This post likely contains affiliate links. By booking through these links I may make a small commission (which I am very grateful for!) at no extra cost to you.

Do you only have 1 day in Helsinki? It may sound daunting, but as someone who as done it before, it is absolutely do-able.  That being said, you may fall in love with the city (as I did) and wish you planned to stay longer (also, as I did) but before you get too far ahead of yourself, let me tell you how to get the best of Helsinki in 1 day.

Helsinki Cathedral

Getting to Helsinki

Chances are if you’re only visiting Helsinki for 1 day you will arrive by ship; either a ferry or a cruise. If you’re looking for a ferry line I highly recommend Tallink Silja, they offer routes from multiple destinations around Scandinavia and the Baltics. To learn more about my experience with them check out this post.

In order to get the best of Helsinki, plan on arriving early enough to enjoy a full day. Like most other destinations in Europe, most shops don’t open til 9-10am and will close between 6 and 9 so try to plan your journeys to work with these times. 

How To Get Around Helsinki in 1 Day

Trams in Helsinki

While Scandinavia has a reputation of burning a hole through your wallet, Helsinki (from my experience) was more affordable than other Nordic cities including Copenhagen and Stockholm. If you arrive by ferry, you will need to take a tram into the city, but once you have arrived to the city centre everything is very walkable. Which is perfect, because walking is the best way to enjoy the beautiful art nouveau style buildings plus, many of the main sites and attractions are all within walking distance of each other. 

If the weather isn’t great, or you’re not keen on walking too much, you can also take the hop-on-hop-off bus which will take you to the main highlights and allow you see the best of Helsinki in one day. 

Get your ticket to for the hop-on-hop-off bus in Helsinki here.

What to See and Do in Helsinki in 1 Day

Senate Square

Helsinki Cathedral

The Senate Square is the perfect place to start your 1 day tour of Helsinki as this is the oldest part of the city. Not only is it a beautiful square on its own, but some of the top city attractions sit upon its corners; making for some easy sight-seeing and some great photo opportunities. 

The four main sites, all constructed by Carl Ludvig Engel between 1822 and 1852, on this square are

1) Helsinki Cathedral, which is considered by some to be the heart of the city

2) The Government Palace

3) The main building of the University of Helsinki

4) The National Library of Finland

Teppeliaukion (The Rock Church)

One of the most unique sights of Helsinki is the Teppeliaukion, more commonly known, (especially amongst those of us who can’t pronounce the official name,) as the Rock Church. No this does refer to rock and roll music but rather the fact that the church itself is built from rock. One of the must sees of the city, the Rock Church is incredibly unique and said to be stunning on the inside. Sadly, I cannot confirm this as I arrived less than ten minutes after they closed for the day at 5pm.

Market Square

This outdoor market is a fun place to wander and take photos. You’ll find all kinds of things for sale here including fresh food items, flowers, clothing, jewellery, and souvenirs. If the weather is nice, it’s a good spot to grab lunch from one of the vendors that sells prepared foods. 

Hakaneimi Market

Another great market to visit is Hakaneimi Market. It’s a covered market (perfect for if it’s raining) but also has lots to offer ranging from food items to souvenirs. There are more than 70 vendors at this local market, so you’re bound to find something! 

If you are looking for ideas of what to find, some of my unique recommended ideas are: handmade woolen mitts, Christmas ornaments, fashion clothing and jewelry, traditional hunting knives made by Marttiini, or traditional Finnish drinking cups. Even if you are just looking for a stereotypical souvenir, chances are you can find a unique one of Finnish design, for example; I found a cool hand-painted shot glass to take home to my brother.

Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral may be considered to be the heart of the city, but the Uspenski Cathedral is also worth a look. It’s a Russian Orthodox Cathedral and is quite beautiful to see, making it one of Helsinki’s top attractions. 

Wander Through the Design District

Helsinki was the World Design Capital in 2012, and for good reason. The shopping is amazing! I was glad I came with an empty backpack because by the time I left I had not only bought a couple of souvenirs for myself, but also completed a large chunk of my Christmas shopping (9 months early!)  The two major design hubs are the Tori Quarter and Design District, but be sure keep an eye out for the Design signs in store windows everywhere. You’ll find everything from clothing to home decor, jewellery, artwork, and more.

DSC_0425

Consider Visiting one (or more) of Helsinki’s Museums

Helsinki is also home to numerous museums on a variety of subjects ranging from the national museum, to art and design museums, and even one dedicated to trams.  With only one day in Helsinki, I chose not to visit any. However, if you are a museum enthusiest or if you are planning a multi-day trip then consider getting a Helsinki Card as many entry fees are included in the price.

