small island just north of Helsinki’s center. There, visitors can stroll down walking trails past authentic historic Finnish houses that have been imported from all over the country. Many of the houses are staffed with guides happy to explain and demonstrate traditional Finnish crafts, making the experience feel like stepping back in time.
Finland is home to over 180,000 lakes, and seafood is one of the highlights of any trip to Helsinki. The most popular options are smoked fishes, like salmon, Baltic herring, pike and perch, but more adventurous carnivores can also sample moose and reindeer meat and the capital’s many traditional restaurants. Locally grown produce is another feature of most menus, and the country’s cuisine balances healthy and delicious foods well.
Other Helsinki highlights include the Ateneum Art Museum, which houses the largest collection of fine art in Finland, and the Design Museum, which showcases the fascinating evolution of consumer goods over the last century. The quirky Museum of Cultures is also worth a visit for its sometimes bizarre exhibits focusing on cultures outside of Finland. The Heureka Science Center is another favorite due to its massive cinema and hands-on exhibits.
When it comes to nightlife, Helsinki is more about quality than quantity. There may be fewer clubs there than in other capitals, but those in Helsinki have a well-deserved international foothold due to their friendly atmosphere, world-class DJs and exciting party scene. The city center is the heart of Helsinki’s nightlife, and there you can find everything from luxurious lounges to pubs filled with locals and live music.
Helsinki Geographical Location
Helsinki is located on the southern coast facing the Gulf of Finland and is central to its eastern and western borders.
The population of Helsinki is 590,000 and is the largest city in Finland.
Finland’s two official languages are Finnish and Swedish although Finnish is spoken by most of the population.
Helsinki Predominant Religion
- 83% Lutheran Church of Finland
- 1% Orthodox Church
- 1% Other Christian
- 15% None
Finland guarantees freedom of religion with the new Freedom of Religion Act and allows parents to decide the denomination of their child if any at all.
The Euro is the official currency of Finland.
Helsinki experiences cool temperatures during the summer and the winter temperatures are cold, occasionally plunging into the negatives. Snowfall is also common during the winter months with light rain the rest of the year.
Helsinki Main Attractions
- Fortress of Suomenlinna
- Rock Church (Temppeliaukion Kirkko)
- Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko)
Other Attraction in Helsinki
- Vuosaari Paddling Center Day Tours
- Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
- Helsinki Zoo (Korkeasaari Elaintarha)