Helsinki in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

If you plan to visit Helsinki in 3 days you may not get to see all the attractions of the city, but with a proper itinerary you can at least visit the main sites. Here is a travel plan that might help you.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

11 min read

Helsinki in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki |©Anders Bengtsson

Getting to know Helsinki in 3 days may seem like an impossible mission, but with the right itinerary you will be able to distinguish the true profile of this destination, which is one of the European cultural capitals and one of the most important cities in the Scandinavian peninsula. Here is a list of suggestions so that you can put together a travel plan according to your interests and enjoy an intense tour of the Finnish capital.

Among the best things to do in Helsinki in 3 days are visiting the Senate Square and nearby historic buildings, having lunch at the Kauppatori Market, visiting Temppeliaukio Kirkko, discovering the local nightlife in Kallio, visiting the National Museum of Finland, touring the Design District, discovering Suomenlinna and marveling at the medieval architecture and fishing tradition of Porvoo.

Day 1: Start your tour at Senate Square, have lunch at Kauppatori Market, visit Temppeliaukio Kirkko and discover Helsinki's nightlife in Kallio

Senate Square|©Max
Senate Square|©Max

For the first day of the tour I suggest you to start the itinerary at the Senate Square, which is the kilometer zero of Helsinki and also the most famous square in Finland, as well as being very close to some of the most popular historical buildings of the capital. You can also get into the local spirit at Kauppatori and visit one of the most unique churches in the world - get ready for the tour!

Start your tour at Senate Square and visit nearby buildings

Senate Square, located in the heart of Helsinki, is a perfect starting point to explore the city's rich history and architecture. Surrounded by government buildings, the square is a testament to the neoclassical elegance that defines much of the Finnish capital. In addition, from here you can see one of the most famous local landmarks, the Helsinki Cathedral, with its distinctive green dome and monumental staircase.

From Senate Square, you can also see the Presidential Palace building, a structure that has witnessed historic moments and houses the official residence of the President of Finland. A visit to its surroundings provides a unique perspective on the political life of the country and there you will have the opportunity to appreciate the neoclassical architecture in all its splendor.

Also, a few steps from the Senate Square you will find the University of Helsinki, a combination of buildings with elegant facades and manicured gardens that will allow you to dive into the intellectual atmosphere that distinguishes the city.

You can reach Senate Square by trains on lines K, P and T and buses on lines 600 and 611.

Join an architectural tour

Lunch at the Kauppatori Market

Kauppatori Market, one of the city's most popular markets, offers a variety of fresh, local delicacies that capture the essence of Finnish cuisine. Strolling among the colorful stalls, you'll find fresh produce such as wild berries, mushrooms and fish freshly caught from the Baltic Sea.

What's special about Kauppatori, however, is its ability to merge tradition with modernity. It is not only a place where locals buy ingredients for their daily meals, but also a social meeting point where tourists and residents share gastronomic experiences. If you decide to have lunch here, don't miss the opportunity to try the famous salmon gravlax, which is a Finnish specialty.

In addition to salmon, the market also offers other local delicacies such as traditional meat pies called karjalanpiirakka and reindeer sausages, a unique delicacy of the region.

Kauppatori Market is located in Helsinki's harbor, which is the epicenter of some of the city's best sightseeing, and a place you can reach from the Market Square by streetcars on lines 1, 2, 3 and 6 or hop-on-hop-off buses from this destination.

Buy tickets for the tourist bus

Visit Temppeliaukio Kirkko

During your trip to Helsinki you can't miss Temppeliaukio Kirkko, an architectural gem that combines nature with human creativity. Built directly into the hollow of a solid rock, this modern church stands as a testament to Finnish innovation. Its origin dates back to the 1960s, when architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen came up with the vision of sculpting a place of worship by merging their work with nature.

What makes Temppeliaukion kirkko special is its interior, which offers exceptional acoustics thanks to the rock walls and copper ceiling. This space is used for both religious services and concerts, taking advantage of the surround sound provided by the structure. Here you can also discover the play of light that penetrates through the windows of the dome and contributes to the internal atmosphere of the building.

In addition to its architectural appearance and spiritual function, the church also hosts cultural events and concerts that add a contemporary tinge to its rich history. Temppeliaukio Kirkko not only represents an architectural and artistic achievement, but also offers visitors a unique experience that combines the religious with the aesthetic in a unique harmony that respects nature and the environment.

Temppeliaukio Kirkko can be reached from the port by streetcars on lines 2, 4, 7 and 10 and by metro lines M1 and M2.

