1. Spend a summer’s day sunbathing on Hietsu.
If you’re feeling active you can join a game of beach volleyball on Hietaranta Beach, but equally you can sit back and relax with an ice cream and a good book.
2. Pack a picnic and head over to Seurasaari island.
There are a couple of cafés on Seurasaari, but I recommend packing sausages and buns and heading to the grill in the middle of the island to make hot dogs.
3. Hire a canoe from outside Café Regatta.
In the spring and summer months you can hire SUP boards, kayaks, rowing boats, and canoes from right outside Café Regatta. Remember to reward yourself with a cinnamon bun afterwards!
4. Learn about Finnish art at the Gallen-Kallela Museum.
Akseli Gallen-Kallela was a Finnish painter, who is best known for his illustrations of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The Gallen-Kallela Museum was originally designed as an artist’s studio and residence, but nowadays it houses a permanent exhibition on Gallen-Kallela and his contemporaries.
5. Eat take-out pizza in the Winter Garden.
Despite its name, Helsinki City Winter Garden, at the top of Töölönlahti bay is open year round. Home to a lush oasis of exotic plants, the indoor garden houses a few seating areas which can serve as a lunch spot for you to enjoy your snacks.
6. Put on your hiking boots and spend the weekend exploring Nuuksio.
Nuuksio National Park is easily accessible by public transport from Helsinki, making it perfect for day and weekend trips. There are tonnes of hiking trails to choose between, but my favourite combines Korpinkierros and Haukankierros and comes in at around 11km. If you fancy staying in the park overnight, nothing beats the campsite at Iso-Holma.
7. Enjoy a date night at Riviera in Kallio.
Riviera, an independent cinema and cocktail bar in the heart of Kallio, comprises of just 55 armchairs and sofas. Order yourselves drinks and sit back to enjoy the film!
8. Catch the ferry to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress around 4km south of the city centre. Jump on the commuter ferry at Market Square and head to King’s Gate for delightful views of the archipelago.
9. Eat your way around the Hietalahti Market Hall.
One of three market halls in Helsinki, the Hietalahti Market Hall, has been around for 115 years. Pop in for lunch or dinner and eat at any of its delicious restaurants. My favourites include Fat Ramen, Tacotita, and Petiscaria.
10. Head to Oodi and settle down with a good book.
Completed in 2018, Oodi, Helsinki’s central library is an architectural masterpiece. With a decent selection of books in lots of different languages, it’s an easy place to spend a quiet afternoon.
11. Embrace your inner child at the Linnanmäki Amusement Park.
Situated in Alppila, Linnanmäki is one of Finland’s oldest amusement parks. If you’re feeling adventurous, hop onto Vuoristorata, a wooden roller coaster with the longest descent of 48 metres that takes just 3 seconds!
12. Go birdwatching in Viikki-Vanhankaupunginlahti Nature Reserve.
A protected area of forests, alder marshes, fields, and meadows, Viikki-Vanhankaupunginlahti Nature Reserve, is a haven for twitchers. If you’re interested, pack your binoculars and head to one of the many birdwatching towers!
13. Take a dip in a sea pool in the city centre.
Allas Sea Pool, located in the heart of Helsinki, comprises of saunas as well as both warm water and sea pools, is well worth a visit. In the summer months, you can even enjoy lunch out on the terrace.
14. Grab lunch in the fanciest Burger King you’ll ever visit.
The Helsinki Central railway station is housed in a listed historical building designed by Eliel Saarinen. Head into Burger King (yes, really!) to check out the epic wall fresco of Koli in eastern Finland by Eero Järnefelt.
15. Go for a dip in an art nouveau swimming hall.
Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall, the oldest public pool in Finland, opens on separate days for men and women throughout the autumn and winter months. Visitors can choose to wear swimsuits or swim naked. A slightly more expensive ticket will get you access to the steam and wood saunas upstairs.
16. Ride the number 4 tram through the city centre.
One of the best ways to see Helsinki’s most famous sights is simply to get on board the number 4 tram. After taking you down Aleksanterinkatu right through the centre of the city, the tram goes past both the Helsinki Cathedral and the Uspenski Cathedral.
