City Orientation Walk (Self Guided), Helsinki

Helsinki, the capital and the largest city of Finland, is a multi-faceted place unique in many ways with much to offer to any visitor. While the greater Helsinki comprises peninsulas and large bays, the city center is very symmetrical with well-organized streets and straight boulevards. On this orientation walk you can visit some of Helsinki's not-to-be-missed attractions.
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City Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walk
Guide Location: Finland » Helsinki (See other walking tours in Helsinki)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 16
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
Author: kane
1
Senaatintori (Senate Square)

1) Senaatintori (Senate Square) (must see)

Located in the center of the city, Helsinki's Senate Square contains numerous examples of Carl Ludvig Engel's architecture. The Palace of the Council of State was completed on the eastern side of Senate Square in 1822. The main university building, on the opposite side of Senate Square, was constructed in 1832.

A statue of Emperor Alexander II is located in the center of the square. The statue, erected in 1894, was built to commemorate his re-establishment of the Diet of Finland in 1863, as well as his initiation of several reforms that increased Finland's autonomy from Russia. The statue is of Alexander on a pedestal surrounded by figures representing law, culture and the peasants.

Today, Senate Square is one of Helsinki's main tourist attractions. Various cultural events, ranging from concerts to snow building contests to controversial snowboarding activities, have been held here.

Why You Should Visit:
You'll definitely be amazed at the tourism potentials of this square.
Beautiful in all seasons and a great place to get the feel of Helsinki.

Tip:
Be sure to climb the staircase leading to the church for great views of the whole environment, including the sea.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Helsinki Cathedral

2) Helsinki Cathedral (must see)

Helsinki Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki that was originally built from 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was also known as St Nicholas' Church until the independence of Finland in 1917.

A distinctive landmark in the Helsinki cityscape, with its tall, green dome surrounded by four smaller domes, the building is in the neoclassical style. It was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel to form the pinnacle of Senate Square, which was laid out by Engel.

Today, the cathedral is one of Helsinki's most popular tourist attractions. More than 350,000 people visit the church each year, some to attend religious events, but most to enjoy the beauty of the place. The church is in regular use for services of worship and special events such as weddings.

Tip:
Plenty of steps to get to the cathedral's main entrance (no handrails, so be prepared) but there are fewer steps around the side (there are also some accessibility/wheelchair ramps if needed).
Also worth a visit is an atypical café right under the cathedral (Cafe Krypta). Entrance is at the back on Kirkkokatu str. or via elevator from the cathedral. Friendly staff, delicious pastries, cheap prices.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Uspenski Cathedral

3) Uspenski Cathedral (must see)

Part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Upenski Cathedral is the official seat of the bishop of Helsinki for that faith tradition. It is dedicated to the Dormition of Theotokos (The Bearer of God, or Mary). In fact, the name of the church itself is derived from the old Slavic word for Dormition.

The building was finished in 1868 and took a total of six years to complete. The famous Russian architect Alexey Gomostaev designed the structure. Sadly, it was not completed in his lifetime.

There is a crypt chapel that is built into the overall complex also. It was named after one of the old Vicars of the church, Alexander Hotovitzky. He served the local parish in the early 1900s.

There are several very beautiful icons on display in this cathedral. They also happen to be quite valuable as art antiquities. In fact, two of them have been stolen from the church in the last several years, with only one having been (remarkably) recovered. Consequently, glass protection covers had to be added, but this will not ruin your chance to still appreciate the icons.

Tip:
The climb up involves quite a number of stairs. Go up there at sunset. You'll get stunning photos of the cityscape with the sun setting just behind the Lutheran Cathedral.
The sunny rocks right in front of the church are popular to sit on together with friends enjoying the view. Just watch out – they are steep!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9:30am-4pm; Sat-Sun: 12-3pm
Free admission
4
Kauppatori (Market Square)

4) Kauppatori (Market Square) (must see)

The Market Square is centrally located in Helsinki and is very famous among locals and travelers alike. If you take a trip down to the market on the famous Esplanadi Street, the location is on the east end, very close to the Baltic Sea. There is a ferry here that you can take to Suomenlinna, as well as some of the other small islands in the area.

