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I thoroughly enjoyed my Baltic Sea cruise with Princess last summer. I love the relaxation of cruising, the convenience of not having to change hotels, and the opportunity to see several countries and cities in the same trip. However, the downside is that you don’t get much time in any one destination. One of the countries we visited was Finland and I am sharing the best highlights of what to see in Helsinki when you have only one day!
Helsinki Resources & Recommendations
- Accommodations: I book mine through Booking.com because of competitive pricing and there’s usually free cancellation up until a few days before arrival!
- Skyscanner: Compare prices and get the best deals on flights
- Allianz Travel Insurance: Protect yourself and your trip. Get a free quote!
- Lonely Planet Guidebooks: the best (and my personal favorite) guidebooks out there! Choose from the Pocket Helsinki Travel Guide or the Lonely Planet Finland Travel Guide
We saw all of these places via bus tour and boat cruise. The two together made up a fairly comprehensive tour of Helsinki and while we saw more than what I talk about in this post, these by far were the best highlights in my opinion!
The Sibelius Monument or Passio Musicae, located in Sibelius Park, is a sculpture by Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen.
Passio Musicae debuted in 1967 and is dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (also for whom the park is named). 600 steel pipes welded together make up this impressive monument and it weighs 24 tons!
Coming from a musical background, this was one of the coolest monuments I have seen. Definitely one of the most unique as well as one of my favorites! Look at the detailing in the pipes!
Apparently, there is a miniature version in the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and since I’m going there later this summer, I’m hoping to check it out!
Later on, Hiltunen added a sculpture of Jean Sibelius’ face that sits next to the monument dedicated to his music.
TIP: Go earlier in the morning if possible as the park (and particularly the monument) get crowded in the summer.
Location: Sibeliuksen Puisto, Mechelininkatu, 00250 Helsinki, Finland
If you are there in the summer, visit Hietaniemi Beach, the most popular beach in Helsinki. Interestingly enough, it used to be a landfill that became used for sand storage. The locals adopted it as a beach in 1929.
Location: 00100 Helsinki, Finland
TIP: Because of its popularity and Finland’s brief summers, the beach gets crowded so try to avoid peak times of the day.
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Cathedral of Helsinki
Make sure you see the Cathedral of Helsinki. Built between 1830-1852, it is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki.
Until the independence of Finland in 1917, the church was known as St Nicholas’ church because it was originally a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland who was Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
On a side note, history is way more fascinating and much easier to learn as an interested adult vs when I was in school being forced to learn it! 😂
I remember thinking that the architecture looked similar to some of what I saw in Russia, but I wasn’t positive since I didn’t know the style name and couldn’t make a specific connection.
After researching it, the reason it kept reminding me of Russia is because its model is St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg! The style? Neoclassical. Ahem. I mean, sure. Everyone knows that’s neoclassical, right? (in my best “I knew that” voice).
Anyway, the layout of the church is a Greek cross which is a square center with four equal, symmetrical arms in the direction of the four cardinals.
I just remember thinking, it’s pretty! I have really gotten into architecture over the past couple of years, but please don’t test my knowledge. Maybe a better way to state that is I have really gotten into the admiration of architecture over the years? That sounds better!
Location: Unioninkatu 29, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki by Sea
Tour Helsinki by boat. We went on the Victoria.
I love getting the different perspective on a city by its shoreline.
For one, I just like being on the water so if you like the same, this is definitely something you will want to do in Helsinki!
Other than countless gorgeous views of Helsinki, we saw authentic sauna houses,
lots of small islands with charming seaside parks,
and even passed through a tiny canal that only one boat at a time can enter.
It even had a traffic light!
I was most excited about seeing this Icebreaker Fleet! Seeing as though I had never seen one before, I was trying to imagine it in action, but still can’t quite fathom the power!
Either on the way to your boat tour or after you disembark, make sure to explore Market Square where you can get lots of fresh Finnish food or buy souvenirs.
This is where I grabbed my usual souvenirs for Finland. I could’ve explored the market for hours and eaten my weight in the yummy food I was smelling!
TIP: During the summer on the first Friday night of the month, they have a display of American vintage cars! Also, if you like festivals (or for people who want to avoid them), the annual Helsinki Herring Market is in October.
Location: Eteläranta, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Finland Fun Facts
- Finland became independent from Russia in 1917 and I visited in 2017, the year they celebrated their centenary.
- For nearly 700 years, Finland was part of Sweden. Sweden lost Finland to Russia in the Finnish War of 1809.
- Helsinki is the capital and biggest city in Finland with around 630,000 people. They say in Finland the most people they have per square kilometer is 18 and the least is two. The joke is those two people are Santa and Mrs. Claus!
- Finland has the northernmost metro in the world.
- 70% of Finnish citizens belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
- Finland is on an isthmus and has 300 islands.
Like many cities around the world, Helsinki has a Ronald McDonald House for parents of children who are being treated in the children’s hospital.
Kids in Finland start school at age 7 and start the equivalent of high school at age 16 where they choose either an academic or vocational path. After three years, most continue on to college.
As Finnish isn’t spoken anywhere else, they have to learn other languages. They learn at least two foreign languages and most choose English as their best language.
There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish and Swedish (about 6% are Swedish speakers living on the coast).
Uber is in Helsinki! Get your first Uber ride FREE (up to $5)!
Short, sweet and to the point, but these are the highlights that made an impression on me and the ones I recommend seeing if you don’t have a lot of time in Helsinki!
Have you been to Helsinki and have something to add to my list? If you haven’t been, which of these would you be most interested in seeing?
‘Til next time…