Many Things To See On A Walking Tour Of Helsinki
We found lots of things to see on a walking tour of Helsinki in Finland. It was a busy week in Copenhagen so we wanted to explore Helsinki at our own pace.
We saw a lot as we wandered in Helsinki. Even though we are not religious, we made sure we visited the beautiful Uspenski and Helsinki Cathedrals. The unique Rock Church was such a contrast in design. We even mastered the Helsinki tram system and had the Sibelius Monument almost all to ourselves.
We were fascinated with the Russian influence on the architecture in Helsinki. It was a preview of the beauty we found on our visit to St Petersburg in Russia.
Heading Into Helsinki
Helsinki was the first port on our Baltic Cruise with Oceania Cruises after we left Copenhagen. The ship newspaper had two possible ports for us to dock. One was right in town and the other required a shuttle. We were not really surprised to find that we were at the furthest one.
We had no formal tours booked and just planned to wander in Helsinki. The shuttle transportation time meant that our day in port was a few hours shorter. The weather forecast showed cloudy with rain so we bundled up. Both umbrellas and rain ponchos went in the backpack. We even got lucky on our walking tour of Helsinki with a few hours of sunshine.
The shuttle dropped us off at the Makasiiniterminaali and we walked from there. On the way back we found the tram line (Green #2) that dropped us at this spot.
Wandering In Helsinki
Looking across the water we saw the ferris wheel. Since it was pouring rain, we didn’t even consider a ride. But right behind the ferris wheel was the dome of the Uspenski Cathedral. That was definitely on our plans for the day in Helsinki.
As we walked we saw was the Vanha Kauppahalli market. We didn’t go in but took pictures as we walked outside. This was the first but not last spot where we definitely saw the Russian influence in architecture.
Our heads swivelled as we walked. During the day we saw a lot of interesting architecture. There were a wide range of statues along our path. And a few fun ones too!
Before we wandered too far, we found Cafe Engel. We wanted to warm up before we headed out into the grey weather. The hearty salmon soup was perfect. We drooled when we saw the chocolate dessert options. But left a sweet treat for a coffee stop later in the day.
As we walked we carefully watched the sidewalk markings. As we found on our stay in Copenhagen, the town was well laid out for bicyclists. Wide bicycle lanes ran beside cobblestone walking paths. Even with clear markings on the bike paths, many tourists just used the paved paths for easier walking.
We Started With The Uspenski Cathedral
As we approached the Uspenski Cathedral we saw the church high up on a hill. Several different flights of stairs were needed to get to the top.
We walked up and stopped to admire the outside detail of the church. We followed a formal walking tour so we caught a little of the history of this church. This was the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. The golden cupolas and redbrick facade clearly showed more of the Russian impact on Finnish history.
The walking tour group did not go in but another very large tour group did. There were signs everywhere saying no cameras or videos. David and I admired the interesting interior of the church with our cameras away. But when the tour group came in their selfie sticks were out and every inch was photographed. Trust me when I say it was worth going inside. You will have to wait until you visit yourself to see what it looked like.
On a walking tour of Helsinki, don’t pass on the inside and outside of the Uspenski Cathedral.
A Visit To The Helsinki Cathedral
From the Uspenski Cathedral we headed back down the stairs and towards the Helsinki Cathedral. This large white church stood above another wide and high set of stairs.
As we arrived, we saw a parade formed up in front of the church. They marched back and forth in front of the church until they dispersed after the noon church bells. We saw another group of paraders as we moved through town later in the day. We stopped and admired the Aleksanteri II statue before we headed up.
If you don’t want to walk all of the stairs, the side street took us part way up. There was then a handicapped ramp up for part of the way. But the final climb to the church was another set of stairs. Once we got up, we had a great view over the square. As we walked around outside the church, we admired the detail.
The church was open but they just getting ready for a noon service. We stood at the back and saw the church but had limited ability to roam about. We got a few pictures and then moved on.
Getting To The Sibelius Monument
We decided to head to our furthest out spot and then made our way back. We made a rookie mistake and did not load the transit map. There were a number of trams going past the Helinksi Cathedral but it was not really evident which one we needed. We asked the tram driver and he assured us he went to the Sibelius Monument. Of course, he didn’t really go that close.
We watched on our offline maps for the stop that was the closest to our destination. It was easy to find the Sibelius Monument. But it would have been much easier if we took the right tram!
As we walked along, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. By the time we reached the monument we put our coats away. We probably got a much better view of the monument than tour groups that stopped here in the grey rainy morning.
The Sibelius Monument All To Ourselves
The Sibelius Monument was an abstract structure erected in 1967 by the Finnish sculptor Eila Hiltunen. It was made with a group of organ pipes that resembled a sound wave. It was said to reflect the spirit of Sibelius’ music.
One tour group was just finishing up when we got there. But in no time we had the monument almost to ourselves. This meant we walked around the very interesting structure and caught it from different angles. There was a small statue attached to the wall beside the monument. This was of a large bust of Sibelius.
The Sibelius Monument was located close to the waterway so we strolled that way when we were done. We sat on a bench and enjoyed the sunshine with a view.
We were glad we saw the Sibelius Monument on our walking tour of Helsinki.
Don’t Miss The Rock Church On A Walking Tour Of Helsinki
The last formal stop on our walking tour in Helsinki was the Rock Church (or the Temppeliaukio Church). This most interesting church was built right into the rocks. The church hall was covered with a dome, lined with copper and supported on the rock walls by reinforced concrete beams. From the outside we just saw the domed ceiling coming out of the rocks.
There was a nominal admission charge for this church. Inside the round church, we saw the rock walls. In places we saw where the rock had been blasted but most of the church was natural rock walls.
The alter, organ and worship area were set into the rocks. The copper ceiling had an intricate design when we looked closely. Many people sat quietly and looked around the church. But one group all needed their selfies with the altar in the background.
On our walking tour of Helsinki, we were glad we visited the unique Rock Church.
Finishing Our Day In Helsinki
We found a local coffee shop and plotted our return trip. The sign outside clearly said it was a roastery so we figured we would get good coffee. David couldn’t resist trying a mint and liquorice piece of cake with his coffee.
The tram we needed was right outside the coffee shop. We confirmed a few times that this was the right tram (Green #2). A short tram line put us back where we started. And we arrived before the very last shuttle back to the ship. And right before the skies opened up with rain again.
Much Variety In The Things To See On A Walking Tour Of Helsinki
We enjoyed our walking tour of Helsinki. The weather didn’t slow us down much. It was certainly possible to do the complete tour we did all by foot. But we found the tram was easy once we knew which one to take. On a dry day, we might have rented bikes to see the city.
We saw many interesting sights on our short day in Helsinki. The Russian influences we found in Helsinki made us excited for our next stop in St Petersburg in Russia.
Have you done a walking tour of Helsinki? What else should be on the walking tour?
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