Here is a perfect travel guide to visiting Helsinki in summer with the top things to do and see. From cute cafes to green parks and unique islands, it covers everything you need for an unforgettable – sunny – getaway in the Finnish capital.
I visited Helsinki with two friends to meet my brother, who lives and works there. I was looking forward to discovering this new country, and it was a great experience: the landscapes were vast and beautiful, and everything was peaceful. I liked it so much that I came back but this time in Lapland.
We spent most of our time in Helsinki, but we also rented a car for the weekend to travel to Turku, a city located on the west side of the capital, to discover the Finnish Archipelago.
In this article, find out the best areas to stay in the city, how to get around and ten unique experiences for a memorable summer adventure!
My Helsinki experience: Duration 5 Days Dates visited June 21 - June 26 Season Summer
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- Where is Helsinki?
- Helsinki, Finland – Map
- Unique things to do in Helsinki in the summer
- 1- Picnic & wander in Suomenlinna
- 2- Marvel in front of Helsinki Cathedral
- 3- Go island hopping by the archipelago
- 4- Enjoy a drink by the sea at Café Regatta
- 5- Relax at Esplanade Park
- 6- Experience the Finnish Sauna at Löyly
- 7- Take a day trip to Nuuksio National Park
- 8- Unwind at the Allas Sea Pool
- 9- Hang out at Kaivopuisto Park
- 10- Explore the Helsinki shoreline by kayak
- Unforgettable experiences I recommend
- Turku & The Finnish Archipelago
- How to get around Helsinki
- Best places to stay in Helsinki
- Best time to visit Helsinki
- Sustainable travel in Helsinki
- Helsinki travel planning guide
- Helsinki city guide – FAQ
Where is Helsinki?
Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland and is the seat of the Uusimaa region in the southern part of the country, the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea.
Helsinki, Finland – Map
Click on the top left of the map to display the list of stops and locations.
Unique things to do in Helsinki in the summer
Here is a round-up of the best 10 things to do in Helsinki in the summer:
1- Picnic & wander in Suomenlinna
Suomenlinna is a sea fortress built on six islands. The main island is easily reachable with the ferry from the east side of Market Square, where you can buy your tickets. For more information about timetables and prices, visit this website: https://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/visitor/how-to-get-there/hsl-ferry/.
The ferry does not take too long and offers a pleasant journey with beautiful views of Helsinki.
Once on Suomenlinna, you can walk around the island and enjoy the tranquillity of your surroundings. If the weather permits, stop to enjoy a picnic with a gorgeous view – well worth it!
TIP – Grab a map once you arrive on the island to make sure you get to see the best spots.
2- Marvel in front of Helsinki Cathedral
This monument is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki. It was a beautiful and impressive landmark and a great place to sit on the steps and watch the city go by for a moment.
You can also visit the inside of the Cathedral for a fee of 5 EUR.
3- Go island hopping by the archipelago
With an archipelago of around 330 islands along its coastline, Helsinki is an island-hopping paradise in the summertime.
Board on a JT-Line ferry and begin your adventure! Most ferries leave from Market Square in central Helsinki. Or you can rent a boat and let the wind carry you away.
Island hopping in Helsinki mainly stops at three ports: Lonna, Vallisaari and Suomenlinna. It is possible to visit them in any order, and you can spend as much time as you want on each one.
4- Enjoy a drink by the sea at Café Regatta
Café Regatta is a Finnish red cottage located by the sea on the west side of Helsinki: https://www.caferegatta.fi/in-english/. There you can sample traditional food or have a drink with a beautiful view. Plus, you can grill sausages outside during the summer in a lovely atmosphere.
5- Relax at Esplanade Park
Esplanadi, known as Espa among locals, is an esplanade and urban park in downtown Helsinki. It is the perfect place to listen to music, watch performances or enjoy a picnic under the blue Finnish sky.
6- Experience the Finnish Sauna at Löyly
Löyly is a unique sauna restaurant and an urban oasis occupying a part of the beautiful Helsinki waterfront. It offers many delights for locals and visitors alike, and on a beautiful summer day, the terrace is the place to be. Saunas are also available daily and are a must-do experience!
7- Take a day trip to Nuuksio National Park
Pack your backpack for a memorable picnic or hiking day trip!
Within easy reach of the capital, you can escape into a wild natural setting and enjoy typical Finnish landscapes, with beautiful lakes, green forests and rugged crags in the nearby Nuuksio National Park.
Established in 1994, Nuuksio is one of the most popular national parks in Finland, and it is also home to the stunning Finnish Nature Centre Haltia.
Plus, it is easily accessible by bus from Helsinki. Take a commuter train to Espoon Keskus and get on bus 245. And if this is your first visit to the park, get off at Haltia and visit the modern nature centre.
