The Finnish capital since the early 1800’s, charming Helsinki was designed by the Russians to look somewhat like a mini St. Petersburg.
Brimming with stunning architecture, the city blends the feeling of a buzzing metropolis with a small-town vibe.
One of the world’s northernmost capital cities, Helsinki’s coastal location means that winters can be exceptionally chilly and dark, while summer days are long and sunny.
The city beaches draw large crowds in the warmer months and there are many gorgeous churches, lovely parks, and interesting museums to enjoy all year round.
Top landmarks include Central Railway Station, Finlandia Hall, the Olympic Stadium and Tower, the Sibelius Monument, and Parliament House.
Refresh in a traditional sauna, have family fun at water parks and theme parks, explore bustling markets and savor Finnish fare.
Looking to expand your adventures? There are plenty of great day-trip options too—here are 15 of the best.
Often referred to as “The Gibraltar of the North”, Suomenlinna sea fortress is one of Helsinki’s major attractions.
Built by the Swedish in the middle of the 18th Century, it was once the mightiest sea fortress in the whole Baltic area.
Step back in time at the UNESCO-listed site as you walk around the defensive walls, admire the Russian church, peek inside the old barracks, snap pictures of monuments and memorials, learn more in the museums, and see old cannons still standing to attention.
There are places to eat, drink, and shop on the island and the ferry crossing takes around 15 minutes.
Recommended tour: Helsinki and Suomenlinna 5-Hour Sightseeing Tour
2. Lapinlahti Hospital
If you’re looking for an unusual attraction to visit when in Helsinki, it’s tough to beat the eerie Lapinlahti Hospital – Finland’s oldest psychiatric facility.
Although the hospital has not been in full use since 2008, it is still a place where people can unwind and soothe their minds.
Once home to people with a range of mental conditions, you’ll learn many fascinating stories of the hospital’s past.
Imagine what went on within the walls, enjoy walking through the pretty gardens, and take part in a variety of workshops and events.
Travel back to the medieval era with a day trip from Helsinki to quaint Porvoo.
Located around 35 miles from the capital, the 14th Century city was home to royalty and creatives in times gone by.
See the historic wooden buildings that line cobblestone streets and cling to hilly slopes, visit Porvoo Museum and Porvoo Cathedral, and enjoy walks alongside the scenic river or kayaking on the water.
You’ll find an assortment of quaint stores around the old port and the surroundings are picturesque.
Large ancient rocks and fragrant pine trees add to the charm.
Suggested tour: Porvoo: Guided Tour from Helsinki
4. Sipoonkorpi National Park
Sipoonkorpi National Park is a popular day trip from Helsinki, particularly for fans of the great outdoors.
A great place to get away from the city’s noise, the forest hides cool rock formations that were created by melting glaciers during the Ice Age.
These rocky wonders are often referred to as “The Trolls”. The terrain also includes marshes, lakes, pastoral lands, and bogs, and you’ll spot a variety of flora and fauna as you hike through the beautiful national park.
5. Nuuksio National Park
Another natural gem that’s easy to reach from Helsinki, Nuuksio National Park is one of Finland’s most popular outdoor playgrounds.
Just an hour and a half outside of the capital, the natural setting seems worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of the city.
There are towering trees, glistening lakes, and moss-covered cliffs, and creatures like the Siberian flying squirrel, lynx, moose, woodlark, fox, and European nightjar call the dense forests home.
Available tour: Nuuksio National Park Full-Day Hike from Helsinki
Pihlajasaari is one of Helsinki’s islands.
It’s popular with locals, though the relatively small number of foreign tourists that visit make it something of a hidden gem.
The ferry crossing takes around 15 minutes and the two neighboring islands are connected by bridge.
Soak up some summer sun on the beaches and head to the nudist beach for an all-over tan.
Elegant villas are dotted across the island and you’ll find saunas, restaurants, running tracks, and woodland for a comfortable and varied excursion.
West of Helsinki, visitors may be surprised to find that most of Raseborg’s population speaks Swedish as the first language.
A must-see sight is the now-ruined Castle of Raseborg.
Soak up the atmosphere and learn more about the fortresses past.
Stroll through the suburb of Tammisaari to admire its unusual and historic architecture and stop by Billnas to experience a former ironworks community.
If you’re in need of some relaxation, there are several small beaches close to hand, or you can escape to the nearby national park for some outdoor adventures.
To the east of the Finnish capital, driving to Kotka takes around an hour and a half.
