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 - while in other districts - just a few hundred metres away. Here you can find the Central Railway Station with its surroundings; the art museums of Atheneum and Kiasma with the statue of Marshal Mannerheim in the front of the latter, modern architecture like the Oodi library, Sanomatalo and the Citycenter mall also known as the "Sausage house". One block south is Aleksanterinkatu, which together with its side streets make up Helsinki's main shopping area with small shops and department stores. And still one block south is Esplanadinpuisto, the Esplanade park that is very popular in the summer. The area also offers plenty of alternatives for eating and drinking, and some cultural venues.
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 the passenger ports (except Vuosaari) are not far away.
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.
Getting around downtown is done probably the easiest by foot or by bike. If you don't feel like walking, though, you can always use the metro or the trams provided you have a valid ticket.
- 1 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.
- 2 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 Kaisaniemenranta on the northern side).
- 3 Ateneum Art Museum, Kaivokatu 2, ☏ , (for tickets). Tu-F 09:00-18:00, W Th 09:00-20:00, Sa Su 11:00-17:00, closed on Mondays. 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 17:00-20:00 free admission.
- 4 Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Mannerheiminaukio 2, ☏ . Tu 10:00-17:00, W-Su 10:00-20:30, closed on 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 Friday of the month is free.
- 5 Central Railway Station.
- 6 Main post office (Postitalo/Pääposti/Huvudposten), Mannerheiminaukio 1. Across Mannerheimintie from Lasipalatsi is Helsinki's former main post office, designed by Jorma Järvi, Erik Lindroos and Kaarlo Borg and finished in 1938. However, nowadays since the late 1990s it's not the main post building, but houses a number of shops, but the building is still protected as a valuable historical building (just like most buildings on this list).
- 7 Sanomatalo.
- 8 Equestrian statue of Marshal Mannerheim.
- 9 Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40 (Kaisaniemi). This university building has been described as having both functionalist and classicist elements. It was designed by Jussi Paatela, finished in 1939 and its first users were the State Forest Research Institute (Metsätutkimuslaitos) and Helsinki University's faculty for forest science, and that's where the building's name — "the forest house" — came from. Nowadays the building houses the linguistics and philology faculties.
From the 1 restaurant on the top floor of the Sokos department store and the 2 bar on the top floor of Hotel Torni you have a quite nice view of the city. Of course they aren't as high as the Empire State Building or even the Olympic Stadium Tower but entrance to both are free.
- 3 Kämp Spa, Kluuvikatu 4 B, (Kämp Gallery 8th floor), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 09:00-20:00, Su 09:00 - 13:00 and 16:00 - 20:00 (gym and sauna area). Kämp Spa is located in the heart of Helsinki. In addition to the spa treatments, the spa has a gym and 3 different saunas.
- 4 Casino Helsinki, Mikonkatu 19, ☏ , email@example.com. 12:00-04:00. Finland's only gambling casino. It's next to the railway station. The only gambling casino in the world to donate 100% of its profits to charity. 2600 m² 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.
- 5 Helsinki Central Library Oodi.
Performances are mostly either in Finnish or Swedish.
- 6 National Theater (Kansallisteatteri), Läntinen Teatterikuja 1.
- 7 Swedish Theater (Svenska Teatern), Pohjoisesplanadi 2.
- 8 Outdoor Icepark skating in winter, Railway 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 outdoor and indoor skating rinks.
Department stores and shopping malls
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 and 7 all run down Aleksanterinkatu, and the area is near 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.
- 1 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.
- 2 Stockmann, Corner 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.
- 3 Galleria Esplanad, between Mikonkatu and Kluuvikatu (Tram: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9. Metro: Kaisaniemi). Upscale shopping mall, with local brands like Marimekko, Aarikka and Iittala.
- 4 Kluuvi, Aleksanterinkatu (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.
- 5 Sokos, Mannerheimintie 9 (Tram: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, Metro: Central Railway Station.). A large department store next to the railway station. Good place for buying clothes, you can often find the same products here as in nearby Stockmann but at a lower price. On the downside, despite being a department store they have a rather limited selection of everything else. The restaurant at the top floor has a nice view of central Helsinki.
- 7 Iittala Shop, Pohjoisesplanadi 25. M-F 10:00-19:00, Sa 10:00-16:00. An airy concept store for the Iittala brand of Finnish glassware, pans, kitchen utensils and more. Personal service by the friendly staff.
- 8 Marimekko, Pohjoisesplanadi 33, ☏ . 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.
- factory shop, Kirvesmiehenkatu 7, ☏ .
