Central Helsinki

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Central Helsinki consists of the central parts of Helsinki east of Mannerheimintie, south of Pitkäsilta and north of Esplanadi; in short the commercial downtown plus Kruunuhaka and Katajanokka.

This is undoubtedly the liveliest part of Helsinki and much of what a visitor would like to see and experience is located in central Helsinki or in its immediate vicinity. The cathedral, the city's symbol is located here, surrounded by the 19th century city centre. Further west is Aleksanterinkatu, which together with its side streets make up Helsinki's main shopping area with small shops and department stores. The area also offers plenty of alternatives for eating and drinking.

Get in[edit]

Getting in is easy as almost all local bus and rail lines end in or at least pass through the city centre. Moreover the central railway station, bus station and most major passenger ports are located in or very close to the area.

If arriving by plane, you can get to the central railway station by the I or P trains going on the new Ring Rail Line, alternatively you can take bus 615 or a taxi.

Get around[edit]


Pohjoisranta waterfront with Helsinki Cathedral is probably the most iconic view of Helsinki

The 19th century centre[edit]

The buildings south and north of the Lutheran cathedral were mostly designed by Carl Ludwig Engel and built in the early 19th century as a new unified city centre when Helsinki was made capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland. If you have come to look at the cathedral, why not walk around in the area and take a few photos? Buildings include the   Presidential Palace, the   City Hall and the   Swedish Embassy on the waterfront, the   Senate, the   Sederholm House and the   main building of Helsinki University around the Senate square and the   Bank of Finland,   House of the Estates and the   House of Nobility (Ritarihuone) "behind" the Senate square.


Esplanadinpuisto or just "Espa" is probably the best known park in Helsinki
  •   Esplanadi Park (Esplanadinpuisto). Located between Market Square (Kauppatori) and the two Esplanadi boulevards, this small but stately park has a commanding position at the heart of the city. In the summer time it is full of people sitting on the lawn, meeting their friends and quite often also having a drink or two. In the summer there are often free concerts given by local artists on the stage close to Kauppatori, facing restaurant Kappeli. If you're walking around with an ice cream or sandwich, do watch out for the aggressive birds.
  •   Kaisaniemi Park (Kaisaniemen puisto). In Kaisaniemi, northeast of the Central railway station. It has a bad reputation of a place where you might get assaulted, however in the daytime it's not more dangerous than any other place in Helsinki. The park has facilities for playing football (soccer) and tennis and is home to some events in the summer, most notably the morning of first of May and the festival "Maailma kylässä" in late May. It also holds Helsinki University's Botanical Garden (entrance from Unioninkatu on the eastern side).


Uspenski Cathedral
  •   Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko), Aleksanterinkatu. 09:00-18:00. The unofficial symbol of the city, this striking white cathedral dominates the central Senate Square. Based on designs by Carl Ludvig Engel and completed in 1852, the cathedral has recently been refurbished and looks better than ever, with the 12 apostles on the roof once again looking down at the world below. Free.
  •   Uspenski Cathedral (Uspenskin katedraali), Kanavakatu 1 +358 9 634267. Tu-F 09:30-16:00, Sa 09:30-14:00, Su 12:00-15:00. May-Sep M,W,Sa 09:30-16:00, Tu 09:30-18:00, Su 12:00-15:00. A classical onion-domed Russian church prominently located near the Market Square, Uspenski Cathedral serves Finland's small Orthodox minority and is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. The name comes from the Russian uspenie, from the Dormition (death) of the Virgin Mary. The five domes are topped with 22-carat gold, and some of the icons within are held to be miraculous. Free.


  •   Helsinki City MuseumSofiankatu 4 +358 9 3103 6630. The museum actually covers a whole series of old buildings around Helsinki, but the centrepiece is the (short) street of Sofiankatu itself, carefully restored as a replica of the 1930s. Free.
  •   Military MuseumMaurinkatu 1 (Trams 7A and 7B). Tu-Th 11AM–5PM, F–Su 11AM–4PM. Closed Mondays.. Founded in 1929, the central museum of the Finnish Defence Forces. €4.
  •   Bank of Finland MuseumSnellmaninkatu 2 (next to the cathedral). Tu-F 11:00-17:00, Sa-Su 11:00-16:00. A museum about money and banking, as the name reveals. free.

