Planning on doing Helsinki in a day? If you ask me, 24 hours in Helsinki isn’t quite enough but it’s better than nothing. I love my home town and this Nordic capital has plenty to see. The good news is that the city is pretty compact so you can cover the downtown quite good in one day. So let’s get started!
Pssst.. In case you haven’t had time to read about Finland beforehand, check out this article about Finland facts.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. It means that if you click and make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps me keep this blog running and buys me that cappuccino to get me going. Thanks for your support!
The Best Breakfast in Helsinki
In case you haven’t chosen to have breakfast in your hotel or have just arrived, may I suggest some fab cafes to have brekkie? Green Hippo Cafe in Punavuori offers good value for money and it has all-day breakfast with modest prices. Other recommendations would be Levain with their fantastic bakery products, Brooklyn Bakery or Andante.
In the city center, you could try eg. Sis. DELI or the very long-standing and prestigious Ekberg. In Kamppi there is also Factory which offers a very good buffet breakfast for less than 8 euros/9$. Another easy option would be Picnic cafeteria that you can find all around Helsinki.
Posh Helsinki Districts to See
From the center or Punavuori cafes, depending on your location, either walk, take a Citybike, one of the scooters or the tram to southernmost Helsinki where you will find the affluent and old neighborhoods of Eira, Ullanlinna, and Kaivopuisto. Roam around to see picturesque houses and one of the most Insta-worthy spots in Helsinki. These coastal areas can be windy, so remember to dress warmly in case it’s not summer. (And despite it being in summer, there are no guarantees, unfortunately.)
Here you will also find the majestic sauna complex, Löyly, which offers food, drinks and concerts, in addition to sauna and swimming in the sea. This area also has some of my favorite cafes, such as Birgitta, Mattolaitori and Ursula. You can find all of them in my post about The loveliest Helsinki Cafes.
Walk back on Korkeavuorenkatu, a long street with cute boutiques and restaurants, admiring the architecture and Johanneksenkirkko church on your left before you make it back to the city center.
The Park and the Market Hall
When Korkeavuorenkatu finishes, you will see Esplanadi park in front of your eyes. Walk through the beautiful Esplanadi promenade walk. You will see the old and sophisticated Kappeli restaurant near the market square that we call Kauppatori.
Next to Kauppatori is the oldest Helsinki market hall, Vanha kauppahalli. They have skilled artisans, tiny cafes and the smallest bottle shop (Alko) in Finland! I’d recommend trying some of the fish products, such as the, oh so delicious, salmon topped rye bread or tasty bakery products, such as Carelian pies which you will notice many Finns munching away for a snack.
Grandmums usually make the best Carelian pies (or at least that’s what we want to remember from our childhood) but those bought from the supermarkets are ok too, eg. the ones from Fazer which is a famous Finnish sweet and food manufacturer, and, believe it or not, Lidl makes quality Carelian pies too.
Market Square and Souvenir Shopping
From here, walk to the market square where you can find Finnish souvenirs and if you are peckish sample some more traditional Finnish delicacies, such as salmon soup, reindeer and sweet cinnamon rolls we call korvapuusti. This would be a good place to have lunch, especially on a sunny day. Beware of the seagulls though as they tend to be quite arrogant when it comes to food (yes, they might get your whole scoop of ice cream, leaving you with an empty cone).
Walk 100 meters or so and on your right, you will see the relatively new Allas sea pool. It’s such an interesting complex right in the heart of Helsinki. They have cafes/restaurants and a few spacious sun decks if you wish to see the market square from high up. This is completely free as well. For a fabulous sauna or sports session, why not do a sup yoga class that I tried there last summer. Alternatively, there is also the Ferris wheel for some great vistas.
From here, go and marvel the Uspenski cathedral. It looks beautiful inside but I think it looks equally grandiose from the outside. Take a look at some of the restaurants just next to the church on Kanavaranta. For a more upscale experience, go for Sipuli or Nokka. I have visited the former and it has a rustic and cozy ambiance plus superb food.
The Most Popular Helsinki Sights: Senate Square & Helsinki Cathedral
Then we head to Senate Square which is a picturesque and historical part of Helsinki, designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in the early 17th century. Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches that I know so do spend some time marveling this white church.