The scenic city is located at the mouth of the Kymi River and you can discover more about the area’s seafaring past at the Maritime Center Vellamo.
Suomen Salpa (the Salpa Line) is another interesting local attraction; a museum today, the fortified bunker line was constructed to defend Finland from any invasion attempts by the Soviet Union.
Russian history can also be found at Langinkoski, a former imperial fishing lodge.
Enjoy a few hours at Sapokka Water Park, complete with lush gardens, bridges, ponds, sculptures, flowers, a cascade, and more.
One of Finland’s biggest cities, Tampere is also known as the country’s cultural heart.
It’s just 110 miles from the capital and offers a plethora of interesting things to see and do.
Take the kids to Särkänniemi Theme Park, Duck Park, and Pyynikki Park (complete with an observation tower), and reconnect with your own childhood at the cool Moomin Museum.
The Spy Museum offers hands-on fun and intrigue for people of all ages, and the city has a number of other interesting museums dedicated to different themes.
Pispala’s abandoned factory, Tampere Cathedral, Market Hall, and Hatanpaa Arboretum are a few other sights to add to your day-trip bucket list.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump (around 14 miles) from the center of Helsinki, Espoo makes for a convenient day-trip destination.
The city has a youthful and modern vibe and is home to hipsters, creatives, migrants, students, young professionals, and families.
The small islands off the coast are especially enchanting in the summer months and there are lots of places of natural interest outside of the city.
Old and young alike can let off steam at the gigantic Serena Water Amusement Park.
Other highlights of Espoo include Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Gallen-Kallela Museum, the five-century-old Espoo Cathedral, and Espoo Central Park.
Located on the west coast of Finland, some three hours from Helsinki, Pori is a picture-perfect seaside city with a long history.
The city was founded in the 1550’s and was once a gateway to Western Finland.
Little remains from before the 1850’s, however, as Pori has seen no fewer than nine devastating fires over the years.
The riverfront is lined with elegant neo-renaissance buildings and prominent landmarks include the City Hall, Pori Cathedral, and the Sigrid Jusélius Mausoleum.
Wander through Viikkari and absorb the boho vibe.
There are plenty of opportunities for forays into nature and the city has a vibrant night scene.
The medieval-era town of Hämeenlinna lies some 62 miles from Helsinki.
It’s well known for the awesome lakeside Häme Castle -also known as Tavastia Castle – where you can see the two remaining turrets and gatehouse, explore the battlements, and learn more of its history in the museum.
The Prison Museum and Hämeenlinna Art Museum are also well worth visiting, and literary fans are sure to enjoy the former home of Jean Sibelius, a famous Finnish writer.
The Holy Cross Church is a lovely attraction for history buffs.
Puuhamaa offers heaps of watery fun for the whole family and Aulanko is a large, attractive park.
The former industrial city of Lahti sits at the edge of Lake Vesijärvi.
Gentrification and modernization projects are ongoing, but the city still has something of an edgy atmosphere.
Finland’s most famous symphony orchestra – Sinfonia Lahti – hails from the city and you can try and get tickets for a variety of performances at the handsome wood-built Sibelius Hall.
The harbor boasts a number of charming al fresco eateries and there are several pretty parks, such as Yli-Marola 4H Farm Animal Yard and Laune Park, to enjoy.
Don’t miss the twice-daily fountain show at Vesiurut.
An hour’s drive from Helsinki, Lohja has a trading history that dates back to the Middle Ages.
An abundance of summer homes and elegant manors gives the city a holiday-like ambiance and there are beautiful parks, gardens, and natural attractions close by.
Relax at the lakeside Aurlahti Beach or Liessaari Beach, explore Finland’s wild side along the Karkaliniemi Nature Trail, and venture into the awesome Torhola Cave.
For something that bit different to the norm, visit the subterranean Tytyri Mine Museum.
Feel a sense of spirituality at St. Lawrence Church and visit interesting art galleries and museums.
Turku was once the capital of Finland and is the nation’s oldest city.
Just two hours from the present-day capital, day trips to Turku are like stepping back through the ages.
Descend into the dungeons and explore the maze-like chambers of the impressive Turku Castle, an impressive fortress that has been beautifully restored to showcase its former might and splendor.
The stunning cathedral is also sure to dazzle visitors.
Spot nature at the nearby Ruissalo National Park, soak up the vistas from atop Kakolanmäki Hill and sunbathe at Naantali Beach.
With museums, art galleries, historic sites, restaurants aplenty, and shopping hotspots, an excursion to Turku is anything but dull.