17. Hire a city bike and take yourself on an island tour.
At around 14km, one of the nicest bike rides in Helsinki takes you through Kuusisaari, Lehtisaari, Kaskisaari, and Lauttasaari. In Kuusisaari, make sure you pop into Didrichsen Art Museum where you’ll find a small collection of art and sculptures housed in a converted family villa.
18. Treat yourself to a luxury sauna.
With sweeping views over the Baltic Sea, a gorgeous restaurant, and both smoke and wood saunas, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Löyly.
19. Head east to explore Uutela.
Walk down Aurinkolahti beach and head towards Uutela Nature Trail, a recreational area which is home to rugged rock formations, meadows, marshland, and alder trees. You’ll find two nature trails to choose between, and you can easily run both if you want to make an afternoon of it.
20. Pick up a bargain at the Marimekko Outlet in Herttoniemi.
If you know Finland, you know Marimekko – and the Marimekko Outlet in Herttoniemi is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a bargain. Plus, the cafe serves a delicious lunch.
21. Go for a sunset swim in an Olympic sized pool.
At 50m long, Helsinki Swimming Stadium was originally built for the later cancelled 1940 Olympic Games. After your swim, head onto the bleachers and watch the sun set as swimmers dive into the pool.
22. Have a posh picnic at Espa.
The basement of Stockmann Department Store is home to Food Market Herkku, the fanciest food shop you’ll ever visit. Treat yourself to a picnic and head into the middle of the Esplanade Park to enjoy your picnic in the sun.
23. Get a taste of Finnish sauna culture in Kallio.
24. Gather up some friends and give padel a go.
Originally from Mexico, padel is a racquet sport which has become really big in Finland. In the warm weather, try out the outdoor courts PadelCenter Hernesaarenranta, Padel Helsinki in Lauttasaari, and ProPADEL Sörnäinen. My favourite indoor spot is Billebeino Padel in Alppila.
25. Learn about architecture at the Aalto House and Studio.
Alvar Aalto was a Finnish designer who is internationally recognised as one of the great masters of modern architecture. Both Studio Aalto, his former workspace, and the Aalto House are worth visiting.
26. Explore a 1,000 hectare forest in the middle of the city.
Central Park runs 10km from north to south and is undoubtedly one of the best walking spots in the city. My favourite walk is the 3.3km Maunula Nature Trail, which starts at Maunula hiking lodge and takes you through diverse forest and hazel groves. Once you’re done, head to the pet cemetery further south in the park for a truly unique experience.
27. Watch the world go by with a munkki and a coffee in Market Square.
Helsinki’s iconic Market Square is instantly recognisable by its orange canopies. Pick a stall and buy yourself a hot doughnut and a coffee – just watch out for the seagulls!
28. Get dressed up to see a ballet or opera.
The Finnish National Opera and Ballet auditorium, which is situated on the banks of the Töölönlahti bay, is beautiful. Treat yourself to a glass of fizz in the interval and enjoy the views over the bay.
29. Visit one of Finland’s most unique art spaces.
In 2018 Amos Rex, an art museum, moved to a 13,000-square-meter complex consisting of a functionalist-style building. Nowadays it hosts a great range of exhibitions but it’s worth checking out for the building’s unusual architecture alone.
30. Treat yourself to a slice of cake at the oldest bakery in Finland.
Get a taste of the past at Ekberg, Finland’s oldest bakery, patisserie, and café. Before leaving, head to the bakery shop next door to pick up some treats to take home.
31. Stock up on delicious ingredients from Helsinki’s foreign supermarkets.
What Finnish food shops lack in foreign ingredients, Helsinki’s international supermarkets more than make up for. Some of my favourites include Dos Tecolotes in Kallio for Mexican food; Jaihe Asian Food Market and Vii-Voan in Kallio for Asian food; and Kimene Market and Alanya Market in Itä-Keskus for Middle Eastern food. If you make it to Itäkeskus, don’t forget to pick up the best baklava you’ll find in Helsinki from Saray Baklava.
32. Go for a swim at the Uunisaari island.
In the summer, the beach at Uunisaari is one of the nicest places in the city to catch some sun and go swimming. When you’re done, head over to Skiffer Liuskaluoto for a delicious pizza and a great party atmosphere.
