From History to Culture: Top Helsinki Attractions

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is often described as a hidden gem in the Baltic region. With its unique blend of Scandinavian and Russian influences the city provides a captivating experience for visitors, and has a number of iconic landmarks and attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a culture enthusiast, the Helsinki attractions in this article are sure to spark your wanderlust!

The Most Iconic Helsinki Attractions

Helsinki Cathedral in front of the harbour on an overcast day
Helsinki Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral

When visiting Helsinki, there are several attractions that you simply cannot miss, the first being the Helsinki Cathedral. The Cathedral (also known as Helsingin tuomiokirkko or Helsingfors domkyrka) is a significant landmark that attracts tourists from all over the world. Its impressive size and location at the heart of the city make it impossible to miss, with visitors able to climb the stairs to enjoy panoramic views of Helsinki from the top.

The cathedral was designed by renowned German architect Carl Ludvig Engel and originally built as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. The neoclassical-style cathedral stands tall and proud over Senate Square, its distinct features including a Greek cross plan with a magnificent green dome surrounded by four smaller domes.

Today the cathedral serves as the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki. It welcomes worshippers for services and special events, as well as being open to the public for voluntary admission. Inside, the cathedral exudes simplicity and tranquillity, offering a peaceful space for prayer and reflection.

With its historical significance and architectural grandeur, the Helsinki Cathedral has become one of the most famous structures in Finland, its grandeur especially enhanced when illuminated against the dark night sky. While it can get crowded due to its popularity among tourists, it is still possible to find moments of peace within its sacred walls.

sunset over Suomenlinna, Finland


Another must-see Helsinki attraction is Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest sea fortresses in the world. This historic fortress is spread across six interconnected islands and has a rich history dating back to the 18th century.

Stepping foot on Suomenlinna feels like entering a time capsule. You can explore the well-preserved fortifications, underground tunnels, and picturesque waterfront views, as well as Submarine Vesikko, a restored vessel from the 1930s used in WW2 that is now one of Suomenlinna’s most popular attractions.

Wandering through the fortress, you’ll be transported back to an era when Finland was under Swedish and Russian rule. The strategic location of Suomenlinna made it an important stronghold, protecting the city and its harbour. Today, the various museums and exhibitions showcase the military history and daily life within the fortress walls. From cannons and weaponry to tales of daring battles, Suomenlinna offers a fascinating glimpse into Finland’s past.

In addition to its historical significance, Suomenlinna is also a haven for nature enthusiasts. The islands are home to lush green spaces, vibrant gardens, and breathtaking coastal scenery. You can take leisurely walks along the waterfront, enjoy a picnic amidst the tranquil surroundings, or even go for a swim in one of the designated swimming areas.

Metal pipes of the Sibelius Monument in a park in Helsinki
Sibelius Monument

The Sibelius Monument

Another iconic attraction in Helsinki is the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to Finland’s most renowned composer, Jean Sibelius. Located in Sibelius Park in the Töölö district of Helsinki, this stunning monument created by artist Eila Hiltunen consists of over 600 stainless steel pipes. The pipes are welded together in a wave-like pattern, creating a unique and mesmerising sculpture that pays homage to Sibelius’ musical genius.

Unveiled on September 7, 1967, the monument stands as a symbol of the country’s rich musical heritage. Over the decades its unique and innovative construction has captured the attention of visitors from around the world.

Explore the Natural Beauty of Helsinki

Esplanade Park statues on a summer day in Helsinki
Esplanade Park


While Helsinki is a bustling city, it is also blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. One such place is Esplanade Park (also known as Esplanadi) a green oasis in the heart of the city. Designed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, this historic park features straight tree-lined alleys, vibrant flowerbeds, and a charming atmosphere. It has become a beloved gathering spot for locals and tourists alike, with its tranquil ambiance and numerous cafes and restaurants.

Esplanade Park hosts a variety of events throughout the year; from live music performances to cultural festivals, there’s always something exciting happening. During the summer months, visitors can enjoy open-air concerts and dance performances at the Espa Stage, which is located within the park. It’s a fantastic opportunity to soak up the sun, listen to great music, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.

Apart from the events, Esplanade Park is home to several statues, including one dedicated to Finland’s national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg. Its also worth noting that the park is divided into three sections by different streets, each section having its own unique charm. The eastern part of the park, known as Kappeliesplanadi, is home to the famous restaurant Kappeli, where you can indulge in delicious Finnish cuisine while admiring the picturesque surroundings.

Building at the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum on Seurasaari Island in Finland
Building at the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

Seurasaari Island

For a taste of Helsinki’s natural landscapes, a visit to Seurasaari Island is a must. The island is a public park and is home to the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, offering visitors a unique glimpse into Finnish history and culture. This open-air museum features historical buildings from various parts of Finland, including huts, homesteads, and mansions that have been brought from different provinces. The museum is great opportunity to get a sense of what life was like for Finnish people in previous centuries.

