South Helsinki is in this guide defined as the part of Helsinki south of the Esplanadi and Bulevardi streets. It also includes the archipelago south of Helsinki, such as the Suomenlinna islands.
The southernmost part of the Helsinki peninsula, this is a calm part of Helsinki with the city's most affluent residential areas (especially in the Eira district), probably more than half of the embassies and consulates in Helsinki and lot of greenery including the Observatory Hill and Kaivopuisto. If you're interested in upscale fashion and design shoppings and trendy cafés, this is where in Helsinki you should head. On the other hand, the western corner of this district has a more industrial character with the shipyard, warehouses and the famous Kahvila Suomi serving traditional Finnish food for workers in the marine industries since decades.
Beyond the coastline, lined by yachts in the summer, there are a several small islands that have something to offer to visitors; from outdoor activities to exclusive eateries. The by far largest, best known and most popular is Suomenlinna — actually a cluster four islands made connected by bridges. This former fortification is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but it's not just a tourist attraction, but home to several hundred inhabitants.
From the central railway station, bus station or downtown Helsinki in general, there isn't anywhere in southern Helsinki you couldn't get on foot within half an hour or so. Out of public transport modes, tram (1, 3, 6 and 10) are probably your best bet, though there are some bus lines (14, 18) too. If you wish to go to Suomenlinna, board the ferry from the Market square.
For yachts, customs clearing (if needed) is handled at the coast guard station on Iso Mustasaari of Suomenlinna (until after the 2016 season); phone +358 295-426-310. There are guest harbours at Suomenlinna and Pihlajasaari.
If you aren't going by foot or bike, tram is the best alternative; line 3 takes you around southern Helsinki.
To get to Suomenlinna, take the ferry from the Market Square.
- 1 Observatory Hill (Tähtitornin vuori). As the name reveals, this hill rising above the Olympia and Makasiini terminals of South Harbor hosts an observatory, operated by the Astronomical Association Ursa. The observatory is now and then open to the public, and from the hill you have a nice albeit partial view over the city centre (part of the view is obstructed by trees). It is also the place for people to picnic on the may day festival Vappu and on the morning of the Finnish Independence Day the hill hosts a televised flag rising ceremony.
- 2 Diana Park (Diananpuisto). Also known as Kolmikulma (the triangle), this pocket sized park is a nice place to take break from your sightseeing in the summer and just sit down on a park bench and have an ice-cream.
- 3 Kaivopuisto. A beautiful park by the sea in the southernmost part of the city. In summer you might want to sit down for a cup of coffee in one of the seaside cafes and enjoy the view of sailboats and the people on the promenade. Housing surrounding this area is the most expensive in Helsinki.
- 4 Sinebrychoffin puisto. Also known as "Koffin puisto", it's in Punavuori district next to the Sinebrychoff art museum. Popular with young people, in the summer it is full of people having picnics or just drinking pussikalja (literally: "beer in a bag", means buying beer from a supermarket and drinking it outdoors), while in the winter kids ride sleds down the snowy slope.
- 5 St. John's Church (Johanneksenkirkko), Korkeavuorenkatu 12, ☏ . M-F 12:00-15:00. The largest church in Helsinki and a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. Free..
- 6 German Church (Saksalainen kirkko), Bernhardinkatu 4. The Lutheran Church of the German community is situated at the foot of the Observatory Hill and is a visible landmark if you are walking from the Silja Line ferry towards downtown. The Neo-Gothic church was built in 1864 and is also a venue for liturgical and classical concerts.
- 7 Mikael Agricola Church, Tehtaankatu 23. A prime example of 1930s functionalism at the border of districts of Eira and Punavuori. Slightly unusually for this architectural style it's constructed in red bricks. The spire of the church can be lowered into the church tower, a feature that was used during WWII to make it less visible for Soviet bombers.
- 8 Mannerheim Museum, Kalliolinnantie 14 (Trams 1A and 2). F-Su 11:00-16:00. Finnish Marshall Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim lived in this villa 1924—51. The museum contains his personal home and his vast array of items acquired during his life and on his long travels. €8.
- 9 Newspaper museum (Päivälehden museo), Ludviginkatu 2-4. Tu-Su 11:00-17:00. In the newspaper museum you can learn more about the history of newspapers - journalism and printing. Free.
- 10 Sinebrychoff Museum, Bulevardi 40. Tu, F 10:00–18:00, W, Th 10:00–20:00, Sa-Su 10:00–17:00. Promotes itself as the only museum in Finland specializing in old European art. adults €10.
- 11 Design Museum, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, ☏ . Tu 11:00-20:00, W-Su 11:00-18:00. Closed Mondays.. Exhibitions of modern commercial and industrial design and modern art. The permanent exhibit in the basement showcases the history of consumer-goods design over the course of the 20th century, with a particular focus on the contributions of Finnish designers. If you're a fan of Finnish design products like Marimekko fabrics, Arabia porcelain and Iittala vases and their prototypes this is definitely not a place to miss. Admission €10.
- 12 Pihlajasaari. Few tourists find their way here, but this is a very popular summer spot for Helsinkians, with sandy beaches (including a mixed nude beach) and a restaurant dishing out cold beer and ciders. Ferries run from Merisatama pier at the southern end of Kaivopuisto Park (tram 3) hourly from 09:30 to 20:30, 10-15 min, €5.50 return.