33. Buckle down to work at Helsinki’s National Library.
Just two minutes from the Helsinki Cathedral is the National Library of Finland, the oldest and largest scholarly library in the country. If you’ve got work to finish, you won’t find a more atmospheric place to do it than in the library’s reading room.
34. Explore contemporary art at Kiasma.
35. Embrace your inner bookworm at the Academic Bookstore.
Another famous building designed by Alvar Aalto, the Academic Bookstore is well worth a visit. The architecture is stunning and the English language selection of books is also pretty good.
36. And support independent bookstores by visiting Nide.
Situated on Fredrikinkatu, Nide is a lovely independent bookstore with a wide selection of English language fiction and non-fiction books. Plus, there’s a great stationary shop at the back.
37. Spend the evening eating and drinking in a former abattoir.
Teurastamo was a working abattoir until 1933 and the area was reopened in 2012 as a courtyard of restaurants, bars, and cafes. In the summer months, it’s the perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink and little al fresco dining. I especially recommend Lopez ý Lopez for tacos and Tislaamo Distillery Bar for cocktails.
38. Explore Espoo’s archipelago with a boat trip to Pentala.
The Pentala Archipelago Museum is located on an old fisherman’s estate and is open to visitors during the summer months. Believe it or not, in 1970 a tiger cub called Mona spent the summer living on the island with her adopted mum, a dachshund called Daffy!
39. Grab a set of mölkky and head to Tervasaari.
Tervasaari is a tiny island just off of Kruununhaka comprising of a restaurant, rug washing pier, and swimming beach for dogs. In the summer months, the restaurant has mölkky sets that you can borrow, so you can try out the Finnish version of skittles for yourself!
40. Relax after work at Kulttuurisauna.
Kulttuurisauna is my favourite public sauna in Helsinki. Designed by Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi, the building in the middle of Merihaka houses separate saunas for men and women and offers ice swimming opportunities in the winter. After your sauna, order a hot chocolate and soak up the atmosphere in the lobby.
41. Spend the day hiking in Sipoonkorpi.
Sipoonkorpi is another national park that’s easily accessible from Helsinki. I’d recommend starting your hike at Kuusijärvi and following the Kalkinpolttaja trail for a 15km trail containing some of the most gorgeous views in the local area. If you fancy a sauna afterwards, you can’t go wrong with the authentic smoke sauna in Kuusijärvi.
42. Try cross-country skiing in Paloheinä.
Paloheinä is the most popular cross-country skiing centre in Helsinki during the winter, and most of the trails are lit until late into the evening. If you don’t have your own skis, you have the option to rent them there. Good luck!
43. Get out of the city and explore Lake Meiko.
Pack your bike and get on a train to Kirkkonummi. From there, it’s just a short cycle ride to Lake Meiko, where you’ll be able to park up and do a gorgeous 8km hike around the lake. If you’re feeling active, combine Meikonkierros with Kotokierros for a longer 13km hike.
44. Catch a film in an art deco cinema in Kamppi.
One of the oldest movie theatres in Helsinki, Cinema Orion, is a lovely art deco cinema that’s been open since 1927. Grab a glass of wine in one of the many wine bars or pubs in Kamppi afterwards.
45. Explore Helsinki’s Design District.
Wander the streets of Punavuori, Kaartinkaupunki, Kamppi, and Ullanlinna exploring the very best of Finnish design. You’ll find clusters of design shops on Eerikinkatu, Fredrikinkatu, Uudenmaankatu, and Korkeanvuorenkatu. Some of my favourites include Artek Helsinki, Lokal Gallery, Hakola Shop, for design, Papershop for stationary; and Papu & Uhana Store, R-Collection, and R/H for clothes.
46. Catch an ice hockey match.
There are two Helsinki teams to choose between: Jokerit who play in the KHL league and HIFK who play in the Finnish Liiga – and you can’t go wrong with either. Book cheap seats at either Hartwall Arena or Helsinki Ice Hall and soak up the atmosphere.
