Now recognised as one of Northern Europe’s cultural hot spots, Helsinki is a modern city that elegantly combines capital chic with outdoorsy adventures. Helsinki’s urban heart is packed with great restaurants, lively bars, vibrant nightclubs and live music venues, while also being a city of museums and galleries, with public art in every neighborhood. Helsinki is also a child-friendly city perfect for family vacations, safe and excellently served by a well-connected public transport system, and packed with public playgrounds and parks. Surrounded by forests, lakes, and the sea, with countless ways to enjoy adventures in the wild, Helsinki is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Here is a selection of activities and attractions that illustrate the variety available, including a couple of nearby stop-over destinations that offer a different perspective on Finland.
Allas Sea Pool
Allas Sea Pool is an oasis in the Helsinki harbour with a large outdoor pool deck and traditional Finnish saunas offering views over the Baltic Sea. Their sea water and heated pools are open every day all year round, with the heated kiddies pool open in the summer and under the supervision of a lifeguard. The heated pool is kept at +27°C all year round while the sea water pool adapts to the temperature of the surrounding sea. Allas Sea Pool offers a space for stress-free relaxation right in the heart of the city, a place to chill out, enjoy the pools and saunas, or enjoy drinks on the terrace in the sunshine. Allas is as welcoming to families and groups as it is to individuals, inviting guests to enjoy an unhurried time at their own leisure.
Korkeasaari – Island of Animals
Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki is unique in the world, being located on an island, close to the centre of the city. Visitors can take a bus from Railway Square, in the summer take the ferry from Market Square, take the metro to Kalasatama and walk from there, or rent a city bike; in just 20 minutes you are at the zoo! There are over 150 species of animals living on Korkeasaari, representing life from the Himalayan slopes to the African deserts ,and from the northern coniferous forests to the Amazon jungle. Although close to Helsinki city centre, in Korkeasaari you can enjoy an urban nature experience amid the surrounding archipelago scenery every day of the year. The perfect family day-trip, Korkeasaari has both picnic areas and grilling spots located about the island. Korkeasaari is working for biodiversity. By visiting the zoo, you support this work and the preservation of wild nature.
Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Part of the National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum is a specialist museum focused on old European art whose collections and temporary exhibitions feature works from old masters from the 14th century until the 1850s. It is located on Helsinki’s leafy Bulevardi, opposite the Hietalahti market and market hall, with Sinebrychoff Park directly behind. Once home to Sinebrychoff family, the second floor of the museum is devoted to the private collection of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff in the 1890s, and is styled like the palaces of European collectors, filled with carefully hung paintings, art objects, porcelain, silver and furniture. This unique house museum of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff has free admission, and makes up the core of the museum.
Ateneum Art Museum
The Ateneum Museum of Art in Helsinki is the best-known museum in Finland and the home of Finnish art. The works in Ateneum’s extensive collections date from the 19th century to the modern era, and its hugely popular exhibitions of both Finnish and international art regularly open up new perspectives into the past and future.
Known for its friendly personnel, great breakfast, good service and value for money, the private and cosy Hotel Arthur is located in Helsinki city centre just 200m the Central Railway Station. Hotel Arthur’s location is ideal for public transport: The Helsinki University metro station and tram stops for tram lines 3, 6, 6T and 9 are next to the hotel. Helsinki’s most prominent sights, museums, theaters, restaurants, parks, marketplaces and churches are all within walking distance of the hotel. Hotel Arthur has 203 unique rooms which are divided to 14 room categories, including single economy rooms, Deluxe rooms for couples, family rooms for 4-5 people, and two suites with private saunas – all rooms come with free wifi. There are also 11 unique conference rooms that provide a modern setting for meetings from 2 up to 250 people. In Autumn 2020, the renovated Bistro Arthur will be opened and is serving breakfast, lunch, Bistro menu and á la carte dinner during weekdays.
National Museum of Finland
The National Museum of Finland, opened in 1916, presents Finnish life from prehistoric times to the present through three permanent exhibitions and changing temporary exhibitions.
The National Museum of Finland also operates Seurasaari, the largest open air museum in Finland, and Hvitträsk, the studio home of the architecture firm Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen. Seurasaari is an island that showcases all of Finland’s folk history by recreating its traditional way of life through cottages, manors, farmsteads and churches, representing four centuries of rural life. Seurasaari’s historic Antin Kaffeliiteri café was recently renovated and offers coffee, refreshments and snacks during the museum’s opening hours.
Hvitträsk is a completely unique comprehensive work of art that attracts design and architecture enthusiasts from near and abroad. The architect trio Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen fell in love with the scenery at Lake Vitträsk and built their own studio home there, in the National Romantic style in 1903.