8- Unwind at the Allas Sea Pool
Take an afternoon off at the Allas Sea Pool and discover Helsinki from a unique perspective.
Allas Sea Pool is a marine spa and peaceful oasis in the heart of the capital. It offers new ways to enjoy the Baltic Sea, close to Market Square and other main attractions.
Allas is open year-round, providing unique experiences and recreational activities. The marine spa has three saunas, two hot-water pools and one seawater pool, to which the water is pumped from nearby streams and filtered.
9- Hang out at Kaivopuisto Park
Kaivopuisto, also known as Kaivari, is one of the oldest and most famous parks in Helsinki. The nearby sea, rocky cliffs and lush green lawns offer plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
At the highest point of the park is the Ursa Observatory. There are also several cafes and restaurants along the shore. A perfect getaway on a sunny day!
10- Explore the Helsinki shoreline by kayak
Rent a kayak and embark on an adventurous journey through the Helsinki archipelago. You can venture on a self-guided excursion or join a guided group tour. Tour operators on the shore offer a variety of kayaking expeditions, from short hops to overnight adventures.
And if you decide to kayak on your own, stop at camping islands off the coast of the capital. They have campfire sites, cooking shelters, toilets and saunas. All you need to bring is a good picnic, appropriate clothing and camping gear if you plan to stay overnight.
Unforgettable experiences I recommend
Turku & The Finnish Archipelago
Turku is a medieval city on the Southwest coast of Finland where you can find plenty of things to do and see: a market square, a castle, a cathedral and a beautiful harbour.
During my time in Finland visiting my brother, we rented a car to get to Turku, and we spent time exploring it on foot along the river, with old sailboats moored. If you wish, you can even take a cruise out with them to visit the archipelago. It sounds like a nice thing to do!
The Finnish Archipelago is near Turku, towards the West, and is an incredible place to explore. It is a shame that it was raining a lot when we were there, as we wanted to do some canoeing. We still enjoyed the area. The landscapes and colours were beautiful, all tranquil.
We could move from island to island in our car thanks to the ferry buses, which were all free and ran all day long. However, check the times sometimes if you do not want to get stuck.
I really enjoyed Finland and its peaceful atmosphere. Discovering this new country and its culture was very interesting. I am now planning to go to Lapland during winter to explore this beautiful part of the country and experience the Arctic Circle!
How to get around Helsinki
The best way to get around Helsinki is on foot. That is what we did, and it was perfect as the main attractions are close together.
And if walking is difficult or your destination is too far, use the trams. They are easy and reliable. We used them often to get from our Airbnb in Kallio to the city centre. You can buy your travel card at a train station and load it from there. For more information, visit this website: https://www.hsl.fi/en. Also, be careful with controllers. They are often on the trams and wear casual clothes, so you can not notice them = always validate your card.
Another great way to travel around Helsinki is by bike. It is ideal for slowing down and appreciating your surroundings. And if you need a boost, rent an electric bike.
Finally, if you want to move further into the country, use trains, buses or rent a car. We rented one to go to Turku, and everything was great. We picked it up at the airport and left it there upon our return. However, be careful on the road – my brother got caught speeding whilst we were in a village, and the fine was expensive (so do not go too fast).
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Best places to stay in Helsinki
The best neighbourhoods in Helsinki
Here is an overview of the best areas to stay in the Finnish capital:
- Kluuvi, best for first-timers: welcome to the heart of Helsinki! This central district is perfect if you want to get around on foot and be close to the main attractions. It will also provide easy access to public transport and train stations.
- Kamppi, best for nightlife: located in the heart of downtown Helsinki, Kamppi is a lively district home to large shopping centres, bars and restaurants, venues and museums. It is a perfect mix of contemporary spaces and traditional monuments.
- Kaartinkaupunki, best for families: urban and modern, Kaartinkaupunki is a peaceful district situated in the southern area of Helsinki’s city centre and offers fantastic museums and recreational areas – ideal for children.
- Punavuori, best overall: Punavuori offers an authentic neighbourhood feel, filled with trendy shops and bustling restaurants. It is the best place to stay in Helsinki due to its friendly atmosphere and accessibility to the city centre.
- Kallio, best for budget: this vibrant and relaxed area is renowned for its wide range of cafes, restaurants and bars – also home to trendy boutiques and much more. With a chill bohemian vibe and artist community, it is perfect for travellers on a budget.
- Etu-Töölö, best for green spaces: located northwest of the city centre, Etu-Töölö is the best area to stay if you want to get away from the city and the urban atmosphere. It is also renowned for its architecture and elegant streets.
