Helsinki, Finland cruises
Your guide to Helsinki.
Finland’s capital since 1812, Helsinki is ‘the Daughter of the Baltic’, a city of intriguing contrasts, offering attractive Neo-Classical buildings alongside lively shopping esplanades. Elegant old homes and churches grace the surrounding countryside while Helsinki itself is predominantly modern, with many museums to explore and a great cultural center anchored around the city’s Senate Square. On long summer days, Finnish natives and tourists crowd Helsinki’s public parks and sandy beaches, while in winter a visit to one of the city’s traditional saunas - or a steaming hot mug of glögi - provides the perfect way to keep warm.
Senate Square is the heart of Helsinki’s old quarter and a great place to begin your exploration of the city. A statue of Tsar Alexander II - former Grand Duke of Finland - sits at the Square’s center, while the Government Palace and the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Nicholas are among the attractions gracing the perimeter. From here, it’s just a short walk to Uspenski Cathedral, one of the largest orthodox churches in Western Europe and yet another symbol of Russia’s legacy in Finland. For anyone interested in native history and culture, Helsinki has many museums to explore, among them the Museum of Art and Design, Helsinki City Museum, and The National Museum of Finland.
Eating and drinking.
Helsinki’s culinary scene is exciting and innovative, a veritable playground for anyone with a serious interest in eating out and eating well. Natively grown ingredients, fresh seafood and reindeer are the backbones of Finnish cuisine, but you’ll also encounter an equal share of vegan and vegetarian eateries in Helsinki, alongside offerings from Asia and the Middle East. Vanha Kauppahalli market and Hietalahti Market Hall are both good lunchtime options, each offering casual restaurants serving native favorites as well as international cuisine. For a more formal dining option, Sea Horse - established in 1934 - offers a menu dedicated to native Finnish cooking and is popular with tourists.
From flea markets and shopping malls to independent boutiques selling the best of Finnish design, Helsinki’s shopping provides numerous options for finding a keepsake from your travels. The city’s many undercover arcades offer a blend of international fashion and lifestyle brands alongside native Finnish labels. If you’re looking for something edible to take home, Hietalahti Market or Moko Café & Store, which stocks food items alongside lifestyle products, are two good options. Of course, no Helsinki shopping spree would be complete without visiting Finnish design house Marimekko. An institution in the city, homeware and fashion here comes emblazoned with the brand’s signature abstract prints.
The Fortress of Suomenlinna sits on a cluster of islands 15 minutes by ferry from Helsinki. A UNESCO world heritage site, it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, with much to explore as well as several pleasant coastal walks. Another dose of history can be found 55 km away in the medieval city of Porvoo. Established in the 14th century, Porvoo’s scenic streets are lined with ancient wooden buildings, while its old port features many charming shops. Pihlajasaari, another of Helsinki’s islands, is home to sandy beaches, nature paths and a smattering of old villas. Like Suomenlinna, it’s a short ferry connection from the city and a popular retreat for Finns in summertime.