Walking Tour: Iconic Buildings & Monuments

  • Start Kauppatori
  • End Cafe Regatta
  • Length 6.5km; 4½ hours

The bustling kauppatori (market square) is flanked by stately 19th-century buildings. The eagle-topped stone obelisk is the Keisarinnankivi (Empress' Stone), Helsinki’s oldest monument, unveiled in 1835 in honour of a visit by Tsar Nicholas I and Tsarina Alexandra. Havis Amanda, the female nude statue dipping in a fountain just west of the market, is regarded as the symbol of Helsinki. Across from the kauppatori is the Presidentinlinna (Presidential Palace), guarded by uniformed sentries, which was designed by architect CL Engel.

Head up Sofiankatu to Senaatintori (Senate Sq). Engel’s stately neoclassical Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral) is the most prominent feature, topped by zinc statues of the 12 apostles on the roof. The main University of Helsinki building is on the west side and the magnificent National Library a little further north along Unioninkatu. Walking back to Pohjoisesplanadi, stroll through leafy Esplanadin Puisto (Esplanade Park), or browse the design shops and stop at the upmarket cafes along the pavement. Turn right onto Mannerheimintie, the main thoroughfare. An equestrian statue of Marshal Mannerheim, Finland’s most revered military leader, dominates the square alongside the Kiasma museum.

Continue walking northwest. Monolithic Parliament House (1931) dominates this stretch. Opposite it is the striking modern glass-and-copper Musiikkitalo, with concert halls and studios. Further up on the right is one of Alvar Aalto’s most famous works, angular Finlandia Talo, a landmark concert hall completed in 1971 and subsequently expanded. At this point you can detour west through the leafy backstreets to the Temppeliaukion Kirkko, an extraordinary church hewn from solid rock in 1969.

A few blocks north, on Mannerheimintie, is the 1993 Oopperatalo, home of the Finnish National Opera. Continue to the 1952 Olympic Stadium (the historic site is undergoing major renovations until 2019). Finally, head westward to take in the Sibelius monument. This striking sculpture was created by artist Eila Hiltunen in 1967 to honour Finland’s most famous composer. Finish up with a well-earned drink at waterside Cafe Regatta.

Walking Tour: Architectural Stroll

  • Start Vanha Kauppahalli
  • End Temppeliaukion Kirkko
  • Length 3.2km; three hours

The Walk Helsinki is renowned for its architecture, and this walk takes in many exemplars of the city's dramatically varying styles, while also peeling away the layers of the city's history. Along this photogenic route you'll see its evolution from market town to the cutting-edge Nordic capital that is Helsinki today.

Take a Break Fuel up first with coffee and a pastry at the Vanha Kauppahalli, Helsinki's traditional market hall. Built in 1888, the red-brick building is still a traditional Finnish market, and its wooden stalls sell local cheeses, smoked salmon and herring, berries, forest mushrooms and more.

The symbol of Helsinki is the bronze statue Havis Amanda, the female nude statue dipping in a fountain, which was installed in 1908.

The bustling kauppatori (market square) is flanked by stately 19th-century buildings, including the Presidentinlinna (Presidential Palace), which was designed by architect CL Engel. The eagle-topped stone obelisk is the 1835 Keisarinnankivi (Empress' Stone), Helsinki’s oldest monument, honouring a visit by Tsar Nicholas I and Tsarina Alexandra.

Strolling east you can't miss the gleaming gold onion domes of the Uspenskin Katedraali. Built as a Russian Orthodox church in 1868, it now serves the Finnish Orthodox congregation. Look for the turreted National Romantic art nouveau villas nearby.

Head up Sofiankatu to Senaatintori (Senate Sq). Engel’s stately neoclassical Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral) is topped by zinc statues of the 12 apostles on the roof.

Walk west to the country's finest art museum, the Ateneum, in a palatial 1887 neo-Rennaissance building designed by Finnish architect Theodor Höijer.

National Romantic splendour reaches its peak at Helsinki's spectacular train station, topped by a copper-caped clock tower, which opened in 1919.

A dramatic contrast awaits just west at the Kiasma museum, the curved metallic lines of which were unveiled in 1998.

Continue walking northwest. Monolithic Parliament House, aka Eduskunta (1931), dominates this stretch. Opposite you'll see the striking modern glass-and-copper Musiikkitalo, with concert halls and studios.

Venture west through leafy backstreets to the Temppeliaukion Kirkko, an extraordinary church hewn from solid rock in 1969.

Walking Tour: Green Helsinki

  • Start Kajsaniemi
  • End Löyly Sauna
  • Length 5km; four hours

The Walk Flower-filled parks and rambling gardens cover one third of Helsinki's total area, making it a wonderfully green escape – during the summer months, at least. Choose a warm, sunny day for this city-wide stroll when you can see the 'outdoor living rooms' of the capital's inhabitants at their leafiest and most lively.

Take a Break Along this walk you'll come across plenty of picnic spaces and places to stock up on provisions, such as the city's traditional market hall, Vanha Kauppahalli. Gourmet produce and ready-to-eat meals are also outstanding at Anton & Anton deli.

The city's central botanic gardens, Kajsaniemi, make an ideal starting point for this stroll. Allow time to wander its 10 interconnected greenhouses sheltering 800 plant species from environments around the globe.

Make your way south to Rautatientori (Railway Sq), dominated by Helsinki's glorious art nouveau train station. There's almost always live entertainment, such as buskers, in the large open space; a vast ice rink sets up here in winter.

Continuing south brings you to Esplanadin Puisto, an elegant strip of green in the heart of the city's business district. It's flanked on both sides by some of Helsinki's most upmarket designer boutiques.

From the eastern end of Esplanadin Puisto, it's a short stroll south to Observatory Hill Park, with winding woodland paths and blooming tulips and other bulbs. The park is named for its 1834-built observatory, which is now an astronomical museum.

Walking further south along tree-lined streets takes you to the seaside park of Kaivopuisto, with superb views of fortress Suomenlinna and the Helsinki archipelago's islands. There's a beach, bars and cafes, and there's an observatory here too, dating from 1926, which occasionally opens to the public.

Head west along the waterfront, passing boats bobbing in the marinas, to the striking timber structure housing Löyly Sauna. Opened in 2016, the wind- and water-powered complex has three saunas, including a traditional smoke sauna, and direct access to the water out front for a dip between steam sessions. Finish with a beer at its panoramic glassed-in bar.