🏡 READ MORE: Where to Stay in Helsinki: 8 Best Areas (& Hotels)
My friends and I booked an Airbnb in the area of Kallio (North of Helsinki). Unfortunately, I did not book the accommodation, so I can not share it with you, but I recommend the area. You can easily access the city centre using the tram.
Wherever you stay in Helsinki, the city is not big and accessible by public transport – or on foot!
Need inspiration for your next city break? Check out this article: Vienna Travel Guide: Perfect 3-Day Itinerary
Best time to visit Helsinki
I went to Helsinki in June and loved it. This season was unique as the sun never set, and the daylight lasted an average of 19 hours. We sometimes left a bar or restaurant at midnight, and it was still daylight – a little disturbing, especially when trying to sleep!
However, the best time to visit Helsinki depends on what you plan to do and what you went to see.
Spring is an ideal time to visit the capital, as the weather is nice and there are many events in the city, and not too many tourists.
Summer is one of the most popular times to visit Helsinki. That is why it might be more crowded, and the prices might be slightly higher.
If you do not mind the rain, autumn could be for you! The weather is not too cold and the days are still long enough to enjoy everything. However, you might need a rain jacket.
Winter in Helsinki is different and unique, and I would advise visiting the city during that time if you like the snow or winter sport. The weather is cold, and the days are short. For example, in December, the daylight lasts only 5 hours and 50 minutes, against 8 hours and 15 minutes in Paris. The sea around Helsinki might also be frozen, and the locals love ice skating! I think the city under the snow is something to see, but it depends on what you plan to do.
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Sustainable travel in Helsinki
Helsinki is one of the greenest cities and is on a mission to become carbon-neutral by 2035. So, what can do you to reduce your impact whilst exploring the capital?
First, you can choose the most eco-friendly transport option. You can walk (the city is not big!) or use its public transportation system (trams are easy to use). If you decide to go beyond the capital and explore its surroundings or Lapland, try to rent a hybrid car. Not only will you save money on gas, but you will be doing the local air a favour!
Then, buy and eat local and seasonal. Finland proposes incredible products from fresh fish to tangy berries and reindeer. It has a lot to offer, so support local. It also applies to shopping for souvenirs – Helsinki has a beautiful market in Market Square with local and handmade items.
Always respect the local heritage. Treat people and their surroundings with respect. Sustainable travel is not only about the environment but also about the local communities.
Other suggestions for low-impact travel to Helsinki include staying at eco-friendly hotels or guesthouses and dining in eco-friendly restaurants with an emphasis on organic and sustainable food.
Want to know more?
- The Complete Guide to Sustainable Travel
- Carbon Offset your Flights: What, Why & How
- 10 Best Travel Apps for Exploring Sustainably
- Top Ecotourism Activities Around the World
- 8 Best Filtered Water Bottles for Travel & Hiking
Download your FREE sustainable travel checklist ↓
Helsinki travel planning guide
Yes, buying insurance is always valuable when travelling abroad. Enjoy your city break to Helsinki stress-free with one of my favourite providers, Nomad Insurance.
Yes, tap water is safe to drink all over Helsinki, which ranks among the highest quality in the world. However, I also recommend travelling with the UltraPress Purifier Bottle, a lightweight filtered water bottle perfect for reducing plastic and staying hydrated.
Yes, renting a car in Helsinki is easy and is a great way to explore outside of the city freely. I recommend booking yours with Rentalcars.com – they offer a variety of operators for all budgets.
The best way to book your accommodation in Helsinki is with Booking.com – my favourite platform to compare and reserve places to stay each night, from affordable guesthouses to luxury hotels.
I recommend booking your plane with Skyscanner. It has been my favourite platform for years, as it allows me to book the cheapest flights whilst lowering my carbon emissions.
Helsinki city guide – FAQ
Yes! Helsinki, like the rest of Northern Europe, is expensive. I was sometimes a bit shocked by the prices, especially in restaurants. However, it is possible to visit and enjoy the capital whilst being mindful of your budget. For example, walk instead of taking public transport or cook at your Airbnb or hotel.
2 to 3 days is enough time to visit Helsinki and enjoy all the beautiful things the capital offers. Helsinki is not a big city, and the main attractions are easily accessible. You might also want to spend a day visiting the surroundings or another city as we did with Turku.
Unfortunately, no. Helsinki has too much light pollution to observe the Northern Lights. However, in a period of intense activity, they might become visible. And if you really want to see them, I recommend visiting Lapland and going above the Arctic Circle.
Yes! The majority of locals speak English in addition to their mother tongue. And even when I was in Lapland and remote places, they all spoke English.
Shop the Helsinki eco-travel bingo
Learn how to live an unforgettable experience in Helsinki whilst respecting places and locals.
And you, have you ever visited Helsinki or would you like to go one day?
Let me know in the comments below!
With love ♡