If you take a trip to the market, be prepared to find some of the best fresh food in town. There are also lots of really good souvenir shops and you will want to try some of the cafes that are associated with this place. A must try is the Finnish “lihapiirakksa,” which is a kind of pastry filled with meat. Keep an eye out for the seagulls though – they have a nasty habit of flying down to grab goodies out of the hands of innocent bystanders.

The busiest time of year to visit is during October when the herring market, which the locals call the “silakkamarkkinat”, begins. On the first Friday of every month, you also get a chance to see the old American cars on display here – a popular event among local car collectors.

Why You Should Visit:
Fun place to get a taste of Finland and try something you haven't eaten before.

Tip:
Do not leave without trying the "neulamuikut" (deep fried whitefish), which is usually served with potatoes and garlic sauce.
If you visit when the season for wild berries & mushrooms starts, stop by to stock on some fresh wonderful cloudberries or chanterelles.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm; Sat: 8am-4pm; Sun (summer only): 10am-5pm
5
Helsinki City Museum

5) Helsinki City Museum (must see)

Helsinki City Museum is located next to the Senate Square in the oldest blocks of the city. It also operates four other museums around Helsinki: Hakasalmi Villa, Burgher's House, Worker Housing Museum and Tram Museum. Entrance to all museums is free of charge.

Inside the museum, the exhibits give an excellent overview of the 450 years of Helsinki history. More recently, the 'Time Machine' exhibition makes the photographs of famous Helsinki photographer Signe Brander come to life with a little bit of help from new technology. Time travelers can also visit the courtyards and streets of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Helsinki. Historical VR experience!

Elsewhere, in Children’s Town, Helsinki’s past is illustrated by means of play and joint activities, access to which is always free of charge. There's also a movie theater in the building that shows short films about the history of Helsinki. Additionally, there is a gift shop on the first floor and very good bathrooms.

Why You Should Visit:
Free and relaxing, with exhibits that are presented in a fun, engaging manner.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 11am-7pm; Sat, Sun: 11am-5pm
Free admission
6
Havis Amanda

6) Havis Amanda

Havis Amanda is a nude female statue that was sculpted by Ville Vallgren (1855-1940) in 1906 in Paris. It was not erected at its present Market Square location in Kaartinkaupunki until 1908. It is cast in bronze, and the fountain in which it resides is made of granite. Havis Amanda is a mermaid who stands on seaweed as she rises from the water with four fish spouting water at her feet. She is surrounded by four sea lions and is depicted leaning backwards as if to say goodbye to her element. Vallgren's intention was to symbolize the rebirth of Helsinki. Vallgren himself called the work simply Merenneito, or The Mermaid in English, but it quickly started to earn nicknames. The Finland-Swedish newspapers dubbed it Havis Amanda and the Finnish Haaviston Manta or simply Manta. Every year on Vappu, Manta serves as a center for the celebrations. Students of the local universities put a cap on the statue in an elaborate ceremony. For many it is a "must see" event.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Esplanadi

7) Esplanadi (must see)

Esplanadi was laid out by Engel in 1812 and consists of two broad parallel streets separated by a green area. The two streets are lined with restaurants and classy boutiques that stock a range of products from internationally-known brands to local merchandise. The green area between the streets is often home to different fairs, as well as the open Christmas market in the winter. You'll also find public restrooms, a bandstand, a nice diner, and lots of benches to chill out on. If you are looking for a place to enjoy the true colors of Helsinki, then Esplanadi is the place to be.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful open space in the middle of the city, great for sitting on the grass and people watching, or bringing food and having a picnic.

Tip:
Be sure to take in the architecture on both sides – the old buildings are splendid.
8
Ateneum

8) Ateneum (must see)

Ateneum is an art museum in Helsinki and one of the three museums forming the Finnish National Gallery. The bulk of the works contained here are by Finnish artists, all the way from 18th-century rococo portraiture to the experimental art movements of the 20th century. The collections also include some 650 international works of art, with pieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cèzanne, Rodin, and Edvard Munch.

