Helsinki in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Helsinki is one of the most popular cities in Scandinavia and touring it in 2 days may sound very complicated, but with the right itinerary you will be able to see some of its main sites. Here are some ideas so you can put together a travel plan.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

10 min read

Helsinki in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Catedral de Helsinki |©Max

Helsinki is not only famous for being the capital of Finland and one of the most prominent cities in the Scandinavian peninsula, but also, due to its millenary history, it is known for being one of the destinations with the largest number of attractions in the region. That is why visiting it in a couple of days may be impossible, although with a proper travel plan you can at least discover some of its most popular sites.

Among the best things to do in Helsinki in a 2-day trip are visiting the Cathedral, visiting the Senate Square, having lunch at the Hakaniemi market, visiting Sibelius Park, discovering the island of Seurasaari, taking a full tour of Suomenlinna, participating in an excursion along the canals of the city and saying goodbye to the Finnish capital by tasting the local cuisine in the restaurants of the port.

Day 1: Visit the Helsinki Cathedral, visit the Senate Square, have lunch at the Hakaniemi flea market, walk through the Sibelius Park, discover the island of Seurasaari and dine in the Kallio district

Hakaniemi Market|©osamu ito
Hakaniemi Market|©osamu ito

Helsinki has many of its main attractions distributed in its historic center, so for the first day I propose a tour of this site during the morning to see some of the most popular buildings and then a visit to the island of Seurasaari, which will give you a glimpse of the natural beauty that hides the surroundings of the Finnish capital.

Visit Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is not only one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, but also one of the most distinctive and characteristic. Located in the heart of the Old Town, it was designed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel and built between 1830 and 1852, being an example of the neoclassical style, so it usually tops the architectural tours of the Finnish capital.

Its imposing white structure, crowned by a green dome and surrounded by stairs, stands as a symbol of national identity. In addition, inside, you can discover its elegant columns, ornamental details and the vault, which is often the protagonist of the best tours of Helsinki. The altar, decorated with religious motifs and works of art, adds a tinge of spirituality to the building and gives it a deep cultural and social significance.

On the other hand, from the top of the cathedral steps, you can contemplate the panoramic views of the city of Helsinki and the harbor, so it also offers a visual spectacle that highlights the beauty of the Finnish capital from its outer steps.

You can reach the Helsinki Cathedral by trains on lines K, P and T and buses on lines 600 and 611.

Join an architectural tour

Get to know the Senate Square

Located right in front of the Helsinki Cathedral, Senator Square is the epicenter of all the city's activities and also ground zero for the best sightseeing in this destination. Surrounded by government buildings such as the Presidential Palace and the University of Helsinki, the square stands out for its neoclassical design, which is typical of the local historical architecture.

Senate Square, then, is considered the most important square in the country and takes special prominence during celebrations and festivities. If you plan to visit Helsinki during Christmas, there you will find one of the most famous themed markets in the city and a festive atmosphere that includes decorations, Christmas trees and even an ice skating rink.

Also, Senate Square is one of Helsinki's hop on-hop off bus stops, so it is very likely that you will discover the beauty of this square at some point in your tour, either by visiting it directly or indirectly.

Buy tickets for the hop on hop off bus

Have lunch at Hakaniemi Market

Hakaniemi Market is the culinary epicenter of Helsinki and its stalls offer a sample of the varied local cuisine. This market, located in the north of the city, is a perfect place to discover the local idiosyncrasy and participate in a typical activity of the Finns, who usually come here to stock up on fresh food and handmade products.

What distinguishes Hakaniemi Market and makes it one of the city's most popular destinations is its diversity. From fresh fish and seafood to seasonal fruits and vegetables, the stalls typically display a wide variety of products. There you can explore the street food options and sample traditional dishes such as smoked salmon or local soups.

In addition, the bustling and welcoming atmosphere of the market blends with the enticing aromas of fresh produce, creating a unique sensory experience. On the other hand, it is one of the best places to take shelter from the cold during the winter in Helsinki, so you can not only have lunch, but also take a break between excursions and recharge your batteries to continue your tour.

