Top Things to See in Helsinki, Finland on a Cruise
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a seaside city consisting of beautiful islands, greenspace, and neoclassical design. Helsinki is a popular port of call on most major cruise lines’ Baltic or Northern European itineraries. If you are cruising to this “White City of the North”, we give you our list of the Top Things to See in Helsinki, Finland on a cruise.
Senate Square should be on the top of your list for attractions to see in Helsinki. Senate Square is located in the heart of the Old City. It is the center for arts, culture, religion, politics, and education. The four main buildings in the square were designed by Carl Ludvig Engel between 1822 and 1852. The most prominent of the buildings in the square is the Helsinki Cathedral. This Lutheran church is one of the most photographed landmarks with its large central dome. In addition, the other buildings include Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki, and the National Library of Finland.
Mannerheim Street Landmarks
Inevitably, you will travel on Mannerheim Street, Helsinki’s main route. Along the way, you can admire other notable landmarks including the Parliament House, The National Museum of Finland, and Kiasma, the contemporary art museum. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki’s concert and convention center, is located across the way from the National Museum and is known for its architectural design. Also, the first dedicated opera house in Finland which hosts hundreds of opera and ballet performances a year is worth a photo-op. Not far off the main drag, you can marvel at the architecture of the Helsinki Central train station. This building is regarded as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.
This popular marketplace has been a center of trade for hundreds of years in Helsinki. Located at the east end of the Esplanadi, this central square offers a festive atmosphere with plenty of vendors selling a variety of goods. Here, you can interact with the locals and browse rows of tents selling Finnish food, souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, and more.
While in the area, you will also want to stroll the Esplanadi. This greenspace is a popular park for both locals and tourists alike. It is surrounded by shopping and cafes, including the Kappeli restaurant known for its ornate architecture and decor. We stopped into a local cafe at the end of our explorations to enjoy some coffee and a korvapuusti, a traditional Finnish cinnamon roll. All we have to say is yummy!
Sibelius Park and Monument
Dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, this park and unique moment are definitely worth a visit during your stop in Helsinki. The larger than life sculpture was designed by Eila Hiltunen as a monument to honor this great composer following his death in 1957. The sculpture is comprised of more than 600 steel pipes displayed in a wave-like design to serve as a visual representation of his music.
Temppeliaukio Rock Church
Speaking of sights to behold, you won’t want to miss the Temppeliaukio Rock Church either. This one of a kind Lutheran church was blasted out of a massive block of natural granite in the middle of a residential area. The stone interior amplifies sound making it a unique concert venue. The copper dome, exposed rock, and wonderful natural light display makes this church a top place to see in Helsinki.
Built in the late 1800’s, the Uspenski Cathedral is another popular tourist attraction in Helsinki. This largest Orthodox church in western Europe is set on the hillside overlooking the city. The cathedral is best known for the 13 green-and-gold cupolas representing Christ and the twelve apostles and its red brick exterior. The design was modeled after a 16th century Russian church.
The Helsinki Olympic Stadium is the largest stadium in the country. This venue is best known for hosting the 1952 Summer Olympics. Construction actually began in the 1930’s with the intent to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were subsequently cancelled due to WWII. Today, the stadium is mostly used for sporting events and concerts. The venue is currently under renovation and is expected to re-open in 2020.
Only accessible by boat, the Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also known as the Gibraltar of the North, it is regarded as the largest sea fortress in the world. Suomenlinna was built to protect the country against an invasion from Russia. Today, you can explore the grounds, which include a museum, the Suomenlinna Church, King’s Gate, and more. In addition, there are surrounding parks and beaches to enjoy. Guided tours are available or you can head off on your own following the Blue Route, an approximately 1-mile main route running through the fortress.
Porvoo was founded in the 14th century, making it the second oldest town in Finland. Many aspects of the area have been left untouched by time. Therefore, it is a great place to explore the narrow lanes, historic buildings, and the central Old Town. In Old Town, you can meander the cobblestone streets, admire the wooden houses and charming Porvoo Cathedral, browse the small stores, or enjoy a coffee and dessert. You should also stop for a photo-op at the Old Bridge of Porvoo.
Nuuksio National Park
Nuuksio National Park is one of Finland’s 40 national parks established in 1994. It is located in the northwest direction from Helsinki. This park is a testament to the remarkable Finnish flora and fauna. Nuuksio is home to the European nightjar, the woodlark, and the Siberian flying squirrel. There is also a dedicated area for reindeer, where you can partake in reindeer feedings or reindeer trekking. Many cruise lines will offer excursions here so you can get up close and personal with these creatures.
Finnish Archipelago Boat Tour
One of the best ways to explore more of your surroundings during a visit to Helsinki, Finland is by a boat tour. Set off along the shoreline to explore the Finnish archipelago. Highlights of this tour can include the open-air markets, the fortress of Suomenlinna spanning six interconnected islands, the icebreaker fleet that keeps harbor traffic flowing during the winter, and the Helsinki Zoo. You can also watch for seals and learn a bit of the history of Helsinki along the way.
Have you visited Helsinki, Finland? What are some of your top things to do in this Northern European cruise port? Drop us an anchor below with your Top Things to See in Helsinki, Finland on a Cruise.