Despite its somewhat severe cityscape and chilly northern latitude, Helsinki bursts with vibrant street life and a joyful creative spirit that pleases locals and tickles tourists. Lacking a cutely cobblestoned "Old Town," its center is instead a spruce-and-stone wonderland of stunning 19th- to 21st-century architecture. On sunny summer days — when the sky is still bright after midnight — gusting winds swirl seagulls against an azure sky scattered with cotton-ball clouds, musicians and dancers enliven the Esplanade, and coffee sippers spill out onto sidewalks. Enjoy the city's bustling harborfront market, lively main boulevard, fine museums, sophisticated design culture, dueling cathedrals, and quirky east-meets-west mélange of cultures.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Temppeliaukio Church Awe-inspiring, copper-topped 1969 "Church in the Rock."
▲▲ Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral Orthodoxy's most prodigious display outside of Eastern Europe.
▲▲ Lutheran Cathedral Green-domed, 19th-century Neoclassical masterpiece.
▲▲ Seurasaari Open-Air Folk Museum Island museum with 100 historic buildings from Finland's farthest corners.
▲▲ Suomenlinna Fortress Helsinki's harbor island, sprinkled with picnic spots, museums, and military history.
▲ Senate Square Consummate Neoclassical square, with Lutheran Cathedral.
▲ Helsinki City Museum Tells the city's history well and in English.
▲ Ateneum, The National Gallery of Finland Largest collection of art in Finland, including local favorites plus works by Cézanne, Chagall, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
▲ National Museum of Finland The scoop on Finland, featuring folk costumes, an armory, czars, and thrones; the prehistory exhibit is best.
▲ Sibelius Monument Stainless-steel sculptural tribute to Finland's greatest composer.
▲ Design Museum Chronological look at Finland's impressive design pedigree, plus cutting-edge temporary exhibits.