From Senate Square you can reach Hakaniemi by bus lines 61, 65, 71, 73N, 74N, 75, 77 and 78.

Walk through Sibelius Park and see the central monument.

Sibelius Park offers an oasis of serenity in the city and a glimpse of Finnish nature and culture. This picturesque park is named after composer Jean Sibelius and stands as a tribute to his artistic legacy. With its extensive green areas, quiet paths and panoramic views of the sea, Sibelius Park is an ideal place for a relaxing walk.

In the heart of the park, you will also find the Sibelius Monument, a structure that pays tribute to the illustrious Finnish composer. Designed by Eila Hiltunen, this monument consists of more than 600 steel tubes welded together, forming an abstract sculpture that represents the essence of Sibelius' music. If you plan to visit Helsinki in December or during Christmas, you can find in this park paths decorated with Christmas motifs.

The combination of the nature of the park and the sculpture of the monument evokes a sense of harmony that reflects the musical philosophy of Sibelius and also the culture of the city, which you can also discover in the best museums of Helsinki.

Sibelius Park from Hakaniemi Market can be reached by streetcars on lines 1, 7 and 8 and buses on lines 71, 200, 300, 400, 415 and 721.

Discover Seurasaari Island


Seurasaari Island, located off the coast of Helsinki, offers visitors a unique experience that combines natural beauty with a fascinating journey through Finnish history. This picturesque island is home to the Seurasaari Open Air Museum featuring an extraordinary collection of historic Finnish buildings.

Strolling along the tree-lined paths of this open-air museum, you can explore houses, barns and windmills that were moved from various regions of Finland, revealing the country's architectural and cultural diversity. In addition, this site also offers a detailed view of daily life over the centuries and is one of the best platforms for watching Helsinki's sunsets, so I recommend a visit in the evening.

To get to Seurasaari Island from Sibelius Park you can take buses lines 20, 25, 30, 212 and 502, but if you want to live a traditional experience you can participate in one of the best boat tours in Helsinki, such as the canal cruise, which include a tour of this area and, in some cases, even stops.

Book a canal tour

Dinner in the Kallio district

To close the first day of your tour, I suggest a dinner in the Kallio district, which will allow you to immerse yourself in the authenticity of local life and explore one of the most picturesque neighborhoods of the city. This bohemian enclave has gained a reputation for its laid-back atmosphere and diverse dining scene. As you wander the streets of Kallio, you'll see historic buildings and colorful murals that give the area a unique character.

The Kallio district's culinary offerings are as diverse as its community. From cozy cafés to international restaurants, you will find options for all tastes and budgets. In addition, many venues choose to transform themselves into late-night bars, offering a lively experience for those looking to enjoy the local nightlife, especially if during the summer in Helsinki, when the weather is at its friendliest.

In addition to the food scene, Kallio is home to vintage stores, local flea markets and cultural events that capture the artistic and alternative essence of the neighborhood. Exploring this district means encountering the very essence of Helsinki, which fuses history, creativity and a tinge of rebellion.

From Seurasaari Island you can reach Kallio by bus lines 25, 400 and 502, metro lines M1 and M2 and streetcar line 3.

Day 2: Take a tour to Suomenlinna Fortress and see the military museum, participate in a tour of Helsinki's canals and bid farewell to the city with dinner at the local harbor

Multilayered Suomenlinna|©Jonathan
Multilayered Suomenlinna|©Jonathan

For the second and last day of the trip I propose you to leave the city center to visit the Suomenlinna Fortress, where you can find a completely different side of the city, participate in a tour of the canals of Helsinki, to discover the profile of the Finnish capital from the water, and close your tour with dinner in the restaurants of the local port, where you can find some of the best fish in the region.

Take a tour to Suomenlinna Fortress

Taking a tour of the Suomenlinna Fortress will also allow you to participate in a fascinating journey through history and military architecture. This maritime fortification, built in the 18th century by Sweden, is located in an archipelago off the coast of Helsinki. The experience of these tours encompasses the exploration of its walls, bastions and subway tunnels, revealing the intricate details of its design and the military strategy that characterizes it.

