3 ways to make the most of Helsinki's seaside

A man is cycling to the left of the photo on the path running by the Kaivopuisto shore, where the sea beyond is flat calm and the sun is shining.
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Helsinki boasts 130km of shoreline and a luscious archipelago whose islands are easily accessible via ferries that run like clockwork. Helsinki's sea and islands give it a unique atmosphere. It is not just a capital city with skyscrapers - nature and beauty are but a stone's throw away.

Go through our top three recommendations of how best to explore the Helsinki seaside and pack your schedule full of fun activities. 

Close up of the service counter set into a red, wooden hut, at Skiffer's restaurant on Liuskaluoto. People are enjoying the sunshine and chatting at tables on the terrace in the background.
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If you’ve got a free afternoon…

Head down to Kompassitori and treat yourself to an ice cream from one of the many trucks parked up in the area. Get on board a boat heading to Uunisaari and in just a few minutes, you’ll find yourself on one of Helsinki’s most delightful islands. If the weather’s nice, pack your swimsuit and go for a dip in the Baltic as you look back at Helsinki from the sea. Pop into Restaurant Uunisaari for something to eat and drink as you take stock and enjoy the island’s stunning scenery.

As the afternoon turns to early evening and you find yourself wanting dinner, wander over to Liuskasaari. Spend the evening in Skiffer Liuskaluoto and try not to feel too envious as you watch locals arrive by boat to pick up their takeaway pizzas. Make the most of the fresh sea air as you sip on your wine and enjoy stunning views of the sunset over the city. Just remember to check the ferry timetable so you don’t miss the last boat back!

Kulttuurisauna Helsingin Merihaassa
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If you’re spending the day in the city…

Kick start your day by joining the locals at Kulttuurisauna, an ecological design sauna in Helsinki’s urban Merihaka district. Once you’re feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, head into Kallio for brunch at Tanner, or Way Bakery or – if you fancy eating outside – grab yourself a coffee and a bun from Hakaniemi Market Hall and head on down to Tokoinranta to enjoy breakfast with delightful views over Eläintarhanlahti bay.

Take a moment to relax as you sit on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral and marvel at the beautiful views. For dinner, walk 5 minutes to Niska in Katajanokka for a delicious Åland-style pizza. After dinner, watch the sun set over the harbour as you sip on a glass of wine or a cocktail at Crazy Wine next door.

Viewed over a person's shoulder and showing only the diners' hands, on a small, square table two people are eating food that has been beautifully presented on white plates.
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If you’re staycationing for the weekend…

Wake up in either the Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel or the Clarion Hotel, two of Helsinki’s trendiest spots with beautiful views of the sunrise over the city. For breakfast, wander down to Morton and grab an almond croissant and coffee to go.

A 20-minute walk, or a 10-minute cycle ride, will take you down to Kaivopuisto, one of the oldest and most popular parks in Helsinki. Make sure you head up to Ursa Observatory and take a moment to recharge as you watch the cruise ships come in and out of Helsinki’s South Harbour. If you fancy something to eat, pop into Café Carusel or Café Ursula – both are situated right on the waterfront. Otherwise, you’re a 10-minute walk from Helsinki’s Market Square where you can grab lunch from one of the orange canvas stalls – just watch out for the seagulls!

Next up, it’s time to explore Helsinki’s archipelago. Buy yourself a waterbus ticket from the JT-Line terminal and get ready for an afternoon of island hopping! First up, you’re off to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site just 15-minutes by boat from Helsinki’s South Harbour. Walk to the King’s Gate to take in the view and stop in at Café Silo for a bite to eat.

The next stop on your tour should be Lonna, a charming island situated between Helsinki’s Market Square and Suomenlinna. If you fancy trying out their traditional wood sauna, remember to pre-book. Once you’ve caught your breath, get dinner and a drink at the island’s restaurant, where most of the dishes are made using seasonal Finnish ingredients. When you’re back on mainland, you’re just a half-hour-walk, or a 15-minute tram ride, from your hotel. 

After a relaxing lie in the following morning, walk north for half an hour until you reach the Hietaranta Beach, or ‘Hietsu’ as the locals call it. Join a game of beach volleyball, go for a swim, or simply read your book and catch some rays as you listen to the waves crash against the shore. When you start to get peckish, wander down to Café Regatta and enjoy a hot dog cooked on an open fire with a sea view.

If you’re feeling brave, try your hand at water sports by hiring a kayak, rowing boat, or SUP board from the café. If water sports aren’t your thing, hop on a bike and cycle 15-minutes to Seurasaari, a beautiful island with tonnes of wildlife. Spend the afternoon exploring everything the island has to offer before heading back to your hotel to freshen up before dinner at Palace, one of the Michelin star restaurants in Finland. With beautiful views of both of the city and its seascape, it’s the perfect place to spend your final evening in Helsinki.

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Helsinki is worth visiting simply for its beautiful seaside.