Absolute Must-sees in Helsinki
Updated: Sep 27, 2019
Helsinki is an easily approachable destination. You do not have to get lost in complicated subway systems and spend your day traveling from one corner of the city to another to check the main sights off your list. The city center is so compact that you can conquer all the iconic main sights by foot. If you are feeling lazy, you can of course hop on a tram – Helsinki tram system is a sight itself according to TripAdvisor.
This building has become a symbol and one of the most photographed buildings of the city. Needless to say that it is a total must-see while visiting this Finnish capital. Helsinki Cathedral, or the White Church as sometimes called, was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and finished in the early 1850s. It is located in the northern end of the Senate Square, surrounded by other Empire era buildings such as the Government Palace and the National Library of Finland. Helsinki Cathedral is photogenic in all weather conditions – during the sunny summer days, autumn rain and greyness as well as covered by a thick layer of snow. Many admire this majestic building only from the outside, but you can also peek in. Helsinki Cathedral is open for visitors every day basically from 9 am to 6 pm, but there might be events during those times.
Market Square and Old Market Hall
Orange tents, fresh coffee, local delicacies and seagulls – that is what our Market Square is made of! Even though this wouldn't sound tempting (why wouldn't it?), you have to go there. Anyways, it is located in a prime place: just in the eastern end of Esplanade park and one alley away from Helsinki Cathedral. The small stalls are selling for example souvenirs, traditional Finnish handicrafts and all sorts of vegetables, berries and mushrooms. Have a cup of coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.
Built in 1889, the Old Market Hall is located just next to Market Square. Especially during the colder days, which we do have quite a lot, you may want to enjoy your cup of coffee here in the warmth. If you are up for something more than a coffee, there is a good choice of small restaurants. For instance, restaurant Story is known for their creamy salmon soup. It is a classic version of our beloved dish. If you would like to taste an upgraded version salmon soup, we recommend you to head to Fisken på Disken on the 5th floor of Kamppi Shopping Center.
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
The fortress of Suomenlinna, designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built during the second half of the 18th century during the Swedish rule. Suomenlinna is one of the most popular sights in Finland, and visited not only by the tourists but also by local Helsinkians and Finns from other parts of the country. The island attracts visitors due to its history, military architecture, idyllic restaurants and cafés, and beautiful scenery. The popularity might be also due to the fact that Suomenlinna is just a 20-minute ferry ride away from the Market Square. And you can access the ferry with the same public transportation ticket that you use in bus, tram, metro and train – how convenient is that! It is the perfect place for a summer picnic. Sit on the rocks besides the sea and sink in the archipelago atmosphere.
Central Library Oodi
Helsinki is the mecca of beautiful libraries, which actually are in heavy use by the residents and have the most books per capita. The National Library, Rikhardinkatu Library as well as the main library of University of Helsinki have all breathtaking interiors, but Oodi is something else. In fact, Oodi was chosen as the best public library in the world in August 2019. In addition to books, you'll find various innovative working spaces, recording studios, sewing machines and even 3D printers in the library – all bookable with a library card. From outside, the building is an architectural masterpiece with its wood and glass elements. Even though Oodi is a newcomer, as the library opened its doors in December 2018, it has surely earned its place among the city's must-see sights.
Temppeliaukio Rock Church
Sorry to ruin your vision: despite the name, this church has nothing to do with the music genre of rock. Temppeliaukio Rock Church, opened in 1969, is build straight into solid rock. As you can imagine, this makes the interior rather unique. Walls of rough natural rock, concrete pillars, copper dome as a ceiling and sunlight shining beautifully in during daytime. The acoustics of this place are without a doubt spectacular. If you have a chance to witness a choir singing or organ playing, it might be better than a rock concert ;) Yearly, over half a million visitors arrive to admire Temppeliaukio Rock Church. It is definitely one of Helsinki's main sights. As you might guess, it is also located just in the city center: in the end of Fredrikinkatu Street, near Kamppi Shopping Center.
These must-see sights can easily be covered during a one-day visit. But remember, this is not all Helsinki has to offer – there is plenty more to see in this small capital city!