How to spend a perfect one day in Helsinki

One day in helsinki

Spending one day in Helsinki and wondering what to do? 

The Finnish capital is flecked with beautiful architecture, delicious Nordic cuisine and iconic Finnish designs like Marimekko and the Moomins. And the best part is that everything is in super close range. Most of Helsinki’s major attractions are easily visited on foot.

In this article, I’ll share the best things to do in Helsinki, Finland, the top restaurants and where to spend the night. 

Let’s get started.

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Introduction to Helsinki Finland

Helsinki (Helsingfors in Swedish) is a green seaside capital with a laid-back vibe. It’s home to 1.4 million people and world-famous design, Nordic cuisine, and a plethora of beautiful islands. The Helsinki Archipelago consists of over 300 islands! 

Although it’s located in the far North, Helsinki is easy to reach by flight or ferry from St. Petersburg, Sweden, and Tallinn

Once there, you’ll find six national parks less than two hours away from Helsinki. Plus, the capital is surrounded by interesting neighboring cities such as Espoo, Vantaa, and Porvoo. So, if you have more than a day in Finland, you won’t run out of things to do.

How to get around

Helsinki is compact enough to explore on foot, so sightseeing is easy. If you’re based in the historic center, you can walk from one attraction to the next. You can also rent a bike, and take the metro or bus around town. 

Helsinki, Finland

Is one day in Helsinki enough?

Yes, one day in Helsinki is enough to see the main sights. It’s such an easy day trip from Tallinn (just a one-hour ferry ride). So, if you have the chance of spending a day here, do it.

Helsinki Finland things to do. One day in Helsinki. Helsinki bucket list. Best things to do in Helsinki Finland. Findanlia Helsinki things to do.
Helsinki Finland things to do. One day in Helsinki. Helsinki bucket list. Best things to do in Helsinki Finland. Findanlia Helsinki things to do.

Where to stay in Helsinki

Helsinki is an expensive city, but the selection of accommodation is vast and high quality.

Splurge: Scandic Grand Central Helsinki – Amazing location right in the city centre. Cosy atmosphere and interior, wonderful staff. Breakfast is included. Find the latest prices here.

Mid-range: Omena Hotel Helsinki Lönnrotinkatu – Easy self-check in hotel in a great location. Simple rooms with fridge and microwave. Find the latest prices here.

One day in helsinki

Where to eat

When in Helsinki, you have to taste Nordic cuisine. Some of the classics to try are reindeer, Karjalanpiirakka (a traditional Finnish rice pie) and liqurice! These are some of the best restaurants in Helsinki:

Breakfast: Cafetoria Roastery is a cosy little place for coffee enthusiasts. They have pies, croissants and sandwiches for breakfast.

Lunch: Green Hippo Punavuori is great for lunch. Go there for the fresh and very Instagram-friendly food.

Snacks: Try the liquorice (salmiakki). It’s world-known, and Scandinavia is where to get the original and best kind.

Dinner: Restaurant Lappi serves authentic Finnish Lappish food, like reindeer. A unique place.

Finnish food

Things to do in Helsinki

Admire Helsinki Cathedral

Map | Opening hours: 9AM-6PM

The majestic and powerful white Helsinki Cathedral is a major landmark of the city. Earlier called St. Nicholas Church and Great Cathedral, it was built from 1830-1852.

The cathedral is busy. If there’s a wedding or funeral when you visit (speaking from experience), you can’t go in. 

Helsinki, Finland

Go to Helsinki’s Market Square

Map | Opening hours: 8AM-4PM

Helsinki Market Square is another of the city’s main tourist destinations. Here, you’ll find charming market stands with a wide variety of items, like fresh fish, vegetables and fruits, souvenirs, local arts and crafts. 

Helsinki, Finland

Discover the Rock church

Map | Opening hours: 10AM-5PM

Are you familiar with Temppeliaukio, the Church in the Rock? Get familiar.

It’s built in a rock. Under ground!

I’ve only seen this kind of architecture once before and that was a monastery carved in a mountain cliff in Montenegro. What a design!

Try visiting on a Sunday during service and spend an hour inside, just listening to the gospel choir. It’s a very unique experience.

Helsinki, Finland
This impressive church was built in 1969
Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki, Finland

Notice the Chapel of Silence

Map | Opening hours: 8AM-8PM

At the city centre, you’ll notice this interesting building.

