So a few weeks ago I visited Helsinki with my family. I really enjoyed it and here are some of the best things we did. I was traveling with my grandparents and my three young cousins (under 15 years old), so all the sights and activities can are suitable for both groups as well (unless otherwise mentioned).
First, let’s talk about all the things you need to know about Helsinki. It is the capital of Finnland and hosts all the important political buildings, which will be mentioned later. It has just over a million inhabitants, although I would consider it a small city. It can be easily explored both on foot, taxi, or even public transport (post on this coming soon). It is up north, so the weather is according to that. Winters can be terribly cold and summers cool, with the exception of this year when the temperature reached almost 30 degrees Celsius.
This white cathedral is one of my favorite sights in the city. It is so beautiful and impressive in the middle of the open square. Built in the mid 19 hundreds, it is one of the most visited sights in Helsinki. I believe you can visit the church, but we did not get the chance to do so. If you are thinking of doing it, make sure you go early to avoid the crowds.
With its small streets and local shops the old town of Helsinki is adorable and will make you fall in love with the city. You can wonder from the cathedral through parks and streets to the train station. And further to the part. There are things to see all around. You can walk along the bay to see boats and restaurants, or go on the ferris wheel to see the complete city from above. There are also many restaurants along this route if you get hungry, you will be sure to find something you like.
Vanha kauppahalli (market)
Located next to the old port in the center is this little old market. From the outside it may not look like much, but it is definitely worth a look inside. While you can buy the traditional things, such as fruits, vegetables, or even meats, you can also find many small restaurants and cafes in here. They are adorable and serve delicious coffee and sometimes pastries.
The cave church
Now if you are picturing a 12th century church dug into a rock, you are wrong. I thought the same, even while inside. However, it was built in the 1960s and therefore includes some modern elements that work surprisingly well with the stone. You do have to pay an entrance fee but it is only 5€, so totally okay. If there are concerns you can still go inside and pay the same fee, just be respectful and enjoy the music.
This beautiful island only 15 minutes away from the center and can be reached by boat. If you have bought a 24 hour card for the public transport, you can use it for the boat. If not, you can just buy single tickets. I have a post coming soon about how exactly the public transport system works in Helsinki, so if you need more help figuring it out, keep an eye out for that.
When you reach the island there is a walk suggesting to make you reach the gate. It will take about one to two hours depending on your walking speed, and how many detours you take. It is a simple walk though, without too many ups and downs. If taken at a slow pass it is definitely suitable for older people, I would be varied of baby strollers though, since much of the path is not pawed.
Along the way, you can visit the church, the war museum, and an old submarine. Many of these museums are included in the Helsinki pass, so if you have it you might want to check these out along the way. Along with museums, you also have many restaurants and coffee shops. We have not tried them, but they all looked adorable and would definitely give them a try.
Place to eat
Helsinki offers much to a foodie. We did not get the chance to try authentic Finnish food, however we did find an amazing falafel place called “Fafa’s”. They offer a variety of kebabs and falafels. Also their side dishes are delicious. I was impressed by the quality of the tzatziki and the hummus. If you are here make sure to check out this adorable corner store. You will pay no more than 10 € per dish and the taste will blow you away.
Place to stay
We stayed in the Scandic Grand Marina, which was super convenient for us do to arriving and leaving via ferry. The hotel was pretty basic, but the breakfast was nice and the rooms had everything you would need. It was also a 10 minute walk from the center, so the location was exactly what we wanted. I did not see many hotels advertised in the city, but I’m sure you can also find them if you are looking for something a little more modern or luxurious. If you are coming with children, the hotel is great. They offer big rooms for up to 4 people, which is ideal with smaller children.
Overall Helsinki is a great city to spend a few days in to relax and explore. I enjoyed my time here and would recommended it to other travelers. It is a cute city and will give you a few days of peace before returning to reality. If you end up traveling there I would love to hear about it in the comment below or on social media.