While Finland is somewhere I would love to explore in depth and dedicate a few weeks too; I had heard from friends that the relatively compact capital city of Helsinki was ideal for a day trip. After my recent Princess Cruise through the Baltic Sea where we docked in the city for a day, I would tend to agree; you can tackle the highlights at a relaxing pace even with less than 24-hours.
While I have no doubt you could spend days lounging around in Saunas (naked, no less) and taking in the leisurely pace of one of the worlds happiest cities, scroll down to read what I got up to during my short but sweet visit, or jump to 6:50 in the video for a little montage of memories.
Time in port: 10 am – 6pm
Transport/distance: Approx 20 minute bus
Excursions available: I took the local boat tour before exploring the city by bus and then solo on foot. Princess has some pretty cool excursions here including distillery tours and local farm visits.
You would think having just jumped off the cruise ship I might want my feet on firmer ground, but the small islands dotted around the capital are perfect for a relaxed morning ride while you wake up that clean finish air.
Booked with the Princess Cruise excursion team, we glided across flat waters past wood cabins, forested islands and rocky with small balancing bridges on. While it is something you could certainly skip, for me it was an ideal way to start the day in Helsinki.
Head to the Markets
After jumping off our little boat, it was time to grab some local snacks, Mustikkapiirakka, a blueberry pie with coffee is a suitable sweet breakfast treat, and take in the local markets.
I’m not sure how local they really were as it mainly seemed to be tourists buying souvenirs but chatting with market stall holders and seeing handmade local goods is always an excellent introduction to a destination.
Stroll the streets
The size of Helsinki makes it a dream to explore by foot, and on a warm spring day with the gentle breeze. While Helsinki might not have the colourful houses of Stockholm or the grand buildings of St Petersburg, it’s got plenty of trendy cafes and quirky independent stores to discover as you stroll the streets to your not attraction.
Slightly out of the main city centre, the Sibelius Monument formed of over 600 steel pipes to represent music pays dedication to the famous finish composer of the same name. It was one of the most interesting design features I saw in the city and sits amongst a large city park perfect for a picnic lunch in the sunshine.
Just a short walk from the rock church you’ll find the National Museum, International Art Museum and the Contemporary art museum in a range of buildings from the ultra-modern glass fronted to more traditional red brick towers. The Government building which at first glance seems rather ugly but on close inspection is pretty imposing is also close by. To be honest, most things are close by in Helsinki which is why it lends itself to a day trip so well.
Overall I wasn’t that taken by Helsinki, while it was enjoyable to walk around and spend the time checking out the cities main attractions and cafe hopping, I actually headed back to the ship a little earlier than needed as I wasn’t really getting the same buzz from the destination as I have from other city breaks. I’m excited to head back and explore Finland more in-depth but feel that I got my fill of Helsinki.