- 9 Eat&Joy Farmers Market, Aleksanterinkatu 7-9. In the heart of Helsinki at Kluuvi shopping centre, 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 many other products – all direct from the producers.
- 1 Chilli (Mikonkatu 8). 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.
- 2 La Famiglia, Keskuskatu 3, ☏ . daily 11:00-00:00. 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.
- Sodexo, Multiple places, ☏ . M-F 08:00-15:00, Lunch: 10:30–13:30. Around €9.6 for lunch..
- 3 Unicafe Ylioppilasaukio, Mannerheimintie 3 B. Open M–F 11:00-19:00, Sa 11:00–17:00. 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.
- 4 Kappeli, Eteläesplanadi 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..
- 5 Zetor, Kaivopiha, Mannerheimintie 3–5, ☏ . Tourist restaurant with lots of character and great quality Finnish food. Plenty of old tractors and Finnish memorabilia. At night time Zetor functions as a popular and trendy night club with various funky music both from Finland and abroad, with plenty of young people attending. The kitchen stays open until closing time. Note that at night time, there tend to be long queues to get into Zetor in the first place. Main meals €10–20..
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.
In 2020 the former Suomalainen Kirjakauppa bookstore, below the old student house, next to the three smith's square (Kolmen sepän aukio, across Aleksanterinkatu from Stockmann) was turned into a kind of foodcourt with a lot of restaurants and bars plus some shops. It's a wing of the Kaivopiha shopping complex.
- 6 Bangkok 9, Kaivokatu 8, ☏ . 12:00-20:00 mostly. A Thai cuisine restaurant in the City-Center complex in central Helsinki, opposite the central railway station. Offers authentic spicy Thai cuisine. Interesting decor. Usually a bit crowded. Main courses €16 to 20.
- 7 Belge, Kluuvikatu 5 (Kauppakeskus Kluuvi), ☏ . 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. The menus in the dining rooms are served inside Tintin comic books in Finnish, so you can read them while deciding what to order. Main dishes €12–17.
- 8 Brasserie Kämp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M–W 11:30–00:00, Th F 11:30–01:00, Sa 12:00-01:00, Su 12:00-00:00.
- 9 Classic Pizza, Aleksanterinkatu 52, ☏ . A classy, fashionable pizzeria with a wide variety of pizzas on the menu. Some of the toppings might be rather unusual, such as grilled chicken, pickled cucumbers, beetroot, crayfish, bratwurst, coconut milk, or Finnish leipäjuusto cheese. But the end result is a tasty culinary treat anyway. For dessert, there's a pizza with ice cream and fresh fruit.
The restaurant has several locations around the Helsinki capital area and elsewhere in Finland, but the most central one is in the Stockmann department store, on the basement floor.
The restaurant is rather self-consciously a pizzeria. Although many other pizzerias in Helsinki also serve kebab, there are only pizzas on the menu here, and even the staff wear shirts saying "Sorry, no kebab". €14–17.
- 10 Meze Point, Mikonkatu 8, ☏ . Mediterranean meze plates, several vegetarian dishes. Excellent vegetarian moussaka. Main dishes €15–20.
- 11 Rymy-Eetu, Erottaja 15, ☏ , email@example.com. 17:00-03:00 mostly. A German restaurant inspired by the famous Hofbräuhaus am Platzl in Munich. Spacious, with premises on two floors. Authentic-looking Bavarian-style decor reminiscent of the original Hofbräuhaus. Tasty Bavarian cuisine dishes with copious amounts of meat, but vegetarian options also available. One of the few places in Finland to serve Austro-Bavarian schnitzels of veal rather than pork. A good variety of German beers on tap. Main courses €13–30.
- 12 Caverna, Yliopistonkatu 5, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00–21:00 mostly. A large restaurant located in the basement, offering a diverse buffet mainly concentrating on Spanish cuisine. Various kinds of appetisers, main courses and desserts on offer, all for a fixed price of €39 (alcoholic drinks cost extra). For the main course, you select the meats when they are still raw, the restaurant cooks them for you and brings them to your table. Buffet €39.
- 13 Harald, Aleksanterinkatu 21, ☏ , email@example.com. 11:00–22:00 mostly. A Viking-themed restaurant that tries to keep its cuisine as close to the authentic Viking cuisine as possible, but still keeping in with today's tastes. In practice, the food is extremely tasty, but a bit overpriced. The decor is Viking-themed, the staff dress up in Viking-themed costumes, and even the menu contains Viking-era descriptions. The menu is obviously very meat-oriented, but there are some vegetarian options available. Try the duck or beef dishes, they're very tasty. The restaurant servers its own beer, it's worth trying. Main courses €18-35.