It’s known as Kamppi or Chapel of Silence, and it really stands out with its oval shape and shiny copper colour. It was created as a place to take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, and it’s placed in one of the busiest streets in Helsinki.

Helsinki, Finland

Find St. John’s church

Map | Opening hours: 12AM-15PM

On your one day in Helsinki, walk past St. John’s Church and peak inside. The Gothic architecture is quite typical for Scandinavia.

Helsinki, Finland

Admire the historic city centre

Most things to do in Helsinki are conveniently located in or around the city centre. But the architecture makes the centre an attraction by itself.

The area houses several Neoclassical buildings, including the Senate Square (at Helsinki Cathedral), Art Nouveau at the railway station, and then of course we have Modernism, which is represented by the Rock Church.

Helsinki, Finland

Go shopping

If you have time, do a little shopping.

You’ll find a wide range of sustainable and unique fashion and interior design around town. Try the stores, flea markets, shopping centres and boutiques on the walking streets.

One day in helsinki
One day in Helsinki, Finland

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Map | Opening hours: 9.30AM-7PM

If you’re interested in churches, let me give you a travel tip:

If there’s a Russian church – go! It’s always impressive. 

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral (1868) is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. It was designed by Aleksei Gornostajev and based on a 16th-century church near Moscow. I was really surprised how magnificent it was. It reminded me of St. Isaac Cathedral in St. Petersburg , which is the most beautiful church I’ve ever visited.

Don’t let the exterior fool you. Once you get inside, you’ll see what I mean.

Helsinki, Finland
One day in helsinki

Helsinki’s bridge of love


Right beneath the Uspenski cathedral is Rakkauden Silta, which is a small bridge with love locks. So cute, although it’s easy to miss because it’s small.

Helsinki, Finland

Find the Pub on wheels

Price: €8 | Opening hours: 10AM-5PM

One of the best things about Helsinki is that it’s walkable and easy to get around. While I was walking from the cathedral to the marina, I stumbled upon the strangest thing… a pub on wheels.

Finns call it Spårakoff and it’s the tipsy alternative to getting around town. It’s a tram that has been converted into a bar, and even though it’s not the cheapest way to get a drink, it’s certainly a different way!

Pro tip: The pub tram departs from Mikonkatu, east of the train station and takes you past Helsinki’s major landmarks for an hour.

Helsinki, Finland

Day trips from Helsinki

If you have more time to spend, why not take a day trip from Helsinki.

The most popular day trip from Helsinki is Tallinn. It’s just a few hours away by ferry, or you can take a weekend trip to St. Petersburg without visa within 72 hours. If you’d like to experience more of Finland, visit one of the national parks or check out the nearby villages like Loviisa, Porvoo or Espoo.

We went to Nuuksio National Park, just 35 km from Helsinki, where we had a picnic by the lake. It’s easy to reach.

Helsinki, Finland

Ask me anything about your one day in Helsinki!

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  1. If you asked me to pick one spot in Helsinki, I would definitely visit ST. JOHN’S CHURCH! I’m a Catholic so it must be added to my must-see place there. Any good cafeterias around :-)?

    1. Love Helsinki and the whole of Finland, Scandinavia, have been there three times I am coming again for a very short stay, so it was great to read your post, I must add, a sauna experience, and a visit to the bew Librari Oodi, at least for the Innovative architecture. Thank you for the tips

  2. Thank you for the great post. In 2015 I went to Iceland and next I hope to from Helsinki to St. Petersburg by train. Your photos are information on both place make me want to go even more. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome, Margo! It’s super easy to go from Helsinki to St. Petersburg by train and it only takes a few hours. Let me know if you need any additional tips!

        1. As far as I know, it’s the same procedure as if you took the bus, a flight or ferry. I can’t say for sure because I accessed Russia by bus from Estonia.

          Getting a Russian visa is a tedious process that requires lots of information and a hotel invitation, BUT it’s worth it in the end. Just make sure to apply well in advance and check the Russian embassy’s website to make sure you give them all the right papers and info.

  3. Hi Miriam, loved your decent Helsinki review, I want to hire a travel agency for almost the same trip. Would you recommend it? Tourstolapland

    1. Hi Bubalehi, thanks for reading! I don’t know this tour company so I can’t really pitch in. Sorry. Maybe you can find some reviews online?

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