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Helsinki: 72 Hours in Finland’s Capital

This week, I traveled to the capital of Finland, one of Norway’s fellow Nordic countries. I flew into Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on Tuesday evening, the main international airport serving Helsinki, and took bus 615 to Järnvägstorget, the Railway Square. From there, I walked to Kauppatori, the Market Square, where I caught the ferry to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history that dates back to the 18th century. I checked into Hostel Suomenlinna, planned my activities for the next three days, and got some much needed sleep before the adventures began. My Helsinki kindly provided me with a Helsinki Card during my stay and I started exploring Finland’s capital the following day.

 

Day One

In the morning, I took the ferry from Suomenlinna to Kauppatori and walked to Vanha Kauppahalli, the Old Market Hall, for my first taste of Finnish coffee. I ordered from Robert’s Coffee, a family-run Finnish coffee shop, and immediately understood why Finns are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. With a delicious cup of coffee in hand, I made my way to the Senate Square for a two-hour free walking tour. There’s really no better way to learn about a new city than from a local, and it was an added bonus that our guide Sara was a history major at the University of Helsinki.


The tour started at the Helsinki Cathedral and ended at the Uspenski Cathedral, showing the city’s Art Nouveau buildings, Neoclassical architecture, and the influence of modernism and functionalism throughout. Sara walked us through the country’s unique history, from being ruled by the Swedes and then by the Russians, to Finland gaining its independence in 1917. As the city center came to life with stories of war and politics, I saw why Helsinki is known as a major city of architecture. When the tour concluded, I warmed up with another cup of coffee at Johan & Nyström and then set out to explore the local design scene.


In the heart of the city, Helsinki’s Design District combines Finnish tradition with modern culture. I browsed the trendy boutiques and one-of-a-kind coffee shops, finding the cutest stationary in Papershop and a coffee counter in Plootu, a two-in-one furniture store and cafe. From one street to the next, I stumbled upon everything from artwork and antiques to second-hand clothing and accessories. As the daylight dwindled, I returned to the Market Square and grabbed some dinner before catching the evening ferry back to Suomenlinna.


 

Day Two

Having spent the previous day exploring downtown Helsinki, it was time to discover the maritime and military history that lies within Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. Spread across six islands, the winds from the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland made for a chilly morning, but it was totally worth it. The King’s Gate, restored vessel, lighthouse, and many cannons are all beautifully located in close proximity to the sea and tell the story of the three historic eras: the Swedish era, the Russian era, and the era of Independence. When I could no longer feel my fingers and toes, I stepped into the Suomenlinna Museum and read up on the history from the 18th century to present day.


Once I was ready to brave the cold again, I made a dash for the ferry, only to find it had started snowing while I was inside. I bundled up as best I could and continued towards Temppeliaukio Church, a 1960s church excavated into a rock and a popular tourist attraction. After exploring the Rock Church, I hopped on the tram to embark on an afternoon of museum hopping, but not before I took a break to stop and smell the roses, literally. Andante is both a coffee shop and a flower shop, with plants hanging from the ceiling to create a refreshing space with a serene atmosphere. I drank a cup of coffee and ate a cinnamon bun while I mapped out the museums I wanted to explore.


The first stop on the museum tour was the Design Museum, Designmuseo, internationally recognized for its collection of both Finnish and foreign design. Next up was the Helsinki Art Museum, HAM, which showcases modern and contemporary art within the walls of the museum as well as on public display around the city. Then I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma, which was by far my favorite, combining art with technology to create a complete sensory experience. The final museum of the day was the National Museum of Finland, Kansallismuseo, which is home to over 10,000 years of Finland’s history. By the end, I was absolutely exhausted and spent the evening working at a cafe until it was time to return to the hostel to sleep.


 

Day Three

On my third and final day in Helsinki, I checked out of Hostel Suomenlinna and took one more walk around the islands while I waited for the ferry. Once I was back across the water, I sat down at a cafe called Story in the Old Market Hall and began sorting through my photos from the trip. Drinking one cup of coffee after the other, thanks to the unlimited refills, I reflected on my first official adventure as a solo traveler. As my stomach filled with coffee and my heart filled with memories, I knew that this is exactly what I want to be doing and I couldn’t help but smile.