Seurasaari is also the ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in Finland’s serene beauty, with numerous nature trails. There are numerous routes available that will lead you to the Seurasaari open-air museum, which itself has picnic areas and a public beach.

To access the island, you can either walk across the bridge on foot or take a bus (there’s a bus stop conveniently located close to the railway station at Lasipalatsi just a short walk away). It’s important to note that while the park is open year-round, the museum is only open during the summer months, so plan accordingly. Admission to the museum requires a ticket, which can be purchased at the ticket booth or museum shop.

Fun Helsinki Attractions for the Whole Family

A swan on a river in the foreground of Linnanmäki Amusement Park in autumn  in Helsinki
Linnanmäki Amusement Park

Linnanmäki Amusement Park

If you’re travelling with your family, Helsinki has plenty of attractions that will keep everyone entertained. One of the top choices is Linnanmäki Amusement Park, a beloved landmark in the Alppila quarter that has been delighting visitors since 1950.

What sets Linnanmäki apart from other amusement parks is its commitment to child welfare work. The park is maintained by the Children’s Day Foundation, which raises funds to support various child welfare initiatives.

Linnanmäki is not only Finland’s oldest amusement park but also its most popular. With over 50 rides suitable for the whole family, it promises a full day of fun and excitement. Be warned, though; you should prepare for long lines and crowds, especially during summertime when the park is packed with people.

Despite its small size the amusement park offers a variety of rides that cater to different interests and age groups. Some of the most popular attractions include the wooden roller coaster Vuoristorata, as well as Taiga, a unique ride designed exclusively for Linnanmäki that’s known for its weightlessness and high speed.

In addition to the rides, Linnanmäki also features arcades, games, and restaurants. What’s even better is that the park offers free rides for children, making it both an affordable and enjoyable outing for families. With its thrilling rides, entertaining shows, and a nostalgic feel, Linnanmäki guarantees lasting memories for both children and adults alike.

Korkeasaari sand sculptures, Helsinki, Finland
Korkeasaari sand sculptures

Korkeasaari Island

For animal lovers, Helsinki Zoo on Korkeasaari Island is a must-visit destination. This zoo is the largest in Finland, boasting over 150 different animal species from around the world. From majestic lions to playful penguins, visitors can get up close and personal with a diverse range of creatures. The zoo also offers a unique nighttime experience called “night walks,” where visitors can witness the fascinating behaviours of nocturnal animals.

In addition to its impressive animal collection, Korkeasaari Island itself is a recreational park that has been enjoyed by locals and tourists since 1569. It offers numerous other attractions and activities aside from the zoo, one popular highlight being the sand sculptures that can be found across the island. These intricate creations showcase the artistic talent of local sculptors and add a touch of whimsy to the natural surroundings.

To get to Korkeasaari Island, visitors have two options: they can either take a bridge or a ferry. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge to the Helsinki district of Mustikkamaa. This makes it easily accessible by car or on foot, as well as by bus. Alternatively, visitors can also opt for a ferry ride, which takes less than half an hour and adds an extra touch of adventure to the journey.

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture

Market Square South Harbour boat on a clear day in Helsinki
Market Square, South Harbour

Market Square

If you find yourself in Helsinki, a visit to the Market Square is an absolute must. Located between Esplanade Park and the South Harbour, the market is a treasure trove of traditional delicacies and souvenirs. From food and coffee to art and handicrafts, the stalls at the Market Square offer a diverse range of products. They also happen to be the perfect place to mingle with locals.

One of the highlights of the Market Square is its selection of traditional market foods. Here, you can find a variety of delicacies that showcase the flavours of Finland. From bear, elk, and reindeer products to kalakukko, a fish and meat pie that is sure to pique your interest, there are plenty of local specialties for you to try.

The Market Square booths also offer treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth, making it a paradise for food lovers. Additionally, if you happen to visit during the colder months, you can take refuge in one of the heated café tents and enjoy a warm drink.

In addition to food, the Market Square is also a great place to shop for unique handicrafts and souvenirs. The stalls here showcase the talents of local artisans, offering a wide range of handmade products that reflect Finnish culture and traditions. Whether you’re looking for traditional textiles, ceramics, or jewellery, you’re bound to find something that catches your eye.

Beyond its offerings, the Market Square also holds historical significance. It has hosted the Helsinki Baltic Herring Market since 1743, making it a tradition that has stood the test of time. The market also serves as a gateway to Suomenlinna Fortress island and other destinations during the summer months.

outside the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma


Located in the heart of Helsinki, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is a vibrant and inclusive space where art enthusiasts and curious visitors can immerse themselves in the world of contemporary art. Designed by the renowned architect Steven Holl and established in 1998, Kiasma was born out of a need to provide exhibition spaces for contemporary art in the city. Over the years, it has become a hub for artistic expression, showcasing multicultural, societally relevant, and socially engaged art.