47. Learn about Finland’s history at the Mannerheim Museum.
Situated next to Kaivopuisto Park, the Mannerheim Museum is dedicated to C. G. E. Mannerheim, a Finnish military leader and statesman who was the sixth President of Finland. Additionally the organised tour makes for an interesting afternoon out.
48. Get a boat to Harakka island.
In the summer, head to Kaivopuisto and get a boat to Harakka island. One of the sweetest islands off the coast of Helsinki, it’s home to a nature centre, artists' residence, and a short nature trail with lots of information about bird watching en route.
49. Head to Kallio for a good brunch.
50. Go to Katajanokanluoto island for a delicious pizza.
In the summer months, you can get a 10 minute boat to Katajanokanluoto from the Market Square. It’s the smallest island off the coast of Helsinki that’s open to the public and it’s also home to Café Kobben, which serves delicious pizzas.
51. Stock up on lonkero and find yourself a nice, sunny spot on a rock.
In the summer, Finns love nothing more than to grab some beers and lonkeros—a Bacardi Breezer-style mix of gin and grapefruit soda— and plonk themselves on rocky hills to watch the sun set. The logic is: rocks absorb heat from the sun, making them a great spot for making the most of the summer warmth.
52. Catch a movie in Finland’s oldest cinema.
Finnkino Maxim on Kluuvinkatu is Finland’s oldest cinema, which reopened to the public in 2018. The art house movie theatre is home to two auditoriums and they even serve wine to enjoy with your film!
53. Challenge your friends to a game of mini golf.
54. Learn more about Finnish art at Ateneum.
Ateneum Art Museum houses the biggest collection of Finnish classical art in the country. Make sure you check out The Luxembourg Garden by Albert Edelfelt, Aino Triptych by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Under the Yoke by Eero Järnefelt, and Wounded Angel by Hugo Simberg. Note! Ateneum has been closed due to renovations and will reopen in early 2023.
55. Catch a moment of peace and quiet at the Kamppi Chapel.
Kamppi Chapel, also known as the Chapel of Silence, is a beautiful building that offers visitors a moment of calm in the middle of one of Helsinki’s busiest areas.
56. Pack your camping gear and spend the night on Pihlajasaari island.
In the summer months, the boat to Pihlajasaari leaves from the bottom of Kaivopuisto. It’s a great spot for a day trip, but you can also pack your tent and set up camp there. But be warned – the eastern side of the island is home to a nudist beach!
57. Get your ice skates on and head to Brahe Sports Field.
In the winter, many of Helsinki’s sports pitches are maintained as functional ice rinks. One of the biggest and most popular is Brahe Sports Field in Alppiharju, which is divided into two sections: one for skaters with hockey sticks and one for skaters without.
58. Do as the Finns do and head to a karaoke bar.
There are karaoke bars all over Helsinki but you can’t go wrong with Swengi Karaoke Nightclub on Iso Roobertinkatu.
59. Learn about Finnish architecture at Hvitträsk.
Around 30km west of Helsinki you’ll find Hvitträsk, a lakeside studio that was designed for members of the Finnish architecture firm Gesellius, Lindgren, and Saarinen. The museum is fascinating and in the summer you can even swim in the lake there.
60. Head to Lonna for dinner and a sauna.
At just 150m long, Lonna is a tiny island between Market Square and Suomenlinna. In the summer, it’s accessible by boat. The restaurant serves food made from Finnish ingredients and locally grown produce and the loft saunas are worth checking out too. If you’re lucky, you may see one of the big ferries passing by on the way to Sweden or Estonia – a truly spectacular sight.
61. Get a boat to Porvoo, Finland’s second oldest town.
Porvoo is a delightful town that’s full of wooden houses. In the summer, you can get there via a 3.5 hour boat trip from the Market Square and in the winter regular buses leave from the town centre.
62. Loosen your belt and enjoy a proper Finnish lunch buffet.
63. Get off the beaten track and head to the Mustasaari island.
Owned by the Helsinki Parish Union, Mustasaari is just a 15 minute boat ride away from Taivallahti. The island is home to a beach and a café as well as a nice swimming beach.
64. Have a pamper evening at Kotiharju Sauna.
Head to Kotiharju sauna, which is located in Kallio. This sauna is the only remaining traditional wood-heated block sauna in Helsinki.
