The Perfect 2 to 3 Days in Helsinki Itinerary

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Mapping out the perfect Helsinki itinerary isn’t a difficult task when you consider all there is to do in the capital of Finland. Helsinki is easily the most underrated Nordic city, living under the shadow of other capital Nordic cities such as Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Despite this, Helsinki in my opinion is one of the freshest, most exciting destinations to visit in the Nordics and Europe.

Many people will head to Finnish Lapland to visit Rovaniemi yet still skip the Finnish capital of Helsinki, missing the wondrous culture-filled city. For 5 years straight, Finland has been voted the happiest country in the world, one of the safest, and with a few days in the Baltic capital city, exploring and meeting locals you’ll understand why. 

Continue to dive further in this article to plan the perfect Helsinki itinerary and how to make the most of 2 to 3 days in Helsinki, Finland. 

How Many Days in Helsinki?

Before jumping into all of the things to do in the Finnish capital, you’re likely wondering how many days to spend in Helsinki. Well, to begin with, Helsinki is a pretty compact city but still with much to discover and to get out of on a trip to the Finnish capital city.

If you’re in transit to Finnish Lapland and only have 1 day in Helsinki, it’s still possible to see most of the main sights and experience the city.

If you decide to see Helsinki in 2 days, you’ll have plenty of time to see the main sights of the city and wander around without rushing too much.

In my opinion, 3 days in Helsinki is ideal to do the city justice, go at your own pace, and still have enough time to see all the sights and maybe return to a restaurant or cafe that you particularly enjoyed (Finland has a wonderful, fresh, and local food scene). 

When planning how long to spend in the city for a Helsinki itinerary, an important factor to keep in mind is the time of year.

In the winter months, Finland gets very little sunlight and daylight in Helsinki lasts just for around 9 hours in December. In contrast to the winter, Helsinki gets around 19 hours of sunlight in the summertime.

So with that being said, if you’re someone that likes to sightsee with daylight to see the city, and would like to visit the Finnish capital in the winter, I suggest planning enough days to see what you’d like with at least 2 days in Helsinki. Otherwise, maybe head to Helsinki during the summer months instead.

Summer in Helsinki
Summer in Helsinki

Getting To & Around Helsinki 

Getting to Helsinki

You’ll likely be arriving in Helsinki one of two ways; by plane or ferry. Helsinki Vantaa International Airport is a large airport with domestic, European, and international routes making it a pretty affordable destination to reach by air, particularly from cities in the region such as Oslo or Stockholm.

If you’re flying into Helsinki Vantaa Airport, you have a few options to reach the center of the city. The most cost-efficient way to travel to the Helsinki center is by city bus (lines 615 & 617) located outside terminal 2.

Buses come just about every 15 minutes and one-way tickets cost €4.10 if purchased from a ticket kiosk. Expect to pay more if you end up purchasing bus tickets while on the bus.

There are also train transportation links available between Helsinki Vantaa Airport and the Helsinki city center.

The train station is located beneath the airport and has train services connecting Helsinki Vantaa Airport with the city every 10 minutes with a journey of half an hour. Helsinki city transport tickets can be used for these services, but an extended zone (ABC) ticket is required (€11). 

If you’re traveling to Helsinki from Stockholm, Sweden or Tallinn, Estonia and are keen on an adventure, there are also regular ferries between those cities and Helsinki. You can view ferry schedules here.

Finally, if you’re not visiting on a budget, you can book a private transfer from the airport.

Getting Around Helsinki 

Due to Helsinki city center’s small size, it’s a pretty walkable city, with most of the city’s main sights within walking distance from each other. This is a really big benefit, as the city is a dream for walkers, full of interesting sights to take in that you may miss if you’re underground.

You may be able to manage walking throughout most of your time in Helsinki (if physically capable), except for a bus/metro ride or two.

If you’re visiting in the summertime or during the warmer months, Helsinki is also a lovely city to explore by two wheels with lush nature and greenery and bike-friendly streets.

Otherwise, the city has a wonderful transportation system that consists of bus, tram, metro, and even ferry transport options. Single tickets last for 80 minutes, inclusive of any mode of transport necessary for 80 minutes, and cost €3.10 per AB zone ticket.

Most sights in Helsinki will be within the AB zone, but if you decide to visit somewhere outside of the AB zone, you’ll need to pay for a top-up zone extension. 

If you plan on taking a fair amount of public transportation and would like to save money, purchasing day passes for the Helsinki transport system is a great option. Passes are available for purchase for any number of days; 1 day – €9.00, 2 days – €13.50, and 3 days – €18.00.

