Things To See On A Walking Tour of Helsinki Finland

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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.

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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.

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Vanha Kauppahalli.jpg

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!

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Merenneito The Mermaid aka Havis Amanda with sealions Statue.jpg

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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.

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Cafe Engel Chocolate Cake.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Helsinki Cathedral AleksanteriII Statue.jpg

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.

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Helsinki Cathedral Statues.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Rock Church Temppeliaukio.jpg

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.

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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.

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Rock Church Temppeliaukio.jpg

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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.

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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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  1. I am hoping to visit Russia this summer and have been debating a stopover in Helsinki so this is great information for me. I’m a huge fan of wandering cities and taking in the architecture and the Uspenski Cathedral looks gorgeous. I would love to see the interior of the Rock Church in person, it is so unique. I am now obsessed with trying a piece of mint and liquorice cake!

  2. I, too, love to explore cathedrals — of all faiths. They seem to have the best of architecture and art, don’t they? Loved seeing so many examples of Russian architecture in your photos, too. I’ve never been to Helsinki, but I can tell I would enjoy exploring.

  3. Finland is such an amazing travel destination. I have never had the opportunity to visit, but have always wanted to! Helsinki looks absolutely beautiful. There is so much architecture I would love to be able to see in person. Adding this to my travel list!

  4. Sibelius Monument looks so interesting. It was great that you got the place for yourself. Finland is in my wish list for a long time. Helsinki also looks absolutely beautiful and I know I will love there because of those cathedrals. I am quite fond of architecture and Helsinki seems to have it all.

  5. This brought back memories of a couple of days spent in Helsinki a couple of years ago. I went by ferry from Tallinn. It was so bitterly cold though (I visited in November) that even though we were wrapped up, we could only go a certain distance in one go before stopping to warm up. The Sibelius Monument looks fab although I didn’t get to see this or the Rock Church. Always good to have a reason to return though.

  6. Sibelius Monument looks so stunning and interesting. This is something I will surely visit when I am in Helsinki. I was supposed to travel to Helsinki last year but it did not happen. I will surely walk around the city and see the spectacular buildings. I also will visit the Cathedral.

  7. Helsinki looks like an incredible city! The architecture looks lovely! I’d love to see the Sibelius Monument, it looks stunning! Walking looks like the best way to see Helsinki! Thanks for sharing this great guide!

  8. I honestly think walking tours are the best way to see a city like Helsinki. This all looks fun, but I especially like the look of the Sibelius Monument and the rock church! They really do have fantastic art and architecture don’t they!?

  9. I went to Helsinki a couple years ago and loved it. Such a great city, and you definitely saw a lot of the best things on your walking tour. I went in December so the days were short. I’d love to visit in the summer and get to explore a bit more. But I really did love the cathedrals

    • We would like to go back to Finland in the winter and explore during a very different time. But a good reminder that the days are short so we may need more time.

  10. Helsink is one of my favourite cities! It looks like you managed to see a lot of the main attractions during your walking tour. I enjoyed how easy it is to get around on foot in Helsinki.

    • In looking back, we were indeed amazed at how much we squeezed into one day. Would love to go back and explore at a more leisurely pace. I am sure there is much more to discover.

  11. I love black licorice, so I’ve gotta know, how was the black licorice and mint cake?

    I have never been to Finland but my brother lived there for a couple of years. So many great things to see and do.

  12. The Uspenski Cathedral is absolutely beautiful while the Rock Church is unique. But The Sibelius Monument is really interesting. I wonder if there’s some kind of sound coming out from the structure.

  13. Helsinki looks like a wonderful city to explore by foot! I didn’t know much about it before but I love the architecture and detailed sculptures throughout. The Uspenski Cathedral is exquisite! The Sibelius Monument is so unusual and beautiful from the different angles. I’m glad you got in some nice weather too!

  14. This is a great guide to Helsinki and since I never visited the city, I took note of all the great attractions. There are so many unusual things to do there, like visiting the Rock Church, or the Vanha Kauppahalli market. Just simply wandering the streets of Helsinki seems appealing enough for me to want to visit the city. I just wonder if the weather is always so overcast and the light so dim.

    • Before our visit, I saw so many pics of Helsinki in blue skies. But when we visited this area, we had a lot of grey skies and it did dim my view of the cities. We were glad we got some sun at the end of the day.