The building itself is quite beautiful and the façade is decorated with statues and reliefs which contain a lot of symbols. Above the main entrance, on the second floor, are busts of three famous classical artists: architect Bramante, painter Raphael, and sculptor Phidias. Above the busts, on the third floor, four caryatids support the pediment. These symbolize the four classical art forms: sculpture, painting, geometry, and architecture. The façade culminates in a collage of sculptures in which the Goddess of Art, Pallas Athene, blesses the products of the different art forms. The façade is also adorned with several other relief works, making the front of the building truly a beautiful site.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the best art museums in the Nordics, and certainly recommendable if you want to have a look at the most famous Finnish pieces of art.
The well-stocked shop is an excellent place for postcards and tasteful gifts from Helsinki. The bistro serves excellent Finnish food in an inspiring setting.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Fri: 10am-6pm; Wed, Thu: 10am-8pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-5pm
Ticket sale ends 30 minutes before closing time
Entry is free with the Helsinki Card
9
Finnish National Theatre

9) Finnish National Theatre (must see)

The National Theatre has been an integral part of Finnish national culture since the 1800s. It got its start in 1872 in Pori. Today, it is located in the north-central section of Helsinki, near the Central Railway Station. It is the oldest known theater of its kind that does performances in Finnish. Up until the year 1902, it was simply called the Finnish Theater.

The current building was completed in 1902 and was done in a Romantic architecture style. At this point in history, the whole country was undergoing a cultural movement which came to be known as Romantic Nationalism, as the people sought to preserve their cultural identity against outside pressure.

Just outside the front entrance is a statue of the famous Aleksis Kivi, who is known for his Romantic novels and short stories. Along with the theater, the arts were used as a way to try to stand up to the oppression of the Russian Empire of the day.

Today the theater travels to many foreign locations but has not lost its central purpose of maintaining the drama of Finland. So, you can see their kind of avant-garde style of international drama set alongside productions that are designed to continue Finnish language performances. Go if you get the chance and take in a performance.

Why You Should Visit:
Very architecturally pleasing, photogenic, and the smaller stage productions bring the magic.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-7pm
10
Helsinki Central Railway Station

10) Helsinki Central Railway Station (must see)

The Central Railway Station is one of the most visited and well-known sites in the city. There are over two hundred thousand passengers that pass through this place every day. On that basis, it is the single busiest building in the whole country.

The place was renamed in June of 2010 to the "Helsingin päärautatieasema" in Finnish. The whole complex of rails in the country was started in 1860 when the first track was opened for business between Helsinki and Hameenlinna. The first station here was designed by Carl Edelfelt. The station's popularity grew through the years, and so the location had to be renovated multiple times. The last such addition was completed in 2003 when a shopping center was added to the complex.

One little known tidbit about this station is the Presidential Lounge. This private 50-square-metre waiting lounge is available for exclusive use of the President of Finland and his/her official guests. It was first built for the Emperor of Russia in 1911. After a short stint as a military hospital, it has been the private lounge for the President ever since. It is the only such structure known in the world.

Tip:
Underneath the station, there is a multitude of shops, including supermarkets, and also there's a walkway over to the other side of Kaivokatu street, which gets you into downtown.
11
Kiasma

11) Kiasma (must see)

Kiasma is Helsinki’s museum of contemporary art. The name refers to the part of the eye, called the chiasma, where the optic nerves curves in the brain. This apparently inspired the interesting shape of the building, which was built in the late 1990s. It is a perfect shape for a museum that holds works by contemporary artists.

The galleries within the building are all of different sizes, with each room having a gently curved wall. The angular nature of the ambient light available in the northern latitudes also adds to the ambiance and makes for a wonderful backdrop to view the artwork. In 2016, Kiasma attracted over 310,000 visitors.

In addition to collected works of art, there are also traveling exhibits, lectures, theater, music and all sorts of adventures into contemporary art. It is truly an adventure for the senses. There is also a gift store, café, and a research library.

Why You Should Visit:
While it's worth going to this great museum for its exquisite architecture alone, the exhibitions can be quite interesting and it feels like the curators do try to bring in many different artists/storytellers.
Some exhibits are more confronting than others but overall a unique way to experience the art culture in Helsinki. As a bonus, the shop has some great souvenirs and gift ideas on offer.

