10 Essential Things to Do in Helsinki in One Day

Tourist attractions Helsinki

If you only have 24 hours to visit the capital of Finland, don’t miss these things to do in Helsinki in one day.

I always say that the best way to see a city is by planning well, knowing what to see, the main activities and tourist attractions. You should create an itinerary so you won’t miss any important places.

And don’t forget to walk and explore the least touristy places, to discover the small shops that are hidden and the best local restaurants for a delicious dinner!

Things to do in Helsinki in one day

Even so, there are times when we don’t have enough time to discover a place the way we’d like to. And on these occasions, we have to choose well which essential monuments to visit to get a first impression of a city. 

If you’re wondering what to do in Helsinki in one day, you’ve come to the right place. This guide is packed full of the best sights and attractions in the city, for you to add to your one day Helsinki itinerary. 

Ready to discover the best Helsinki one day tour? Here are the top 10 places that you can’t miss. And I assure you that you’ll love to visit the city.

One day in Helsinki – Things to do

The following destinations are my favorite places to visit in Helsinki in one day. They offer a brilliant cross-section of what the city has to offer, and make for an amazing day of exploring!

Market Square Helsinki: Kauppatori

This outdoor market located at the harbor very close to the Uspenski Cathedral, will surprise you. Full of food booths, the Finns buy herrings, fruit marmalades, and giant pickles with vinegar. So delicious!

Helsinki capital of Finland

I recommend that you walk around the market to breathe in the good environment they have, with live music, boats where you can savor the local cuisine and small vessels where you can buy fresh-caught products.

It’s the perfect place to eat Finnish famous white sausages while enjoying a day at the market. Without a doubt, it’s one of my favorite places to visit when spending a day in Helsinki.

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Helsinki

This red brick with green domes cathedral that is crowned with orthodox crosses, takes you immediately to Russia.

After passing the Bridge of Love, full of many colorful locks, you can locate the Uspenski Cathedral. Once inside, the smell of incense is strong, the walls are full of paintings, and the golden color prevails on all of them.

Once outside, from the top of the Uspenski Cathedral, you can see the dome of the Lutheran Cathedral (also known as Tuomiokirkko or Helsinki Cathedral), another of the indispensable places to see in Helsinki.

Helsinki Senate Square

The Senate Square is impressive. It could be said that all streets run into it.

capital finland

There are lots of elegant and colorful buildings and here is where you can find the oldest stone house in Helsinki.

There is another magical place: the central statue where tourists and locals sit down on the benches surrounding it, to calmly enjoy the greatest attraction of the square: the amazing Tuomiokirkko (cathedral). Built between 1830 and 1852, the magnificent Helsinki Cathedral is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks.

If you’re deciding what to see in Helsinki in one day, The Senate Square and its constituents are a great place to start.

Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko)

Helsinki cathedral

It’s one of the most famous monuments and one of the must-do things to do in Helsinki in a day. Located at the top of the stairs that start at the Senate Square, as soon as you see that stunning building, it will surprise you.

It’s so white, that it seems that it’s cleaned every day. Its giant columns, its huge doors, and the light-green colored domes decorated with stars are the final touch.

Inside, it has the simple characteristics of Lutheran churches and cathedrals. Without paintings on the walls, the only things that stand out are the precious orange lamps that hang down from the ceiling and the enormous organ that crowns the central part of the cathedral.

Kiasma

For contemporary art lovers, this modern building with squared cuts, surrounded by green grass and fish sculptures will be a delight.

It’s located in front of the Parliament and next to the Music Center.

One day in Helsinki

Esplanadi

Esplanadi is a long avenue, with symbolic and elegant buildings on both sides, in downtown Helsinki.

This avenue is very famous in Helsinki and on weekends, it’s filled with people that pass it by to shop, (as the best shops in the city are located there), or simply to have a great time at one of the coffee shops and spend the afternoon there. It’s a must on your itinerary for one day in Helsinki.

Parliament

Helsinki Parliament is an austere building but gets the attention because of its beautiful location, in front of the Kiasma Modern Art Museum.

Temppeliaukio Church

Temppeliaukio Helsinki

What a wonderful monument! I never imagined I would see a church like this!

You start out with your itinerary in a residential area and you can’t imagine what’s next. A church made from rock appears right in front of you.

When you go inside, everything is just silent. There are 2 floors so don’t forget to go to the second one before leaving, from where you have a panoramic view of the whole church. The ceiling is a giant spiral that makes you go crazy if you look at it for a long time. The fuchsia accents get your attention and the rock walls make this church a masterpiece. It’s the perfect place to visit for one day in Helsinki in winter. 

Rautatientori Metro Station

Around the world, there are train stations with a special touch. Some of them are famous for their interior, like New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and others for their exteriors, like Helsinki’s train and bus station.

Free things to do in Helsinki in one day

Helsinki Station Square

In the same square as the Rauratientori station, the historic buildings that surround it grab most of the attention, now occupied by private companies and other institutions.

The one in the picture is the building that I liked the most, with its medieval-looking red roof tiles. Don’t miss it!

Useful information for visiting Helsinki in a day

Now that you know what to do in Helsinki for a day, you may be wondering about some of the practicalities. Here are some helpful tips and travel resources for your day in Helsinki.

Where to stay in Helsinki

Looking for cheap hotels in Helsinki? Here you have the best options to stay in Helsinki.

