Helsinki, a long weekend in the Capital of Finland

Helsinki, and indeed Finland, might not be high on the list of places that people plan to visit but, this Northern European capital offers plenty of attractions, parks, islands and a relaxed atmosphere in a compact space that can be easily covered over a long weekend.

View of Helsinki from the water

One of Helsinki city trams

One of the best ways to get around the city, is by boarding one of the trams; Line 2  (former 3T) route has stops at many tourist sights in Helsinki and a very useful map can be obtained from the Visitors’ Center pointing out all the attractions along the route.

View of Helsinki Senate Square

The first stop should be at Senate Square, the main square in Helsinki; the Cathedral dominates this vast square and a look inside will offer the opportunity to see the beautiful Organ. Other important buildings on Senate Square are the Government Palace and the National Library.

Looking up at Helsinki Cathedral

Looking up at the Organ at Helsinki Cathedral

View of Helsinki Government Palace

View of Finland National Library

Market Square is less than five minutes walk away from Senate Square; here market traders sell their goods to both locals and visitors and fresh fish can be bought straight from boats in the harbour. Along the waterfront, not far from Market Square is The Old Market Hall, an indoor food market established in 1889.

Stalls at Helsinki Market Square

Buying fresh fish in Helsinki

Inside Helsinki Old Market Hall

From the harbour there are nice views of Helsinki with the Cathedral in the background and on a small hill nearby Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral can be seen; with a number of icons inside and a nice view from outside a visit to what is considered to be the largest orthodox church in Western Europe is highly recommended.

Looking up at Uspenski Cathedral

Icons at Uspenski Cathedral

Back in the city center, past the imposing building of Helsinki Railway station the tram stops outside Kamppi, a shopping center housing a cinema and a number of shops and restaurants before continuing to Sammonkatu, the stop closest to one of Helsinki’s most peculiar and popular attraction: Temppeliaukio Church. The walls of the church are carved into solid rock topped with a copper dome; due to its excellent acoustics, classical music concerts are often held in the church.

View of the dome of Temppeliaukio Church

View of the interior of Temppeliaukio Church

And the music element of the city is also evident in Sibelius Park: named after the composer Jean Sibelius. The famous Sibelius Monument made to resemble organ pipes and a bust of the composer can be seen here; there is a small cafe near the park perfect for a coffee break.

View of Sibelius bust in Helsinki

View of Helsinki Sibelius Monument

Inside Sibelius Monument

View of a cafe by the water in Helsinki

Helsinki parks are an integral part of the city like the Esplanade Park found near the waterfront. This vast park is always busy with people watching the world go by, horse-drawn carriages waiting for customers and the famous Kappeli Cafe’ on this site since 1867.

View of Helsinki Esplanade Park

Esplanade Park horses and carriage

View of Kappeli Cafe in Helsinki

A number of buildings architecturally interesting both from outside and inside can be visited during a trip to Helsinki like the Finnish National Opera, Finlandia Hall, the Parliament and museum like the National Museum, the Ateneum Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

View of Helsinki Finnish National Opera building

View of Helsinki Finlandia Hall building

View of Helsinki Parliament House

Looking up at the National Museum of Finland

View of Helsinki Kiasma Museum

For sports enthusiasts, a visit to Helsinki Olympic Stadium will offer the opportunity to visit the stadium and enjoy stunning views of Helsinki from the top of the 235 feet high Stadium Tower; for visitors on a budget a hostel is conveniently located here. Outside the stadium there is a statue dedicated to Paavo Nurmi, a long distance runner; this is a copy of the original statue held at the Ateneum Art Museum

View of the statue to Paavo Nurmi

View of the stadium and tower in Helsinki

Looking up at Helsinki Olympic Stadium Tower

Looking into Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Panoramic view of Helsinki

For families with young children a visit to Linnanmäki Amusement Park should not be missed; the park opened in 1950, includes a very popular wooden rollercoaster.

View of Helsinki Linnanmaki Amusement Park

On a long weekend in Helsinki a day out of the city can be enjoyed by going on a boat trip; from the harbour, boats leave regularly to Helsinki Zoo, Porvoo and Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress a huge complex set on 8 islands with bridges, gates, bunkers, museums a submarine and a choice of restaurants.

Boat connecting Helsinki with Porvoo

View of Suomenlinna near Helsinki

View of some of Suomenlinna bunkers

View of some of Suomenlinna old houses

View of the Finnish submarine Vesikko

Accommodation in Helsinki ranges from hostels to a former prison cleverly converted into a hotel found in the Katajanokka district about 10 mins away by tram or 15 mins walk from Helsinki city center.

View of the interior of Katajanokka Hotel

Helsinki can be visited all year round fascinating visitors both in summer, with long sunny days, and in winter when the sea freezes over and snow covered buildings give a magical atmosphere to the city.

A winter day in Helsinki

View of Helsinki Cathedral on a winter's day

Helsinki harbour in winter

A visit to Helsinki can be combined with a trip to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. A number of ferries and hydrofoils leave from Helsinki Port regularly; although Tallinn can be visited in one day, a longer stay will offer the opportunity to travel to other parts of Estonia, a relatively new country on the tourist map.

View of one of Viking Line ships

View of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn

One thought on “Helsinki, a long weekend in the Capital of Finland

  1. A great post–I love that you use public transportation when you explore a place. It took me a little time to feel unintimidated to do that, but it really is the best way to get a feel for a city and get around. Thanks for the great ideas for interesting places to stay. I like hotels with a story. And a UNESCO World Heritage site nearby is always a plus.


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