Tip:
The museum has no permanent collection, so be sure to check what's actually on show.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Sat: 10am-6pm; Wed-Fri: 10am-8:30pm; Sun: 10am-5pm
12
Parliament House

12) Parliament House (must see)

The Parliament House is the official location of the governing body of Finland. It is located in Helsinki, in the Toolo District. Completed in 1931, this is where the history of the country has been made. You can almost feel that as you enter. Moreover, the place houses one of the best art collections in town.

From an architectural point of view, the building is a hybrid mix of neoclassical and 20th Century modernistic style design. Note the simple design of the columns and balusters; yet, the fourteen columns on the outside are topped with Corinthian capitals. The marble staircases are also quite lovely... so, you get a bit of both visual worlds.

There is also a visitor’s center that has been built in the annex to the house. It is the first such office opened to the public. If you would like to see the whole building, however, you are able to book a guided tour.

Why You Should Visit:
The cubic style and towering pink columns are probably like no other building you have ever seen and it is well worth taking a stroll to admire all the little features.
13
National Museum of Finland

13) National Museum of Finland (must see)

The National Museum of Finland is a must see. The collections are divided into several different areas of focus and have something to interest everyone. The building was completed in the early 1900s in a National Romantic style and opened to the public in 1916.

Coin collectors will be enamored with the Treasure Trove section comprised of coins, medals, and decorations. 'The Prehistory of Finland' is an amazing collection of antiquity, with – as the name implies – artifacts that date back to the Stone Age. There is also a section on the history of Finland and her people before the age of the industrial revolution. There is even some weaponry displayed here.

One of the favorite exhibits of the Museum is the hands-on, interactive section VINTTI. It encourages visitors to become totally engaged in the museum and gives a preview to all six sections of the exhibits there. The whole family can participate, although younger guests must be accompanied by an adult.

Located at Mannerheimintie 34, the exhibits are extensive, so allow a minimum of 3-4 hours to see them. It would be easy to just spend the entire day at the museum, as there is a restaurant on site.

Why You Should Visit:
The entire museum is very engaging. This engagement will keep you there for a while as you go through the different periods of Finland rising from the bottom of a sea to what it is now.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sun: 11am-6pm; Wed: 11am-8pm
14
Temppeliaukio Rock Church

14) Temppeliaukio Rock Church (must see)

The Temppeliaukio Church is one of the largest and most important Lutheran Churches in the city of Helsinki. Opened in 1969, it is actually a very young church. The local congregation had started plans for the building all the way back in the 1930s, but the issues faced by the nation in the Second World War caused them to be put on hold. The original design was also changed by the Suomalainen brothers, and the church ended up much smaller.

This house of worship has a beautiful sanctuary, which sports an organ with 43 stops. There are no bells in the church, so to get the same effect; a recording of bell music is played outside every Sunday. The coolest thing, however, is that the whole church was built underground, inside a massive block of granite.

The ceiling has a glazed dome, which allows a lot of very beautiful light into the building. The ceiling is also made completely of copper wire. The acoustics here are wonderful; therefore, the place is often used as a venue for concerts.

Why You Should Visit:
Helsinki's architectural wonder; the mix of concrete, granite, coupled with color and copper everywhere (including the roof) make for an inspiring view.

Tip:
Try to see if there are any concerts and enjoy the great acoustics.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
15
Natural History Museum

15) Natural History Museum (must see)

The building that houses the Natural History Museum of Helsinki was built in 1913 and has a very interesting history in its own right. Originally built to house a Russian school for boys, after Finland gained her independence, the building was then transformed into army headquarters and a cadet school. The University of Helsinki purchased the building in the late 1920s, and it became a repository for its zoological collections.

Over the years several changes were made to the building, walls added, and decorative features boarded up. In 2005 the museum was closed and a major refurbishing of the building occurred. The result is a beautifully restored building that has both modern conveniences as well as the original grandeur such as the oak parquet floor. The building is handicapped accessible.