The cost of individual tickets adds up quickly, so this is a great way to make the most of your budget on a Helsinki itinerary as it is quite an expensive city.

Another great way to save on transport is by using the Helsinki Card which includes unlimited public transportation. It also includes a panorama sightseeing tour and entry into a number of top sites and museums, such as the National Museum of Finland and Amos Rex.

Trams in Helsinki
Trams in Helsinki

2 to 3 Days in Helsinki Itinerary

The Finnish capital city of Helsinki is truly a quintessentially beautiful Nordic city. With a unique blend of classic Nordic and Russian architecture, a fresh and delicious food scene, arts & culture, and sincerely friendly people and locals, it’s hard not to appreciate the city.

Helsinki is truly a European destination off the beaten path and is full of exciting things to discover on just about every other corner. If you prefer to explore with a guide, sign up to this walking tour or this walking tour.

Day 1 – Churches, Museums & Markets

Helsinki Cathedral

This Helsinki itinerary begins directly in the city center at the city’s Helsinki Cathedral in the Kruununhaka neighborhood.

The church is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki and is easily the most recognised monument associated with Finland and Helsinki in particular and an incredibly important landmark for the city and a great place to visit.

The stunning pearl-white, green-capped cathedral towers over the center of the city and is worth a stop during a visit to the Finnish capital city. The church itself is located in the senate square of the city (the oldest part), which is a point worth observing the city from and getting your bearings beginning your Helsinki trip.

Visits inside the church are free and the church is open daily from 9 AM – 6 PM. 

Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral

National Museum of Finland

About a 20-minute walk or 10-minute tram ride away from the Helsinki Cathedral will bring you to the National Museum of Finland.

The museum has a wide array of exhibits and information to offer, and since Finland isn’t so much in the mainstream, I suggest learning a fair amount about the country before further embarking on your trip.

You’ll learn the story of Finland, its history (going as far back as prehistoric times), independence, and all of the factors that make it the gentle oasis that it is today. The museum is also great for children and offers guided tours in English at various points throughout the day.

Tickets for adults cost €14 if purchased online (€16 at the door) for weekdays with reduced tickets available and is free admission for those under 18. Keep in mind that prices are higher on weekends and public holidays (€15 online and €18 at the door).

Opening hours for the museum are every day of the week except Sunday with varying times so I suggest checking the schedule in advance before visiting.

Finnish National Museum
Finnish National Museum

Temppeliaukio Church

After a short journey by foot from the Finnish National Museum, you’ll find yourself at one of the most interesting sights in Helsinki in the Töölö neighborhood; the Temppeliaukio Church.

While the Temppeliaukio Church at its heart is a simple Lutheran Church, the unique feature of the church is its structure. The church is carved directly into solid rock, giving it the alternative name of “church of the rock”.

Built in the 1960s by brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the church is unlike any other church you’ll likely come across, and for that reason, is one of the most visited attractions in the city of Helsinki. 

The church is open for visitors every day of the week except Sunday.

Helsinki Market Square & Old Market Hall

A wonderful way to wrap up a first day in Helsinki is to head to the most famous market in Finland, Helsinki Market Square. The Market Square is located between the south harbour of the city and the esplanade and is one of the quintessential spots to visit while spending time in Helsinki.

Dating back to the 19th century, the Market Square is the perfect spot to enjoy the fresh Baltic air, and maybe pick up a Finnish souvenir or two from the stands. In the winter you’ll find a delightful winter market spanning an even larger area than the typical market, with tasty treats, bonfires, and holiday joy.

At this point, you’ll likely have built up an appetite, so there’s no better option at this point than to head next door to the Market Square to Helsinki’s Old Market Hall. The Old Market Hall is quite old, as it’s the oldest indoor market in all of Finland.

The market itself dates back to 1889 and is a Helsinki staple, with merchants selling various delicacies; from fruits/vegetables to cakes and cheese. Among the characteristic design and colours of the stands, you’ll also find cafes and restaurants, the perfect opportunity to enjoy a classic Finnish meal to end the day. 

Old Market Hall
Old Market Hall

Day 2 – Sauna Experience & Fortress of Suomenlinna 

Finnish Breakfast

Among all the reasons that I love spending time in Finland, I’d be hard-pressed not to say that breakfast is my favourite reason. Breakfast in Finland is truly an experience, and the Finnish have truly figured out how to make it near perfect.

Finland uses some of the freshest and highest quality ingredients and has a knack for combining flavour and nutrition. Many cafes in the city do breakfast in a set meal style, where you have a choice of various menus and these typically include quite a few options, with a hot drink, juice, main, and dessert.

