You could spend weeks in Helsinki and never see it all. From the Market Square and the Esplanade Park to the Linnamäki amusement park and the Winter Garden, there’s only so much you can do on one trip. And you don’t want to rush through it all, considering that there are tons of stunning monuments, natural areas, and pieces of architecture ranging from the Swedish era to the Russian period to Finland’s autonomous rule today that you’ll want to spend time admiring.
But sometimes you just want a chance to escape city life on your vacation. Luckily, Helsinki is in a prime location with nearby nature preserves, stunning islands, historic cities, and beachside retreats.
Looking to escape the city on a day trip from Helsinki? We’ve compiled a list of the best Helsinki day trips, from historic former capitals to natural wonderlands. Stick with this list, and you’re bound to have an amazing time exploring all of the incredible places around Helsinki.
One note before we begin: Although St. Petersburg, Russia, is frequently listed as a top Helsinki day trip, we are leaving it off this list as there are many travel advisories against traveling to Russia under today’s current climate. Should you choose to take a day trip to St. Petersburg, please exercise caution.
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The 15 Best Helsinki Day Trips
1. Go Back in Time in Porvoo, Finland
Porvoo, the second-oldest city in Finland, is a charming, historic town that offers one of the best day trips from Helsinki. Just about an hour away from Helsinki by car or bus, Porvoo is best known for its quaint Old Town, with its historic buildings and cobblestone streets. Filled with art galleries, museums, restaurants, boutiques, and bakeries, you can easily make a day out of walking around Old Town.
Some highlights of Porvoo include the Porvoo Cathedral, which is miraculously still standing after five attempts to destroy it between 1508 and 2006. Guided tours are available, and it still holds services on Sundays.
You can also stop by the home of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, the national poet of Finland, as well as pick up a famous treat named for him at many of the cafes around Porvoo, the Runeberg torte, made with almond flour, arrack, raspberry jam, and icing.
For even more treats, visit the Brunberg shop in Old Town, which offers chocolates and other sweets made at the local factory. Before you go, be sure to head to the riverfront to snap a pic of the famous red houses.
2. Go Island Hopping in Pellinki, Finland
Considered a part of Porvoo, Pellinki, also referred to as Pellinge, consists of several small islands and is one of the best Helsinki day trips if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature. Although there’s a permanent settlement here that dates all the way back to the 1500s, Pellinki is best known as a popular summer destination.
Explore the Summer Market to find traditional Finnish foods, fresh produce, handmade local goods, fresh flowers, and sweet treats galore. Or enjoy the music of the Pellinge Music Festival in August.
For those who want to get out and explore the natural beauty of Pellinki, guided hiking tours are available. Or you can have some fun with the Island Riddles. Inspired by the Moomin characters created by Tove Jansson, you’ll go on an adventure around the forest and beaches that Jansson once walked along.
As you start your journey, you’ll get a book with 14 puzzles, which you’ll solve as you head out on the path in the forest. It’s a great way to see Pellinki while also entertaining kids and kids at heart.
3. Visit Finland’s Former Capital City – Turku
Although Helsinki is the current capital of Finland, it wasn’t always. Helsinki became the capital during Russian rule, as the former capital was deemed too close to Sweden, Finland’s previous ruler, and not close enough to Russia. During the Swedish era, the capital was Turku, about two hours from Helsinki by car.
Turku is the oldest city in Finland, founded all the way back in the 13th century. As you enter the Old Town area, you’ll find buildings dating back hundreds of years, brought to life with frequent street markets and many cafes and restaurants. As you stroll only the riverbank, you’ll find many vendors lining the waterway, offering handmade wares and traditional Finnish treats.
On the mainland, Turku Castle is a must-do. It’s the largest surviving medieval building in Finland and offers a look through the history of Swedish rule in Finland.
For some scenic views, you can take a few free transportation options, like the little orange ferry called Föri, which offers a ride from the east to the west sides of the city. Or take the funicular, a free cable car that takes you to the top of Kakolanmäki.
Turku is also the gateway to the archipelago trail, connecting a chain of islands. Although you can’t do the full course in one day, it’s worth exploring the islands during your Helsinki day trip, as you’ll spot historic villages, beautiful parks, and can’t-miss landmarks.
4. Take a Ferry to Naantali, Finland
If there’s one island you need to visit outside Turku, it’s Naantali, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. You can either opt to take a ferry from Turku or simply hop on the bus or drive. Getting to Naantali from Turku is generally quicker by land, but the ferry offers some lovely views of the surrounding islands.
Enjoy the crystal clear waters by the beaches, shop and dine your way around the waterfront restaurants and boutiques, or study the culture and history of the area at the island’s many museums and landmarks.
If you have little ones, be sure to stop by Moomin World, just outside of the city. Throughout Finland, you’ll find the famous Moomin characters are quite beloved. Moomin World is an adorably themed park where your little ones get to hang out with the characters and go on adventures with them.