Art galleries[edit]

  •   Ateneum Art MuseumKaivokatu 2 +358 9 1733 61, +358 9 1733 6228 (for tickets). Open Tu-F 9AM-6PM, W-Th 9AM-8PM, Sa-Su 11AM-5PM. Closed Mon.. Ateneum can be considered the most nationally significant art museum, and it has the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland. Particularly notable is the collection of works by major Finnish artists. Works include renowned interpretations of the national epic Kalevala. Adults €6, under 18 free, special prices may apply during major exhibitions. First Wednesday of the month 5PM-8PM free admission..
  •   Kiasma Museum of Contemporary ArtMannerheiminaukio 2 +358 9 1733 6501. Tu 10AM-5PM, W-Su 10AM-8:30PM. Closed Mondays.. The sometimes unusual collections mostly include works by contemporary Finnish artists and artists from nearby countries. There are also periodical exhibitions. The building itself is arguably a work of art. €7 for adults, €5 for undergraduate students, senior citizens, visual artists, and groups with at least 7 people. Free admission for visitors under 18. First Wed of the month is free from 5PM-8PM.


From the   restaurant on the top floor of the Sokos department store and the   bar on the top floor of Hotel Torni you have a quite nice view of the city. They aren't of course as high as the Empire State Building or even the Olympic Stadium Tower but entrance to both are free.

  •   Kämp SpaKluuvikatu 4 B, (Kämp Gallery 8th floor) +358 9 5761 1330, e-mail: . Mon–Fri 9AM - 8PM, Sat 9AM - 8PM, Sun 9AM - 1PM and 4PM - 8PM (gym and sauna area). Kämp Spa is located in the heart of Helsinki. In addition to the spa treatments, the Spa counts with a gym and 3 different saunas.
  •   Casino HelsinkiMikonkatu 19 +358 9 680 800, e-mail: . 12 PM - 04 AM. Finland's only gambling casino. Located right next to the railway station. The only gambling casino in the world to donate 100% of its profits to charity. 2600 square metres of floor space on two floors. About 300 slot machines and 20 gaming tables and several bars. Also includes a luxurious Show & Dinner restaurant, with prices ranging from 70 € to 90 € per person.


Performances are mostly either in Finnish or Swedish.

  •   Outdoor Icepark skating in winterRailway Station Square (in the center of Helsinki). A pair of skates can be rented for an additional fee. The connected Café offers the opportunity of defrosting with a cup of hot glögi. There are also dozens of other places to go skating in Helsinki, including natural and indoor skating rinks. Their list is available at the city's website.


Department stores and shopping malls[edit]

Shopping in Stockmann

Helsinki's main shopping drag is Aleksanterinkatu (Aleksi), which runs from Senate Square to Mannerheimintie. On Aleksi you can find plenty of shops and the largest department store in Scandinavia, Stockmann, which is definitely worth a visit. The parallel Esplanadi boulevards have specialist and generally very expensive boutiques. Access to the area is easy, as trams 2, 4/4T and 7A/7B all run down Aleksanterinkatu, and the area is just a stone's throw from the Central Railway Station and Kaisaniemi metro stations. Close by, in the Kamppi area, you can find the shopping centres Kamppi and Forum and the department store Sokos. Large shopping malls can be found in the suburbs and accessed by public transport from the Central Railway Station.

