Should you visit Helsinki this summer?

Is Helsinki A Boring Destination?

Last summer, I was met with puzzled looks whenever I would tell someone I’m going to Helsinki. “What are you going to do there?” they’d ask and to put it frankly…. I didn’t know. Sure, I knew a few things about Finland, but nothing about Helsinki in particular. For one of my friends knowing that some of her favorite bands were from Finland was enough reason to go, while I was curious to explore the country’s great outdoors. But what about the capital and largest city, Helsinki? It was a complete mystery for me. Until I got there.

I’m not going to try and convince you that Helsinki is the “bestest destination evah and that you need to go there omg like yesterday,” but I’d rather tell you about my time in a Finnish city I didn’t know much about. I also don’t want to bore you with unnecessary details so I’ll just tell you the five things I liked the most and maybe you’ll see for yourself why Helsinki is a destination worth visiting in the summer. Because in the winter, we all know people go visit Santa Clause in Finland, right?

1. The Market Square

Delicious berries in the Helsinki Market Square

After seeing the iconic Helsinki Cathedral (or “the most photographed place in the city”), we walked towards the Market Square, where….if you said there was a square with a market, then you must be a psychic πŸ˜‰ .During the summer you can find anything from cute reindeer fridge magnets to tasty reindeer meatballs. Check and…check. (hides) Though what I liked the most was the cheap and delicious fish that you could eat right there, along with fresh vegetables. Not to mention all the berries. You guys already know that I am the president of the “I ❀ berries” fanclub. Let’s just say that if I were in The Hunger Games, I would be quickly out…

2. The architecture

The charming architecture of Helsinki

The charming architecture of Helsinki

The charming architecture of Helsinki

While Helsinki isn’t a city that impresses you from the first moment with its breathtaking architecture (much like Paris, Prague or Barcelona), it has its own special charm and I found myself observing and photographing a lot of the different buildings I’ve seen.

3. The beach

The beach in Helsinki is the perfect place to relax on a summer day
An urban beach
The beach in Helsinki is the perfect place to relax on a summer day
A seagull on top of a seagull statue. How meta!

It was our first day, we were still sleepy after checking in late at night, what we wanted to see had just closed so we went towards the Hietaranta beach to lay down for a while and be lazy. Surprisingly, there were quite a few people there and unsurprisingly there wasn’t anyone in the cold water. I know it was cold because I’d tested it and I was afraid my feet would freeze and fall off if the water went a millimeter above my ankles.

4. The way it looks at night

The iconic Helsinki Cathedral

The Uspenski Cathedral and the Finnair Sky Wheel in Helsinki at night

After coming back from our hike in the Nuuksio National Park, to say we were hungry is an understatement. I had heard about a good restaurant so we went to check it out and luckily they had a table for us. When we left, we strolled through the center because I wanted to take a few night shots. I was very impressed by how beautiful it looks and would have definitely stayed more if my friends hadn’t reminded me that we were going to miss the last tram (which we did actually).

5. The Suomenlinna fortressΒ The Suomenlinna Fortress in Helsinki

The Suomenlinna Fortress in Helsinki

The Suomenlinna Fortress in Helsinki

How ironic is it that one of the places I liked the most is the one where I’ve spent the least amount of time. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna is a picturesque sea fortress where I could have easily wandered the whole day, but I only had a couple of hours before hurrying to catch the ferry to Stockholm. Combined with the rain, it was all too rushed and I know none of us was able to enjoy it properly.

Have I liked Helsinki? I would say so, after all, I left the city wishing I had more time so that’s always a good sign. Would I return to Helsinki? Absolutely! Should you book a trip to Helsinki this summer? That is up to you, but if you want a cool city that isn’t cramped with tourists and has a lot of interesting places to see, as well as delicious food, then yes, you can pack your bags for the capital of Finland. πŸ˜‰

Have you ever been to Helsinki? I’m curious to hear your thoughts about it.

Should you book a trip to Helsinki this summer? Well if you want a cool city that isn't cramped with tourists and has a lot of interesting places to see, as well as delicious food, then yes, you should pack your bags for the capital of Finland.

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  • beautiful! I went to Oslo and I’m going soon to Stockholm and so I only need to do Helsinki then too:)

    • I hope you’ll love Stockholm as well, it’s such a beautiful city πŸ˜€

  • This looks lovely – like the peaceful Russian north. The boots on the seagull are adorable… but WTF 5 Euros for a cup of berries? COME TO RUSSIA INSTEAD!