5. Explore the Suomenlinna Fortress in Suomenlinna, Finland
Suomenlinna is one of the most popular day trips from Helsinki, and it’s located just a ferry ride away. Just hop on the HSL ferry to get to this stunning island fortress. If you already have a pass for the HSL transit, you already have your ticket to get to Suomenlinna.
Created during the Swedish rule of Finland, it would continue on to be a military base under Russian control as well. With Finland’s independence in 1917, Suomenlinna continued as a fortress for the Finnish military. But it was turned over for civilian use in the 1970s and went on to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Today, it’s home to nearly 800 residents and one of the biggest attractions in the Helsinki area. Explore the six museums throughout the island, two of which are open all year round. Or enjoy a scenic stroll around the remains of the fortress, including hidden tunnels and towering walls offering incredible views.
Suomenlinna also has a number of beaches you’ll love to relax on during the summer months, as well as several upscale restaurants and cafes.
6. Go Museum Hopping in Espoo, Finland
In under half an hour by train, bus, or car, you can get to the idyllic getaway that is Espoo. Despite being a bustling city with five local centers, Espoo is filled with natural beauty, from lakes and forests to long shorelines and islands.
In the WeeGee Exhibition Centre, you’ll find you can easily spend a day exploring its many museums, shops, and cafes. The exhibition center is home to five museums, including the biggest art museum in Finland, Finland’s only horology museum, and a toy museum. But you’ll find plenty more historic sites outside of the exhibition center as well, including the Villa Elfvik Nature House in the Laajalahti Nature Reserve.
For families with little ones, they’ll love visiting the oldest children’s theater in Finland, as well as the more recently designed Serena Water Amusement Park, which is the largest constant warm water park in the Nordic countries and also includes a ski resort.
7. Go Kayaking, Hiking, and Wildlife Watching in Nuuksio National Park, Finland
If you’re looking to escape city life altogether, Nuuksio National Park is one of the best day trips from Helsinki. Located north of Espoo, Nuuksio National Park is filled with forested hills and over 80 small lakes and ponds.
As you follow the marked trails, which feature several vista points with incredible views, keep your eyes peeled for the many animals that call this park home, including the elusive Siberian flying squirrel, Nuuksio’s famous symbol.
In addition to hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing are also available for visitors. Book yourself a guided kayak tour to get the most out of visiting this stunning landscape. Green Window offers all types of excursions within Nuuksio, from guided canoeing to a forest cooking school to berry and mushroom hunting.
For an even more unique experience, you can join Nuuksion Taika on one of their Magic of Finland programs. On the Magic of the Woods walking tour, you’ll learn about the wilderness while hearing stories from Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, and enjoy Finnish myths, like how the brown bear became the king of the woods.
8. Check Out the Medieval Buildings in Tallinn, Estonia
The ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn is just two hours, offering you plenty of scenic views before you get to see the beauty of this historic city. Tallinn may be Estonia’s capital city, but it’s likely unlike many cities you’ve seen, particularly in the city’s charming Old Town. In place of skyscrapers, there are medieval buildings that look like they popped right out of a fairytale.
In the Old Town, you’ll find towers dating back to the Middle Ages, St. Olaf’s Church, and the oldest continually operating apothecary in Europe. It’s truly a place to travel back in time. You’ll find that no matter where you travel in Tallinn, you’ll be transported to another time and place, from the Baroque palace of Kadriorg, built by Peter the Great for his wife, to the Lasnamäe region, with its Soviet-style residential buildings.
Tallinn is also the recipient of the European Green Capital Award for 2023, as it takes great pride in protecting its green spaces. There are many parks and protected wildlife areas to explore throughout Tallinn, with one of the best well-known being Kadriorg’s park and Japanese garden.
9. Sweat it Out in the ‘Sauna Capital of the World’ – Tampere, Finland
Finns love their saunas, so perhaps that’s why so many flock to Tampere, the sauna capital of the world. In a little under two hours from Helsinki by train or car, you can go to Tampere to experience the sauna culture on one of the best Helsinki day trips. But while the more than 50 public saunas are one of the reasons why this vacation destination is a top choice for Finns, there’s also plenty to do outside of these famous buildings.
Located in the Lakeland region, Tampere is set between two great lakes. Between its historic red-brick buildings and its scenic shores, you’ll want to be snapping pictures everywhere you go in Tampere. The city’s landmark establishments have been transformed, keeping the classic architecture but trading what’s inside for fine dining, handcrafted goods, museums, and even arthouse cinemas.
Tampere Market Hall is the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries. You’ll want to spend the whole afternoon sampling pastries, cheese, fish, and much more. And if you’re visiting with little ones, the Särkänniemi amusement park is perfect for thrill-seekers, while the park’s Doghill Fairytale Farm is great for the young and young at heart who want to meet Finnish farm animals.
