What to see in Helsinki in two days? It is becoming a constant now to try to find a weekend during the year and be able to visit a city in two days.
I had the opportunity to visit Helsinki for a week; I can tell you that to see the capital of Finland, two days are enough. One can concentrate on the central part of the city and take a quick excursion on the island of Suomenlinna. If you have three days or, in general, a few more days at your disposal, it will be even better because you will have a chance to visit the surrounding area as well. Let’s go step by step.
What to do before you leave for Helsinki
First useful tip: to avoid wasting time and especially to get to the center at any time I recommend that you absolutely book the transfer service between the airport and the city that takes you directly to your hotel -> CLICK HERE for the Airport – City Center/Hotel Transfer
Second, if you really want to discover Helsinki well, I recommend that you CLICK HERE and purchase the Helsinki Card, you have free access to all museums, public transportation (including Espoo) and many other discounts. In Helsinki having some discounts never hurts, I assure you.
If you want to discover Helsinki in complete calm and having already purchased entrance fees to attractions and tours without risking wasting time on the spot, I recommend this tour with an Italian guide that you will surely enjoy:
Another tip: A tour not to be missed is that of the Canal Cruise
Where to stay in Helsinki?
Definitely in its center. The area north of the station is clean and a good option since it is full of new buildings. The alternative is to sleep near the two cathedrals. Good or bad, wherever you sleep in Helsinki you are fairly equidistant from the main sights and I have not noticed particularly dangerous neighborhoods.
CLICK HERE to look for a hotel in Helsinki. I had a really good time at the Apartments Hotel Aallonkoti: it is a building with multiple apartments equipped with everything; clean, functional and with the possibility even to have a nice sauna!
Helsinki: the best Things to do
The center of Helsinki is not exaggeratedly large. If you want to see, it is not even easy to figure out which is the real center. Let’s say we can distinguish two different centers.
The first is related to religious/political/historical concepts, namely Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral. The second center I would identify with the train station. I don’t know why, but from the train station, wherever you have to go, you always pass by. It is a constant swarming of people; it is also an important hub for the streetcar and bus network.
I could almost say “all roads in Helsinki lead to the station,” and I wouldn’t go very far. In any case, the distance between what I called “the two centers” is about a 5/10 minute walk, no more.
Given my recent experience of a week in Helsinki, I will point out what to see in Helsinki in two days and give you a few more tips for three days. Here is the map, so you can get a good understanding of the various movements and get an idea of where the various things to see are.
Things to do in Helsinki: day 1
I want to start your itinerary from the train station, a place that as I told you is a key point in the structure of the city.
Small digression: I discovered that the area northwest (looking at the map) of the station, until recently was an unpopulated area. This surprised me as the is an important landmark and, as I mentioned, can be considered one of the two centers of the city. Usually I would expect the area in which it is located to be a particularly old and historic area for the city. As far as Helsinki is concerned, this has not happened. It is only recently that building has been given there, and so now alongside the station is a particularly recent and modern area.
Apart from this small point I wanted to make, I would begin the itinerary in the Finnish capital from a place that to say peculiar is putting it mildly. It is a five to ten minute walk from the station, it is a bit out of the way compared to the rest of the sights, but it is worth this short walk to start with something truly mind-blowing.
I am talking about the Temppeliaukion Kirkko, also called the“Church in the Rock.” You only need to see a picture to understand what a spectacle you will be faced with. During your visit you will also be lulled by music, which makes the church even more interesting. It is a Lutheran church completely excavated inside the Rock.
Tip: sit and “enjoy” it for a few minutes.
At this point you will be ready to see the rest of the city, which, again looking at the map, is in the area immediately southeast of the station. You can go down along Keskukatu, go through part of the Atenum and should you be interested, why not, visit it. After two blocks you can turn left into Alexandersgatan which further on becomes Aleksanterinkatu.
This is a fairly important street in the capital along which you will find numerous designer stores including the famous Marimekko. The Aleksanterinkatu comes straight into Senate Square, the Senaatintori, the most famous square in Helsinki.
During your two days in the Finnish capital you will cross it several times. It is a large, very distinctive square over which towers imposingly the white Tuomiokirkko Lutheran Cathedral. The interior of the church reflects a spartan and bare environment. Nevertheless, it is decidedly charming. It, after all, along with the Orthodox cathedral, is somewhat of a symbol of recognition for the entire city.
Overlooking the square are also two places you cannot miss.