One of Kiasma’s core values is to ensure that art is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their background. To achieve this, the museum has developed an Equality Plan. The plan focuses on various aspects of inclusivity, from providing accessible public spaces and gender-neutral bathrooms to promoting economic equality by offering free entrance for visitors under 18 years old. The museum also organises a monthly free-entrance day for all, and has embraced technology by offering online services to bring art to a wider audience.

Kiasma also actively promotes cultural and regional equality. It does this through targeted events and collaborations that cater to specific age groups or minority communities. It also provides services in multiple languages, ensuring that communication is inclusive of all genders and family configurations.

In terms of program and collection-related operations, Kiasma makes a conscious effort to collect and display diverse contemporary art that reflects current phenomena. The museum includes artists from different backgrounds, consulting with the relevant communities when displaying art related to vulnerable groups to ensure that their voices are heard and represented.

Helsinki’s Hidden Gems

Yellow Ursa Observatory building in Kaivopuisto Park at sunrise, Helsinki
Kaivopuisto Observatory


Observatories happen to be amongst the most overlooked, yet underrated Helsinki attractions. Originally built in 1834, the Helsinki Observatory on the Tähtitorninmäki Hill, was once Finland’s main astronomical observatory. In 2012 the building underwent a thorough renovation, reopening as the astronomy visitor centre of the Helsinki University Museum.

It now houses the amateur astronomy section, offering an immersive experience for visitors interested in exploring the wonders of the universe. While the Helsinki Observatory may no longer be an active scientific institution, its rich history and architectural beauty continue to captivate visitors from around the world.

Helsinki is also home to the Ursa Observatory, a fascinating astronomical observatory located in Kaivopuisto Park. This yellow structure has been an important landmark since its 1926 completion, and continues to attract both locals and tourists. Situated in the heart of Helsinki, this observatory offers a unique opportunity to explore the wonders of the universe.

The Ursa Observatory is not just a beautiful structure, but also plays a significant role in astronomical research and education. It is operated by the Ursa Astronomical Association, a renowned organisation that promotes and advances the study of astronomy. With its state-of-the-art equipment and knowledgeable staff, the observatory provides an immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

Members of the public can attend shows year-round, although the best time to observe solar phenomena is during the summer months or on clear winter nights. You can view a timetable for public shows on the Observatory’s Facebook page.

inside view of the Uspenski Cathedral dome in Helsinki
Inside the Uspenski Cathedral

The Uspenski Cathedral

Another architectural gem worth exploring is the Uspenski Cathedral, a magnificent architectural masterpiece that showcases a blend of Slavonic and Byzantine styles.

Standing proudly on a hill overlooking the city, the cathedral was designed by renowned Russian architect Alexey Gomostaev, with construction beginning in 1868 and taking six years to complete. Its green dome, striking red-brick exterior and intricate golden details make it a sight to behold both inside and out.

Today the cathedral is the official seat of the bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the city by climbing the stairs or relaxing on the rocks in front of the church. It is open to the public from Tuesday to Friday, with admission being free.

Inside, the Uspenski Cathedral houses a collection of valuable icons, some of which have unfortunately been stolen in recent years. As a result, glass protection covers have been added to safeguard the remaining artworks. It’s worth mentioning that visitors are advised not to use flash photography inside in order to protect them.

Planning Your Visit to Helsinki, plus Tips and Safety

When planning your visit to Helsinki, it is important to consider transportation, accommodation, and dining options. The city is well-connected by an efficient public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro network. Additionally, Helsinki offers a wide range of accommodation options. With both luxury hotels and budget-friendly hostels, there is something to suit every need.

For food lovers, Helsinki is a culinary paradise. The city is renowned for its fresh seafood, traditional Finnish dishes, and innovative Nordic cuisine. From charming cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants, Helsinki’s dining scene will satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Helsinki isn’t just one of the safest cities in Europe, but one of the safest in the world. Don’t be surprised to see babies asleep in their strollers outside cafes while their parents enjoy a coffee inside! However, it’s always a good idea to stay vigilant in unfamiliar areas. Take the usual precautions, such as keeping an eye on your belongings.

If you require emergency assistance in Helsinki, dial 112 to contact emergency services.

Conclusion: Helsinki attractions, a Perfect Blend of History, Culture, and Natural Beauty

In conclusion, Helsinki is a truly captivating destination that offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. The Helsinki attractions in this article have hopefully inspired you to take a trip to Finland’s wonderful capital. Whether you are exploring the city’s iconic landmarks, immersing yourself in its rich cultural heritage, or enjoying its picturesque landscapes, Helsinki promises an unforgettable experience.

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