65. Get a new perspective on Cold War history at Tamminiemi.
Tamminiemi Villa, which is situated right next to Seurasaari, used to be President Urho Kekkonen’s official residence. The museum includes interiors from the 1970s that have been preserved and kept in original condition, thus providing a more authentic perspective about the Cold War.
66. Spend the evening eating and drinking with friends in Sörnäinen.
67. Learn more about Tove Jansson at HAM.
If you’ve heard of Tove Jansson, you’re probably familiar with the Moomins. But did you know that Jansson also painted frescos? Head to Helsinki Art Museum HAM to check out a selection of them out.
68. Pack a picnic hamper and head to Kaivopuisto.
Kaivopuisto is one of the oldest and best known parks in Helsinki, with lovely views over the Baltic Sea. Head to the observatory on the top of the hill for great views of ferries leaving the city’s harbour.
69. Pretend you’re a student and settle down to work at the university library.
Kaisa House is one of the prettiest places to sit down and get some work done in Helsinki. Make sure you check out the stunning spiral staircase before you leave.
70. Go see some amazing modern art in Espoo.
Espoo Museum of Modern Art EMMA is the largest museum in the whole of Finland. It’s a huge, warehouse-like space with rotating exhibitions, which is well worth trekking out to Espoo for.
71. Design your own craft beer pub crawl around the city.
There’s a huge choice of breweries with great craft beer selections in Helsinki. If you’re in the town centre, check out Mikkeller, Bier-Bier, Bryggeri, Sori Taproom, and Pien. If you’re in Kallio, don’t miss Panema and Stadin Panimobaari.
72. Go island hopping in the heart of the city.
In the summer, you can buy a single ticket to Suomenlinna, Vallisaari, and Lonna. The three islands are all very close to one another and, with a bit of planning, visiting all three makes for a lovely day out. If you make it to Vallisaari, go for a dip in Hiekkapoukama.
73. Go out for dinner… on the top floor of a shopping centre.
74. Walk around the coastline of Lauttasaari.
Get the metro to Lauttasaari in the west of Helsinki and take yourself on a walk around the island’s coastline. Remember to pop by the Lauttasaari beach and the Veijarivuori beach, where you can swim in the summer and walk out onto the ice in the winter.
75. Go for a long run along the city’s south coast.
Depending on how long you want to run for, there are tonnes of great routes to choose from in Helsinki. One of my favourite longer runs starts at the Hietaranta beach and goes around Lapinlahti before cutting through Ruoholahti and taking you to Kaivopuisto. From there, head into central Helsinki and, if you still have the energy, make your way around Kaisaniemanlahti, Eläintarhanlahti, and Töölönlahti before running back up Hesperian Esplanade to your starting point.
76. Refresh your wardrobe in Kämp Galleria.
Home to lots of clothes and design shops, as well as lovely cafés like Kuuma and the Finnish Museum of Photography, Kämp Galleria is packed with delightful shops and boutiques where you’re sure to find something that takes your fancy.
77. Go for a walk on Isosaari island.
One of the outermost islands in the Helsinki region, Isosaari, comprises of 76 hectares of coniferous forest. The ferry from the Market Square takes just over half an hour and you can easily spend the whole day exploring the island.
78. Learn more about Finland at the National Museum.
Make sure you look up when you get inside: the ceiling at the entrance hall of the National Museum of Finland is covered with frescoes done by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
79. Go sledging in Sinebrychoff Park.
As soon as it snows, everyone in Helsinki flocks to their local park to go sledging. The hill in Sinebrychoff Park is a great spot to give it a go.
80. Spend the evening at a wine bar with friends.
81. Go food shopping in Hakaniemi Market Hall.
The Hakaniemi Market Hall is filled with delightful cafes, shops, and delis. A word to the wise: don’t visit on an empty stomach, otherwise you’ll end up buying everything!
82. Go back in time and explore Helsinki’s wooden house districts.
Originally built for the working class in the early 1920s, Puu-Käpylä and Puu-Vallila are two charming districts of old-style wooden houses. Go for a walk and try to hide your envy of the lucky people who get to live there.
