48 hours in Helsinki – A 2 day Itinerary

Do you remember the Money Heist obsession that unfolded during lockdown? Well, the part we all would rather forget is Helsinki’s death. There’s only one way to pay tribute to his character and that’s to get on a plane and make your way to the capital city of Finland – Helsinki.

This 48 hour guide to Helsinki will cover the Helsinki Market Square, Helsinki Cathedral, Suomenlinna Fortress, the Rock Church, the Design District, the Helsinki Art Museum, the Sibelius Monument, the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden and the Old Market Hall.

Helsinki cityscape and Helsinki cathedral at sunset, Finland

Best Parts of Helsinki to Stay In

Kamppi is the central district of Helsinki, and is located just a short walk from the main railway station. It’s a great location for shopping, dining, and nightlife, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs. 

Punavuori is a trendy neighborhood that is known for its independent boutiques, vintage stores, and hipster cafes. It’s a great place to stay in Helsinki if you’re interested in design scene and want to be close to the city center. 

Kallio is a bohemian-style neighborhood that you’ll find North of the city center and offers a more laid-back atmosphere. It’s known for its affordable bars and restaurants, street art, and diverse population. 

Katajanokka focuses on the history of Helsinki and can be found on a peninsula East of the city center. It’s known for its colorful wooden houses, art nouveau buildings, and the Uspenski Cathedral. It’s a great location if you want to stay in a quieter, more residential area. 

The Helsinki South Harbour is for you if you’re a water baby at heart, with views of the vast ocean.

Helsinki, Finland -  The Kamp Hotel in Central Helsinki.

Best Time to Visit Helsinki

Helsinki’s warmest months are June, July, and August, with average temperatures around 20°C (68°F). The coldest months are December, January, and February, with temperatures often below freezing.

Peak tourist season in Helsinki is during the summer months and can be quite expensive. For festival fans, Helsinki hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Helsinki Festival in August, the Lux Helsinki light festival in January, and the Vappu celebrations on May 1st.

If you’re interested in seeing the Northern Lights, the best time to visit Helsinki is during the winter months, from November to March.

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland. Drone Point of View. It is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, Finland, and main cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland.

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Overview Of 2 Days In Helsinki Itinerary

Day 1 in Helsinki

  • Helsinki Market Square
  • Helsinki cathedral
  • Suomenlinna fortress
  • Rock Church
  • Design District
  • Finnish Sauna

Day 2 in Helsinki

  • Helsinki Art Museum
  • Sibelius Monument
  • Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden
  • Old market hall
  • Sauna Boat Cruise
Aerial view of beautiful city Helsinki at sunset time. Blue sky and clouds and colorful buildings. Helsinki, Finland.

Day 1 in Helsinki

Helsinki Market Square

Helsinki Market Square, also known as Kauppatori in Finnish, is a popular outdoor market that can be found adjacent to Helsinki’s Southern Harbour and the Esplanade Park.

You’ll start your day off here where you can grab some delicious brunch and sample Finnish classics. The food stalls offer snacks, such as grilled salmon, reindeer meat, Karelian pies, and cinnamon buns.

You can also find plenty of coffee stands and kiosks serving hot and cold drinks, including Finnish specialty drinks like glögi, which is a mulled wine. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?

Given that the market is near the harbor, the setting is very pretty, especially as the morning light falls across the water and filters between the stalls.

Helsinki, Finland. Top View Of Market Square, Street With Presidential Palace And Helsinki Cathedral.

Helsinki Cathedral

With a full tummy, it’s time to go explore the Helsinki Cathedral, which you’ll find at the Senate Square. The Square is also a historical landmark so you’ll be ticking off two landmarks in one visit.

The cathedral, which is also known as the Tuomiokirkko in Finnish, was completed in 1852, and was designed by the German architect Carl Ludvig Engel. The cathedral is a prime example of neoclassical architecture, with its bright white exterior, columns, and pediment.

The interior? Even more swoon-worthy than the exterior with high ceilings, intricate frescoes, and ornate decorations. The cathedral is also known for its impressive organ, which has over 4,000 pipes, and is often used for concerts and recitals.

You’ll also get to feel like a royal as you ascend the grand staircase that leads up to the cathedral’s entrance.

HELSINKI FINLAND - Tram passing by Helsinki Senate Square (Senaatintori) with Helsinki Cathedral in background. Helsinki.