Didrichsen Art Museum
Located on on the connecting island of Kuusisaari between Helsinki and Espoo, the Didrichsen Art Museum is a unique combination of an art museum and a former private villa by the sea. With its must-see exhibitions, modern Finnish architecture and beautiful island surroundings, the Didrichsen Art Museum continues to attract visitors from all over the world. The museum’s collections were acquired over time by Marie-Louise and Gunnar Didrichsen, and consists of Finnish art from the 20th century among others Edelfelt, Cawén, Schjerfbeck, Särestöniemi, Linnovaara, Hiltunen and Pullinen. In the modern international art collection there are works by: Picasso, Kandinsky, Miró, Léger, Moore, Giacometti and Arp.
Day Trips from Helsinki
Porvoo is Finland’s second oldest town, and considered by most visitors to be the most beautiful. Located a little over an hour from Helsinki, Porvoo is known for its delightful waterfront of red ochre sheds, its medieval cobblestoned streets and alleys. Visitors are invited to stroll around Old Porvoo to best experience its charms, admiring the delightful artisanal shops and boutiques along the way, and discover beautiful Porvoo Cathedral, and the small market place in front of the old town hall. Pause there for a moment to enjoy a coffee or treat in the square, or choose from one of the many excellent restaurants for a relaxed dining experience.
Having spent time exploring Old Porvoo, the visitor can also take advantage of the many trips out to the lovely archipelago in the Baltic Sea nearby. Porvoo is also blessed with an abundance of parks, with numerous nature trails to follow, either on foot or via the conveniently located city bikes. The park area along the river begins from the Mannerheiminkatu bridge and follows the river all the way to the sea. At the estuary, the green area continues as the Ruskis nature reserve, favoured by birds. All along the grassy banks of the river there are charming cafés, where the weary traveler can take in the scenery and rest their legs awhile.
Situated between two lakes and surrounded by forests, nature is never far in Tampere, with wonderful nature experiences available for visitors to Finland’s 3rd largest city. Known as the Sauna Capital of the World, Tampere has over 30 saunas open to the public throughout the year.
Tampere has numerous fascinating museums, many conveniently located in the Vapriikki Museum Centre in the city centre. Tampere is also home to the only Moomin Museum in the world, located in the modern Tampere-talo, the largest concert and congress centre in the Nordics, and home to Tampere’s highly regarded Philharmonic Orchestra. Two other unique attractions are the Spy Museum and the Lenin Museum, the only surviving one located outside Russia. Art lovers will be impressed by the collections in Tampere Art Museum, and by the exhibitions in the privately run Sara Hildén Art Museum.
There’s plenty of excitement available to families with kids – Tampere is home to Särkänniemi, the 2nd most popular amusement park in Finland. If you want to enjoy the finest views over the land-surrounded city, the Näsinneula Observation Tower, which stands at 168m is the tallest observation tower in the Nordic countries, has an excellent restaurant at 124m open throughout the year. A day in Tampere is rarely enough. There is a wide range of hotels to choose from. Stay over night and enjoy your stay!
Tallink Silja – Experience the Baltic Sea
Many visitors to Finland find the opportunity to take day trips or overnighters to other Baltic capitals to be an added attraction. Cruise operator Tallink Silja has daily connections from Helsinki and Turku to Tallinn, Stockholm, and the Åland Islands, and also offers also daily departures between Stockholm and Riga.
Operating daily, the Megastar fast ferry to the Estonian capital, Tallinn, is one of the most popular, and shortest, trips. The journey takes two hours, which is just long enough to enjoy the views, have a meal, and perhaps do a little shopping in the Traveller Superstore, the largest shopping mall on the Baltic Sea. Once in Tallinn you have 6 hours to explore its delightful medieval centre, before the return journey to Helsinki.
Silja Line’s daily luxury cruises to Stockholm are the perfect way for a family to combine a day out in Stockholm with some great onboard leisure and dining – not to mention some fantastic duty-free shopping opportunities! Kids will love the Oasis Spa and its whirlpool hot tubs, the supervised play centre, and the many great live shows that take place on every journey.
Located less than two hours north of Helsinki, Petäys Resort is a full service holiday resort, appealingly situated on the shores of Lake Vanajavesi, and is an ideal stop-over for visitors to Helsinki keen to experience Finnish nature at its best. The region surrounding Petäys Resort is one of outstanding natural beauty; in fact the Valley of Lake Vanajavesi was chosen as one of the 27 national landscapes of Finland, and has provided inspiration for numerous Finnish artists, including Akseli Gallen-Kallela, the poet Eino Leino, and the composer Sibelius. Petäys Resort includes a hotel, a number of saunas (including the mobile Zetor Sauna!), excellent conference and meeting facilities, its own guest harbour, and access to all the activities in the area.