We docked in Helsinki early morning and had just 1 day to explore this Finnish capital… There are a lot of famous churches, museums and memorials in the city so we tried to cover a mix of attractions… Our cruise shuttle dropped and picked us up from the main street on the city centre.
Top Tourist Attractions but in order of our visit as follows:
#1 Esplandi Park
- This is a relatively small (compared to a London Hyde / NY Central) but a very popular park connecting the main street and the market square.
- The place is bustling with tourists and locals alike. Its a cool green place to relax right in the centre of the town. We even spotted some street performances while walking by…
#2 Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square
- One turn from Esplandi Park, brings you to this iconic building which symbolises Helsinki. The large white cathedral stands tall in the square and reminds you of classic Greek buildings.. Do walk up the steps and look back at the square – The square is bustling with tourists !
- Inside the church, the sudden quiet (and warmth) is a welcome relief! The interiors are however simple compared to the imposing exteriors…
#3 Suomenlinna Fortress
- Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, we took the ferry from market square to Suomenlinna island. The 15 minutes ride took us to this set of islands. While we took the city operated ferry which runs between market square and main quay only, there is a private JT line which has multiple docking options on the island.
- The islands were built as a fortress by Swedish against invaders and it was later used as naval base. This is an Unesco heritage site and there is no admission fee.
- We set out on the marked blue route (1 mile) from Main Quay to the explore the island. Few key places worth mentioning are the original old buildings, courtyard, artillery and King’s gate. They also have museums and cafes across the island. Check out the map at http://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/visitor/plan-your-visit/maps/
- It is definitely worth spending 2-3 hours at this island – we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves as we did not come across many tourists…
#4 Uspenski Cathedral
- The big brown church sitting on a hill overlooking the city is difficult to miss. Short walk from the market square brings you to this majestic looking Orthodox church . Admission is free but the place is shut on Mondays. Made of red bricks and green domes, this looked like an example of Russian influence on Finland.
- The grounds offer nice views of the Helsinki Cathedral in the distance…
#5 Kauppatori – Market Square
- This open air market is between ferry terminal and Esplandi Park. Great place to taste some Finnish food and buy some souvenirs.
- We decided to do this lil later in the day for 2 reasons – (1) no need to carry the shopping bags around and (2) it is so difficult to keep track of time in such markets!
#6 Mannerheimintie Street
- While this is not a tourist attraction, this popular street is worth visiting. Walk along this main street, which has shopping malls, restaurants, historical buildings and memorial statues . Watch out for Mannerheim statue and Three Smiths statue!
- We decided to walk from the market to Church of Rock (25 minutes) rather than take a tram to get a taste of real Helsinki… Alternatively, we could have taken a tram or cab for this transfer…
#7 Temppeliaukio Kirkko – Church of the Rock
- Better know as Church of the Rock – this Lutheran church has been carved out into a rock. The walls are solid rock and the ceiling is a large brass dome. Light streams through the large windows around the circular structure.
- I wouldn’t call this stunning but it is definitely unique. For an entrance fee of EUR 3 pp only, it is worth visiting if you have the time.
- If you are fortunate and have more time, then you can consider visiting the Sibelius monument, Seurasaari Open-Air Museum or Kamppi chapel. The city has its fair share of museums and parks to keep you busy…