Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral
Helsinki, Finland Information
Updated by Nancy Norris
Language and Currency
What is Helsinki Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
A valid passport is required for entry but no visa is necessary for stays of fewer than 90 days.
Finnish is the predominant language spoken in Helsinki (94%) and Swedish (6%) is spoken by some. However, English is widely spoken as it is the first foreign language that is taught in all schools. The official currency is the Euro and major credit cards are accepted in most places. You will find very few places that accept US Dollars.
Just One of Helsinki's Wonderful Parks
Helsinki, the capital of Finland is known as the city of the sea. Surrounded on three sides by water, the harbor is the heartbeat of this southern coastal city built on the peninsulas and islands of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. Helsinki is a modern, clean, well planned city that offers spacious streets lined by public parks, gardens and open spaces.
Part of Helsinki's Harbor
Most of the sites are concentrated in the area around the harbor making it an easy port to explore on foot.
Helsinki experiences a temperate climate, with temperatures ranging from 54-67°F in the summers months (June – August). Summer days are marked by long hours of sunlight and cool nights.
Docked in Helsinki
There are actually 3 ports in Helsinki, two of which are used regularly by cruise ships. Smaller ships will dock at the South Harbor, which is the largest passenger port and is located downtown so everything is within walking distance. Larger ships will most likely port at the Hernesaari Cruise Ship Dock in the West Harbor. From this port, the distance to town center is approximately 2 miles. Shuttle service is usually provided, but metered taxis are also available at the pier.
Helsinki's Market Square
To start with, Kauppatori Market (Market Square) is home to an outdoor market with souvenirs, fruit, flowers, vegetables, handicrafts, clothing and much, much more. A few vendors will accept US dollars, but most will only accept Euros or credit cards. It is well worth the investment of time to fully explore this shopping treasure located between the sea and the historical buildings to its back. From there, head downtown and to Stockmann’s Department Store (the largest in Europe) on the Esplanade. There are also several shops and boutiques along the Esplanade worth exploring. The side streets off the Esplanade and the shops across from the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral also offer excellent shopping for souvenirs and specialty items.
Shops at the Cruise Terminal
Just in case you forgot to purchase anything while downtown, there are some excellent shops right at the cruise terminal that sell Finnish souvenirs.
There Are Tons of Local Items to Purchase
Finnish glass products, knives of all descriptions (including Swiss army knives) jewelry, hats, furs, leather goods and other collectible items are plentiful. Finnish hand woven rugs are an excellent buy and are designed as wall hangings rather than to be actually used as rugs. There are a number of furniture stores that sell both modern Finnish furniture and antiques from Finland and Russia. The best souvenirs are decorations made from reindeer skin, baskets, dolls and berry liqueurs made from cranberries, brambleberries and cloudberries. There are more shopping opportunities than one can possibly do in a single day.
Helsinki's Market Square
As already mentioned, one of the best ways to see Helsinki is on foot. Depending on where your ship docks, you can begin your tour at Market Square, or walk along the Esplanade towards Market Square.
Helsinki's Flower Market
Along the way you will be able window shop, rest at one of the parks or gardens, or stop for a beverage at one of the many cafés that line the boulevard.
A View From Market Square
You will be able to view the best examples of neoclassical architecture at Senate Square.
The Luthern Cathedral and Statute
The awe inspiring domed Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko) dominates the Square and is surrounded by the Government Palace, City Hall, and the University.
Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland
From there you can visit the Presidential Palace on your way to Uspenski Cathedral. Sitting high upon a hill overlooking the city, the brilliant gold, onion dome of the red bricked, Russian Orthodox cathedral sparkles in the sunlight. It is the largest Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia and the view from here alone is worth the trip. Allowing time to explore Market Square is a must, but if you still have energy you may wish to walk to the “The Church in the Rock” (Temppeliaukio) a bit of a hike from these centralized sights, but for many worth the trip. The authors’ opinion however, is that although it is an excellent walk, the church itself was underwhelming. Seaurasaari Island Outdoor Museum offering glimpses of rural Finish architecture and farmhouses and barns from across the country and the Sibelius Monument, a tribute to the famous composer, Jean Sibelius are other options that have been recommended by some, but not experienced first-hand.
In addition to the downtown sites, a visit to Suomenlinna, a fortified island with several museums is only a short 20 minute ferry ride from Market Square. The island dates back 200 years and is fascinating. Not far from Helsinki is Porvoo, the second oldest town in Finland. Established in 1346, it is a quaint village of wooden buildings, winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys. Porvoo is also accessible by public ferry from Market Square. Harbor cruises are available at the same location as the public ferries.
If walking is not your preferred mode of transportation, there is always a hop-off, hop-on double decker tour bus. It offers 2 hour tours of many of the sights we have listed and information regarding these tours can be found at one of the tourist kiosks at the pier or in Market Square.
I would say exploring Market Square and the surrounding area would be on the top of the list.
Although I had a satisfactory meal on my last visit, I did not find any place that I can recommend as “great”. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.
Monica J. Pileggi, On Your Own,
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