With a couple hours left until I had to head to the airport, I walked to the Ateneum Art Museum, Finland’s most known art museum for its popular exhibitions of both Finnish and international art. Wandering the halls of the Ateneum, I took in the cultural heritage of Finland one last time before crossing the street to the Central Railway Station. I got on train I towards the airport and just like that, I was on my way back to Oslo. I had such an amazing trip to Helsinki and while it may have been my first trip to Finland, it most certainly won’t be my last.


A special thank you to My Helsinki for hosting me in Finland’s capital. As always, all opinions are my own.

44 Comments

  1. This looks like an amazing 72 hours! It is truly beautiful there!

    • I had the most wonderful time 😅 Thanks for reading Bianca!

  2. What a beautiful place to visit. One of my best friend’s part Finnish and will truly love this post! xo, Suzanne

    • Oh how wonderful! Thanks for reading and sharing it with your friend 🤗

  3. I have never in my life been in Helsinki. The photos remind me on city of Rijeka (Croatia), but I must admit Helsinki is much more appealing for the visit. Everything is so clean *-*

    • Oh I’d love to travel to Croatia! Haha Helsinki is very clean indeed 😉 I had such an incredible time exploring the city.

      • In case, you need some advice about visiting Croatia let me know! I’ll be happy to help, I work in tourism since my high school education 😀

        • Oh wow thank you so much! I will definitely be writing to you when Croatia makes it on my travel itinerary 🤗

  4. Looks like you did a lot in just a few days. The architecture and scenery is amazing and you are such a trooper to brave the Old. It looks really worthy it, and I hope it was! ❤️ Blessings and safe journeys!

    • Thanks so much Emma! I do like to keep busy and see as much as possible, especially in such a beautiful city 😂

  5. Looks like such a lovely place. Your photographs are beautiful!

    • It was absolutely spectacular! Thanks so much Rebecca ❤️

  6. Wow, your photography is stunning! Traveling around the world is a big dream of mine!!

    • Thank you so much Kristin, I hope you’ll see your dream out soon 😘

  7. Helsinki looks gorgeous. So many colors at one place is kinda hard to find. I’d love to visit the art museums and cafes of this city.

    • You would not be disappointed 😋 Such a beautiful city with both amazing museums and cafes!

  8. OMG! Helsinki is so beautiful, definitely adding it to my bucket list. You are right in complimenting the architecture, it’s brilliant. Thanks for sharing.
    Do drop by my blog as well : http://styleovercoffee.com 🙂

  9. Bee Bee

    Love reading your posts, each post makes me want to start planning a trip to visit Scandinavia.

    • Aw thank you SO much, I love writing them 😅 There are so many beautiful places to visit in Scandinavia!

  10. Aww thanks for the flashback! I love Helsinki. Was there for a conference and fell a little bit in love 🙂

    • I knew I couldn’t be the only one who fell in love with Helsinki 🙃

  11. I’ve always dreamt of going to Finland. Love the ancient architecture and the new fun shops. Dream destination for sure.

    • I hope you will turn that dream into a reality soon 😅 It’s a beautiful city with a little something for everyone.

  12. I love Scandinavian design and sense of coziness, cheers to you for exploring I would’ve spent those cold days binging on hot drinks in trendy coffees 😀

    • Haha oh don’t worry, I spent my fair share of time curled up in couches at coffee shops 😂

  13. This city looks so beautiful. I have seen it on TV from Food Network and that made want to go to but seeing these photos makes me want to get on a plane now. It so beautiful and almost doesn’t look real.

    • I really can’t recommend it enough! It’s truly an amazing city to visit 😍

  14. Tuija Huurtola Tuija Huurtola

    Julia, your blog warms my heart. You have found the top places to visit during your journey. Hope you have an opportunity to see Helsinki in summer. So much more to see.

    • How sweet of you, thank you so much 😘 Oh I hope I can visit in the summer too, Helsinki is absolutely beautiful!

  15. Blu Blu

    You truly made the most of your time there. Lovely pics. Seeing the locks of Love makes me happy how universal they are.

    • I sure did, thank you 🙂 I agree, although nothing beats the bridge in Paris!

  16. I absolutely love Europe. I think all of the old architecture is so fascinating!

    • I completely agree with you, so many beautiful things to see 😛 Thanks for reading Lauren!

  17. I love your photography! Definitely makes me want to visit Helsinki.

    • Thank you so much Ariana ❤️ I seriously can’t recommend Helsinki enough!!

  18. The city looks absolutely gorgeous! Your photography makes me feel like I’m right there with you.

  19. I hear the coolest (get it?) things about that city and would love to visit one day!

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