Helsinki is a city of museums, parks, and stunning architecture. It’s also the perfect destination for history buffs, as it boasts several museums that highlight Finnish culture and history.
The National Museum of Finland is a great place to start. It’s free and showcases the country’s history from prehistoric times to modern day.
1. Suomenlinna Fortress
Located at the entrance of Helsinki's harbour, Suomenlinna is one of the world's largest sea fortresses. It's also one of Helsinki's most popular attractions.
Originally built by Sweden in the second half of the 18th century, Suomenlinna is a fascinating example of military architecture from that era. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991.
2. Market Square
One of Helsinki’s most famous outdoor markets, Kauppatori (market square) is a bustling place filled with vendors selling traditional Finnish foods and souvenirs. It’s a great spot for people watching and eating fresh fruit, berries, vegetables and fish.
The Market Square is also home to Uspenski Cathedral, an imposing Russian Orthodox church overlooking the harbor. It’s a must-see attraction on your Helsinki sightseeing itinerary.
3. Ateneum Art Museum
Ateneum Art Museum is Finland’s largest art museum, home to over 20,000 works of national treasure. It showcases both modern and traditional Finnish art.
The collection features paintings, sculptures and prints dating back to the 1750s. The museum also houses a number of temporary exhibitions. In addition, Ateneum organises a variety of activities and events.
4. Uspenski Cathedral
One of the most significant buildings in Helsinki is Uspenski Cathedral, a historic church that was built in 1868. This church has a beautiful interior and is well worth a visit for anyone.
This church is a Russian-Byzantine style structure and it features 13 golden domes with red brick facades. It was designed by Aleksei Gornostaev, a Russian architect who was one of the pioneers in the revival of Russian architecture.
5. Presidential Palace
Helsinki's Presidential Palace is one of the official residences of Finland's president. It's located on the north side of Esplanadi, overlooking Market Square.
The Presidential Palace is a beautiful and flamboyant building. It is designed in a distinctly French style and is built with iron and glass.
6. Katajanokka Canal
Once a peninsula, Katajanokka Canal is now an upscale residential district near Helsinki's downtown core. It is home to some beautiful Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) buildings.
The area is also known for its vibrant Market Square. It's one of the most visited attractions in Helsinki.
7. Old Covered Market
The Old Covered Market is one of Helsinki's oldest food markets and a popular place to soak up the local flavor. It's a bustling place where you can find everything from fresh produce to delicious traditional seafood delicacies.
The building was constructed in 1888, but it wasn't open to the public until 1889. It was designed by Finnish architect Gustaf Nystrom after studying how market halls were built in large European cities.
8. Kamppi Chapel
When Helsinki was a World Design Capital in 2012, a team of Finnish architects designed this small chapel to provide a space for peace and reflection. Located in the Kamppi shopping center on Narinkka Square, this chapel is a great place to visit when you’re in Helsinki.
The curved wood facade flows into the city scape, while the gentle shape of the interior embraces visitors and shields them from the busy surrounding areas. The chapel was built precisely to offer a safe and quiet place for everyone to relax.
9. Rock Church
Rock Church, also known as Temppeliaukio Kirkko, is a fascinating building carved out of solid rock in the center of Helsinki. Its unique architecture and impressive acoustics have made it one of the city's most popular attractions.
Designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the church was built directly into the bedrock of the city. It was completed in 1969 and is a favorite venue for concerts.
Arabianranta is Helsinki's first art district, surrounded by nature and enlivened by a range of public artwork. It's a lively area with basic services nearby and easy public transport connections.
Arabianranta is also home to Finland's largest ceramic factory, which turns out some of the country's best-known designs. Shop for Arabia, Iittala and Hackman products at IITTALA & Arabian Design Centre; visit the Design Museum Arabia; or enjoy temporary exhibitions in the Design Lab space.