10. Check Out the Flora and Fauna on the Island of Vallisaari, Finland
Located just a 20-minute ferry ride from Helsinki is Vallisaari Island, one of the top Helsinki day trips. Previously used by the Finnish Defense Forces, the island was abandoned in 2008, leaving the diverse flora and fauna to take it over. In 2016, it opened to the public for tourism.
Vallisari was previously used during the Swedish reign, but they did not build fortresses on it as they did Suomenlinna. During Russian rule, however, the island was more utilized for military purposes. When at last it was under Finnish jurisdiction, it served the Finnish Defense Forces, but it also became home to a small residential area where the residents lived a fairly rural life.
Unlike Suomenlinna, which still has residents today, the last of those who lived on Vallisaari left in 1996. Today, it’s a place to step through history and nature. Visitors are asked to coexist with the animals and plants who call this island home, as many species are threatened or rare. As you traverse the designated paths, keep aware of your surroundings, and you just might spot some creatures you’ve never seen before.
11. Take the Family to Hämeenlinna, Finland
About an hour from Helsinki by bus, train, or car is Hämeenlinna, the oldest inland city in Finland. As a cultural hub, you’ll find plenty of history here, as well as many venues to see live performances.
It’s also a highly kid-friendly place to visit, as you’ll find many attractions that cater to little ones, like the Royal Puppet Theater and the Hämeelinnan Miniteatteri. Hämeelinna pledged to offer cultural experiences and art for every child in the city every Saturday of the school year, making it the first city in Finland to be recognized by UNICEF as a child-friendly municipality.
Even the famous Häme Castle offers children-focused tours. This historical castle takes you back to the Middle Ages. You can explore the castle, its many artifacts, and several art and history exhibitions inside and around it.
12. Get Out on the Water in Lahti, Finland
Located just about an hour away from Helsinki by bus, train, or car, Lahti is a lakeside city that’s part of the Lakeland region. Lakeland is where many Finns come to connect with nature, and Lahti is a perfect spot to do so, which is why it makes for one of the most popular Helsinki day trips. Near Lahti, you’ll find tons of nature trails, as well as opportunities to get out on the water, especially in nearby Päijänne National Park.
If you’re a skier, you’ll love the Lahti Sports Center, which is open all year round. From June to August, the large ski jump hill is open to the public every day, but if you’re more of a swimmer, you can take a dip in the outdoor pool at the foot of the hill.
You can also see how Lahti embraces the fusion of art and nature at the Water Organ and Lanu Sculpture Park. The Water Organ is a musical fountain that plays a daily show throughout the summer at 6 pm. Over in Lanu Sculpture Park, you’ll find various pieces of art that connect to the natural beauty around them.
13. Marvel at the Talvia Giant’s Kettles in Lohja, Finland
Less than an hour from Helsinki by bus or car is Lohja, a lakeside city that allows you to connect with nature. On the Lohja lakes, you can take a dip at one of several beaches, try your hand at fishing, or rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards.
For those looking to enjoy nature but not get wet, there are many nature trails available to take, which will allow you to see beloved landmarks like the Talvia Giant’s kettles – these potholes were formed during the Ice Age, and legend says giants made them.
For more nature, you’ll find a handful of gardens to explore, as well as an apple winery. You’ll also discover many museums, cafes, and art galleries throughout the region.
14. Go Fishing or Whitewater Rafting in Kotka, Finland
Two hours by bus or one-and-a-half hours by car away from Helsinki is Kotka, a picturesque waterside town. When you visit here, expect to get wet. Or at least spend a lot of the day by the water. The Kymijoki River flows through the town and is known for having the best salmon fishing in southern Finland.
But even if you’re not into fishing, there’s plenty to enjoy about this waterfront oasis. The river is home to many rapids, so any adventurers in your group will definitely want to rent a kayak to head through them. Those who want a more relaxing time will enjoy taking a cruise around the archipelago.
Kotka is also home to several museums, the most notable of which is the Maritime Museum of Finland. With Kotka’s rich seafaring history, it only makes sense for the museum to call this city home. You can also learn about the history of wooden boat construction at the Finnish Wooden Boat Centre.
15. Take a Hike in Sipoonkorpi National Park, Finland
Though it was only established in 2011, Sipoonkorpi National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Finland. Under an hour away by car or slightly over an hour by bus from Helsinki, Sipoonkorpi offers a chance to escape city life on one of the most unique day trips from Helsinki.
There are several nature trails to enjoy here, which will allow you to see the local flora and fauna while you climb to take in magnificent views. In the winter, you can enjoy both cross-country skiing and freestyle skiing. Meanwhile, in the summer, the national park is a perfect place to hunt for berries and mushrooms.
Other activities include fishing, biking, and horseback riding. For those who want to relax after a day of adventuring around the park, both traditional smoke saunas and more modern electric saunas are available at Kuusijärvi, where you can also enjoy going for a swim.
There you have it! The 15 best day trips from Helsinki. What are your favorite Helsinki day trips? Let us know in the comments!
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