12 Hours In Helsinki: What To See, Do, And Eat

There’s no denying the fact that Scandinavia is having something of a moment in the spotlight. Feted for its cool, minimalist style, the collection of Northern European countries has been converting us all to a decidedly cosy way of life. And while Sweden and Denmark have long been celebrated, now is the time for Finland to really shine. Despite being one of the more remote countries in Europe, Finland boasts a natural environment and culture that are seriously influential in the modern zeitgeist. Looking for a new way to get out and about this spring? Try heading to Finland’s capital, Helsinki, for a whistle-stop tour!

Short on time in the city? No problem. Helsinki is a place that lends itself perfectly to short breaks, giving you the chance to fit in a surprising amount of activities. Stopping off for breakfast? Make Anton & Anton your first port of call. An organic supermarket chain, Anton & Anton is bursting at the seams with Scandinavian goodness, serving up a smorgasbord of treats. Head straight to the pastry counter and choose your delight; you’ll be ready to face anything the day throws your way.

If landmarks are your thing, then you’re in luck; Helsinki has some of the most unspoiled in Europe, and many are gathered together within close proximity to one another. After your breakfast, try sauntering over to The Senate Square and take in the historical buildings, including the university and the old senate itself. The main attraction, however, is the Helsinki Cathedral. Bright white and domed, the cathedral is the majesty of the square, standing out brightly against the other buildings. If the weather’s good, sit with the other onlookers on the cathedral steps and take in the view. 

Design is huge in Scandinavia and, like its neighbors, Finland has its own approach when it comes to good interiors. If you’re looking to pick up a piece of Finnish design for your own home, or simply want a little inspiration, set your sights on Artek. Housing all of the great Scandinavian brands, such as Alvar Aalto and Muurame, the store is a must for all interior lovers. Best of all, the store also stocks fashion and accessories, giving all those with a taste for retail therapy the chance to spruce up their wardrobes with a touch of northern chic. 

Need a little down time? There’s plenty of time for quiet reflection in Helsinki. One of the best places in which to take five is the Kampin Kappeli, also known as the chapel of silence. Constructed as part of the World Design Capital Program in 2012, the chapel is an architectural feat, kitted out in smooth, rounded wood. While Kampin Kappeli is an active church, there’s plenty of space for quiet reflection in the pews, giving you the chance to sit back and watch the light streaming in.

If all that exploring leaves you feeling peckish, a little Nordic fine dining will see you right! A restaurant focused on all things Norwegian, Spis is one of the best spots in town. Rustic, minimalist, and incredibly tasteful, the restaurant lets natural materials speak for themselves in the raw brick walls and thick slate plates. Many dishes come with wine pairings, which are worth asking for ahead of time. A dining experience like no other, the restaurant fills up incredibly quickly, so make sure you book ahead of time.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.