Suomenlinna Fortress

Extending your encounter as a Prince/ Princess, you’ll make your way to the Suomenlinna fortress which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Helsinki archipelago.

The fortress was built in the 18th century as a maritime defense system for the city of Helsinki and the surrounding area. Originally called Sveaborg, it was constructed by the Swedish government to protect the Gulf of Finland from Russian naval attacks.

After the Finnish War in 1808, the fortress came under Russian control, and it remained a military base until Finland gained its independence in 1917.

Up for a tour of a small piece of Helsinki’s history? Good, because this is where you’ll spend the rest of your morning with two goals in mind… Learning and absorbing. It won’t be hard given that Helsinki’s history is a fascinating discovery that is arguably underrated.

One of the highlights of Suomenlinna is its impressive fortifications, which include bastions, walls, and cannons. You can walk along the fortress walls and explore the tunnels and bunkers that were once used by soldiers and sailors.

The fortress also features several landmarks and monuments, including the King’s Gate, the Jetty Barracks, and the Piper’s Park.

Fortress of Suomenlinna near Helsinki in summer, Finland

Rock Church

Whilst you’re in the history zone, you should also make some time to see Rock Church. The Rock Church, also known as Temppeliaukio Church, is a unique and iconic attraction in Helsinki, Finland.

Located in the Töölö district of Helsinki, this church is carved directly into solid rock, making it a one-of-a-kind architectural wonder. You know what’s also one-of-a-kind? These Finnish landmark names!

The church was designed by architects (and brothers) Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and was completed in 1969.

The main attraction of the church is its circular auditorium, which is carved into the solid bedrock, giving the church its distinctive look.

The ceiling of the auditorium is made of a series of copper rings that create a stunning visual effect when the light shines through them. It’s a grand sight to see and will have you believing that heaven does exist.

You can also take part in the religious services on offer or simply take a moment to breathe and appreciate the peaceful atmosphere and unique architecture of the church in all its glory.

There is also a small gift shop on site, where you’ll be able to purchase souvenirs and other items related to the church.

Helsinki, Finland - Interior Of Lutheran Temppeliaukio Church Also Known As Church Of Rock And Rock Church.

Design District

After a day packed with information, loops back in time and ethereal, you’ll end your day by casually viewing the vibrant and creative neighborhood of the Design District that celebrates the city’s design culture and heritage.

The Design District  is a culmination of a bunch of streets that are filled with design-focused businesses, including fashion boutiques, art galleries, furniture stores, and cafes.

Dusk Over Helsinki Rooftops. Aerial View of Central Helsinki looking north-east from an elevated point in Kamppi.

Finnish Sauna

If you’d like to Finnish your day off in traditional, Helsinki fashion, you have to jump into a traditional sauna.

There are many public saunas in Helsinki, including the popular Löyly sauna, which is located by the seafront in the district of Hernesaari.

Löyly is a modern and stylish sauna complex that offers a variety of sauna experiences, from traditional wood-burning saunas to a smoke sauna and an outdoor terrace with stunning sea views.

After your sauna experience, you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the Baltic Sea or a nearby lake, depending on the location of the sauna.

Then, relax after your busy day with a drink and bite to eat at one of the many bars and restaurants in Helsinki, which offer local Finnish cuisine and craft beers.

HELSINKI, FINLAND -  Allas Sea Pool- spa & wellness hub with large pools with sea warm water and saunas for relax in South Harbour of Helsinki, in winter sunny day, passenger ferry in the background, Finland.

Day 2 in Helsinki

Helsinki Art Museum

Today, after a quick stop at a local café for breakfast, you’ll continue your trip through the cultural arts from yesterday.

If you haven’t noticed, Helsinki takes great pride in its art and cultural society – And for good reason as it has pieces and history that cannot be found anywhere else in Europe.

So next on the agenda is the Helsinki Art Museum. The Helsinki Art Museum, also known as HAM, is a leading art institution in Helsinki, Finland.

The museum pays homage to an impressive collection of Finnish art, ranging from classical works to contemporary pieces.

The permanent collection includes works by some of Finland’s most celebrated artists, including Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Eero Järnefelt, Helene Schjerfbeck, and Albert Edelfelt, among others.

The collection spans several centuries and provides a look back at Helsinki’s artistic history as well as how it has progressed today.

