5 things to do in Helsinki

April 20, 2012 (Last Updated: April 2, 2024)
by Carolyn
Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral

If you’re heading to the Finnish capital, Helsinki, and are short on time, one of the best ways to get the most out of your visit is by taking a Helsinki City sightseeing tour.  This will give you a great introduction to the city as well as giving you the opportunity to hop off at the sites that interest you.

Regardless of whether you take a tour or make your own way around the city, here are my recommendations for five things to see in Helsinki.

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Uspenski Cathedral

Russian Orthodox church Helsinki

Built in 1868 when Finland belonged to Russia, Helsinki’s Russian Orthodox church sits high above Market Square facing the Lutheran Cathedral (see below). The golden icons inside can be viewed for free, and outside you can take in the best views of Helsinki.

Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe and is a clear sign of the impact Russia once had on Finland.

Harbour cruise

Helsinki summer house

As a city built on the water, the sea plays an important role in the every day lives of Helsinki’s residents.  The busy harbour is the departure point for huge ferries that travel daily to Stockholm, Tallinn and St Petersburg.

A great way to get an appreciation for Helsinki is on a harbour cruise which will take you around the nearby archipelago. The two hour cruise we enjoyed included a delicious buffet lunch, and for around EUR 35 per person, was a very relaxing way to see Helsinki from the water.

Lutheran Cathedral

Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral

Helsinki’s imposing Lutheran Cathedral is easily recognised by it’s green dome and neo-classical architecture.  Construction of the church, which sits in Senate Square, was completed in 1854. 

It’s worth climbing the steps for great views, and to see the interior of this magnificent church designed by Carl Ludvig Engel.

Sibelius Monument

Sibelius monument Helsinki

This rather abstract monument consisting of 600 stainless steel pipes, was built to commemorate Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius. 

Whilst it won’t appeal to everyone, the lovely parkland setting, right by the water, makes it definitely worth a visit.

Temppeliaukio Church – Church in the rock

Chruch in the rock Helsinki

Unlike Helsinki’s two cathedrals, the Temppeliauko Church (the ‘church in the rock’) is a relatively recent addition to the city, built in 1969.  Blasted out of rock, the church looks nothing from the outside but once inside it’s a true work of masterful architecture. 

The roof is made of a 13 mile-long coil of copper ribbon finished with a copper and skylight dome. 

The church provides wonderful acoustics and is sometimes used for concerts. Underneath is an air-raid shelter that can hold 6,000 people!