  •   Academic Bookstore (Akateeminen Kirjakauppa), Keskuskatu (opposite Stockmann) (Tram: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10.). The largest bookstore in Northern Europe, with extensive selections in English too. An underground passage connects the bookstore to Stockmann. If for no other reason the bookstore's architecture (Alvar Aalto) and pleasant second floor cafeteria (one of the few with to-table service in Helsinki) might be enough reason to visit.
  •   StockmannCorner of Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie (Tram: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10.). Northern Europe's largest department store. The flagship of Finland's premier department store chain. When Helsinkians meet "under the clock" (kellon alla), they mean the one rotating under the main entrance to Stockmann. Large selection of souvenirs and Finnish goods, and the Herkku supermarket in the basement offers an amazing range of gourmet food from all over Europe. There are also smaller branches of Stockmann at the malls of Itäkeskus, Jumbo, Tapiola and the airport.
  •   Galleria Esplanadbetween Mikonkatu and Kluuvikatu (Tram: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9. Metro: Kaisaniemi). Upscale shopping mall, with local brands like Marimekko, Aarikka and Iittala.
  •   KluuviAleksanterinkatu (Tram: 2, 4, 7. Metro: Kaisaniemi.). Re-opened after extensive renovations in Autumn 2011, the Kluuvi shopping centre features a range of international and domestic brands. Perhaps the most interesting concept is the Eat & Joy Markethall selling organic and local food in the basement. Grind your own flour and fill your bottles with crude milk but be prepared for steep prices.
  •   Sokos (Tram: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, Metro: Central Railway Station.). A large department store conveniently located right next to the railway station.


  •   Iittala ShopPohjoisesplanadi 25. Open M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. An airy concept store for the Iittala brand of Finnish glassware, pans, kitchen utensils and more. Personal service by the friendly staff.
  •   MarimekkoPohjoisesplanadi 33 +358 9 686 0240. Innovative and unique Finnish interior design, bags, and fabrics. This is the flagship store, but items can also be found at the Kämp Gallery, Kamppi Centre, Hakaniemi Market Hall, or their factory shop (Kirvesmiehenkatu 7, tel. +358 9 758 7244).


The Market square with the Havis Amanda statue in the front of it
  •   Market Square (Kauppatori). At the end of Esplanadi facing the sea, this open-air market sells fresh fish and produce from all over Finland. Open year round. It's busiest in summer, although the Christmas Market in December is also worth a look. One section of the market is devoted to souvenirs, but best buys here are the fresh berries and other produce. In summer, try the sweet green peas (herne). Just pop open the pod and eat as is.
  •   Old Market Hall (Vanha kauppahalli). Right next to Market Square, this old brick building houses Finland's best collection of gourmet food boutiques. Try to find the stall which sells beaver sausage!
  •   Eat&Joy Farmers MarketAleksanterinkatu 7-9. In the heart of Helsinki at Kluuvi shopping center, another one at Helsinki Airport. The markets are open seven days a week and have delicacies from more than 500 small producers across Finland: wild reindeer (poro), salmon, artisan cheeses, berry jams, fish roe, hand-crafted beer and cider, mushrooms, rye bread, smoked specialities, kyyttö forest cow, artisan chocolates and much more – all direct from the producers.




  •   Chilli (Keskuskatu 6). Cheap kebab, shawarma, and falafel. Large portions, though be warned that this isn't your traditional Middle Eastern fare. Pitas come with something akin to spaghetti sauce inside. Filling choice, especially on a budget.
  •   La FamigliaKeskuskatu 3 +358 9 85685680. 11AM-midnight daily. Unpretentious Italian food even for under €10, although the most of the items on the menu should be listed under the Mid-price section. The weekday lunch buffet of soup, salad and two kinds of pasta (€7–10) is still a particularly good value.
  •   Golden RaxForum second floor (Mannerheimintie 20) and Mikonkatu 8. Cheap and greasy, all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Includes soggy pasta, wilted salad, and soft drinks. €9.95 per person (€8.95 11AM–2PM on weekdays), €1.95 extra if you want ice-cream.
  •   Happiness Thai BuffetKaisaniemi Metro station. Open M–F 11AM–8PM, Sa Su noon–7PM.. Decent Thai food with vegetarian options in an all-you-can-eat buffet, single dishes also available. Do yourself a favour though, and pass on the coffee. Buffet €7.90, single servings €7..
  •   Pasta La VistaMikonkatu 8 (Ateneum). Menu changes often, vegetarian options also available. Pick a pasta, a filling and a sauce, for €7.70–8.70..
  • SodexoMultiple places +358 41 783 9069. M-F 8:00-15:00, Lunch: 10:30–13:30. Around €9.6 for lunch..
A "splizza" at restaurant Splizzeria.
  •   SplizzeriaKaivokatu 10 +358 400 802 149, e-mail: . 11AM–11PM. A fast-food pizzeria with a unique idea: the dishes available are "splizzas", of which half consists of one variety of pizza and half of another. You can order from a list of 10 different combinations. No table service, you fetch the splizzas from the cashier desk yourself. Getting your order ready usually only takes about five minutes. Prices around 10 €.
  •   Unicafe YlioppilasaukioMannerheimintie 3 B. Open M–F 11AM-7PM, Sa 11AM–5PM. The biggest and most centrally located student restaurant and cafeteria is only a two-minute walk away from the main railway station. The standard lunch price (including drink, bread and salad buffet) is €8, there is also a "light" option (soup and salad) for €7 and "special" course for €9,50. Discounts apply if you happen to own a Finnish student card.
  •   Wrong Noodle BarYliopistonkatu 5. M–F 10AM–9PM. Sa noon–9PM, S 1PM–7PM. Asian-European fast food concept. €7–10 per meal.