Suomenlinna's importance to Helsinki is invaluable, as it served as a defensive stronghold over the years and played a key role in the history of Finland. The fortress has witnessed diverse events, from war conflicts to the signing of peace agreements, and its presence on the local coastline is a tangible reminder of the region's rich military heritage.

Suomenlinna's history is marked by the change of hands between Sweden and Russia in the 19th century, before Finland finally gained its independence in 1917. During World War II, the fortress was used for defensive purposes. Today, it is featured on some of the best tours of Helsinki and a must-see destination in the region.

These tours usually start at the port of Helsinki, which can be reached by streetcars on lines 1, 3, 6 and 7.

Book a guided tour of Suomenlinna Island

See the Suomenlinna Museum

Often tours of Suomenlinna end at the fortress tours and do not include a visit to the museum, but free time for a tour of the island before returning to the port of Helsinki, so I suggest you use that time to discover the exhibition galleries.

Located in the heart of the island and accessible on foot from the fortress, the Suomenlinna Museum houses a wide variety of exhibits that offer a unique insight into life on the fortress over the centuries. The exhibits range from military artifacts and period uniforms to everyday objects that illustrate military life at the site.

In the museum halls you can explore the architectural evolution of Suomenlinna, understanding how the fortress was transformed and adapted over the years. In addition, the exhibits narrate the various historical stages the fortress has gone through, from its construction by Sweden in the 18th century to the turning points of World War II.

Among the historical gems of this museum you can discover tools, armaments, allegorical artwork, declassified documents and military relics.

Buy tickets for Suomenlinna Museum

Take a tour of Helsinki's canals

The complete tour of Suomenlinna including the museum visit lasts about 5 hours and usually starts very early in the morning, so that after noon you will be back at the city's harbor. The next step, then, will be to join one of the best boat tours in Helsinki, to know the navigable canals of the Finnish capital and, from there, some of the best profiles of this site.

These water tours will take you through the network of canals that weave through the city, giving you the opportunity to explore this destination from a different perspective. During the tour, you will marvel at Helsinki's unique architecture, which combines neoclassical elegance with modern design, but you will be able to do so while cruising the waters that meander between islands and peninsulas.

During the tour you will pass by the Helsinki Cathedral, the Harbour Market and the island of Vallisaari, all sites that you will see from the unique view offered by the water. Also, during the tours you will be assisted by an expert local guide, who will tell you the history of the buildings and monuments you will discover during the tour and also some of the picturesque anecdotes hidden in the Finnish canals.

Join a tour of the canals of Helsinki

Say goodbye to Helsinki with dinner at the local harbor.

One of the best ways to enjoy an unforgettable farewell to Helsinki is to dine at the local harbor, where the gastronomic scene is combined with spectacular views of the Baltic Sea. Among the restaurants that stand out in this area, Ravintola Nokka presents itself as an excellent choice for experiencing authentic Finnish cuisine.

Another emblematic place is the Savu restaurant, which stands out for its focus on grilled and smoked flavors. There you can try dishes such as grilled salmon or marinated herring, which reflect the richness of Finnish seafood. The cozy ambience and views perfectly complement the dining experience. Remember that the harbor area can be reached by streetcars on lines 1, 3, 6 and 7.

Whichever venue you choose for your farewell dining experience, be sure to try the famous salmon soup, the rye bread, and, of course, the delicious desserts such as karjalanpiirakka, a kind of rice cake that closes the culinary experience by offering a sweet and authentic taste.

Itinerary of the 2-day tour in Helsinki

Helsinki canals|©Juha Uitto
Helsinki canals|©Juha Uitto
  • Day 1
  • Visit the Helsinki Cathedral
  • Visit the Senate Square
  • Walk through Sibelius Park
  • Dinner in the Kallio district
  • Day 2
  • Take a tour of Suomenlinna
  • Visit the Suomenlinna Museum
  • Take a canal tour
  • Dinner at Helsinki harbor