Maritime Helsinki’s diverse offerings also include history, art, beaches, restaurant services and recreational opportunities. Ferries and waterbuses operate to many of the islands, so they are fun and easy to get to (in this article the route examples apply for the summer 2022 - we will update new routes closer to summer 2023).
Relax on the sandy beaches of Pihlajasaari
Situated a short ferry ride from the southern tip of Helsinki, Pihlajasaari is one of the city’s most versatile summer islands. It actually consists of two islands that are joined by a pedestrian bridge, offering visitors lots of fun activities and relaxation. The splendid sandy beaches, grilling shelters, restaurant, beautiful nature and rocky cliffs provide the ideal setting for the enjoying the perfect summer’s day. In addition to playing and relaxing on the beaches, you can also hike along the 2-kilometre nature trail and learn more about the islands’ wildlife and history.
How to get there: JT-Line ferries operate to Pihlajasaari from both Ruoholahti (Kellosaarenranta 1) and Merisatamanranta near the Kaivopuisto park (Merisatamanranta 10). The fun crossing takes around 10 minutes. You can get to Ruoholahti from the city centre by any metro heading for Tapiola or Matinkylä. The ferry quay next to the Ruoholahdentori square is located approximately 350 metres from the metro station. The Merisatamanranta quay can be reached from the city centre by taking Tram 1 or 3, for example from the Lasipalatsi stop on Mannerheimintie. Get off at Eira Hospital and walk approximately 600 metres down Laivurinkatu; the ferry departs from behind Café Carusel. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the JT-Line website or on the ferry. Public transport tickets cannot be purchased on the metro or tram and must be purchased in advance from ticket machines, R-kiosks or the HSL app (AB ticket).
Walk from island to island across Uunisaari, Liuskasaari and Liuskaluoto
Several charming islands are situated just off the southern tip of Helsinki by the Kaivopuisto park and can be reached in just a few minutes by small ferries operating from the mainland. On the island of Uunisaari you can enjoy splendid views to the sea from the rocky cliffs and beach, and there is also a café-restaurant. From there you can walk across the little bridge to the neighbouring island of Liuskasaari, at the end of which you can enjoy tasty pizzas in a superb archipelago setting at the restaurant Skiffer.
How to get there: The ferry to Uunisaari departs from the Kaivopuisto shoreline (Kompassitori). From the city centre, take Tram 3 heading for Olympiaterminaali from Lasipalatsi on Mannerheimintie and get off at the Neitsytpolku stop. Walk down Neitsytpolku for approximately 400 metres until you get to the shoreline. The Callboat electric ferry departs from the quay by “Compass Square”. As its name suggests, the ferry operates on a call basis and can be called conveniently using the Callboats app. From Uunisaari, there is also a bridge to the adjacent island of Liuskasaari.
The Aava Lines ferry operates directly to Liuskaluoto from the HSS quay on the Merisatamanranta shoreline, halfway between Café Carusel and Compass Square. You can call the ferry by operating the signal at the end of the quay. From Liuskaluoto you can walk to Liuskasaari and Uunisaari. Tickets can be purchased online or from onboard the ferry.
Visit the animals on Korkeasaari
The island of Korkeasaari is home to Helsinki Zoo, the perfect destination for families and animal lovers. Around 150 animal species from across the world live on the island, which also has two restaurants, summer kiosks and grilling areas. You can easily spend an entire day at Korkeasaari learning about the animals and the important conservation work performed by the zoo. On the same outing you can also visit neighbouring Mustikkamaa, a popular recreational area with its own swimming beach, play area, and both volleyball and tennis courts. The rocky cliffs at Mustikkamaa are also popular fishing spots, while the Korkee adventure park offers unforgettable experiences for adventurers of all ages and levels.
How to get there: You can get to Korkeasaari by land or sea.. JT-Line ferries operate from the Market Square (Keisarinluoto) daily throughout the summer season to the end of August and also on weekends in September. Adult tickets cost €4 (€8 return) and children’s tickets are just €1 (€2 return). Ferry tickets do not include admission to the zoo, tickets for which can be purchased at the entrance to the zoo or online. By land, you can get to Korkeasaari by taking Bus 16 from outside Helsinki Central Station (platform 17). The bus ride takes around 20 minutes. Get off at Mustikkamaa and follow the signs to the zoo. The island of Korkeasaari is connected to Mustikkamaa by a bridge. You will need an AB ticket that costs €2.80 for adults and €1.40 for children (7-17) and is valid for 80 minutes. Public transport tickets cannot be purchased on the bus and must be purchased in advance from ticket machines, R-kiosks or the HSL app. You can also drive to the zoo by car and park at Mustikkamaa.
Enjoy the warm atmosphere on Lonna
Once a base for storing and clearing mines, Lonna is a small island with a big heart and lots of action and history. The restaurant on the island houses a museum that presents the history of the former military island and the original diesel generators that have been restored. Numerous events are organised on the island, and you can also enjoy the Coffee Shop & Bar. There is even a public log sauna that can be booked in advance, or you can try your luck if there is room – the view to the archipelago from the sauna terrace is breathtaking!
