Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland

Nestled on the border between Sweden, Norway and Russia, the picturesque country of Finland is a great destination to visit on a Baltic cruise. Boasting untouched landscapes, a mild climate and captivating cities, the country has it all.

Although Finland affords numerous places for you to explore, nowhere does it better than Helsinki. The nation’s capital is a hive of activity and a stay in the city will give you the most authentic look at the life of the Finnish.

Despite being small in size, Helsinki is the most populous city in the country. However, this means that there is a plethora of things for you to see and do whilst visiting, from checking out some of the incredible restaurants and their dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients to the collection of museums waiting for you to explore.

We spoke to Caroline from the travel blog Breaks who shared this with us: “There is a unique blend of Russian and Swedish influence that creates this beautiful city. Whilst very accessible from the UK, it feels like you have travelled much further. The long summer days and dark winters remind you that you are in a very different environment and that is something to embrace!”

With no shortage of things to keep you entertained and occupied, find out more about this beautiful destination in this essential guide to Helsinki.

 

The History

Sledging in Helsinki, Finland

The city of Helsinki was founded by King Gustav of Sweden in 1550. Neighbouring Estonia had experienced economic growth thanks to the city of Tallin, so Helsinki was formed as a competitor, with many people moving to the city in order to give it a boost.

During the 1800s, Finland was conquered by Russia. Under their reign, Helsinki was named the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812, a title that the city regained after Finland became independent in 1917. Over the years, the country has gone on to host the Summer Olympics, the Eurovision Song Contest and international summit meetings including the Conference for Security and Co-Operation.

 

Things to know

Helsinki Market Square, Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki has millions of visitors each year so, despite the fact that the country’s two official languages are Finnish and Swedish, you should find communicating whilst on a trip here easy. The country is only two hours ahead, so you’ll soon be able to find your stride.

As with the majority of countries within the EU, Finland uses the euro. However, ATM machines are also found across the city and can be used by most major banks. This means that whilst you’re away, you needn’t worry about exchanging your currency unless necessary. Having some change may come in useful though for tipping good service, although this isn’t typically done.

 

Things to do

The Mikael Agricola Church in Tehtaankatu, Helsinki

Whether you’ve got a couple of hours to spare or are planning a longer holiday, there are plenty of things in Helsinki to keep you busy. In 2012, the city was named the World Design Capital thanks to the city’s incredible architectural offerings, providing a wonderful backdrop for your stay. Sleek curves, stunning symmetry and a prominent neoclassical style mean that there are plenty of sights to behold.

Although the exterior of Helsinki’s buildings has helped the city establish itself as a design capital, head inside to witness beautiful examples of art in one of the country’s galleries. The Finnish National Gallery, the Helsinki Contemporary and Kaiasma make great days out and have plenty to offer for inquisitive tourists.

However, in addition to the galleries, Helsinki has lots of museums, including the Amos Rex, National Museum of Finland and Ateneum. Featuring items of cultural significance, they make great places to visit if you’re hoping for an educational experience.

If you’re looking to unwind whilst in Helsinki, a visit to the sauna is the best thing to do. There are myriad of saunas across the city that are open to the public. Caroline also believes that this is one of the top things you should do whilst in Helsinki: “When visiting the birthplace of the sauna, it would be wrong to not indulge. You won't struggle to find a sauna, but my tip is to visit Allas Sea Pool. A trendy complex that has a range of wellness treatments, saunas and outdoor swimming. Unwind with a drink on the terrace overlooking the seaport and you too will fall in love with Helsinki.”

The Allas Sea Pool is not only perfect for swimming, but the delicious offerings from the restaurant mean that you can easily spend a whole day relaxing and soaking up the sun. Alternatively, the Uusi Sauna has a luxe, industrial-feel and is a great choice for those who have never been to a sauna before.