View of Helsinki Cathedral in the heart of Helsinki. Image credit: Eric Roy

What to see in Finland

Helsinki, the capital and largest city of Finland, is for many the natural entrance to Finland. Helsinki is the national center of Finland and is in many ways the tourist magnet in Finland. Most tourists are accessing Helsinki by ferry connections from Tallinn (Estonia), Stockholm (Sweden) or Saint Petersburg (Russia) or by airplane to Helsinki International Airport located approximately 19 kilometres north off Helsinki. In this blog post you will find some interesting facts about Helsinki and recommendations to what to see in Helsinki including inspiration to places to visit in Finland Helsinki. The topics will be seasoned with some beautiful pictures of Finland.

Helsinki Airport Transport

There are no train or metro connections to/from the Helsinki Airport. Taxi and bus are the only transport facilities between Helsinki Center and the airport. The bus takes about half an hour and costs around 5-6 euro. The bus services are operated by Finavia. The busses stop at Helsinki Central Station. Currently, there is being built a rail way connection between Helsinki Center and the airport. Opening date is July 2015 (target). The airport was opened in 1952 for the Helsinki Olympic Games.

Interesting Facts About Helsinki

The population of Helsinki is 614,074 (31 January 2014), an urban population of 1,176,976 (31 December 2012).
Helsinki is a major tourist magnet and offers a beautiful city scape with stunning architecture and lively atmosphere. The architecture is a good mixture of new and ancient. Finland’s history is closely related to Sweden which for many centuries has controlled Finland. Hence, the Finish culture is strongly effected by Sweden and the Swedish language is widely spoken mainly across south and west Finland. The majority of signs and information is both written in Finish and Swedish.
The old tram network is an important part of the infrastructure in Helsinki. I think, the trams are very charming and enhance the atmosphere in town. Be aware of the trams when you cross the roads. In general, the finish people are quiet fluent in English which I think is nice when you are a traveler.

Helsinki Center Finland
Old tram in downtown Helsinki, Finland. Image credit: Aarni Heiskanen

Places to Visit in Finland Helsinki – What to see in Finland

The Helsinki Cathedral is probably the most prominent building and symbol of the city. I will definitely recommend visiting the cathedral and the big square in front of it. Another significant church in Helsinki is The Uspenski Orthodox cathedral which is really impressive from outside. From these churches you have short walking distance to the cityscape of Helsinki and also very close to the harbor of Helsinki. At the port there is a square called Kauppatori (the market square) which offers a market selling traditional handmade Finnish products.

Helsinki Cathedral Helsinki
View of Helsinki Cathedral which is located in the heart of Helsinki. Image credit: Eric Roy

Sveaborg Fortress

From Kauppatori you can take a ferry to the magnificent Maritime Fortress of Suomenlinna (In Swedish: Sveaborg) which means Castle of Finland. The ferry service to Suomenlinna is very well-functioned and takes only 15 minutes. You can buy tickets in the self-service kiosks right next to the ferry berth. The price for a one way ticket is only 2.5 euro. Suomenlinna ferry timetable. The schedule varies according to the seasons.
Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress housing about 900 people built on six islands and is actually a part of Helsinki Center. The Finnish maritime academy is placed on these islands. Suomenlinna is beautifully located in the Finnish archipelago (in Swedish: Skärgård) with Helsinki’s roofs as background. The fortress was built to protect Helsinki from Russian invasion.

Suomenlinna is an UNESCO World Heritage site and popular by tourists as well as locals who love sun bathing on the cliffs and grass land. I would recommend a day trip to Sveaborg Fortress on a sunny summer day. I will suggest to bring a picnic and to sit on a hilltop enjoying the view of The Gulf of Finland and the rocky islands. Otherwise, you can buy supplies in the local supermarket or in the nice cafes and restaurants scattered around the archipelago. Suomenlinna offers both historically, culturally and scenic beauty making it very popular.

Suomenlinna fortress UNESCO
Suomenlinna is an UNESCO World Heritage site and indeed worth a visit. Image credit: Dennis-Jarvis
Sveaborg Maritime Fortress Helsinki
Cliff-landscape on Sveaborg Maritime Fortress with Helsinki in the horizon. Image credit: Ross-Burton
Helsinki Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Airphoto of Suomenlinna Sea Fortress offshore Helsinki. Image credit: hugovk

Porvoo Old Town

Porvoo (in Swedish: Borgå) is a Finish town located 45 km east of Helsinki or approximately 30 minutes of drive. From Helsinki follow highway E18 towards Kotka and Saint Petersburg. The town is famous for its old town dominated by colorful wooden houses in a dense medieval street pattern. In the center of the old town you can see Porvoo Cathedral which is symbolic and idyllic situated in the upper part of town with stunning view of old Porvoo and Porvoo River. The most famous wooden houses in Porvoo Old Town are the red-colored wooden storage buildings on the riverside which are declared as an UNESCO world heritage site.

I would highly recommend to stroll along the old stone-paved streets between the colored wooden houses where you are able to enjoy the lively atmosphere and truly Finnish charm. In many of the small wooden houses there are small shops. I put special attention to some charming antique shops selling both new and ancient local products. In addition, there a plenty of small cozy restaurants and cafés with outdoor serving facilities. I would suggest to give yourself time to enjoy a local Finnish beer at one of these local serving places. There are free parking facilities just outside the town very close to the bridge crossing Porvoo river.

Porvoo old town
The red-colored wooden storage buildings on the riverside, UNESCO. Image credit: WildGlance
Porvoo Finland
Beautiful wooden yellow houses in the old town of Porvoo, Finland. Image credit: WildGlance
Old Porvoo Cathedral
Old Porvoo with Porvoo Cathedral in the background. Image credit: Dan Zelazo

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5 thoughts on “What to see in Finland

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  2. Hi there! Where should we go to if we only if one day in Helsinki? Coz my friend and I are stopping over in Helsinki before taking a flight back to our homeland 🙂

    1. Hi Raelynn.
      If you have a single day in Helsinki I will recommend you to visit the two cathedrals (Helsinki Cathedral and The Uspenski Orthodox cathedral) from where you just have short walking distance to the cityscape of Helsinki and Helsinki harbor. You can also visit Kauppatori (the market square) which is actually located at the port where you can buy traditional handmade Finnish products. I will recommend a trip to Suomenlinna by boat. Suomenlinna is a huge fortress.
      Enjoy your stay in Helsinki.

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