Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a lovely festive time with your loved ones (as far as is possible under the crazy COVID rules). As it’s cold and snowy here in England, I thought it would be fitting to post about one of my snowy winter adventures to Finland.
Finland is famous for huskies, snow, northern lights and being Baltic. Helsinki is the capital of Finland, and the area is home to around 1.5 million people. It’s a sustainable capital, made up of beautiful islands and seems quite relaxed with a focus on food, architecture and, of course, sauna!
We visited Helsinki in February from the UK and arrived to snow and frozen over rivers. It was absolutely beautiful. Spending 2 days in the city was a perfect amount of time to scratch the surface and see the main sights. The whole city had a really nice feeling and we wished we had longer than a weekend to explore a tiny part of the country. We will definitely return one day to explore further North.
If you’re visiting Helsinki, here are 10 things to do in the Finnish capital.
1. Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral was built as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, and is truly beautiful. It’s simple but beautiful inside, and the square it sits in is lovely to walk around and have a drink or some food.
2. Uspenski Cathedral
Built in the 1860s, Uspenski Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral. Interestingly, the cathedral used to house a famous and valuable icon, St Nicolas – The Wonder Maker, but in 2007 it was stolen from the cathedral in broad daylight whilst the cathedral was full of hundreds of tourists! It still hasn’t been recovered to this day.
3. The Rock Church
One of my favourite spots in Helsinki is the Rock Church, or Temppeliaukio, which was built in to solid rock in the 1960s – making for a really unique place. You can even walk over the top of it!
4. Moomin Cafe
You can’t come to the home of the Moomins and not visit their namesake cafe. Sit in the Moomin themed cafe as you sip coffee out of a Moomin mug – a perfect spot for breakfast.
5. Market Square
The most famous market in Finland, Helsinki’s Market Square is one of the city’s main tourist destinations. Here you’ll find charming market stands that sell a everything from fish freshly caught from the harbour, fruits and vegetables, coffee, and local arts and crafts. Traditional salmon or fish soup is a must-try when dropping by the market!
6. National Museum of Finland
This museum tells the story of the history of Finland, from the Stone Age through to the modern day. Exhibits include how the area now known as Finland came to be formed, the Independence era and Finland’s maritime history. There’s even a section with a sauna that you can sit in! It was really fascinating to learn more about the history of the country, and the museum is well worth a few hours of your time.
7. Flying Cinema
This is a fun one if you’ve got kids – or if it’s just wayyy too cold outside, like it was in our case. The flying cinema is a 4d experience which takes you flying around the attractions of Helsinki without leaving your seat. Though be warned, if you suffer from motion sickness it might not be for you!
8. Parliament House
You can visit the Parliament of Finland on a guided tour on Saturdays at 11:00 and 12:30 and on Sundays at 12:00 and 13:30. In the summer months (July and August) tours run every day. It’s also possible to watch Parliament in session on Tuesdays and Fridays from the public balcony.
9. Railway Station
Helsinki railway station was designed in 1919. I wouldn’t normally put a station on a to do list, but this one really is beautiful – it was even chosen as one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations by the BBC in 2013.
10. Hit the sauna
Fun fact – Sauna is one of the only Finnish word to make it in to the English dictionary! Even better, did you know there are 2 million saunas in Finland? Pretty impressive when there are only 5 million people in Finland!
Unsurprisngly, Helsinki isn’t short of saunas. The capital’s Burger King even has one!!! The sky wheel in Helsinki also has sauna pods – including a hot tub and a sauna. Madness. One of the most famous saunas in Helsinki is Löyly, right on the the Baltic Sea. Here you can enjoy the sauna, jump in the icy sea, whip yourself with birch branches and then chill out by the open fire in the lounge.
Now – fair warning, a lot of Finns do go to the sauna naked, but there is absolutely no requirement too; a lot of people also wear swimsuits. I actually didn’t see anyone naked so that was a win.
And that brings my post on Helsinki to a close. I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for reading. Stay safe and happy travelling!