Book tickets to visit Temppeliaukion

Discover Helsinki's nightlife in Kallio

To bid farewell to the first night I suggest you dive into Helsinki's effervescent nightlife by exploring the Kallio neighborhood, a bohemian and picturesque area that wakes up when the sun goes down. This neighborhood, known for its authenticity and relaxed atmosphere, is home to a variety of venues that will invite you to experience the very essence of Finnish nightlife culture.

Kallio is home to numerous bars and clubs offering everything from live music to eclectic DJ sets. Bar Molotow, with its underground atmosphere and varied music programming, is perfect for alternative music lovers.

If you're looking for a more relaxed experience, you can visit Café Mascot, a historic café that transforms into a bar during the evening, attracting a diverse crowd with its nostalgic charm, especially during the summer in Helsinki.

The spirit of the neighborhood lies in its welcoming attitude and eclectic mix of residents and visitors. Kallio is the place where artists, students and culture lovers converge, creating an authentic and energetic atmosphere. It can be reached from Temppeliaukio Kirkko by streetcars on lines 7 and 9 and the M1 metro line.

Day 2: Visit the National Museum of Finland and the Kiasma exhibitions, walk through the Helsinki Design District and close your second day of sightseeing in the restaurants of the Kamppi district

National Museum of Finland|©David Stanley
National Museum of Finland|©David Stanley

The second day of the tour will surprise you with a cultural offer that includes a visit to the National Museum of Finland and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, home to two of the city's most popular exhibitions. In addition, you can also visit the eclectic Design District and the restaurants of Kamppi.

Visit the National Museum of Finland

If you want to explore the country's history, one of the must-see sites is the National Museum of Finland. This exhibit offers a complete immersion into the rich local heritage, from its origins to the present. The exhibits feature a wide range of artifacts, from archaeological objects to contemporary art, providing a comprehensive view of Finland's evolution over the centuries.

Considered one of the best museums in Helsinki, the National Museum of Finland stands out for its multidisciplinary approach and its ability to captivate visitors of all ages. As you wander through the various halls, you'll encounter exhibits spanning from prehistory to the modern era, offering a cohesive and exciting narrative about the past and Finnish identity.

Together with the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Museum forms an unmissable duo for culture lovers. While the National Museum immerses you in history, the Kiasma transports you into the world of contemporary Finnish and international art, complementing and enriching the cultural experience of visitors to Helsinki.

The museum can be reached by streetcar lines 3, 6, 7 and 9 and metro lines M1 and M2, as well as Helsinki's hop-on-hop-off buses.

Book tickets for the tourist bus

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Since you can't see one without visiting the other, the next step will include a tour of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, a cultural institution that redefines the boundaries of creativity in Helsinki. This museum, designed by architect Steven Holl, is not only an architectural marvel, but also houses a dynamic collection of works that reflect the diversity and cutting edge of local and international contemporary art.

At Kiasma you can explore rotating exhibitions that span disciplines ranging from painting and sculpture to multimedia installations and live performances. The museum's innovative curatorship ensures a constantly evolving experience, where each visit is unique. In addition, the Kiasma also functions as a cultural meeting space, with events and activities that encourage the active participation of visitors.

For those looking to immerse themselves in the local art scene, the Kiasma is one of the best alternatives in Helsinki. Its commitment to experimentation and the promotion of emerging artists makes this museum a beacon of contemporary creativity in Finland. In addition, because of its proximity to the port, it is an ideal place to combine with the best boat tours in Helsinki.

From the National Museum of Finland you can reach the Kiasma in a short walk along the five streets that separate one from the other.

Buy a boat tour on the canals

Walk around Helsinki's Design District

If you want to embark on a visual and creative experience, you can't miss Helsinki's Design District, a corner of the city where innovation and aesthetics are uniquely intertwined. There you will find design stores, art galleries and creative studios that highlight Finnish expertise in contemporary design. Enjoy a stroll between the streets of Punavuori and Kaartinkaupunki to discover the city's art scene.

Independent designer boutiques offer everything from avant-garde fashion to minimalist and functional homeware. In addition, you can explore flagship stores such as Marimekko, known for its bold patterns and bright colors, or Iittala, which features exquisite glass and ceramic pieces. Also, if you visit Helsinki during Christmas, you can find some of the best Christmas Eve gifts here.

From the Kiasma you can reach the Design District by streetcars on lines 1, 3 and 10 or by a 15-minute walk.

Dinner in one of the restaurants in the Kamppi district

To end the second day, I suggest you explore Helsinki's dining scene in the picturesque Kamppi district. This district, known for its mix of modernity and tradition, is home to a variety of restaurants offering everything from authentic Finnish dishes to international culinary offerings.