Get your Helsinki Card Here 

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

submarine in Helsinki

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is an easy 20 minute ferry ride from the city centre. Originally a military fortress, Suomenlinna is made of six islands and is a popular spot to visit amongst both tourists and locals. Perfect for a walk and a picnic, Suomenlinna offers lots of historical sites to explore, including a submarine.

Most of the museums are closed during the off-season but I still spent two enjoyable hours exploring the stone walls and old ship yard. For those planning a visit, a visitor’s centre along with a couple of hotels and restaurants/cafes are also located on the main parts of the islands.

Final Tips on How to Spend One Day in Helsinki

colourful buildings in Helsinki

There’s a lot to see in Helsinki but I recommend taking it slow. Plan a couple of ‘must’ sees but make sure to take a walk around and see the beauty of the city, you never know what you will find! Also, take some time to talk to the people who I found to be very kind and helpful during my short visit.

Only having 1 day in Helsinki may not seem like a lot of time, but I loved my time exploring the city and would love to go back. 

Planning on spending the night? Look for deals on hotels.com, booking.com, or airbnb!

Huge thank you to Visit Helsinki for helping me plan my perfect day trip! Visit their website to plan your visit at: www.visithelsinki.fi  

A Note on Travel Insurance in Finland

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

One Day in Helsinki, Finland

22 Comments

  1. Anna | slightly astray on May 10, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Nice write-up! I will be in Helsinki for a few days in September and will be looking forward to some of these. The sea fortress sounds so interesting :). Thanks for sharing this information!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 10, 2014 at 1:43 am

      Thanks Anna! You’ll love it it. The sea fortress is really cool- could have easily spent most of the day wandering the islands!

  2. Muriel on May 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I love Scandinavia and Helsinki has been on my list for so long. The Rock Church looks amazing! Thanks for the tips.

  3. Arnab on May 12, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I like the super-wide pavements. Are those tram lines? I sure want to go here…and stay for more than day 🙂

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 12, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      They sure are- Helsinki seems to have a great tram system set up- but it was a nice day so I was happy walking 🙂

      • Arnab on May 12, 2014 at 4:25 pm

        I love walking too… I especially love towns where I can walk all over so that by the end of two days, I know all the lanes and by-lanes!

  4. Sarah Ebner on May 12, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    This looks and sounds great, but I also feel that more than one day would have been good too! I’d love to go, but maybe for two or three.

  5. Jennifer on May 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Helsinki is a fun city to visit. The food hall at Stockmans is a great place to grab a bite to eat and I love the view from up there.

  6. Taylor on May 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

    Loved this! I also visited Helsinki in 1 day and enjoyed many of these places. The inside of the rock church is beautiful, not what I expected from the outside & definitely worth a visit! Also, a visit to the Contemporary Art Museum Kiasma is so worth it… like you said more reasons to go back 🙂

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 13, 2014 at 1:02 am

      yeah I cheated and googled the inside of the rock church after I missed it- looks awesome! Still want to see it for myself though! 🙂

  7. Jen Seligmann on May 20, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Great wrap up of Helsinki. I’d really love to visit someday and this will definitely come in handy when I do. Cheers.

  8. Gabor Kovacs on May 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Great post about Helsinki! It’s a city that you can really visit more or less in one day, although I was glad to have more time for that when I was there:)

  9. Lisa Goodmurphy on May 20, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    We also visited Helsinki for a day and were able to see the highlights but I wanted more time to explore a bit so hopefully will make it back some time. By the way, we made it to the Rock Church and my 6 year-old thought it was the most boring place ever! 😉

  10. Anu @ Country Hopping Couple on May 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I haven’t been to Helsinki yet, but the buildings and places look gorgeous, and certainly are see-able in a day or two.

  11. shere @shereypaul on May 28, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    we also spent day in Helsinki on our way back from Asia. We arrived very early and it was sooooo cold (maybe not that cold, but the day before we had 40 degrees and we didn’t have a proper jacket), so we took first a tram which had a circular route around the city and afterwards we just walked around. It’s a lovely city!

  12. Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe on March 12, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Despite your advice, our route has worked out that I will only have one full day (with overnight) in Helsinki as well… 🙁 Nonetheless, I plan to cram a LOT in!

    • Hannah Logan on March 12, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      You can do it! You’ll still have a blast 🙂

  13. […] ensure I got the most out of my 1 day in Helsinki I took the second last ferry back to Tallinn, this time on the SuperStar ship. Departure was at […]

Leave a Comment