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Helsinki - What would you see?

We (myself and teen daughters) are taking a Baltic cruise (RCCL) this summer. I am trying to pin down our plans for the various ports. We like to do a mixture of everything: art, museums, strolling neighborhoods, enjoying nature, etc. There is literally nothing we don't enjoy. However, we don't place a heavy emphasis on food due to some food allergies.

We will realistically have about 6 hours on the ground in Helsinki. This will be immediately following 2 long days of touring in St. Petersburg. We are not interested in seeing everything there is to see, just to get a flavor of the city as I know we will be tired from St. Pete.

I have been reading Rick's Northern Europe Cruise Port book, but I always like to get the perspective from members of this forum. What would you do in this amount of time? What have you done that you would not do again?

Thanks in advance

Posted by
4684 posts

I had about six hours in Helsinki between the ferry returning from St Petersburg and the flight out in the afternoon.

I found the town pleasant but nothing compelling. (About what I expected.) I am not a "museum person" and didn't even try to go to any. Mostly, I just walked around and explored. I walked down to the main ferry port where there's a market. From there, I took a ferry out to Suomenlinna, an island (a couple of them actually) with an old wrecked fort on it. Nice way to pass a few hours but nothing that amazed me. I'd do it again, if only because there's not much else in Helsinki that grabbed my attention.

The Suomenlinna ferry is part of their public transit system; I think if you buy a day pass you can use it for the trams, too, so that might be worth doing. If you need to use a tram to get into town, you can buy tickets at a machine; buy a day pass the first time and you will be set for the ferry. Otherwise, the center of town is very walkable.

Posted by
5451 posts

I enjoyed just walking about. The Visit Helsinki website has a self-guided walking tour pdf that you can download:
http://www.visithelsinki.fi/sites/visithelsinki.fi/files/files/Esitteet/EN/see_helsinki_on_foot.pdf
I would consider doing all or part of the Tour 1 Historic City Center:

Discover the historic city centre

Senate Square–Kruununhaka–Katajanokka

The government buildings and museums in the historic quarters of the
city centre reflect Helsinki’s colourful past.

Since you are heading to Russia, you may want to visit the new Winter War monument:
https://suomifinland100.fi/national-memorial-to-the-winter-war-unveiled-in-helsinki/?lang=en

Winter War background:
https://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-was-the-winter-war
Or if you don't want to read:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcJbJUDVAPM

Simple History Published on May 24, 2017 The ‘Winter War’ of 1939-1940
or the Russo-Finnish War was fought between the Soviet Union and
Finland.

Or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvPrfTOYgZc

10 Crazy Ways Finland Fought Off Soviet Domination

On a fair weather day Sumenlinna is a pleasant walk about with a ferry ride out and back:
https://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/

Posted by
219 posts

Thank you both for the information. I like the idea of a simple walking tour. I know we will be looking for a low key day.

Posted by
4155 posts

We spent most of a day in Helsinki a few weeks ago, as a stop on the RCCI cruise, right after St. Petersburg. (It's a fine cruise, though you'll be tired after five consecutive port days.) The cruise line provided a shuttle into the center, a good value we thought. We walked up the Esplanade to Market Square, stopping for coffee at Kapelli which was very nice (and had restrooms). The TI is now in the city hall, about a block east of where the RS guide shows it. Restrooms there. Market Square was filled with booths selling food and stuff, looked more for tourists than for locals. We took a look at the Orthodox Cathedral, would have gone in if we'd had more time. The Lutheran Cathedral on Senate Square is very good. The city history museum was a disappointment to me (but restrooms again). Then back along the Esplanade and up to the train station which was very interesting and has perhaps the best-looking Burger King I've ever seen, also restrooms (need coin). Then north past the Mannerheim statue and the Music Centre (didn't go in) to the National Museum, very well done, could have spent more time there (again restrooms). I missed the Church in the Rock because I had trouble finding it and got nervous about time.

Basically an easy on-foot self-guided day (with help from RS guide) in an interesting and prosperous-looking city. Highlights for me were the Lutheran Cathedral and Senate Square, station, and National Museum. Lesser lights were Market Square and the city museum. Lots of sidewalk eating on the Esplanade, and cafes elsewhere. Interesting architecture. Have a good visit!

EDIT -- Rereading the thread I wonder why I seemed to obsess on restrooms above, I think it's from another thread on this forum where someone was anxious and I projected onto this OP. Not a sign of any pathology or fixation on my part, of course! ;-)

Posted by
219 posts

Thank you, IP, I agree.

Dick, I really appreciate your detailed post. As I was reading it I was thinking, "Wow, I really appreciate the info on restrooms as that is always something we want to know." Then I saw your edit note. I laughed. I think you can never have too much information on where to find restrooms! Thanks!