  15. So much to see whist doing a walking tour in Helsinki and some interesting sights too. It looked rather cold and wet in some places so I am sure those lovely eats went down well.

  16. What a beautiful and inspiring post. I’ve been to Helsinki only once on my way back from New York. Since it was a stopover, I had a terrible jetlag and was walking around like a zombie. Also, there were like 20 degrees celsius between summer in New York – very hot – and Helsinki – quite cold. Will say, the circumstances were rather unfortunate so that I wasn’t really able to enjoy the city’s beauty. Hence, I need to go back – maybe on a cruise from Tallinn.

    • A cruise to Tallin would be a great reason to plan a stopover in Helsinki. We were glad we did not let the grey weather stop us from exploring. And since this was not our first stop, we were refreshed and could walk and walk!

  17. I have been to Helsinki several times. The city is not as attractive as other European capitals, but it also has fascinating sights for travelers. I agree, the Uspenski Cathedral looks enchanting, and the Rock Church is unique, too!

  18. Your post is reminding me my last visit to Helsinki few years ago. Actually it was about 8 hours stopover between flights to my Asian destination. I have seen most of places of your tour except Uspenski Cathedral. Thanks for great pictures and detailed information!

  19. You had a great trip to Helsinki. I spent a few days in Helsinki also. The city has exciting architecture. One of the most interesting places was the Uspenski Cathedral, the Sibelius Monument, and the Vanha Kauppahalli market.

  20. We have a special feeling for Helsinki as it was the starting point of our 3 weeks in Scandinavia. We too went in for a walking tour in addition to just wandering around. Suomenlinna Fortress was special too in addition to the Cathedrals. Would love to go back again for 2 days when we visit Russia in a couple of years.

  21. So sorry you ended up taking the wrong tram to see The Sibelius Monument, but happy to hear you found it. It’s such a stunning monument. I have never seen anything quite like it and was mesmerized by the photos. I’d love to visit Finland some day when I have a larger budget 🙂

    • We were sure glad we finally made it to the Sibelius Monument. I would have hated to miss this interesting structure. It was an expensive city. But I am sure there were some local spots we could find on a longer visit.

  22. We had no idea that Finland was such a religious country? It almost seems like the rest of Europe in that way I suppose but all of the cathedrals you mentioned are so unique and beautiful. We love the idea of seeing the Upenski Cathedral and the Helsinki Cathedral.

  23. What a walking tour! Basing it on your photos and story, it looks like you’ve wandered a lot and enjoyed a great time. The Temppeliaukio Church piqued my interest. I’ve never seen any church structure like it.

  24. This is perfect for me. I am planning a Baltic Sea cruise next year and it also starts from Copenhagen and will give us a day in Helsinki. I am bookmarking this post because you have provided me the perfect itinerary, I’d love to do a walking tour of the city too. Uspenski Cathedral looks really nice by the way, I’d love to visit.

    • I am glad this will help you when planning your Baltic cruise. The trams are easy to use and help with the sights that are a bit further out. Perfect for a cruise day.

  25. How I would love to visit this part of the world, I have yet to travel to any of the Nordic countries. I would love to see the architecture of all of the top landmarks you’ve visited, especially those two cathedrals and the Sibelius Monument. I love cities that are walkable, have rich culture, delicious food and interesting history. You’ve once again inspired me to add Helsinki on my list.

    • I am glad to help with building your list for the Baltic cities. Going by cruise ship was a great way to get a taste test of so many. But I am sure that Helsinki has more to discover on a longer visit.

  26. This is nice! I was curious about the Sibelius Monument. Thank you for sharing a brief history about it.

    You definitely had a wonderful walking tour in Helsinki. There are so many interesting spots you visited.

  27. The dome of Uspenski Cathedral looks grand! I didn’t know Finland architecture is influenced by Russian art so much. Sibelius Monument is one which I want to see with my own eye, I am so fascinated by its pictures. Hope I make it there some day!

  28. I have been to Helsinki more than 20 years ago as a student. It was in winter with temperatures of -20 degrees and I did not have much money. Nevertheless I walked around a lot, like you did and went to the Sibelius monument and the rock church. Going back in summer and beeing able to afford that mint and liquorice cake sounds nice :-)!

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