How To Spend A Weekend In Helsinki

How To Spend A Weekend In Helsinki – A Loaded Travel Guide

My visit to Finland was a quick solo trip to celebrate my birthday and I know that sounds weird to travel solo for a birthday but I’m introverted so I’m pretty comfortable being alone. I’ve put together this guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki to share some of the wonderful things to do in the pretty, seaside city. Even if you only have a weekend, you can still enjoy a lot of what the city has to offer. The capital city is a natural escape filled wth parks, lakes, ocean as well as lots of stylish shops, cozy cafes and, of course, saunas so let’s take a closer look.

How To Spend A Weekend In Helsinki

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Where to stay

I recommend prison. For real! Hotel Katajanokka is the former Helsinki county prison that has been converted into a boutique hotel. I stayed here during my visit to Helsinki and loved the uniqueness of being able to stay somewhere with so much history, and I love that the history has been kept alive. Not only this, the hotel is in a convenient location for being able to explore the city by foot or by using public transport. Check out my full review in this post for more details.

Day One

Explore Suomenlinna

Hop on the ferry from Market Square and take a trip across to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. This defensive fortress is loaded with history having been been owned by Sweden, Russia and Finland and is one of the most popular attractions in Helsinki. If you want to learn more, there are 6 museums to choose from (I visited the Suomenlinna Museum for an overall look at the history) and there is also a range of cafes, sights and shops. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes to walk around here because there is a lot of walking.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Get lunch at Market Square or Old Market Hall

Once you get back from Suomenlinna, stop in at Market Square for a bite to eat. I looked through Market Square and then chose to have lunch at Old Market Hall which is right next to Market Square but either way you will be able to find a nice meal and there are a range of different options including lots of seafood, meats, sandwiches, cakes and even reindeer! It was a great place to get a nice lunch while you’re out and about without costing a fortune. If you are looking for gifts or souvenirs this is a great place to find them too because there are a lot of unique crafts here.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Old Market Hall

Visit the Cathedrals

After lunch, take a walk to see the Helsinki Cathedral which is only a couple of minutes walk from Market Square. The cathedral is an impressive sight from the outside so take a couple of pics, then walk up the stairs and go inside to take a look at the interior. From there you can walk to the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral (you might stop at some of the cute shops along the way because there are a lot of nice ones in this area). It’s another sight where you can take some pictures from the outside, then take a look inside.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Helsinki Cathedral

Take a sunset Sky Wheel ride

Now, depending on what time of year you visit, this may not be a sunset ride, but taking a trip on the SkyWheel Helsinki is pretty nice around sunset. It’s a Ferris Wheel with a twist because this one has it’s own sauna carriage! Yep, that’s right, a sauna! They also have a VIP carriage as well and, as you would imagine, both of these are pretty pricey. Luckily the regular carriages are available and not too expensive. It was really fun to go up around sunset and see the city I had been walking around in from a different angle.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Have dinner by the water

When I travel, I like to find a hotel with breakfast and eat there before I leave for the day (Hotel Katajanokka that I recommended has a great breakfast buffet). During the day I have a small lunch and maybe a snack or coffee in the afternoon then I treat myself to a nice dinner where I can try local cuisine in the evening. I like to experience the local cuisine, eat local ingredients and try things that I can’t buy everywhere. If you prefer a faster, chain style restaurant there are plenty of them in the city but I opted for Ravintola Nokka for dinner where I had a divine fish dinner in a cozy atmosphere on the water.

Day Two

Visit a National Park or go on a Bicycle Tour

Now this is the only part that differs from how I spent my two days in Helsinki because I was working on this morning, but if I wasn’t working I had two main things I would’ve chosen from. I would have either taken a visit out to Nuuksio National Park to spend a half day looking around at all the pretty nature or done a tour with Helsinki Bike Tours to have the knowledgeable guides show me some of the local sights. Those are both things that I wanted to do but just ran out of time and are what I would recommend for this section of your visit.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Experience an authentic sauna + cold water swim

This is what drew me to Finland – to experience an authentic sauna session and cold water swim and Löyly is a place suited for tourists who want to do just that. You need to make a reservation, which you can do on their website. There are two different saunas which you can use – one regular and one smoke sauna, and it is right on the water so in between sauna time you can take a dip in the chilly Baltic Sea. Going between the saunas and the sea was something I’d just do once, but I ended up doing multiple rounds and dunking in the sea eight times! The cold water winded you as you went in and you can only stay in for a few seconds at a time, but the whole experience was so relaxing and addictive! It was definitely an extraordinary travel experience for the bucket list and I 100% recommend it!

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Have a coffee by the lake

After your refreshing time at Löyly, why not take a walk over to the Sinisen Huvilan Kahvila cafe for a coffee by the lake. It’s a nice walk over there, and you could even stop to take a photo with the My Helsinki sign along the way. It was a beautiful nature filled area to walk around and soak in the pretty nature as well with a lake and park nearby.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

Dinner at the prison

Head back to the prison, I mean hotel, for a great underground dinner at the restaurant there. I had the fish (yes, fish again! There’s so much great seafood in Helsinki!) but they had a lot of different options on the menu to cater for just about everyone. Then you can curl up in your cozy cell and go through all your photos from your great weekend!

Where To Stay In Helsinki

Getting Around

If you’re doing a city weekend like this, there’s no need to rent a car because Helsinki is well suited for walking around and has a really great public transport system. To get to the city from the airport, you can take the FinnAir city bus which drops you off at Central Railway Station in 30 minutes. I walked everywhere once I was in the city, but if you prefer to use public transport you can choose from buses, trains and trams which are all near to the hotel. There are also bicycle stands all around the city where you can rent a bicycle to get around. If you get a Helsinki Card all your public transportation will be free as well as the Ferry to Suomenlinna and museum entries.

A loaded travel guide on how to spend a weekend in Helsinki with ideas to help you make the most of your time in pretty, seaside city

A bicycle rental sign near Market Square

Check out my Helsinki vlog to see the highlights!

This post was written in partnership with My Helsinki and Hotel Katajanokka. I never promote something I’m not passionate about – see my disclaimer for more information. 

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