While flying to Copenhagen for my semester abroad school program my family and I took a three day layover in Helsinki! We spent two days in Helsinki, since it is a small city we were able to explore a lot of it in that time. On our third-day we took a boat and spent the day in Tallin, Estonia, check out my one-day guide for Tallin here.
Day 1 – Sunday July 28
1) We arrived in Helsinki around 1pm and checked into our AirBnB.
2) We went to go check out the Kaartinkaupunki neighbourhood! This is where you’ll find the Kauppatori Market Square and Old Market Hall by the waterfront. I got some fresh raspberries from the market however they also had a great abundance of other fruits as well as food trucks. It was super cool to see how many trendy and vegan food trucks were around Helsinki! You will also find that during the summer this is the area where people will lounge on the boardwalks in their bathing suits to tan. It is also right by the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral and not far from the Lutheran Cathedral, both of which are beautiful sights!
3) Next we walked around the nearby Kluuvi neighbourhood which is home to luxury stores as well as bigger fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M. There are many restaurants around this area if you are looking for a place to eat, otherwise it is still great to shop or just experience the busier streets of Helsinki. We came across a ton of food trucks and ended up grabbing some Mediterranean food for an early dinner at around 4:30pm.
4) We went to see the Forum indoor mall which is a popular hang out area, here we stopped at their grocery store to get some snacks before heading home since we were jetlagged.
Day 2 – Monday July 29
1) We grabbed breakfast at one of the many Espresso House coffee shops around at 8am. I had a delicious chili and avocado melt with a matcha oat milk latte! The ambience of the coffee shop was very relaxed yet trendy and the sandwiches and treats tasted great.
2) Next we checked out the Ullanlinna neighbourhood! We walked along the waterside and stopped at an ice cream truck, then rented Voi scooters (you just need to download the app on your phone) and rode back towards the city to find lunch. We ended up eating at a cafe called Café Succés, which I would 10/10 recommend! They served sandwiches and some lunch sets, I got their Finnish salmon potato soup with their home-baked bread and some green tea. The soup was so delicious and cost around 10 euros and it was great to experience some traditional Finnish food! Note the restaurant doesn’t have an English menu but if you ask a person working there they will translate for you!
3) Since it was a hot summer day while I was in Helsinki we didn’t go to any of their saunas, however it is a popular thing to do there when it is cold! While walking around the waterfront in Ullanlinna we checked out the beach-front Löyly saunas which also had an indoor restaurant plus outdoor deck. It had a cool modern design and if you are in Helsinki when it is cooler I would suggest checking it out!
4) We spent the later afternoon resting in our AirBnB after walking most of the day. Helsinki isn’t exactly a city with tourist sites so the most convenient way for us to experience the city was just by walking around randomly for hours.
5) For dinner we went to Savotta ($$$), a Finnish restaurant serving reindeer, elk and even bear meat. We didn’t make a reservation so we sat outside, however the indoor decor looked lovely and I would recommend making a reservation beforehand.