While these can be pricey (like most things in Finland), I do suggest it as it’s a great way to fuel up for the day. My recommendation is to head to Levain Bakery, with 3 locations in Helsinki.

Sauna at Löyly Helsinki

I think it’s pretty safe to say that there are few things more synonymous with Finland than the sauna. Sauna is less of just a “place you go” in Finland and is at the heart of Finnish identity and culture.

One of the best ways to experience Finland like a local and enjoy all it has to offer is to head to a sauna. I suggest heading to Löyly Helsinki, a Sauna located directly on the sea and the perfect spot for tourists and locals to soak up the heat and maybe even take a cold plunge beforehand!

You need to book a spot in advance as they fill up quickly, and €23 gets you two hours at the sauna, a towel, shampoo & soap, and a sauna seat cover. Don’t forget to bring your own towel!

Fortress of Suomenlinna 

After enjoying a relaxing few hours at the Finnish sauna, the next stop on this Helsinki itinerary is to head to another one of the most well-known attractions in Helsinki.

The Fortress of Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sea fortress made up of 8 islands located just off of the mainland coast of Helsinki. The fortress itself is a neighborhood of Helsinki and is an extremely popular spot to visit for both tourists and locals.

Originally built and occupied by the Swedish and then Russians, hence the Swedish name, Suomenlinna is an important part of Finnish history. Reaching the Fortress and Suomenlinna is pretty straightforward, with a 15-minute ferry from the Katajanokka ferry port by a ticket that’s included in Helsinki’s public transport or can be bought here.

The Suomenlinna Fortress itself is free for entry and is an incredibly interesting monument and a beautiful island to explore on a nice day.

The Suomenlinna Fortress
The Suomenlinna Fortress

Day 3 – Porvoo or Sipoonkorpi National Park Day Trip

Helsinki in 3 days is a great way to spend time in Helsinki, Finland as you not only have the time to explore the city center of Helsinki but also to head out of the city on a day trip.

If you have 3 days in Helsinki, I suggest spending your last day in an area outside of the city as there are lovely spots to visit that are nearby and a completely different experience.

Due to the weather being so different at various points of the year (winter vs summer), I’ve given two different day trip options in this section.

Sipoonkorpi National Park

If you’re visiting Helsinki during the summertime, I highly suggest taking advantage of Finland’s incredibly special nature, rich forests, and diverse landscapes.

The Sipoonkorpi National Park sits directly on the edge of Helsinki and is the perfect taster into Finland’s special natural world.

The best way to reach Sipoonkorpi is to first take a bus from Helsinki to one of the nearby towns in/by the park and then take a local taxi further into the area. It is also possible to take guided tours.

The towns and villages nearby are also lovely spots to enjoy a coffee or lunch before enjoying time in nature. Finland also has a free for all law, so pretty much anywhere in the country is available to wander through and any berries (delicious too) or anything else you can find is yours to enjoy!


For those visiting Helsinki during the winter months, a great day trip option is to head to the neighboring middle-aged town of Porvoo.

Unfortunately, train schedules to Porvoo from Helsinki are pretty irregular so I don’t suggest train transport, but you can get a bus to Porvoo from Helsinki in just about an hour or book a guided tour.

Porvoo is incredibly picturesque, and under the winter snow, it has an even more special atmosphere. The town is the second oldest in all of Finland and this is incredibly well preserved and reflected through the town’s unique architecture.

Spend time wandering through the old town, browsing through shops, sipping hot chocolate, and eating at one of the local restaurants and you have the perfect day trip from Helsinki. 

Town of Porvoo
Town of Porvoo

Where to Stay in Helsinki

Bob W Kluuvi – This mid-range hotel is an excellent choice for those looking for a nice and comfortable place to base themselves in the Finnish capital. Centrally located, they have a number of lovely rooms to choose from and there is breakfast available in the mornings. Click here to see their availability

Hotel Mestari – Those after a luxury stay in Helsinki will love this modern hotel. They have a great location for exploring the city, a number of sophisticated rooms to choose from and countless amenities to ensure your stay is a great one. Click here to see their availability

The Yard Hostel – If you’re travelling to Finland on a budget, then this hip hostel is a great choice. They offer both dorms and private rooms, have excellent common areas and self-catering facilities and a good atmosphere for meeting other travelers. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Helsinki hotels!

Finland easily seems like one of the closest things to a perfect oasis on earth and just spending time in the capital city of Helsinki and nearby areas will likely solidify this for you. Whether you’re intentionally planning a trip to Helsinki by itself or have a stopover in the capital city before heading to Finnish Lapland, you’re in for a Baltic treat.

Are you planning a visit to Helsinki? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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