I’ve been several times in Helsinki and each time I’ve found different facets, moods, and meanings – in the same way new senses are revealed to you when you read a book or watch a movie for a second or third time.
Another reason I absolutely adored Helsinki was because I felt it was a unique, multicultural place, with a fabulous historical and cultural heritage. A city which is full of contrasts. You can find here all kinds of Russian and European influences (not just Swedish, but so many more) in all the ways of life.
I was a fortunate because Helsinki seems to me one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. A destination still not bursting with tourists – and, selfishly, I’m glad about that – but a city with a fabulous architecture; a colorful and vibrant city, with cozy cafes and hip restaurants, and, yes, a place with smiling and friendly people – you just have to get to know them.
And perhaps most of all, a city where you can really breathe, walk through magnificent parks and forests, visit museums, cathedrals, chic galleries, cool design and fashion boutiques, islands. Bottom line, a town where you can replenish your creativity and passion for life.
So here are seven things that you are not allowed to miss in Helsinki. That if you’re here for the first time.
At just 15 minutes by ferry, Suomenlinna Fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is built on the nearby six islands of Helsinki. Inhabited by almost 900 inhabitants, Suomenlinna was gradually built since 1748, and today is a favorite location for both tourists and locals for relaxation, recreation and history. Don’t miss the museums here (we recommend The Doll and Toy Museum). If you don’t have time, enjoy the walks, the fresh air, the views, or have a picnic. Suomenlinna is wonderful, peaceful, and full of history. Oh, and you get picturesque cafes and restaurants.
Linnanmaki Amusement Park
Linnanmaki was opened on May 27, 1950 and is an amusement park right in the city center. And it’s very popular, because it’s brilliant – you won’t get bored here even for a second. If you feel like you need a shot of adrenaline and strong sensations, do not hesitate.
It was completed in 1868 and is the largest Orthodox Cathedral in Western Europe. The Cathedral is covered with red bricks, has 14 golden domes and is built in the Byzantine style. It impresses through its grandiose size.
The Sibelius monument
It is a tribute dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and I would dare to say that it’s unique. An abstract masterpiece, composed of hundreds of steel tubes, welded together, to give the shape of a huge pipe organ. Designed by Elia Hiltunen and located in the Centre of the Sibelius Park, the monument gives voice to the composer’s music and challenges your imagination in all its various interpretations.
Created by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, the square is dominated by the imposing Helsinki Cathedral. A distinctive landmark in the landscape of the city, the majestic white neoclassical edifice, with its high dome, flanked by four other smaller domes, is an experience that you are not allowed to miss no matter how much time you have to wander through Helsinki. In the sunny days, just sit on the steps of the Cathedral, enjoy the people, the pigeons, or the whole splendor of the market. Oh, let’s not forget: some of the most well known events happen Senate Square.
Temppeliaukio Church (The rock Church)
It is a unique monument, almost unearthly, built in the rock beneath ground level. It’s a wow, spectacular, unforgettable, with its copper dome, exposed rocks and concrete beams. And, whether it’s a religious service or a concert, just listen to its wonderful acoustics.
The most famous square in Helsinki, Market Square is one of the major shopping spots. Here you can find fresh fish, cheese, sweets, fruits and vegetables, traditional Finnish specialties, being also the ideal place to find souvenirs created by local artists and craftsmen.