  •   KappeliEteläesplanadi 1. Traditional Finnish dishes - reindeer, fish, etc. Some of the prices are on the high end of mid-range, but you should get polite service and well-prepared food with a lovely presentation. Cozy, relaxed, relatively quiet atmosphere (although the restaurant is apparently well-known and therefore might be more crowded during late evenings & tourist season). The roasted lamb with garlic potatoes is a good choice, as is their take on Finnish-style blueberry pie. They also offer a cheaper self-service café on the left side of the restaurant, along with a bar (opened in 1867) in the middle of the building. Main lunch dishes €14-18, main dinner dishes about €15-36..
  •   ZetorKaivopiha, Mannerheimintie 3–5 +358 9 666 966. Tourist restaurant with lots of character and great quality Finnish food. Plenty of old tractors and Finnish memorabilia. Main meals €10–20..


Ravintola Kaisaniemi, perhaps the outside doesn't have that much charm during rain...

Central Helsinki is dominated by restaurants dedicated to international cuisine, and these are particularly useful for vegetarian visitors, Finnish food being largely meat-based. A particular touch is provided by a bunch of "Nepalese" restaurants, which actually serve generic north Indian food, but almost any of which you are guaranteed to leave happy and full. Localized Chinese and Italian cuisines are also well represented.

  •   BelgeKluuvikatu 5 (Kauppakeskus Kluuvi) +358 9 6229620. A reasonable selection of Belgian beers, a nice range of bistro fare, and a good location for people watching. The dining room upstairs is non-smoking. Main dishes €12–17.
  •   EverestLuotsikatu 12 A +358 9 6942563. A well-known "Nepalese" (north Indian) restaurant. Main dishes €10-20..
  •   Ravintola KaisaniemiKaisaniementie 6 +358 9 632 223. 11 AM to 4 PM, open longer on event nights. The oldest still operating restaurant in Helsinki, if not in all Finland, dating back to 1827. There is no public transport stopping nearby, but it's a short walk away from the central railway station or a bit longer walk away from Taka-Töölö around the pictoresque Bay of Töölö. Serves Finnish and international cuisine, a bit pricey though. A very spacious terrace, only open in summertime. Try the hamburger, it's probably the best in Helsinki. The restaurant is normally only open for lunch, but it often holds event nights and private parties on weekends. It is located right next to the railway leading northwards from Helsinki, making it a bit noisy, but you can't blame it - the restaurant was there first.
  •   Korea HouseMariankatu 19 (Tram 1, 1A, 7A,7B),  +358 9 135 7158. Mon–Fri 11AM-11PM, Sat non–11PM. The only Korean restaurant in Helsinki. A cozy place with friendly staff and even frequented by Korean travellers! You can try all sorts of delicious Korean food here. Superb value for the price at lunchtime (11AM–2PM) when dishes cost about half of what they otherwise do. Mains around 20€, lunch around 10€.
  •   Meze PointMikonkatu 8 +358 9 6222 625. Mediterranean meze plates, several vegetarian dishes. Excellent vegetarian moussaka. Main dishes €15–20.
  •   ZinnkellerMeritullinkatu 25 +358 9 135 4148, e-mail: . 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. An authentic German restaurant in the middle of Helsinki, owned by a German immigrant family. Claims to be "the only German restaurant in Finland". Spacious with German-style decor. The menu is full of traditional German food with copious amounts of steaks, sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut. A wide variety of German beers and wines available. The staff are fluent in Finnish, German and English. Main courses €12–22..


