Helsinki Tourist Attractions
One of the top Helsinki tourist attractions is Suomenlinna Fortress – photo © Visit Finland
Popular tourist attractions in Helsinki
Helsinki has plenty tourist attractions to do, see and experience for visitors of every type and age group. Renowned the world over for its progressive architecture, art, dance, and music, Helsinki values its cultural heritage and attractions as much as it values its reputation for having a modern approach to using and developing new technologies.
Helsinki’s compact nature means that most of the great cultural attractions are within easy walking distance of one another, and the city boasts an excellent public transport system of trams and buses for those who prefer to rest their feet between sights. Find the most popular Helsinki tourists attractions on the list below, or find more unique and top things to do in Helsinki.
Popular Helsinki Attractions
Ateneum Art Museum:
The main part of the Finnish National Gallery, the Ateneum houses the largest art collection in the country, containing Finnish art from 1750 to the 1960s and Western art from the late 19th century to the 1950s, including art by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. Finland’s golden age and modern masters are all to be found here, including Helene Schjerbeck, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Albert Edelfelt. In addition to the permanent collections there are regular special exhibitions, like that of Pablo Picasso, and the museum complex also includes the Ateneum Hall and hosts a wide range of events and activities.
Completed in 1971 and designed by Alvar Aalto, this concert hall, (with a congress wing that was added in 1975) situated by Töölönlahti bay and across from the National Museum of Finland, is one of Helsinki’s major architectural sights. This remarkable building is faced in Italian Carrara marble and Finnish Oulainen granite, with an interior composed of Carrara marble, travertine, red beech, and oak parquet, and is equipped with all modern amenities and facilities. In addition to the two concert halls, Finlandia Hall is also the setting for major political, cultural, and finacial meetings and events.
Dominating Senate Square and designed by C.L. Engel in the Neoclassical style, Helsinki Cathedral was completed in 1852 since which time it has been the location for major state events as well as serving its congregation. Exhibitions and concert performances are often held in the crypt, where there is also a café.
Kiasma – Museum of Contemporary Art:
Situated at Mannerheiminaukio, Kiasma was designed by Steven Holl and opened in 1998 to exhibit the contemporary art collection of the Finnish National Gallery. The collections focus on Finnish and foreign art, in particular the art of the Scandanavian and Baltic countries, and Russia from the 1960s on. It also houses special exhibitions and the Kiasma Theatre whose programme includes dance, drama, music, performance, multimedia, film and video art, and seminars, lectures and public discussions. The Kiasma collections are housed on the 2nd and 3rd floors, with other major exhibitions held on the 4th and 5th floors. There are smaller spaces, like Room X, Kontti, and Studio K which have their individual programmes.
Museum of Finnish Architecture / Design Museum:
Located in central Helsinki on Kasarmikatu street are two museums sharing the same site. The Museum of Finnish Architecture houses permanent exhibitions of Finnish architecture as well as temporary exhibitions from abroad, and contains extensive collections of drawings, pictures, and scale models. Next to it, the Design Museum celebrates the development of industrial art and artistic handicrafts dating from the 19th century to today, housed in a beautiful building from 1894. Alongside the permanent exhibitions there are temporary Finnish and international exhibitions on historical and contemporary design.
Museum of Natural History:
Recently reopened after extensive modernisation, the Museum of Natural History explores the natural history of Finland from its southern archipelago to the fells of Lapland through a number of exhibitions. The collections include botanical, zoological, geological, and paleontological specimens, not just from Finland but from across the world. Alongside ‘The History of Life’, which explains evolution from the Big Bang, through the age of dinosaurs, to the time of mammals and the Ice Age, there is an interactive exhibition for children called ‘The Life Game’ which allows them to explore the wonders of life on the planet.
National Museum of Finland:
With a permanent collection divided into 6 sections, the National Museum of Finland presents a history of Finnish life from prehistoric times to the present. Housed in a building designed by architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen in the national romantic style, the museum opened in 1916. The ceiling of the entrance hall has frescoes about the Kalevala painted by Akseli Gallén-Kallela which can be viewed without paying the entrance fee. In addition to the permanent collections and the temporary exhibitions, the museum also provides an interactive exhibition for children on the 3rd floor in VINTTI Workshop, where younger visitors can physically explore Finnish history.
One of the world’s largest historical maritime fortresses, Suomenlinna was constructed on six islands in the 18th century and has become one of the most popular attractions in Finland. The island fortress was granted its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, and today houses museums, parks, cafés and restaurants, and an old submarine. Suomenlinna can be reached by the municipal ferry from Market Square throughout the year, and in the summer there is also a JT-Line waterbus from the same location. The journey takes approximately 15 minutes.
One of Helsinki’s most popular tourist attractions with around half a million visitors a year, this unique church was quarried out of the natural bedrock, with the interior walls naturally created by rock. Designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the church opened in 1969 and since then has become a popular venue for concerts due to the excellent acoustics within. Admission is free, but opening hours can vary depending on the church’s program of events.
Looming high on a rocky outcrop on Katajanokka peninsula, this Orthodox Cathedral is one of the most distinctive, and beautiful, buildings in all of Helsinki. The site was originally meant for an Imperial palace, and Uspenski Cathedral continues to serve as a reminder of the influence Russia had over Finland before Finnish independance. Designed by Alexey Gornostaev, the cathedral was completed in 1868, and today it is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. Admission is free, and the cathedral is closed on Mondays.