Many a Baltic Cruise will begin and end in Helsinki. This capital city of Finland is a popular tourist destination in its own right; why not make sure to have a few days to enjoy its sights and attractions?
Known as the “Daughter of the Baltic”, Helsinki was founded in 1550 by Sweden’s King Gustav Vasa, who had a vision of it as a competing trading post with Tallinn, which though in Estonia, at that time was under Danish rule. In 1809, Finland was annexed by Russia and its capital moved from Turku to Helsinki by the end of 1812. The Tsar of the time had Helsinki rebuilt in the Empire style, similar to that of Saint Petersburg.
Located on the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is somewhat unique today in that it is a contemporary, international metropolis, yet retains its small-town charm and appeal. It is compact and easy to navigate, either on foot or by a very impressive public transport system.
While summer is the best time of year to visit Helsinki, as warm weather brings its citizens outside to enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities and attractions, there is a definite appeal to visiting this city at Christmas.
Helsinki has a number of annual festivals and celebrations:
- Lux Helsinki – held in the dark of January, light installations bring cheer and are best viewed on a walking tour.
- Vappu – or Walpurgis Night – originally a pagan festival, today Vappu (April 30th and May 1st) is an occasion for students to play and drink to excess.
- Helsinki-päivä – or Helsinki Day, observed on June 12th. This is the birthday of the city and is celebrated with a number of concerts, performances, and exhibits.
- Juhannus – or the Midsummer festival – held on the Friday between June 19th and 25th. There is a bonfire, but many residents traditionally go out of town to celebrate the “nightless night”.
- Taiteiden Yo – or Night of the Arts, held in late August, this is a major arts and culture event, and is the highlight of the Helsinki Festival.
- Joulu – Christmas. Festive lights, snow, and an open-air Christmas market the week before Christmas. Everything is closed between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
Helsinki is bilingual (Finnish/Swedish) but most Finns speak English.
This city is surrounded by sea and an archipelago, and in summer has plenty of green spaces to enhance its beauty. Must-see attractions include Suomenlinna (an eighteenth century sea fortress); the Seurasaari Open Air Museum ( on an island in the archipelago, it is a lovely half-day excursion); Helsinki Zoo; many beautiful parks; churches, including The Church in the Rock and Uspenski Cathedral; various museums and galleries; Olympic sights from the 1952 Games. There are also many monuments, amusement parks, and plenty of cosmopolitan cafes, restaurants, and shopping precincts to enjoy.
Helsinki is also your launch pad for trips to Lapland.
So if you are considering a Baltic Cruise, make a little extra time to experience Helsinki – you will be amazed at just how much this Nordic city has to offer.
Scandi Travel will help you to organize your unforgettable trip to Finland.