3 days in Helsinki

3 Days in Helsinki (Budget Itinerary!)

3 days in Helsinki is a good amount of time to see the fascinating Finnish capital. Helsinki is a beautiful city and there is a lot to see.

Finland isn’t the most popular tourist destination in Europe but its capital is a great place to visit and you won’t be short of things to do.

You can check out the impressive cathedral, relax in one of the many saunas in the city or take a trip to the beautiful botanic gardens.

Helsinki is a great place to go for a long weekend break in Europe, especially if you’re looking for a new and interesting place to check out.

This 3 day Helsinki itinerary will let you know the places you should visit and where to stay, during a visit to the city.

So without further ado, let’s get into it!

How to spend 3 days in Helsinki

Quick 3 Days in Helsinki itinerary
Day 1 – Walk around Helsinki, Suomenlinna
Day 2 – National Museum of Finland, Helsinki Cathedral, Botanic Gardens
Day 3 – Helsinki City Museum, Bank of Finland Museum, Market Square

My thoughts on Helsinki

how to spend 3 days in Helsinki

I didn’t know what to expect before I visited Helsinki. Finland had been somewhere I wanted to visit for a while, but I’d never got around to it.

Helsinki was a city I knew about but I didn’t know much about what was there. Well, after arriving in the city I was pleasantly surprised. 

It’s a beautiful city and although it’s not the biggest place in the world, there are a lot of things to do. It’s not on the scale of Copenhagen, or Stockholm, but it’s a charming place nonetheless.

I enjoyed walking around Helsinki and taking in the sights. The city has a lot of beautiful buildings and its location next to the sea makes it an even nicer place in my mind.

One thing to note is that Helsinki isn’t a cheap place. It will cost more for food, drink and attractions than it will in other cities. But, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful city to explore and one that has an interesting history.

If you want to visit a capital city in Europe that is underexplored and has a lot to offer, Helsinki is the place!

Some of the best things to do in Helsinki

3 days in Helsinki is enough time to see the majority of the city and enjoy it. Helsinki isn’t the biggest city, so you’ll have no difficulty seeing everything.

Something I recommend getting before you is a Helsinki Card.

The card allows you to enter several of the best attractions in Helsinki for free. Plus, you get free public transport for the duration of your stay and free sightseeing tour is included too.

Depending on how long you’re in the city, you can choose a card that will last for 24 hours, 48 hours or one that will last for 72 hours.

I recommend getting the card as it will make your time in Helsinki much easier and cheaper. It’s worth paying for the card to save money while you’re there.

Get Your Helsinki City Card Now

Below are some of the best things to see in Helsinki in 3 days that you have to do during your time in the city.

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most recognisable sights in the city and somewhere you have to check out. It’s an impressive building inside and out.

The cathedral was built from 1830 to 1852 and was a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I. The exterior of the building has statues of the 12 apostles, with many more inside.

The cathedral is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm and entrance is free. It’s worth wandering around the cathedral as there is a lot to see and found it was more interesting than other cathedrals I’ve been inside.

Even if you’re not religious, I recommend visiting the cathedral. It’s a beautiful building and the architecture will impress you no matter you’re religious disposition.

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is an island that once served as a fortress. Constructed by the Swedes as a defence against the Russians in 1748, it served as a fortress through years of Russian occupation from 1818, until Finland gained its independence in 1917.

Nowadays, it’s a park and residential area but the history of the island means it should be one of your first port of calls during your 3 days in Helsinki.

The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features six kilometres of walls, 100 cannons, tunnels and much more. You’ll also find six museums on the island and a beach too!

Suomenlinna is a big island and you could easily spend half a day exploring it all. To get there, you’ll need to take a ferry, while admission to the fort is free, you will need to pay to enter some of the museums.

National Museum of Finland

As the name suggests, this is the main museum in Finland and well worth visiting if you want to learn more about the history of the country.

One of the things I learned was that Finland is a relatively new country. It only gained its independence in 1917, which surprised me as someone who studied history at university!

The museum is a brilliant one and has lots of artefacts and exhibitions to pour-over. A good job is done to ensure that everything is properly and you can move around the museum in a logical order which isn’t always the case with most museums.

Even if you’re not a history buff like me, I’d recommend checking out the museum. You’ll learn a lot, especially as Finland doesn’t have the most well-known in history!

Helsinki itinerary – Day 1

Free walking tour

Street in Helsinki

Often the first thing I do when I get to a new city is to go for a walk. I find this is the best way to get acquainted with a city. It helps me to find my bearings and sometimes, I find a place I might not otherwise have seen.

I understand wandering around a city randomly is not to everyone’s tastes. That’s why going on a free walking tour, or paying for one, is a good idea.

The guides have excellent local knowledge and not only will they take you to some of the most interesting places in the city, you’ll learn a lot along the way too.

