When I tell people I spent only one day in a city, they seem shocked that I even made the effort for the trip. Despite our short time spent in Helsinki, Finland, we felt that we got a decent taste of what this Scandinavian city had to offer, and had a few more things in mind of what we’d like to do the next time we venture out to the home of Santa Claus, Angry Birds, and the biggest coffee drinkers in the world.
Let’s start with what we did see…
Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral are easily the iconic sites of Helsinki. Here, you can see several famous landmarks including the Helsinki Cathedral, The University of Helsinki, the Government Palace, and the statue of Alexander II, who helped Finland become more autonomous from Russia during his rule.
Helsinki Ice Bar
The Ice Bar was the highlight of our time in Helsinki! We suited up in massive snow suits and were welcomed with a shot of vodka and the opportunity to take a ride on a dog sled! No seriously, I think this may be my new preferred method of transportation.
Also known as Temppeliaukio Church, this Lutheran church is built entirely out of rocks and is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Helsinki. During its construction, the architects actually blasted the church out of a massive piece of granite from the inside, and only the copper roof is visible from the outside. Because of its material, the building has excellent acoustics and is a popular location for concerts.
National Museum of Finland
Located in the city center, the museum outlines Finish history from medieval times to present day. The beautiful building is reason enough to pay a visit!
Evidently, Santa Claus lives in Finland, and it’s fairly difficult to turn a corner without being reminded so. The Fins are very proud to call their country home to Santa Claus, and have wholeheartedly embraced the concept. We loved exploring these charming little minimarkets that sold all sorts of Santa themed paraphernalia- it made us feel like we were actually in the North Pole!
If you’re traveling with children or are just young at heart, you can catch a 9 hour train ride from Helsinki to Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi.
What we wish we saw:
So unfortunately, we happened to visit Helsinki on the day of their former president’s funeral. For this reason, many stores and sites were closed, and we were unable to see some sites due to lack of time and availability. Here’s what we’re planning to do on our next trip that you should add to your bucket list if you plan to visit Helsinki:
1. Market Square
Typically one of the top things to see in Helsinki, the Market Square (or Kauppatori in Finnish), was closed for the president’s funeral. Here, you can purchase just about anything from Finnish coffee to reindeer meat to unique souvenirs. We were very disappointed that we missed it, but now we have something to look forward to for our next trip.
2. Linnanmaki Amusement Park
Though we drove past it, we didn’t have time to explore. Owned by the Children’s Day Foundation, the amusement park benefits children’s welfare work in the country of Finland. Personally, I love a good amusement park, and it’s always better to have fun while benefiting a good cause.
3. A sauna, any sauna
In a country of 5 million people, there are over 3 million saunas in Finland (and who can blame them? Snow covers the country for about half the year). If you visit Finland in the winter months, you can even stay in a glass igloo (with a sauna). This way, you can get the best possible view of the Aurora Borealis. Because we visited during the summer months, I did not have the privilege of seeing the Aurora Borealis. Don’t worry, it’s on my list.
Have you been to Helsinki before? If yes, what else should I add to my list for my next trip?
Let me know,