    • Yeah but Finland doesn’t have any visas πŸ™ Besides, we have berries in Romania as well and they’re much much cheaper, you should come πŸ˜‰

  • World Journeys

    I remember a whole arts district at a wharf or something filled with lots of modern art and artists working together there. A wonderful church and of course, a hostel in an actual stadium. I liked Helsinki. thanks for sharing!

    • I didn’t know about the hostel in the stadium, now I know where I’ll stay should I go back πŸ˜‰

  • Johanna Bradley

    Nice intro! πŸ™‚ Not on my list but still good to have a gander. #MondayEscapes

    • You should give Helsinki a chance one day, it may surprise you πŸ™‚

  • Ana P. Wildgust

    Lovely architecture indeed, and great photos. Nice Hunger Games reference by the way πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you! I wasn’t sure if anyone would recognize the reference, haha πŸ˜‰

  • Irina Munteanu

    Good thing I insisted, then. πŸ˜€

    And while I agree that we could have had a better Suomenlinna experience (without wind, rain and rushing), and would happily return, I think it was a decent-length stay. Then again, I had an extra half day for wandering around the city.

    • An extra day wouldn’t have hurt (but I can say the same about all the cities we’ve visited last summer). Next time tho! πŸ˜‰

  • I think this totally sums up my attitude to Helsinki – I’ve always felt it seemed a nice place to visit but probably couldn’t have given a single reason (except perhaps the fortress). So far the closest I’ve got is passing through the airport on the way to Lapland, but I think this would make a great relaxed weekend break. Thanks for linking up to #citytripping

    • It would definitely make a relaxed weekend, as long as the weather is good, haha.

  • Wander Mum

    I’v heard people say Helsinki can be boring but as you describe there’s always something to see aid atmosphere to soak up in every city. I’d definitely like to visit one day as part of a wider trip. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • It definitely isn’t boring, you can definitely find something you like. Even if it’s just relaxing in a traditional Finnish sauna πŸ˜‰

  • Pingback: City Tripping #17 - Wander Mum()

  • I missed this on #citytripping last week but noticed your post had been highlighted this week so popped over for a visit.
    I was in Helsinki last summer too and agree, it was a great little city. We loved the architecture, Suomenlinna, the greenery and the food too. Had four nights, staying in Klaus K hotel. Have been recommending the city for short breaks ever since.

    • I loved Suomenlinna so much! We stayed in a lovely hotel that was a bit far from the city center, but the tram would take us there in no time. Thanks for your comment! πŸ™‚

  • I don’t think Helsinki looks boring at all – I love the architecture and Suomenlinna looks stunning. Shame you couldn’t explore that more. It certainly looks like a charming city! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    • There’s always a reason to go back, isn’t it? πŸ˜‰ I want to visit other parts of Finland as well so stopping in Helsinki will be a must πŸ˜€

  • Helsinki isn’t a city that springs to mind when I think of city breaks. However, I’d love to visit Finland for the countryside so maybe I’ll find myself passing through it one day. #myweeklypostcard

    • That’s exactly what I want to do on my next trip to Finland πŸ™‚

  • Steve Tierney

    Helsinki was fun with lots to see and do. Here is our trip with photos: http://tierf1.blogspot.com/p/we-made-our-flightconnections-to.html

  • Judging by your description and your beautiful photos Helsinki doesn’t seem to be boring at all. However, I have to say that it has a reputation for being boring. I never visited it, but I’d love to. Boring or not boring.

  • beatravelling.com

    I’m thinking no πŸ™‚ Plans are to go there some day. Always keeps forgetting about it πŸ™‚

  • Clare Thomson

    I really love your photos, Vlad. They make Helsinki look gorgeous – I’m nearly packing my bags! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • I’ll confess that I’d never heard that Helsinki is boring. Okay, I haven’t heard much about Helsinki at all, at least not as a tourist destination, and had no idea of what to do there until reading your stories. It sounds as though there’s a lot to do, though. I have a bad habit of always wanting to see new places instead of revisiting old favorites so I’ll probably try to squeeze in as much as I can on my first visit, just in case. I might have missed Suomenlinna were it not for this article so thanks for mentioning it, Vlad.

  • Boy I need to have some photography lessons with you πŸ˜€ stunning photos as always, especially the night ones!
    I would definitely go to Helsinki, and I probably would like to see it covered with snow even knowing that it’s probably freaking cold! On my last trip to Egypt I met a family who lives in Helsinki and told me that during winter the sea freezes and they can actually walk on it… and it’s pretty scary but fun hahaha I would love to do that! πŸ˜€

  • Paula – Gone with the Wine

    Beautiful pictures! I’m glad you enjoyed my homeland. I would recommend also visiting other places like Turku and Naantali, or the Finnish Lapland where Sami people live. It is totally a different world up there.