Welcome to my first “Perfect Day” post to make the most out of the short time you might have in Helsinki. Visiting on a business trip or a cruise with only a few hours to spare – don’t worry, you can get the essence of Helsinki and decide whether you should come back to see more! Helsinki is a beautiful city with a historic core that begs to be explored on foot, surrounded by forests and islands and protected by one of the largest sea fortresses ever built! Plan to get up early to make the most out of your perfect summer day in Helsinki!
After you had a good breakfast to prepare you for an active day out in Helsinki, head to the harbor! At the very entry to the harbor and market, you will find the JT Waterbus to take you to Suomenlinna, the great fortress built over several islands in the Helsinki harbor! It’s an impressive fortress to see and you get to wander across the beautiful islands. You also get a mini boat tour past the many little islands surrounding Helsinki, where many locals spend their weekends to relax, swim, boat or enjoy their saunas! The JT Waterbus will drop you at the Suomenlinna center where you can get an introduction to the history at the well done Suomenlinna museum. From there, you can stroll across the island towards King’s Gate and see the impressive fortifications. Time your visit to catch the JT Waterbus from King’s Gate back to the Helsinki harbor – it leaves every hour in summer. If you have some extra time, you can have your lunch near the King’s Gate at one of a number of restaurants there. Or get back and have a snack at the market at the harbor!
From the harbor, start your walking tour of Helsinki and explore the beautiful, historic architecture from the Orthodox church visible from the harbor to Senate Square with the towering Cathedral and along the parks to see and be seen. The downtown area of Helsinki is pretty compact and easy to explore on foot! The Kiasma and Ateneum museums near the central train station are great buildings, even if you are not interested to go inside! If you have time left and are interested in a museum, you can pick one from the long list of public museums available – my favorites were the National History Museum, the Kiasma modern art museum and the Ateneum fine arts museum! If you are not a museum fan, you might want to stroll through the pedestrian area for some shopping and to pick up some gifts for loved ones at home.
After all that exploring, you have earned a nice dinner. On a beautiful, long summer evening, one of the many restaurants on the squares and pedestrian streets will give you a chance to people watch and get a feel for the people of Helsinki. Both, the rotisserie The Cock and Vapiano have outdoor seating with nice views of the city life!
Back at your hotel, you can try out the Finn’s favorite pastime – and enjoy the dry sauna! Both, the Radisson Blu Plaza and the Holiday Inn West – as well as most other mid-and upscale hotels – have one! It will relax your (sore?) muscles and get you ready for a good night’s sleep! If you find yourself in Helsinki on a very short and cold winter day, that pretty much would sum up my perfect winter day in Helsinki: Relax in the wellness area, enjoy the hot, hot sauna and a good massage. After that, curl up in front of a fire place with a good book, food and glass of wine and be happy that you are not outside at – 30 degrees!