83. Spend the day on Mustikkamaa island.
Mustikkamaa is an island south of Kulosaari with a beach, several restaurants, and tennis courts. In the summer, it’s a great place for a day of sunbathing and swimming in the sea.
84. Visit the sheep on Lammassaari island.
Near Vanhankaupunginkoski rapids, Lammassaari is a delightful island and nature reserve. After your walk, pop into the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre in Arabiankeskus to explore two of Finland’s most popular lifestyle brands.
85. Relive your student days on Iso Roobertinkatu.
Iso Roobertinkatu in Punavuori is one of Helsinki’s most fun and lively streets—especially in the evening. It’s full of nice restaurants, but my favourite is Yes Yes Yes, a trendy vegetarian restaurant and cocktail bar housed in a former McDonald’s.
86. Soak up the atmosphere at the Hietaniemi cemetery.
You can spot lots of famous Finnish people’s graves, including C. L. Engel, Alvar Aalto, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Mika Waltari, and Zacharias Topelius as well as the graves of six former Presidents at the Hietaniemi cemetery.
87. Be a tourist for the day and check out the Sibelius Monument.
I know it’s touristy, but the Sibelius Monument in Töölö is beautiful and worth a look. Buy yourself an ice cream and enjoy the views over the water from the monument.
88. Learn more about Finnish design at the Design Museum.
The building with perhaps the most distinctive lobby in Helsinki, the Design Museum, always has something fun on. Pop into the café for a slice of cake once you’re done with the exhibition.
89. Cycle to the Ruutinkoski rapids.
The Ruutinkoski rapids are the lowest natural rapids on Vantaankoski river. They’re just north of Haltiala farm, which is also worth a visit. Take a picnic with you if the weather is nice.
90. Go ice swimming with the locals.
There are thirteen winter swimming clubs in Helsinki, most of which open their doors to new members in October. If you’re just visiting the city, it’s worth checking whether a club near you has public opening hours. You can find more information here.
91. Catch a concert at Helsinki Music Centre.
A state of the art music venue with five auditoriums, Helsinki Music Centre is always worth a trip. If you fancy it, you can even take a guided tour of the building.
92. Read your morning paper at Rikhardinkatu Library.
Designed by Theodor Höijer in 1881, Rikhardinkatu Library houses not just books but also art. Buy yourself a morning coffee and a newspaper and head into the lobby to soak up the atmosphere.
93. If you’re feeling confident about your Finnish, head to the theatre.
There are lots of lovely theatres in Helsinki, including the Finnish National Theatre, KOM Theatre, and my favourite Q-teatteri. Most of Helsinki’s plays tend to be performed in Finnish or Swedish, but if you’re feeling brave give it a go!
94. Catch an art house film in Kino Engel.
95. Check out one of the sweetest exhibition spaces in the city.
Kunsthalle Helsinki is a lovely contemporary art space in Töölö, which also hosts design and architecture exhibitions.
96. Do as the locals do and wash your rug in the sea.
Ever wondered why there are so many wooden piers jutting out into the sea in Helsinki? The answer is: they’re for rug washing. As soon as the weather picks up, locals pull up their rugs and head out to wash them in the sea. Grab a bucket and scrubber and join in!
97. Get a boat to a beautiful lighthouse.
Söderskär is a decommissioned 19th-century lighthouse in the outer Porvoo archipelago. In the summer, you can get a boat there from the Market Square.
98. Stop for a snägäri at one of the city’s grill kiosks.
Grill kiosks are to Finland what chip shops are to the UK. If you’re vegan, check out Vöner Lippakioski on Museokatu for one of the best vegan kebabs in the city. Head across the road to Storyville to enjoy a beer and some jazz afterwards.
99. Get yourself an invite to an allotment picnic.
You’ll need to make friends for this one. There are tonnes of gorgeous allotments all over the city, and locals love having picnics and some fizz in them during the hot summer days. Ask around to see if you can get yourself an invite.
100. Grab a basket and go mushroom picking.
Autumn in Helsinki is prime time to go foraging for mushroom. There are lots of places to find mushrooms, but I especially recommend Mustavuori, Myllypuro, and Laajasalo.