Elielinaukio (Eliel square) during the night
  •   FishMarketPohjoisesplanadi 17 +358 9 6128 5250, e-mail: . M-F 11:30-23, Sa 17-23. High quality seafood restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. Although on the expensive side, you can eat lunch there at more moderate prices. FishMarket is located in the corner of the Kauppatori market place, easy to reach by Trams 1 and 1A.
  •   BellevueRahapajankatu 3 +358 9 179560. The oldest Russian restaurant in Helsinki was founded by emigrants from the Rodina in the turbulent year of 1917. Fitting location in the shadow of the Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral and a professional kitchen dishing out Russian traditional favourites with a French twist.
  •   KasakkaMeritullinkatu 13 +358 9 135 6288. Less well-known thanks to its location slightly out of the way and on top of a steep hill to boot, this restaurant must be doing something right to have stayed in business since 1969. Mains €20-30, set menus €38–55..
  •   WellamoVyökatu 9 +358 9 663139. Not strictly Russian, but a longtime favorite of both bohemians and the Orthodox community from nearby Uspensky Cathedral. Apart from the wonderful Russian dishes, lighter Mediterranean fare is also available.
  •   SassoPohjoisesplanadi 17 +358 9 1345 6240, e-mail: . Mon–Fri 11–23 Sat-Sun 13–23. Classic Italian fine dining restaurant with one of the largest Italian wine cellars in Helsinki. Menus (three to six courses) €50–80.
  •   VltavaElielinaukio 2 +358 10 76 63650, e-mail: . 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. The best Czech restaurant in Helsinki. Located very centrally right next door from the central railway station. Very difficult to miss as it takes up the entire building. Several floors on the premises, the ground floor consisting of a bar, the upper ones of a restaurant. Several Czech beers on tap, and the menu is based on Czech cuisine with copious amounts of sausages and sauerkraut. Main courses €20–32..



The Esplanade offers some nice upscale cafés
  •   Cafe EngelAleksanterinkatu 26 (opposite the Lutheran cathedral). Where the locals go for tea and snacks. Very relaxed, lovely courtyard out the back with films projected late into summer evenings.
  •   Café KafkaPohjoisesplanadi 2 (Swedish Theatre). A lovely building with a relaxed atmosphere. Here you can find one of the best espressos in town.
  •   Espresso EdgeLiisankatu 29. A cozy bohemian café with a South American vibe, popular among the artsy types of the Kruununhaka neighbourhood, and Faculty of Social Science students from across the street.
  •   FazerKluuvikatu 3. Famous for its decor, architecture, ice-creams, pastries and coffees, this 110-year old café, run by Finland's largest chocolate maker, has been an institution since its birth. There's also the Fazer Bakery shop next to the café. If you are visiting, pay attention to the round room topped with a dome. People say that if you tell secrets here, the other customers will hear them across the room due to the acoustics of the dome.
  •   StrindbergPohjoisesplanadi 33. One of the oldest and most historic cafés of Helsinki. Great terrace on the posh Pohjoisesplanadi with views of the Esplanadi park, restaurant on the 2nd floor. Very popular among locals.