- 14 Hard Rock Cafe, Aleksanterinkatu 21, ☏ . 11:00–23:00 mostly. The only Hard Rock Cafe in Finland, so far. The restaurant pretty much rides on its famous image. The food is very tasty, but a bit overpriced even by Finnish standards. Stylish interior containing rock'n'roll memorabilia. Extremely friendly staff, but few of them, if any, speak Finnish. Main courses €20-33.
- 15 Vltava, Elielinaukio 2 (by the railway station), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00–23:00 mostly. The best Czech restaurant in Helsinki. Located very centrally 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..
- 1 Café Kafka, Pohjoisesplanadi 2 (Swedish Theatre). A lovely building with a relaxed atmosphere. Here you can find one of the best espressos in town.
- 2 Fazer, Kluuvikatu 3. Famous for its decor, architecture, ice-creams, pastries and coffees, this café opened in 1891, 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.
- 3 Kämp Café, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, ☏ , email@example.com. M–W 11:30–00:00, Th F 11:30–01:00, Sa 12:00-01:00, Su 12:00-00:00.
- 4 Strindberg, Pohjoisesplanadi 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
- 5 Butterfly (previously Baarikärpänen) (in Mikonkatu, 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.
- 6 Molly Malone's, Kaisaniemenkatu 1. An Irish pub/nightclub near the Central Railway Station. Popular among Finns and tourists alike. Live music every night, superb English-language cover bands most nights, sometimes a DJ later. If you happen to be in Helsinki at St.Patrick's day (March 17th) this is definitely where you should go. Avoid the blackjack table unless you're fond of losing money (the proceeds do go to charity).
- 7 On The Rocks, Mikonkatu 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 18.
- 8 Sports Academy, Kaivokatu 8, ☏ . 11:00-23:00 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-storey building 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.
- 9 Vanha ylioppilastalo (usually just Vanha), Mannerheimintie 3. A bar/café 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.
- Pikajuna Ale bar (next to the Central Railway Station, close to Casino Helsinki). A bar with beer from €3.9. Features games like billiards and board games. Spacious.
- 10 Mummotunneli, Aleksanterinkatu 46. 20:00-03:00. The "Mummotunneli" ("Grandma tunnel") is a passage between various restaurants in central Helsinki, with a glass ceiling above it to protect it from the weather. There are terraces of various restaurants in the passage, staying open well past midnight. The name "Grandma tunnel" comes from the alleged high average age of the clients. In practice, this means you will usually meet people from 30 to 50 years. Very few actual grandmas come here. Live music available pretty much every day. The place is extremely crowded in summer but almost deserted in winter. €10 entry fee.
- 11 Teatteri, Pohjoisesplanadi 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 Sunday.
As with other major cities, if you're looking for low-cost accommodation it's better to head a bit outside the very core of the city.
- 1 [dead link] Best Western Hotel Carlton, Kaisaniemenkatu 3, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Best Western Hotel Carlton is a personal, 19-room hotel in the very center of Helsinki, 100 m from Helsinki Central Railway Station.
- 2 Cumulus Kaisaniemi, Kaisaniemenkatu 7 (M Kaisaniemi). A centrally located but minimally equipped business hotel. From €83 for a double in the low season.
- 3 Hotel GLO, Kluuvikatu 4, ☏ , email@example.com. 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.
- 4 Hotel Arthur, Vuorikatu 19, ☏ .
- 5 Hotel Kämp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, ☏ . 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. Rooms from €120.
- 6 Radisson Blu Plaza, Mikonkatu 23, ☏ . 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.
- 7 Sokos Hotel Helsinki, Kluuvikatu 8, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 Sokos Hotel Vaakuna, Asema-Aukio 2, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com.
- 9 Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre, Elielinaukio 5, ☏ .
Cafés and shopping centres usually have a Wi-Fi of some sort (meaning that the speed might not be the best on the markets). Central train station has good Wi-Fi coverage and at decent speed.
While the city advertises its WLAN, the access points are clustered at certain locations and do not provide widespread coverage in most of the downtown core (for example, none on the busy thoroughfare Mannerheimintie south of the Central Train Station).
If you are into flying drones, quadcopters or other unmanned aircrafts, please note that there is a flying prohibition called "no-drone-zone" over the historic city centre. More info here.
When visiting cathedrals or churches, please remove your hats when entering and show respect to the old building and people to whom it is sacred.