Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
The former military fortress Suomenlinna is one of the most visited attractions in Helsinki and is well worth the 20-minute ferry ride. The fortress of Sveaborg (Swedish Castle), built in the mid-18th century to bar Russian access to the Baltic, dominates the island. During the Swedish-Russian war the fortress fell to the Russians. In 1918, it passed to Finland and was given the Finnish name of Suomenlinna (Finnish Castle). During the 1950s and 1960s, it was handed over by the military to the civilian authorities, and since then has been renovated for cultural and recreational use. It is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage monument and includes a military museum with a park and canons lying around.
Central Railway Station
The Central Railway Station is the jewel in the Helsinki’s art deco crown. Designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1909 and opened in 1919, it is nowadays used by approximately 200,000 passengers per day, making it Finland’s most-visited building. The station is mostly clad in Finnish granite, and its distinguishing features are its clock tower and the statues holding the spherical lamps on either side of the main entrance. In 2013 Helsinki Central Railway Station was chosen as one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations by BBC.
Market Square (Kauppatori)
The Market Square is the main square in central Helsinki and one of the best-known outdoor markets in northern Europe. The market runs from spring to autumn and harbors stands selling food, flowers, souvenirs, as well as a few outdoor cafés. Watch your food carefully – the local seagulls are large and brazen and will snatch the food out from the dreamy diners. In October, the famous herring market takes place, and masses of American cars meet at the square every May 1st.
Helsinki Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko)
Located in the heart of Helsinki, Tuomiokirkko has become the most iconic building in the city. Designed in the 19th century, this white Lutheran cathedral is today a meeting place for tourists as well as for couples kissing against the impressive background. An interesting fact is that the church has no bells, so the bell recording composed byTaneli Kuusisto is played via loudspeakers.
Designed by Alvar Aalto and built in 1971, this white marble edifice with décor details in hardwoods and ceramics serves as a concert and convention hall and is a stunning site famous for its acoustics. Another standout feature of the Finlandia Hall is the wide Venetian staircase that leads from the ground floor to both the main auditorium and chamber music hall. There is a marvelous park with large chess boards and chess pieces to the north of the Hall, and beyond the park there is the new Finnish National Opera House.
Temppeliaukio “Rock” Church
Temppeliaukio “Rock” Church, designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in the late 1960s, is a marvel well worth visiting. The church is shorn in the natural bedrock and laden with a magnificent shallow copper dome. The underground interior was carved out of the ancient solid rock of the Helsinki peninsula and bathes in a glorious natural light that comes through the ribs in the dome. Due to its excellent acoustics features created by the rough rock surfaces, the church is also used as a concert hall.
Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma)
The best place to dip into Helsinki’s cutting-edge art and design is at Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art. Designed by the American architect Steven Holl, this curvaceous building houses an outstanding collection of Finnish and international contemporary art.
Linnanmäki Amusement Park
Located to the east of Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, the Linnanmäki amusement park, along with the nearby Television Tower, forms a striking vision on Helsinki’s skyline. Linnanmäki Amusement Park is a must to enjoy a funfair and carnival atmosphere as well as wonderful cotton candy! Taking the rides on the old-fashioned wooden rollercoaster, sightseeing train, giant wheel and panorama tower is probably the best way to spend a summer day in Helsinki. Prices and entry times vary throughout the year and change frequently, so make sure to check the website for the up-to-date information.
Parks & Zoos
The Esplanade Park is a splendid patch of greenery in the heart of the city. The Espa Stage is a popular venue for all sorts of live events in the summer, from fashion shows to jazz music.
If you’re travelling with kids, Helsinki Zoo is a fun place to spend a few hours. Dating from 1889, this zoo is one of the oldest in the world and is home for over 200 different animal species.
For an insight into the Finnish folk tradition, visit Seurasaari Open-Air Museum which offers a variety of reconstructed traditional buildings as well as guides dressed in national costumes.