Bars and pubs[edit]

  •   Butterfly (previously Baarikärpänen) (Located in Mikonkatu, right next to the Central Railway Station.). Offers R & B and Top 40 hits in a nice lounge-type bar with big comfortable sofas and a dance floor. Reasonably cheap.
  •   Molly Malone'sKaisaniemenkatu 1. An Irish pub/nightclub near the Central Railway Station. Popular among Finns and tourists alike. Live music every night. If you happen to be in Helsinki at St.Patrick's day (March 17th) this is definitely where you should go.
  •   On The RocksMikonkatu 15 (near Central Railway Station). Located next to Baarikärpänen and Texas, this is a rock-oriented bar with occasional live bands and stand up comedy acts. Minimum age 23.
  •   Sports AcademyKaivokatu 8 +358 10 76 64300. 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. One of the best sports bars in Helsinki, and definitely the place for you if you are keen about football (soccer) or ice-hockey. A two-story building just opposite the railway station, filled to the rim with TV sets and several giant projectors. Both stories are furnished with sports memorabilia and have live TV coverage of major sports events both in Finland and abroad. A variety of pub food also served, though the menu is very meat-oriented, with little vegetarian options. Patrons have recommended the Classic Burger, the crayfish pasta, the ribs or for light dining, the hot wings, but be warned - the hottest sauces available are absolutely scorching hot. There can be long queues before popular events - get in early! Main courses 13 € - 32 €..
  •   Vanha ylioppilastalo ((usually just Vanha)), Mannerheimintie 3. A bar/café just opposite Stockmann, owned by University of Helsinki's filthy rich students' union. Not very special in the winter, but the rooftop patio in the summer is nice. In the evenings, the club attracts a slightly-over-18 audience.


  •   NamuKaivokatu 6 +358 600 418730, e-mail: . 22:00-04:00. A hip and trendy night club right in the centre of Helsinki, in the "Makkaratalo" ("Sausage house") building right opposite the central railway station. Stylish decor. Very popular among young people around 20 to 25 years, it's very rare to see people over 40 here. DJ evenings practically every day, but no live music performances. The club boasts an all-year-round heated terrace at the Makkaratalo's famous "sausage". Note that to actually get to the club, you have to take an elevator from the ground floor to the 3rd floor. Entry varies between free and €10. Beer around €6..
  •   TeatteriPohjoisesplanadi 2. A complex featuring a deli, a restaurant, a bar and a night club, all of them trendy and popular among the well-dressed crowd. Check out the aptly named Clock Bar (Kellobaari) downstairs. Closed Sun.


Hotel Kämp, Helsinki's own "Hôtel Ritz"


  •   EurohostelLinnankatu 9 (Tram 4). Helsinki's largest hostel, very close to the dock for the Viking Line ferry and the Uspenski Cathedral. Dorms from €24.10, single rooms from €45 (plus €2.50/person for non-HI members).


  •   Best Western Premier Hotel KatajanokkaVyökatu 1 +358 9 686 450. Housed in what was the Nokka prison until 2002, this classy hotel has retained the original exterior and the internal corridor, but the rooms themselves, built by combining two to three cells, retain no trace of their past. Walking distance to city center. From €99.
  •   Hotel GLOKluuvikatu 4 +358 9 5840 9540, e-mail: . Hotel GLO is situated in the centre of Helsinki, between Aleksanterinkatu and Pohjoisesplanadi.The hotel has a direct entrance to the shopping centre Kämp Galleria. The Palace Kämp Day Spa is located on the top floor of the hotel. Glo clearly lives of being the slightly cheaper alternative next door to Kämp, but is not quite able to match the quality of service of a true luxury hotel either.


  •   Hotel KämpPohjoisesplanadi 29 +358 9 576111. Opened 1887, this historic hotel claims to be the only true 5-star in Scandinavia, with doormen in top hats, yacht charters and prices to match: the eight-room Mannerheim Suite can be yours for only €3300 per night. Part of Starwood's Luxury Collection. Rooms from €120.
  •   Radisson Blu PlazaMikonkatu 23 +358 20 123 4700. Classy hotel in a protected and carefully renovated, Kalevala-inspired 1917 building, located near the railway station within easy walking distance of Aleksanterinkatu. Excellent breakfast buffet. From €150.


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