Finland as a Northern European country is definitely one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe. And when visiting Finland you surely can’t miss its capital Helsinki!
Finland makes me think of saunas, lots of snow and cozy wood fires, plus has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture as well!
But I probably shouldn’t convince you anymore, you’re here because you want to visit Helsinki in 1 day!
I’ve been to Helsinki myself and even though you can spend multiple days in the city, I’ll list the most important things you should have seen or done if you’re only going to spend one day in Helsinki!
Let’s dive into it!
Top tip: at the end of this post I’ve included a handy map with all the locations I talk about for you to make planning your trip much easier!
Top activities for Helsinki in 1 day
Visit Senate Square & Helsinki Cathedral
One of the most beautiful places in Helsinki is definitely the senate square and the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral located on it. Climb the stairs to the cathedral and visit this magnificent building!
This is the central point of Finland’s capital and you’ll be able to see this at the buildings surrounding Senate Square!
Also don’t forget to enjoy the view, because on top of the stairs you’ll have a wonderful view over the city!
Have a coffee in the harbour
One of the most lovely neighbourhoods of Helsinki is located at the waterfront close to the Uspenski Cathedral. This place in an older part of the harbour is very charming and the perfect stop to have lunch or drink a coffee!
If you’re in for an original place, go drink something on the boat that figures as a floating cafe, called Relandersgrund Cafe!
Take a ferry to Suomenlinna Island
When in Helsinki, you should definitely consider taking a ferry to one of the city’s islands!
Suomenlinna is a fortress located on a small island just before the mainland of Helsinki. It’s built in the 18th century when Finland was still part of the Swedish kingdom and is currently on the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
There are running multiple ferries every hour so you can visit this piece of Finnish history whenever you want to! In addition to its rich history, it’s also a beautiful piece of nature!
|Single ferry ticket||€2.80|
Have a snack at the Old Market Hall
Like most cities, Helsinki has a local market that is located where the ferries depart. There’s a covered building, the Old Market Hall, as well as an open-air market just outside, perfect for all types of weather!
I really recommend this if you love to stroll around in food markets and if you’re looking for lunch or a quick snack!
Stroll along the Esplanadi
Esplanadi is definitely the shopping center of Helsinki. If you had enough of all the culture or just need a good new winter jacket (it’s cold in Finland, right?), the Esplanadi is a good choice for that!
Besides shopping, you might want to pass by at night as well for the vibrant nightlife!
Take a look into the Design Museum
Helsinki is home to many museums, but if there’s one museum you should visit on your one day in Helsinki it’s the Design Museum!
As the name tells us, this museum features the best of Finnish design! In the museum, you’ll discover more than 75.000 objects, 45.000 drawings and 125.000 photographs!
Admire the Uspenski Cathedral
After being part of the Swedish kingdom, Finland has been a part of Russia until it became independent in 1918. However, there are still plenty of things in Finland that remind us of this period, just like the Uspenski Cathedral in the centre of Helsinki.
This cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral belonging to the Orthodox Church of Finland. It was constructed during Finland’s Russian episode and this influence is clearly visible when you visit!
The cathedral is a bit higher located so definitely worth a visit for both the inside as well as the view outside! It’s certainly one of the top 3 places you should see in Helsinki in 1 day. If you’re not familiar with the Orthodox Church, it’s very interesting to stay for a mass!
Walk by the Helsinki Central Station
When walking through the city, a wonderful piece of architecture is the Central Station of Helsinki! On the square located next to it, you’ll also find a theatre which is, just like the station, a beautiful building to pass by!
Go inside the Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church)
One of the major attractions in Helsinki is the Rock Church! As the name says, this church is made inside… a rock!
Thanks to this extraordinary location, the church is definitely worth a visit and also attracts many tourists. Don’t be seduced by the many tourist shops where they try to sell you souvenirs but line up to visit the inside, you won’t be disappointed!
Stop by Vallisaari Island
Vallisaari Island is another island on the coast of Helsinki close to Suomenlinna, just like this island Vallisaari used to be part of a broader defence network in front of Helsinki.
Today, you can also take the ferry to Vallisaari, have a walk around and enjoy the wonderful view over the water! You can easily combine it with the island Suomenlinna since it’s just a ferry stop away!
Be amazed by Helsinki’s SkyWheel & Flying Cinema
If you’re in for a fun time and you’re completely done walking around, why not take a ride on the SkyWheel? This is guaranteed the best way to see the city from above and have a wonderful view!
Another interesting attraction is the Flying Cinema located next to the SkyWheel. During this 15-minute multisensory experience, you’re being taken all over Finland, Helsinki or both to see its most magnificent sceneries!
Experience a true Finnish sauna
A marvelous advantage of being in Finland are their public saunas!
If you’re visiting on a cold winter day, it might be nice to visit a public Finnish wellness to completely relax (maybe after a day of walking all around the city)!
One of the top spots for a Finnish sauna as well as dinner and drinks is Löyly, a public sauna and restaurant complex located at the waterfront!
It’s a mixed sauna where wearing bathing suits is obliged, and you can even take a swim in the water!
If you don’t feel like going to a wellness but still need a place to eat or have a drink late night, then this is also the place to be (speaking from experience)!
Where to stay
When I was in Helsinki, I stayed in the Clarion Hotel Helsinki. I can highly recommend staying here! The hotel has an amazing swimming pool on top of its building with a glass wand underwater so you can actually see people swim from below.
Moreover, it has a sauna, which is something you should not miss when visiting Finland!
Overall, it was an excellent hotel to stay in, within walking distance from the city center!
Your map for Helsinki in 1 day
There’s a lot to do in Helsinki so you’ll definitely be able to fill one day! Whether it’s culture or relaxation, Helsinki has a lot to offer and I hope you found what you were looking for in this post!
Did you know that it is perfectly possible to combine a visit to Helsinki with a visit to Tallinn? You just take the ferry to cross the sea!
For more itineraries in Europe, you can visit the special Europe section on my blog!
Anyways, enjoy your time in Helsinki!