Restaurants in Kamppi are known for their creativity and focus on fresh, local ingredients. From family-run establishments serving traditional Finnish dishes to fusion restaurants experimenting with global influences, you'll find options for all tastes, making it a place that is often included in the best Helsinki tours due to its versatility.

Kamppi is characterized by its lively atmosphere, with lively pedestrian streets and an eclectic mix of stores, theaters and cafes. After enjoying a delicious dinner, you can explore the neighborhood by walking through the squares to discover the relaxed atmosphere that distinguishes it. From the Design District you can reach Kamppi by bus on lines 20 and 30 or by a 10-minute walk.

Day 3: Visit the Suomenlinna Fortress and its military museum, take a tour of the picturesque village of Porvoo and dine at a local restaurant before returning to Helsinki.

Suomenlinna, Finland|©Colin Charles
Suomenlinna, Finland|©Colin Charles

Helsinki is a popular destination on the Scandinavian peninsula for its attractions, but also for its location and the good alternative it offers as a base for touring nearby sites. That is why, for the last day, I propose a tour of Suomenlinna and Porvoo, the most popular destinations around the Finnish capital.

Visit the Suomenlinna Fortress and its museum

The Suomenlinna Fortress, built in the 18th century as a defensive fortification off the coast of Helsinki, is one of the most intriguing sites in the Finnish capital. During a tour of this attraction, you can walk along its ramparts and explore its tunnels to immerse yourself in a journey through time, imagining the military strategies and daily life of those who inhabited these stone structures.

At the heart of Suomenlinna, you will also find its military museum, which offers a detailed look at the history of the fortress and its role in key Finnish events. The exhibits tell the story of this defensive base from its construction to the present day, highlighting its importance in the country's wartime development and its evolution over the years. Artifacts, models, military remnants and interactive exhibits are part of the museum's display.

In addition to history, the Suomenlinna Fortress also offers panoramic views of the Baltic Sea and Helsinki. You can reach this island on your own on some of the best cruises in the Finnish capital or on an organized tour.

Book a guided tour of Suomenlinna

Take a tour of Porvoo from Helsinki

One of the best places to visit from Helsinki is Porvoo, a destination that will transport you back in time through its cobblestone streets and colorful houses that tell centuries-old stories. Located just a few kilometers from the Finnish capital, Porvoo offers a quiet and relaxed experience that contrasts with the hustle and bustle of the capital.

As you stroll through Porvoo's old town, you will come across wooden houses painted red, yellow and white, creating a picturesque landscape. The Porvoo Cathedral, with its presence, stands as an emblematic landmark that invites you to explore the religious history of the city. In addition, in the surrounding area you can discover local boutiques, art galleries and cafes where you can enjoy local products and handicrafts.

Also, during your tour of the city, don't miss the Porvoo River, which meanders through the city, creating an idyllic backdrop for walks along the riverbank and across the medieval bridges that cross the city. The city can be reached on an organized tour from Helsinki or by long-distance buses on lines 788 and 848 and on the Z and R train lines.

Join a tour to visit Porvoo

Dine at a restaurant in Porvoo and return to Helsinki

After an afternoon touring Porvoo, you can watch the sunset and cap off your experience with dinner at one of the local restaurants that highlight the region's rich culinary tradition. Porvoo is known for its fresh, indigenous fish, so many of the restaurants specialize in traditional Finnish dishes, such as smoked salmon, wild mushrooms and local produce.

Salmon, prepared in a variety of ways from smoked to gravlax, captures the essence of the local cuisine and reflects Porvoo's connection to the Baltic Sea. In addition, many restaurants in Porvoo highlight their seasonally inspired menus, using fresh, local ingredients that highlight the quality of Finnish gastronomy.

Please note that if you plan to visit Helsinki in winter, dinner will be early, as it gets dark around 4 p.m., so you will have enough time to return to the Finnish capital to finish the intense 3-day tour.

Itinerary of the 3-day tour in Helsinki

Kauppatori|©Hans Põldoja
Kauppatori|©Hans Põldoja
  • Day 1
  • Visit the Senate Square
  • Lunch at Kauppatori
  • Visit Temppeliaukio Kirkko
  • Visit Kallio
  • Day 2
  • Visit the National Museum of Finland
  • Visit Suomenlinna Museum
  • Take a canal tour
  • Dinner in the Kamppi district
  • Day 3
  • Take a tour to Suomenlinna
  • Visit the Suomenlinna museum
  • Tour Porvoo from Helsinki
  • Dinner in Porvoo and return to the capital city

With this intense 3-day tour you will get to know different profiles of Helsinki, the classic medieval city built around the harbor and its unmissable cultural circuit and also the surroundings of the capital, which hold some of the best landscapes of the region.