The Helsinki Card has a free walking tour included, and the place where you’re staying might offer one too. If not, you can book a walking tour, which will offer the same thing, but you’ll have to pay.

Book Your Tour Now

Suomenlinna

After you’ve done the walking tour, head over to the island of Suomenlinna by jumping on the ferry. As I mentioned above, this island used to be a fortress, but now it’s a suburb of the city and home to numerous museums.

A visit to the island to the island will take up the remainder of the day, as there is a lot to see. You’ll find six museums on the island, as well as the fortress and parks.

Exploring it all will take a while and as it’s such an interesting place you’d be mad to go there and rush off after an hour or two.

Take your time to explore the island. Check out the fort and go into a few of the museums to understand the history of the island, which is a fascinating one!

Helsinki itinerary – Day 2

National Museum of Finland

The first stop of the day should be the National Museum of Finland. This is the main museum in the country and a great place to visit during your time in the city.

The history of Finland is explained in great detail through a variety of artefacts and exhibitions all of which are impeccably explained.

You could spend a good hour or two walking around and taking everything. You’re sure to learn a lot about the country’s past!

The museum opens from 11 am to 6 pm. Entry is €12 for adults, €9 for students and seniors, and free for children under 18.

Helsinki Cathedral

view of Helsinki Cathedral

After you’ve visited the museum, your next stop should be the impressive Helsinki Cathedral. It’s one of the nicest cathedrals I’ve seen and distinct from those you’ll find in the rest of Europe.

The reason for this is simple. It was built in a neoclassical style which was common during the Russian occupation of Finland.

It’s worth taking a look inside because it’s as beautiful as the facade of the building. There’s a lot to see and if you’re religious it will be a fascinating building to explore.

I enjoyed standing outside the building and admiring its scale. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in real life and a building you won’t miss during your 3 days in Helsinki!

University of Helsinki Botanical Gardens

Helsinki Botanic Gardens

One of my favourite places in Helsinki was the Botanical Gardens. They aren’t located far from the cathedral and make for a great place to explore and relax late in the day.

I’m a big fan of botanical gardens, and this is one of the best that I’ve come across on my travels. The huge greenhouse in the middle of the gardens was a highlight. It’s home to more than 800 different species of plants!

This is a great place to unwind and stroll around after a busy day. There’s something about gardens that help to relax me. Maybe it’s the plants, maybe it’s all the green I can see, I’m not sure.

Given that the botanical gardens are slap bang in the centre of the city, it’d be stupid to miss them during your trip to Helsinki.

Helsinki itinerary – Day 3

Helsinki City Museum

Helsinki city museum
Laurakakkonen / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

One of the things that Helsinki has a lot of is museums. You’ll find plenty of them in the city and with so many, it can be hard to know which ones to visit.

That said, the Helsinki City Museum is one that you should take the time to check out. If you want to know more about the history of Helsinki then this is the place.

It’s an interesting museum as there is a wealth of things to see. You’ll also learn a lot about the fascinating history of Helsinki which is much more multi-faceted than you might think.

The museum is open from 11 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday and from 11 am to 5 pm Saturday to Sunday. Admission to the museum is free.

Bank of Finland Museum

Bank of Finland museum
Jouni Jurmu / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Going to a museum about a bank might seem a bit odd and a little boring, but the Bank of Finland Museum is far from boring.

In fact, it’s one of the most interesting places to visit during your 3 days in Helsinki. You’ll learn about the history of money in Finland, which is an interesting subject in itself.

Where the museum comes into its own though is in its explanation of the history of modern finance. As this is something that affects all of our lives, learning more about the topic is always a good idea!

This is a brilliant museum and one you’ll thoroughly enjoy. It’s open from 11 am to 5 pm during the week and 11 till 4 on the weekend. Admission is free.

Market Square

Market square
Frieda / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)

Market Square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki and for good reason. It’s located next to the harbour on the Eastern side of the city and is a great place to explore.

As the name suggests, the square is home to a market. When I was there I spent a good hour walking around and exploring the different stalls. You can get a variety of food from the market and pick up some souvenirs too!

It’s also a great place to go if you want to get some fresh food to cook later on or eat straight away. Another benefit of the square is that there is a sauna nearby and a big pool next to the harbour which you can swim in.

After you’ve strolled around the market, you can relax in the sauna, or go for a swim in the pool. Or you can get a coffee and admire the view out into the harbour. Whatever floats your boat!