How to fly to Helsinki

Numerous Airlines fly to Helsinki from main cities in Europe. Its official airline is Finnair. When I traveled to Helsinki, I flew with Lufthansa via Frankfurt.

Click here to find the cheapest flights to Helsinki (from $100 return).

How to get around Helsinki

Once you arrive at Helsinki’s airport, the best option to get to the city center is by bus or taxi. The last one takes 20 minutes and it cost less than 40 euros.

The most economical option is the bus. There are 2 different tickets; one for 4.5 euros for the public bus and another one for 6.5 euros for Finnair’s official bus. Both leave you at the Rautatientori station, located in downtown Helsinki and takes 25 minutes.

I hope you like these 10 Essential things to do in Helsinki in one day and that they are valuable additions to your Helsinki one day Itinerary.

For more secret town inspiration, here are Secret Places to Visit in Rome and A day in Saint Petersburg.

Over to you

Have you been to Helsinki? Did you find other musts that we need to know about?

Tell us in the comments below!

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22 responses to “10 Essential Things to Do in Helsinki in One Day”

  1. Sateenmuru says:

    Yes! I’ve lived in Helsinki, and after 2 years of travel blogging abroad I’m moving back to Finland for the winter time: first stop, Helsinki. Funny how on this list there were almost the same things I’d show to anyone visiting Helsinki also – maybe add Ateneum (the National Museum) and the old wooden house area in Käpylä or Vallila. Some architecture too…oh well, there’s actually quite a lot in Helsinki, well done squeezing so much in 10 points!

  2. I just love city guides like this, as it makes my planning much easier. We haven’t been to Helsinki yet, so we will save this for when we do go. Lovely photos too.

  3. Miranda says:

    Thanks for this guide – I especially love how you highlight old and new. The Kiasma and Temppliaukio Church look really interesting. Must have been really fun to research this article :)

  4. Michael says:

    Now I won’t run out of things to do when I do get to Helsinki! Quite a list of options.

  5. Karyn Jane says:

    Great list! I must confess I didn’t really know what there was to do in Helsinki, even though I’ve seen a few other bloggers write about Finland. This list is really helpful – and I always love anywhere that has good markets!

  6. sandra says:

    In the central part of Senate Square there’s a statue of Alexander II, not a fountain. Tuomiokirkko is a Finnish word for “cathedral”, so saying “cathedral of Tuomiokirkko” is like saying “cathedral of cathedral” which doesn’t make much sense. Correct name for another attraction you’ve written about is “Esplanadi”, not Esplendi. And “Temppeliaukio”, not Temppliaukio, tho this I understand can be a typo. Very good list, it’s just missing a bit of actual research.

    • Thank you so much Sandra! Already change errors, thanks for your help!! Sometimes in English is difficult to have the exact names. Would you add more essential things to visit in Helsinki?
      Have a great day!

      • Christian says:

        I’m guessing that Sara is thinking of the fountain at Havis Amanda, between Esplanadi and Kauppatoi; very close to Tuomiokirkko and with Uspenski dominating the background. Very easy to confuse everything after just a 24 hour visit and photos as memories.

        Thanks for the blog about my home, Sara!

  7. Eva says:

    Great list of things to do! It’s actually *Temppeliaukio* church and *Esplanadi*

  8. Such a fab post – Helsinki is one of my fav European destinations. So glad you included the Temppliaukio Church; I affectionately call it the rock church & direct everyone who is heading to Finland there first. My parents loved it to.

    Hoping to get back again soon!

  9. Tammy Tervo Sawyer says:

    Your list is great for a day! (I spent a whole summer in Finland.) Make sure to go to an island by ferry boat (and get a great view of Helsinki from the water like in the first photo in your article), Suomenlinna (fortress), Korkeasaari (zoo), Seurasaari, (open air museum) or many others. This might make for a long day, however, if you are visiting in the summer the days are nice and long!

  10. Fon says:

    Some great things! I haven’t had any idea about Helsinki as a place to visit. Thanks for changing my mind.

  11. Revati says:

    I’ve never been to Helsinki, but if I were planning a trip there this is just the kind of quick and to the point kind of article I’d be referring to! Well put!

  12. Such a comprehensive list! I’m bookmarking this for next year when I plan to be in Helsinki :)

  13. I’ll definitely be heading to the market and Kiasma when I finally get here! A great list and introduction to what Helsinki has to offer :)

  14. Els says:

    I’m a slow traveller so 24 hours is a no-go for me, but as you say, we don’t always choose the time we stay in a place. Nice to know it is possible to cover so much of Helsinki in only one day!

  15. Tim says:

    When I make it to Helsinki I hope to have more than a day but just in case I appreciate your list. One of the best things about travel is that you never really know exactly where or for how long you will be somewhere.

  16. Dyson says:

    Jussi Hellsten. Finnish photographer Jussi Hellsten has captured local moments in Helsinki throughout one year.

  17. Suomenlinna is nice place to visit.I have recorded a video from suomenlinna in winter. It’s really beautiful with the snow and everything.I really recommend visiting Suomenlinna Fort if you are visiting Helsinki. I used my go pro camera to record footage so sorry for not perfect quality.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2ZZOWFqfsw&feature=youtu.be – Suomenlinna Fort

  18. My Homepage says:

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  19. Celine says:

    Hi Sara, I am visiting Helsinki soon and stumble upon your blog. May I please ask where exactly did you take a photo of the first photo? The one consisting of the sea, harbour and the cathedral? Do you mind sharing it with me?

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