We were only spending one full day in Helsinki, so we arranged to have a guided walking tour in Helsinki with Nick at Finland Local Guide. These are a few highlights from our tour.
Our tour started here at the Senate Square. This is the heart if Helsinki, where many public events are held. During December, it is home to the Christmas market. The square is flanked by the government on one side and the university on the other with the Helsinki Cathedral as a backdrop.
In the centre of the square is a statue of Alexander II, built to commemorate his efforts to increase Finland’s autonomy from Russia in 1863.
With its tall, green dome surrounded by four smaller domes, the Helsinki Cathedral is a major landmark in Helsinki cityscape. It is located overlooking the Senate Square. It is a cathedral of the Lutheran Church and therefore very simply decorated both inside and out. The construction of the Cathedral started in 1830 and was completed in 1852.
Helsinki is on the coast, so the waterfront is not far from anywhere in the city. The waterfront really comes alive in the summer, but even in the depth of winter there’s plenty to see. We saw Finland’s icebreaker fleet (second largest ice breaker fleet in the World, after Russia).
There is also an open air sea water swimming pool and sauna complex, the Allas Seapool Complex. There is a warm fresh water swimming pool here as well as a natural sea water pool and a sauna. The sea water pool is the same temperature as the sea, so you can get an authentic Baltic sea experience here. (Note: The complex is closed till spring 2017 for renovation works).
You can also experience the Helsinki SkyWheel and also get the ferry to Suomenlinna fortress from the water front.
Another major landmark in Helsinki is the Upenski Cathedral. This Russian Orthodox cathedral is set upon a hillside on the Katajanokka peninsula overlooking the city. Unlike the Helsinki cathedral, this one only took 5 years to build. In contrast to the Helsinki Cathedral, it is very heavily decorated similar to other Orthodox Churches. It is closed on Mondays in the Winter so we were not able to go inside.
Or rather the childhood home of Tove Jansson, the author of the Moomin stories reportedly the inspiration for the famous Moominhouse.
Old Market Hall
The old market hall in Helsinki has been operating as a market since 1889. Inside, there are many shops serving everything from cheese, seafood, vegetables, fruit and cakes to spices, coffee and tea. We had a drink from Robber’s coffee here, a local Finnish coffee chain.
The Esplandi park is located in the heart of Helsinki. Flanked by many designer shops and up market hotels. Its a very popular in the summer for people to congregate for picnics and concerts. In the winter it is pretty quiet, but there are some gorgeous Christmas decorations. With a light dusting of snow, it is a magical scene. At the centre of the park is a statue of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, who penned the Finnish national anthem. The park is also home to the fine dinning restaurant in Kappeli, which first opened its doors in 1837.
The Kamppi Chapel or Chapel of Silence is a Lutheran church located in a corner of the Narinkkatori square in Helsinki, at the entrance of the Kamppi shopping center. The Chapel is intended to be a place where people can have a moment of silence and calm in of the busiest areas of Helsinki. Entirely made of wood, it resembles an ark of sorts. The outer surface of chapel is very smooth. Entrance is free. We went inside the church, and as the name implies it is an oasis of calm. Decor inside is very minimalistic. he foot print if the chapel is not very big, but it is tall. Inside, it feels like you are at the bottom of an enormous wooden bowl. From the inside, you cannot hear anything that is going on outside.
Kamppi Centre is located next to the Kamppi chapel and is a complex consisting o shops, residential areas and the cities main bus terminus. As it was Christmas, there was a big bow on it and the entie building looked gift wrapped.
We also walked past the parliament building. It was closed for renovations, so was not open to visitors.
The Temppeliaukio Kirkko or Rock Church is situated in the Toolo neighbourhood of Helsinki. What makes it special is that it is built directly into rock, with an enormous cooper dome, and a skylight filling it with natural light. From the outside approaching the church it looks like a rocky piece of land, but from the inside its a different story. With its enormous pipe organ, uncovered rock surfaces, light and airy space and the modern interior it and feels more like a concert hall than a church. Its about a 20 minute walk away from the main part of Helsinki, but its well worth the short trip. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and is Number 311 on the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist.
When we visited in December 2016, entry was free, but from January 2017 there is a small entry fee of 3 euros per person, unless you go on a Friday between 3pm and 5pm or attend a religious service.
About our tour
Our walking tour in Helsinki was with Nick from Finland Local Guide. It was very easy to arrange the tour with him via email. He picked us from our hotel in the centre of town and took us on a 3 hour tour to see the city highlights. The pace was unhurried and there was plenty of time to take photos. He gave us a lot of information about Finland, its past and present, and all the attractions we visited without overloading us and at the same time answered all our questions. I really wanted to see the Temple Rock Church so Nick re-arranged the tour slightly, to allow for this.
I have no affiliation with Finland Local Guide. The views and thoughts on this blog post are my own. I would highly recommend Nick as a guide as we were very pleased with our tour.