Other places to visit in Helsinki

  • Day trip to Tallinn – A little known fact about Helsinki is that Estonia is only a 2-hour ferry ride across the Baltic Sea. This means you can spend a day in the capital, Tallinn if you wish. If you’re in Helsinki for longer than 3 days, or you want to explore the city, this is a great thing to do for the day. You could even rent a car and check out some other parts of Estonia, such as the wacky Museum of Soviet Vehicles. The ferry takes you there and back on the same day. It’ll be an early start, but Tallinn is a beautiful city, so it’s worth it! Click here to book your ticket!
  • Olympic Stadium – Another little known fact is that Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1952. If you’re a sports fan. It’s worth checking the stadium out, especially as you can go up the tower connected to the stadium to get a fantastic view of Helsinki. A stadium tour is also available if you want to know about the history of the stadium!
  • Sauna – One of the first things that people associate with Finland is a sauna. It’s synonymous with the country and Helsinki is full of saunas. If you’ve never been to a Finnish sauna, this is a great chance to try one out. 
  • Porvoo – Not far from Helsinki, you’ll find the medieval town of Porvoo. If you’re looking to escape the city for a day, this is an ideal place to visit. It’s a beautiful little town with a lot to see. It will give you a glimpse into what life in Finland used to be like. You can book a tour, or make your own way there using public transport.

Helsinki travel tips

Where to stay in Helsinki

Houses in Helsinki

The good thing about visiting Helsinki is that there is no shortage of places to stay. If you want to stay in a hostel or a hotel, you’ll find somewhere to suit your needs.

It’s important to consider cost when it comes to deciding where to stay in Helsinki. Finland is an expensive country and you will pay more to stay in the centre of the city.

If you’re on a budget, it might be a good idea to stay a bit further out of the city. You can easily reach the city centre via the metro system and the money you save could come in handy later.

I’ve included it and several hostels and hotels you should consider staying at during your trip to Helsinki in the table below.

Cost of travel in Helsinki

Like the rest of Scandinavia, Helsinki is expensive. It’s not as expensive as pending 3 days in Oslo, but you’ll pay a lot more than you would in other parts of Europe.

My advice is to budget before you go. This is important, otherwise, you could end up spending a lot more than you’d like if you’re not careful.

Decide what you want to visit before you go and set aside a budget for splurges such as a day trip to Tallinn, or a visit to the National Museum of Finland.

The following prices are for the average travel budget. That is someone who is not going to splurge, but someone who will not be travelling on an ultra-frugal budget either.

They don’t include prices for extras such as nights out at a bar/pub, club entry fees, souvenirs/clothing purchases, tours. etc. You will have to budget extra for these purchases as they are ‘non-essential!’ 

Here’s a rough breakdown of essential travel costs in Helsinki:

Bed icon

Accommodation

Hostel: Dorm – €21-27; Private – €45-80
Hotels: €64-154
Rental Apartment: €80-150+

Restaurant Icon

Food and Drink

Breakfast: €4-57
Dinner: €9-14
Takeaway meal: €6
Pint of beer: €5.50-7

 

Transport icon

Transport

City Metro / Bus: €2.50-3.20
Day ticket: €8
24-hour ticket: €16
Bus from Helsinki airport to city centre: €6.30

 

Best time to visit Helsinki

street scene in Helsinki

One of the things you may be considering before you visit Helsinki is when to visit. Considering Helsinki’s location on a map, this is a reasonable thought.

Finland gets cold during the winter months. Even though Helsinki is located at the southern end of the country, the temperatures can still plummet.

While it may not be one of the best places to visit Europe during winter, you will encounter fewer tourists and cheaper prices. Plus, the city does is beautiful under the winter lights.

That said, the temperatures are much hotter during the summer months and this means you can do more stuff. You won’t need to worry about exploring the city in the cold and rain.

Yes, it’ll be busier, but that’s a small price to pay for better weather. If I had to choose, I’d visit Helsinki during the summer or in spring and the beginning of autumn. These months will provide you with the best weather which will allow you to see more of the city and its surroundings.

How to get around Helsinki

metro in Helsinki

Helsinki isn’t the biggest city and that means getting around is much easier than in some other European cities. It’s a lot smaller than Stockholm for example, so you can see most places on foot.

If you don’t want to see the city on foot, or you want to go somewhere outside the city centre, the excellent metro system is your best bet.

Purchasing the Helsinki Card before you go, will give you free access for this duration of your trip. The metro is efficient and easy to use.

I stayed outside the city centre when I visited and getting around the city was easy. It’s one of the best metro systems I’ve come across in Europe.

Once you’re in the city centre, there’s not much use for it as everywhere is accessible by foo. My advice is to walk around as you’ll often come across places you might not otherwise see.

If you want to visit the islands surrounding Helsinki, such as Suomenlinna which is home to a fortress, you can hop on a ferry. They aren’t too expensive at €5.95 for a return and although you to see some of the more interesting sights in Helsinki.

Concluding thoughts

3 days in Helsinki is the ideal amount of time to see this fascinating Scandinavian city. It’s not the most well-visited city in Europe, but it has its attractions!

Have you been to Helsinki? Did you do any of the above things on my itinerary? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Helsinki in 3 days