The first is related to the strong passion for design and the growing need to reuse materials and fabrics that would otherwise be thrown away. I am talking about the Globe Hope reality that makes bags, accessories, etc., by reusing old clothes.
The second is located in Senate Square is instead an encounter with delicious Finnish cuisine at Ravintola Savotta.
The Aleksanterinkatu continues on and in a very few steps takes you to the other Helsinki cathedral passing first over the padlock bridge: the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. This one is a very deep brick color. It is the largest Orthodox church in northwestern Europe.
Not far to the south, toward the sea, they have built the Finnair SkyWheel which I do not feel I can recommend too much as it is not very high and the view is reduced. Should it be a nice day you could still put it inside your route as you would have a different view and of the two cathedrals.
You have therefore arrived in the sea area, near the pier from which ferries depart for Suomenlinna
Enjoy the Kuappatori market where you can find many handicrafts and good food! Near Kuappatori Market is also the covered market called Old Market Hall.
It is completely different from the outdoor market, both in terms of what is sold there and the market concept. Entering theOld Market Hall feels like entering a well-ordered and quiet arcade, as well as definitely expensive. Inside you find typical Finnish foods and lots and lots and lots of exaggeratedly good salmon!
As you leave the covered market and head back toward Kuappatori you will find yourself on two of Helsinki’s most important streets, the Pohjoisesplanadi and the Etelaesplanadi. One to the north and the other to the south. Between these two streets is a park called Esplanadi, a small but well-kept park inside which is a very elegant restaurant: the Kappeli Restaurant.
The first of the two days in Finland’s capital could also be said to be almost over, but you know, a little shopping never hurts and typical products never hurt either.
Not far from the Esplanadi is Fazer, an immense pastry/chocolate shop where you can stock up on special chocolate bars and perhaps take a break for a rejuvenating chocolate or slice of cake: the choice is yours.
Finally, since the regular stores have fairly reduced hours anyway (we talk about closing at 5/18 p.m.) you could pop into the shopping icon in Helsinki, namely Stockman. It is nothing different from any other mall, but a tour is always worthwhile, especially when you need to warm up because of the bitter cold that can envelop Helsinki.
For dinner I definitely recommend you try the reindeer. Savotta Restaurant, located on the south side of Senate Square, is perhaps the best place to eat reindeer meat, which is one of the signature dishes of Finnish cuisine.
Things to do in Helsinki: day 2
Let’s say that the “full-bodied” part of Helsinki was seen on the first day, on the second day I recommend that you devote yourself to visiting what in my opinion is a must-see experience, namely a visit to Suomenlinna.
I have already told you about Suomenlinna: on one of the two days you must definitely visit this island. Ferries leave from the pier near the Kuappatori market and the ride takes about 15 minutes. It will take you at least 2 to 3 hours to visit Suomelinna, maybe a little more if you want to delve into the museum as well.
This means that you will have the second part of the day to “fill up” and at this point I recommend that you commit to seeing a museum perhaps ending the day with a nice ride in the public sauna!
If you are in the mood for something interactive, and if you have children in your retinue perhaps, the ideal is to Heureka. As the name of the museum itself already indicates, Heureka is where humans play and learn with science, and children are sure to love it. To reach Heureka simply take the train from Helsinki Central Station and get off at the Tikkurilan Asema stop, and from there then follow the signs to the museum. There are plenty of trains that run from the station to Tikkurilan: D, I, K, N, P, R, T, Z.
In case, however, you want something more “challenging,” you could opt for the Atenum, the visual arts museum located within walking distance of Helsinki Station. Another possible interesting excursion is to the island of Seurasaari north/west of Helsinki, another beautiful excursion in the midst of Finnish nature.
Things to do in Helsinki: day 3 (if you have it)
The city of Helsinki, besides being elegant, is certainly green. Incidentally, green and trees will be the first thing that will stick in your mind as you land at the airport. Looking out the window you will see entire villages embedded in trees, trees and more trees. Basically any place there could be a tree…there is a tree! In the summertime it must be really amazing.
So, nature and Finland stand like “butter and jam.”
The activity I propose to do on the third day in Helsinki involves diving inside nature and more specifically inside Nuuksio National Park. A beautiful walk among typical Finnish ponds and cottages, all just a few kilometers from the city of Helsinki.
Read also: Visiting Nuuksio National Park
Good or bad between departure and return to Helsinki you have to budget for the whole day.
Conclusion: you can see Helsinki comfortably in the days I have described, and it is a good idea to consider it as an initial and final stop on a longer tour that includes, why not, an on-the-road tour of Finland.