Helsinki, Finland - Evening Night View Of Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum. The Museum Exhibits The Contemporary Art Collection Of The Finnish National Gallery Founded In 1990.

The Sibelius Monument

You’ll wander back into that interesting district of Töölöo to view the Sibelius Monument. 

The monument was dedicated to the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonists of the 20th century.

This is an interesting monument to visit as you’ll get to interact with it in ways that you normally wouldn’t expect to.

You can walk around and through the pipes to experience the sculpture from a variety of perspectives. The monument is especially impressive on a sunny day, when the light reflects off the steel pipes and creates a disorienting effect that is mesmerizing.

Given that the monument is located in Sibelius Park, while you’re there it would be a good idea to go on a walk through the park and perhaps accompany it with a picnic lunch.

As you eat, you’ll be surrounded by several other landmarks and attractions, including the National Museum of Finland, the Parliament House, and the Helsinki Music Centre.

HELSINKI, FINLAND - Monument to Finnish composer Jan Sibelius in Helsinki. Finland.

Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden

Nature and the outdoors is the focus for the rest of the afternoon since you’ve seen so many buildings and explored a lot of indoor sights.

The Kaisaniemi Botanic Gardens are a welcome breath of fresh air and a beautiful oasis in Helsinki’s city center. The garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Finland, and it was established in 1829 as part of the University of Helsinki.

There is a diverse collection of plant species from all over the world, including over 8,000 plant species from Arctic areas to tropical rainforests. The garden is divided into several different sections, including a tropical house, a palm house, a succulent collection, an alpine garden, and a rock garden.

One of the highlights of the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden is its milk white orchid collection. The garden’s tropical house has over 2000 orchids from all over the world, making it one of the largest orchid collections in the Nordic countries.

The University of Helsinki Botanical Garden is an institution subordinate to the Finnish Museum of Natural History of the University of Helsinki, which maintains a collection of live plants

The Old Market Hall

Helsinki, you’ve been an absolute gem of a place to visit.

End off the afternoon and early evening at Helsinki’s historical indoor market for a traditional Finnish dinner. 

Built in 1889, the market is one of the oldest and most iconic landmarks in the city, and it has been a popular destination for locals and tourists alike for over a century. See if you can find a seller who has a shop that has been passed down for generations.

The Old Market Hall was built within a blood-red brick building that has been carefully restored to preserve its original architecture and charm.

The market boasts over 30 stalls, which offer a wide variety of fresh produce, meat, fish, baked goods, and specialty foods. Some of the most popular items at the market include fresh seafood, Finnish cheese, artisanal bread, and smoked meats.

If you’re looking for a fully cooked meal, there are loads of restaurants within the market that use the fresh, local ingredients around them to make mouthwatering dishes. 

The market’s busy atmosphere is bolstered by a range of cultural events throughout the year, including food festivals, cooking workshops, and live music performances.

Helsinki, Finland. View Of Helsinki Cathedral And Old Market Hall Vanha Kauppahalli In Sunny Winter Day. Famous Dome Landmark In Neoclassical Style.

Sauna Boat Cruise

This is probably one of the most interesting things you’ll do during your trip to Helsinki. A sauna boat cruise combines two of the most traditional aspects of Helsinki into one fabulous event.

Just picture it, you’re traveling down the canal or across the Baltic sea with a glass of champagne in hand, overlooking the cathedrals and canalside buildings as they glow in the fading daylight across the water.

The atmosphere is quiet, only interrupted by soft jazz and the fluttering of the wings of the gulls from above. All whilst being hugged by the sauna’s warmth. Absolute perfection.

The boats are equipped with wood-fired saunas, and you can take a refreshing dip in the sea between sauna sessions.

There are several companies in Helsinki that offer sauna boat cruises, and most of them operate year-round, including during the winter months when you can enjoy the steamy sauna while being surrounded by the snow-covered sea.

Helsinki, Finland - Sauna boat in the port of Helsinki

Helsinki is a surprising city that loves to let the natural world thrive within the city. This can be seen from the oasis in the city center, erected monuments, attention to design and art and influence of the Southern Coast.

Helsinki is a city that is proud of its history and heritage, making it a large draw factor for tourists. Coupled with French cross Swedish cuisine, there’s not much more you could possibly want from visiting the capital of Finland.

Helsinki from Money Heist famously brought the team together and that’s exactly what this city will do to any solo traveler or group travel trip. 

Recommended tours in Helsinki

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  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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