The museum is home to four permanent exhibits that include the Story of Bones, The History of Life, Finnish and World Nature. The exhibits are well worth seeing and are very educational. Allow at least half a day here to see all the exhibits without being rushed.

Why You Should Visit:
Fascinating museum experience for any nature-lovers of all ages – or anyone interested in Finnish fauna.
The rooms are filled with beautifully put together displays, whether they're animal skeletons or taxidermy.

Tip:
From the balcony on the uppermost floor, you get a nice view of the dinosaur exhibition one floor down.
The free WiFi allows access to an audio guide from your device so consider bringing some earphones.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri: 9am-4pm; Thu: 9am-6 pm; Sat: 10am-5pm; Sun: 10am-4pm (Jan 1-May 31; Sep 1-Dec 31); Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am-5pm; Thu: 10am-6pm (Jun 1-Aug 31)

In 2019, free entry to the NHS during the first Friday of Feb, Apr, Jun, Aug, and Oct. Also, free entrance in Dec, but then on the second Friday.
16
Narinkka

16) Narinkka

Narinkka or Narinkkatori (Swedish: Narinken) is a square in the Kamppi district of Helsinki. In the west it is sided by Kamppi center, Helsinki's new downtown commercial and residential complex; in the east – by the Turku barracks, formerly a financial building; and in the south – by the Scandic Hotel Simonkenttä. Curbing the square in the north is Salomonkatu street, now fully pedestrian. Between the square and Simonkatu to the south stands the Kamppi Chapel (Silence Chapel). Narinkka square often plays host to a number of public events, such as exhibitions, sporting events and open air concerts. Among the most notable of them was the Eurovillage in 2007 held during Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki. Dominating the square today is the Eve Löfdahl Entrepreneur Sculpture (Leverty), unveiled in 2006 and largely acclaimed by the Finnish entrepreneurial community.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Helsinki, Finland

Create Your Own Walk in Helsinki

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Helsinki is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Architecture Tour of Helsinki

Architecture Tour of Helsinki

There are many examples of great architecture in Helsinki. The predominant styles are Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) and Neo-Clasical. Much of the city's architecture has social and cultural significance, particularly buildings such as the Academic Bookshop, Finlandia Hall, Helsinki Central Railway Station and Erottaja Fire Station. This tour presents some of the most beautiful buildings of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Famous Museums Tour of Helsinki

Famous Museums Tour of Helsinki

Helsinki is the cultural capital of Finland. The city hosts some of the most famous museums in Europe, including the Ateneum, Kiasma, and the National Museum of Finland. This tour of Helsinki museums will help you learn more about Finnish culture and history.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
Cultural Tour of Helsinki

Cultural Tour of Helsinki

As the capital, Helsinki is the cultural center of Finland. The city is famous for its concerts and shows. It is also home to some internationally-known artists. There are three major theaters in the city and a couple of cultural centers. Take this tour to find out more about Finnish culture.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
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Religious Buildings Tour of Helsinki, Part 1

Religious Buildings Tour of Helsinki, Part 1

Helsinki features many impressive places of worship where you can enjoy a peaceful moment and admire the beauty of the religious buildings. Helsinki has two main religious denominations: Lutheran and Orthodox, but there are also some beautiful Anglican and German churches. Take this tour to see the most interesting religious buildings in the city.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 km
Nightlife Tour of Helsinki

Nightlife Tour of Helsinki

Most of Helsinki's nightlife is concentrated in the center of the city around the main train station. Almost all the establishments are a mix of bar, disco and concert venue. Finnish people are great lovers of live performances. No matter what band or artist is playing, they always enjoy the show. So, take this tour to experience the vibrant nightlife of Helsinki.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
Religious Buildings Tour of Helsinki, Part 2

Religious Buildings Tour of Helsinki, Part 2

As the capital of Finland, Helsinki has a wide variety of churches to support the relatively large population. The majority of churches in Helsinki are Lutheran or Orthodox, but there are also Catholic and Jewish congregations, as well as smaller religious communities. With the help of this guide you will visit some of the most beautiful and interesting religious buildings of Helsinki.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.1 km

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