One Day in Helsinki, Finland • Top Things to Do During Summer

Woman standing in front of a boat with the Helsinki cityscape in the background

Helsinki, Finland is an amazing stop on any Nordic trip, and there are so many things to do whether you have a week or just a day trip to Helsinki. Whether you want to enjoy the famous Finnish sauna culture, eat your way through the city, explore its many nature-based offerings, or something else entirely, you’ll never run out of things to do in Helsinki. The situation we find ourselves in here though is that you’ve only got one day in Helsinki, so how on EARTH are you supposed to figure out a one day itinerary when there is so much to do? Is one day in Helsinki enough? Can you experience anything in just a day? Well, that answer is yes, you definitely can see so much of the beauty that Helsinki has to offer in just 24 hours! Let me show you how.

Also, I’d like to shout out Visit Europe and the European Union for sponsoring my trip to Finland! Visit Europe has resources galore to help you plan your next European vacation, no matter where you’re going and no matter what your interests are. So definitely use their extensive library of helpful guides and tips to help you plan!

The Short Version

As a heads up, I tend to like a busy day while traveling, but I promise this day doesn’t feel overly packed with TOO much Helsinki sightseeing. You’ll do and see a lot during these 24 hours in Helsinki BUT there are relaxing bits included to help you unwind and appreciate your one day in Helsinki. So at long last, here is my quick and dirty one day Helsinki itinerary:

  • Start your day with the sauna and cold plunge at Allas Sea Pool
  • Breakfast at Café Engel
  • Free walking tour beginning at Helsinki Cathedral
  • Grab lunch at or near Market Square
  • Island hop to Suomenlinna or Vallisaari for the afternoon
  • If you can get reservations at the restaurant on Lonna, I would highly recommend that, but if not, grab dinner somewhere near Market Square or Esplanadi
  • Rooftop patio drinks at Ateljee Bar

The Long Version of One Day in Helsinki, Finland

Let’s break my one day Helsinki itinerary down even further! Firstly, I do want to point out this one day Helsinki itinerary is for summer specifically; we are aiming for good weather and longer days.

Where to Stay in Helsinki

I stayed in the Hotel Mestari and truly loved it; it was about a 10 minute walk from everywhere on this list and it was perfect. However, there are lots of Helsinki hotel options so do a little research and see what speaks to you personally!

How to Get to Helsinki

I flew into Helsinki, but if you’re coming from Estonia or Sweden for example, I would definitely recommend the ferry! I used FerryHopper to book my Tallink ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn but there are lots of ways to book! That Tallink ferry was also basically a cruise ship and SO NICE.

What to Bring With You During Your Day Trip to Helsinki

This day has a lot of varying activities, and you’ll need to bring items accordingly! Here are my personal favorite products I brought with me all day:

Official One Day Helsinki Itinerary

Sauna to Start Your Helsinki Day at Allas Sea Pool

Start your day with maybe the most traditional Finnish activity on this one day Helsinki itinerary, enjoying the sauna! The Allas Sea Pool is special because it’s right on the waterfront, so you get amazing views while you enjoying a traditional Finnish sauna. There’s a pool to swim laps in, a cold plunge, and multiple saunas for men, women, and one for all genders.

Allas Sea Pool opens at 6:30am and I would get there as early as you’re able to so you can spend as much time as possible before heading to breakfast and the free walking tour.


Breakfast at Café Engel

Café Engel is right across the street from where the free walking tour begins and is SO cute. You can get a traditional Finnish breakfast while enjoying your breakfast with a view either out front looking at the famous Senate Square or out back on the cute little terrace. 

Free Walking Tour with Green Cap Tours

This free historical walking tour of Helsinki lasts about two hours and starts at 10am. You’ll make lots of cool stops all over Helsinki and learn more about its history and this is a truly great way to get to know the city, especially when all you have is 24 hours in Helsinki. There are multiple free walking tours to choose from (as you can see here) so you can do multiple if you’d like and hit up many iconic Helsinki landmarks!

Additionally, if you’re traveling solo this is a great way to make some friends!


Where to Eat Lunch in Helsinki

Now, you’ve got a lot of food options to choose from for lunch. This might be the toughest choice you have to make during your whole day in Helsinki! When my friends ask where to eat in Finland these are the options I share and why:

Market Square

There are tons of food vendors at Helsinki’s famous Market Square and you can choose to have anything from salmon soup (which you should) to trying out reindeer to eating fresh local produce and more.

Old Market Hall

Walk just around the corner from the food vendors and you’ll find Old Market Hall, and indoor market that also dons tons of food vendors. Here is where I tried out some reindeer and it was great, but there is so much more to try than that.


Also very close to Market Square is this PHENOMENAL lunch spot called Kappeli for when you feel like taking a little bit more time for lunch. I opted for the cafeteria style vs. the sit-down and it was so amazing; I loved the vibe and the food was beyond stellar. I also had the best chai latte of my life here.


Island Hopping for the Afternoon

A perfect addition to any Helsinki one day itinerary is spending the afternoon island-hopping! Did you know that the archipelago of Helsinki has over 300 islands? That means you definitely have island options to choose from. And one of the best part is they’re easily accessible via ferry. Here are the islands I would personally choose for your Helsinki day trip and why:

  • This is also known as the Sea Fortress and it’s definitely an ace for the history buff
  • In addition to the amazing history, there are also great swimming beaches and lots of cute little shops and restaurants
  • For the nature lover
  • Full of beautiful hiking trails and cute wine spots and cafes, as well as a few spots showing off the island’s history as well

Dinner Options in Helsinki

Remember how good your lunch was? Well, it’s time for dinner now. There are obviously so many restaurants to choose from to add to your one day Helsinki itinerary, but here are my recommendations that are going to be nearby once you get back from island-hopping:

  • The restaurant on Lonna
    • If you are planning to go to Suomenlinna, then definitely try get a reservation at Ravintola Lonna, as this island is on the way back
  • If Market Square and/or Old Market Hall are still open and you didn’t have them for lunch, definitely consider trying one of those spots
  • If you didn’t have Kapelli for lunch, I would definitely consider coming here for dinner
  • Other options I didn’t personally have but were recommended by one of my local guides:

Rooftop Drinks at Ateljee Bar

Your 24 hours in Helsinki has almost ended, and maybe JUST MAYBE I’ve saved the best for last. For one of the best views of Helsinki, you’ll definitely want to get to go to the rooftop patio at Ateljee Bar. I had a phenomenal cocktail with amazing views and I believe this is truly a great way to end one day in Helsinki!

Map for One Day in Helsinki

I’ve put together a Google Map with all the places on this one day Helsinki itinerary so that you can easily find these spots during your Helsinki day trip.


So there you have it, a jam-packed but not-too-much Helsinki day trip that gets you amazing food, gorgeous nature, history, and more! If you have any questions about this one day itinerary for Helsinki, please don’t hesitate to reach out. And don’t forget to check out all of the resources Visit Europe provides on their website as well. And in the meantime, make sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more travel tips and inspiration. Happy planning!

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