How to get there: The Suomen Saaristokuljetus ferry crossing from the Market Square to Lonna takes just 10 minutes. Ferries are operated by FRS Finland and run from May to September between the Market Square and Suomenlinna via Lonna. Ferries depart from the Lyypekinlaituri quay at the Market Square. Tickets can be purchased conveniently online in advance or onboard the ferry.
Immerse yourself in history at Suomenlinna
The UNESCO World Heritage Site Suomenlinna is an iconic part of Helsinki’s identity. The historic sea fortress was built on seven islands beginning in 1748, when Finland was part of Sweden. You can really sense the history in the fortress’s tunnels and Suomenlinna’s museums. You can spend the entire day exploring the islands and spend the night at the Hostel Suomenlinna. Restaurant services are also available.
How to get there: Suomenlinna is not only a tourist attraction but also a residential district that is served by the HSL municipal ferry, which operates from the Market Square. AB tickets are valid, or you can purchase a single ticket (€2.80 adults, €1.40 children) that is valid for 80 minutes or a day ticket (€8 adults, €4 children) that is valid for 24 hours. Suomenlinna is situated in the HSL ticket zone A, so a valid public transport ticket (AB, ABC or ABCD) can be used also on the ferry. Public transport tickets can be purchased from ticket machines, R-kiosks or the HSL app. The HSL ferry is free of charge if you have the Helsinki Card. FRS Finland also operates ferries from the Market Square to Suomenlinna via Lonna from May to September. These ferries depart from the Lyypekinlaituri quay near the Old Market Hall. Return tickets cost €8.30 for adults and €4.20 for children (ages 7-16) plus special groups. Children under 7 years with a paying adult are free of charge. Tickets can be purchased online or onboard the ferry.
Admire art by the sea at on Vallisaari
Vallisaari is a former military island next to Suomenlinna that offers the most diverse nature in Helsinki’s archipelago, including rare species of birds, butterflies and bats.
How to get there: Pörtö Line operates ferries to Vallisaari from the Market Square from 1 May to 30 September 2022. The ferries arrive at Vallisaari at the Luotsipiha quay and depart from the Torpedolahti quay. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket booth at the Lyypekinlaituri quay in the Market Square or online in advance from the Pörtö Line website. The price of a ticket is €6.9 for adults and €3.45 for children (7-17).
Experience the open sea at Isosaari
Isosaari is situated in the outer archipelago at the head of the sea channel leading to Helsinki. Indeed, the island has traditionally served as an important landmark for seafarers. These days, the island offers lots to see and experience, including cultural history, untouched nature and rare birds. Isosaari also has restaurants, saunas, a golf course, a yoga studio and plenty of accommodation, including a camping area, a hotel boat and cabins.
How to get there: Ferries to Isosaari operate from the Market Square from mid-May to mid-September. Timetables can be found here. The ferry ride takes around 40 minutes, and a return ticket costs €22 for adults and €11 for children (ages 5-16). Tickets purchased in advance offer priority boarding if you arrive at least 10 minutes before departure. You can also get to the island by your own boat and dock at the marina.
Venture out to Kaunissaari, Helsinki’s easternmost recreational island
Situated approximately 10 kilometres further east of Helsinki’s Aurinkolahti district, the island of Kaunissaari is a great place to enjoy the diverse nature, plant life and restaurant services. The island’s restaurant is just a short walk from the ferry quay, and there are also grilling shelters for picnics. Camping is permitted in designated areas. A 4-kilometre nature trail presents the island’s nature and history, and you can relax on the rocky shores and enjoy the beautiful views to the open sea and the archipelago atmosphere.
How to get there: From the centre of Helsinki, just take the metro east to the Vuosaari station and then walk approximately 1 kilometre to the Aurinkolahti quay. The HSL app is a convenient way to purchase public transport tickets and check your routes. You will need an AB ticket from the centre of Helsinki to Vuosaari (adults €2.80, children €1.40). The Pörtö Line ferry operates from the Aurinkolahti quay (Aurinkoranta 7). Round-trip tickets cost €16.50 for adults and €8 for children (ages 7-17), and the ferry crossing takes approximately 50-60 minutes. Public transport tickets cannot be purchased on the metro and must be purchased in advance from ticket machines, R-kiosks or the HSL app.
Multi-island tour into the Eastern Archipelago
The Eastern Archipelago Route is a great way to get a taste of the real Helsinki archipelago life. This intra-city waterway takes you from the mainland and stops in parts of the Helsinki archipelago where usually no other tour or sightseeing vessels operate. The route also includes a drive through the beautiful Degerö canal.
How to get there: You can get there from the mainland from four piers: Kalasatama, Herttoniemi, Laajasalo and Vuosaari. From June to the beginning of September the route is run three times a day, you should check the operator's website for details. The complete trip from beginning to end costs € 12 for adults and € 6 for children, the total duration is about 1 h 45 minutes. You cannot make reservations for the cruise, so tickets are purchased on site with a card.
To discover more island gems in Helsinki’s archipelago, click here!