One Day in Helsinki - Tips for a Short Visit in Helsinki

Helsinki is a popular one-day stop on Baltic Sea cruises, and for people travelling to Lapland who want to briefly visit the capital before heading north. If you only have a day to explore a city, it can be hard to decide what to do and see in that short time. We’ve put our thinking caps on and come up with some ideas on what to do if you’re only spending one day in Helsinki.

1. Enjoy the Atmosphere at the Market Square

The Helsinki Market Square is a great place to start your day of exploring the city. It is centrally located, so it’s easy to get from there to all the other sights you might want to see during the day. Located near the port of Helsinki, the Market Square is a natural first stop for those arriving to Helsinki on a cruise.

Here you can have an ice cream on a hot day, taste the fresh (sweetest in the world!) strawberries, browse through the stalls selling local handicrafts and traditional foods… Or just enjoy the atmosphere!

Top 10 Things to Do in Helsinki - Helsinki Market Square and Old Market Hall

2. Visit the Main Cathedrals

A trip to Helsinki isn’t complete without a photo or two in front of the two main cathedrals of the city! The Helsinki Cathedral, especially, is known to many as the icon of Helsinki and is actually the most photographed building in the country. 

The Uspenski Cathedral near the market square is also worth a visit. It is an Orthodox Cathedral, and as such one of the most prominent icons of the Russian influence on Finnish history. Located on a hilltop, the cathedral offers a nice view of the city centre!

3. Eat Away!

While perhaps not well-known as a culinary destination, Helsinki is full of great restaurants, cafés, bars and food shops. Of course, one day in Helsinki won’t be enough time to fully explore the city’s food scene. However, here are some suggestions on where you could start:

  • For a great cup of coffee, head to the Punavuori district, which is filled with all kinds of cafés and coffee roasters.
  • If you want to try some of the traditional Finnish goodies like reindeer or cloudberry jam, the Old Market Hall is the place to be.
  • There is a restaurant for every taste in Helsinki, but if a “modern and wild twist” on traditional Finnish cuisine sounds enticing, head to Restaurant Wild!

How to spend one day in Helsinki - Eat away at restaurant Wild

4. Buy Some Souvenirs

Helsinki is great for souvenir shopping (and shopping in general)! The Design District Helsinki is the creative heart of the city, comprising over 200 design shops, fashion stores and showrooms to name a few. Here you can find design items from the iconic Finnish brands, or handicrafts made by Finnish artisans, to take home. 

For those who want to explore Finnish design further, we offer design walking tours in Helsinki. Our other sightseeing tours also include discount vouchers to hand-picked local design shops.

Things to do for one day in Helsinki - Souvenir shopping at Iittala Store

5. Take a Break in a Park

One-third of Helsinki consists of parks and green areas, so you’re never far from a park where to take a breather after walking around the city. Many of the parks house a variety of statues and monuments, so after taking a break it can be interesting to learn a bit more about Finland’s history and culture by looking up the statues in the park you ended up in.

Try one of these parks for example:

  • Esplanade Park (Runeberg Statue, Eino Leino Statue, and more)
  • Sibelius Park (Sibelius Monument)
  • The Old Church Park (War Memorials & Elias Lönnrot Statue nearby)
  • Observatory Hill Park (The Shipwrecked Statue)

6. Explore the City with TourGuideFox

Not to be all smug, but our tours are a pretty great option for spending one day in Helsinki!

Our Top Sights of Helsinki Walking Tour is a great way to see all the must-see sights of the city, even on a tight schedule. The tour can comfortably be walked in a couple of hours, and you can even choose a tour that includes lunch in Wild, one of our favourite restaurants in Helsinki. 

Travelling on a budget? Check out our Free Helsinki Tour and visit a selection of the city’s main attractions without spending a dime! 

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