I’d also recommend Helsinki City Museum which is situated at Senate Square. It doesn’t cost anything to get in and you can learn lots about Helsinki and its fascinating history. For families, the children’s museum is just around the corner from the main museum and it’s also free admission.
This part of Helsinki has plenty of souvenir shops and boutiques selling Finnish handicraft and design. The prices are a bit higher but then again, you are getting quality and in that sense, good value for money.
High Street and Cafe Hopping in Helsinki
Walk along Aleksanterinkatu which is the main shopping street in the city center. There are Kluuvi and Kämp Galleria shopping centers which sell high–quality products but you will find shops for every budget. If you haven‘t sat down yet perhaps now might be a good time to relax for a moment, have a cup of coffee or proper lunch.
May I suggest Fazer or Strindberg for finer moments or Pauligin Kulma or Fratello if you’d rather go to a coffee shop. Fazer is a world-famous Finnish company making superb chocolate and confectionary. In their cafe, you can try out their sweet and salty bakery products or have a healthy lunch. The shop itself has delicate displays of their products and souvenirs that I completely recommend for you to try and take home with (chocoholic, me? No way!) For some awesome cafe hopping, read my Best Helsinki Cafes article.
Art, Architecture & Culture
Do you love art? In that case, the Ateneum Art Gallery is a must do. In addition to the exciting displays from various world renown artists, there is a permanent collection of Finnish art. Depending on the level of your art enthusiasm, you will probably need at least one or two hours here.
The Helsinki Railway station is opposite to Ateneum so that could be your next stop. The affectionately nicknamed Stone Men statues look ever so alert yet stagnant standing at the main entrance.
Walk past the Railway station and continue to the unique and brand new Oodi library. I am so proud that we have such an exquisite library here in my home town. It is not a static old library with just rows of bookshelves and timid librarians. It is a pure architectural joy with multiple uses, various working spaces, and a few cafes just to mention a few.
The unisex toilets are also worth having a look. Here you can spend a penny for free so make use of the free restrooms. From the balcony, you can see the newish Concert hall and the Parliament House.
Temple Rock Church
Many people want to see this unique church built inside a cave. It is beautiful but, in my opinion, it’s not that special. Then again, it’s right in the city center so would be easy to reach when you are trying to see as much as possible. The entry fee is 3e/3,2$ nowadays.
The Best Afternoon Cocktails and Lookout in Helsinki
I think I might be exhausting you with all this sightseeing in Helsinki. Therefore, I’m offering you the option of visiting Sokos Hotel Torni with its spectacular cocktail bar, Atelier Bar in one of the highest towers in this city.
I recently brought my Australian host family here and they just loved it! It is pricey but then again, you are also getting the best views over the city for the price of the drink. They have coffee and soft drinks too, in case you don’t feel like doing a Gin&Tonic.
Still don’t have a place to stay in Helsinki yet? Sokos Hotel Torni would make a unique pick!
Speaking of my favorite drink, one of the best things to do in Helsinki is visiting Helsinki Distilling Company. It’s a Finnish microbrewery distilling Finnish gin and whiskey. So all whiskey and gin-aficionados, don’t leave this one out! Read more about the tour and tasting I did with them in the link above. You can find HDCO at Teurastamo (abattoir in English) which is a funky urban living room with lots of restaurants, cafes, and artisans, also worth seeing if you ask me.
Helsinki in a Day – All in All
Okay, as you can see, there a lot of things to do in Helsinki in a day. This article lists quite a few of them and most likely, you will have to make some choices between all these exciting things. It’s good to give different options though because we all have slightly varying interests.
I really hope this post has inspired you to visit my hometown and the best Nordic capital, in my partial opinion. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to message me in the comment section.
Need some more Helsinki and Finland inspiration and tips? I have some in-depth articles for you in that case:
- Helsinki on a Budget (With an Awesome Bonus Tip)
- 25 Free (and Frugal) Things to Do in Helsinki
- 10 Best Helsinki Things to Do (Including Classic Museums & Outdoor Activities)
- From Hanko to the Helsinki Archipelago: Sailing Trip of a Lifetime
- Finnish Archipelago and the Dreamy Aspö
Liked it, Pin it!
Hi, I’m inviting you to like my Page because I thought you might be interested in supporting it. You’ll receive updates on what’s new, and you can interact with other people on this Pag