If you see only one place in Helsinki in the summer, make it 13 Suomenlinna. The "Gibraltar of the North" was once the greatest sea fortress in the Baltic, built by the Swedish in the mid-1700s at great expense to protect their eastern flank. But when the Russians invaded in February 1808, the bulk of the unprepared and bankrupt Swedish army hastily withdrew, allowing the Russians to conquer Helsinki without a fight and besiege the fortress. With no reinforcements in sight, commander Carl Olof Cronstedt surrendered unconditionally two months later, and Finland was ceded to the Russians. Cronstedt's actions probably saved countless civilian lives, but King Gustav IV needed a scapegoat and sentenced him to death for treason; fortunately, the losing king was himself soon overthrown, and Cronstedt lived out his years gardening.
Today's Suomenlinna is still living in its own time with only old buildings, few cars, fewer than a thousand inhabitants and lots of old fortifications, catacombs and cast iron cannons. But it's not just a museum: the sprawling complex houses restaurants, cafes, theaters and museums, and is a very popular place for a picnic on a fine summer day, watching the vast passenger ferries drift by on their way to Estonia and St Petersburg. It was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1991 as a unique monument to European military architecture.
Entry to the island itself is free, but you need to pay for the ferry ride. The HSL ferry from Market Square is the cheapest and most convenient way of getting there at €5 for a 12-hour tourist return. The ferry is a part of the Helsinki local traffic, so if you have an HSL Day Ticket it includes ferry travel. The ferry runs approximately every half hour. On summer weekends the island is a popular picnic destination and you may have to wait for a long time as hundreds of people crowd the ferry terminal. In this case it may be worth it to use the more expensive private ferry company at the other end of the Market Square.
Guided tours of the island in English are available daily at 11:00 and 14:00 in Jun-Aug, and on Sa Su only at 13:30 the rest of the year, €7/person, and history buffs will want to drop into the Suomenlinna Museum at the Visitor Centre (€6.50).
- 14 Military Museum Manege (Sotamuseon maneesi), Suomenlinna, Iso Mustasaari (Take an inexpensive ferry from Kauppatori). Summer opening 12 May-31 Aug (but closed 19-21 Jun) daily 11:00-18:00. Exhibits vehicles and armament used by Finnish forces during the Winter War and World War II. €5.
- 15 Submarine Vesikko, Suomenlinna, Susisaari (Take an inexpensive ferry from Kauppatori). Summer opening 12 May-31 Aug (but closed 19-21 Jun) daily 11:00-18:00. Vesikko was one of five submarines to serve the Finnish Navy during the wars in 1939-44. It´s also the only surviving German Type II (Vesikko was the prototype) submarine in the world. €5.
- 16 Toy Museum (east side of Suomenlinna, follow signposts from the main path). 11:00-17:00. Lovely old house with a dense collection of toys, notable for the wealth of information provided about the historical toys. The house includes the excellent Cafe Samovarbar. €6.
- 1 [dead link] Beach of Uunisaari, Uunisaari island. One of the better kept secrets of Helsinki is the beach on Uunisaari, an island a short ride away from the south coast.
- 2 [dead link] Jääherne, Hernematalankatu 6. Try some ice hockey with your friends in the Jääherne ice hall on the southwesternmost tip of Helsinki.
- 1 Ivana Helsinki, Uudenmaankatu 15, ☏ . Internationally recognized designer clothes, handmade in Finland.
- 2 Aero, Yrjönkatu 8. New and vintage design furniture, lighting, textiles, jewelery, glass. Finnish designers represented include Eero Aarnio, Alvar Aalto, Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva and Ilmari Tapiovaara. Not for the budget traveller.
- 3 Left Shoe Company, Eteläesplanadi 8B (also inside Stockmann department store). Step on a high tech gadget that measures your foot and then choose what sort of shoe you would like to wear. Get the tailored shoe sent home by post. Only mens shoes. Prices start at around €300 and go up €450 depending on the materials used.
- 4 Myymälä2, Uudenmaankatu 23. Gallery and shop for young designers, artists and musicians. And while you are there, check out Lux shop on the opposite side of the street.
- 5 A.H. Records, Fredrikinkatu 12. Used rock, Finnish, funk.
- 6 Digelius, Laivurinrinne 2. Jazz/classical/world. Very recommended. €reasonable.
- 7 Eronen, Laivurinrinne 2. Dub/jazz/salsa.
- 8 Levylaivuri, Laivurinkatu 41.
- 9 Darkside Records, Albertinkatu 12.
- 10 Stupido, Iso Roobertinkatu 23. Rock/indie/electronics misc. €high.
- 1 Bar No 9, Uudenmaankatu 9. Popular bar that also serves a variety of dishes with a twist of cross-kitchen style, priced from €4.90-15.90, most main courses under €10. Tends to be packed at lunch and dinner time.
- 2 Event Arena Bank, Unioninkatu 20. Free flow lunch restaurant that offers a spacious and luminous environment to spend the lunch hour. The daily Lunch Club menu consists of four different choices all for €9.20. There is choice of Scandinavian style home-cooking, Mediterranean or Asian delicacies, salad bar and soup of the day or vegetarian meal.
- 3 Fredan Murkina, Fredrikinkatu 16. Open M-F lunch time, closed around midsummer.. Very simple and inexpensive lunch place, no gourmet-stuff going on here, but the sort of food Finns eat at home made fresh on site. Run by a friendly husband and wife team, this kiosk/restaurant melange a stone's throw away from five corners serves one of the cheapest healthy warm lunches you can eat in central Helsinki. Take away also possible if the few tables are full. Soup €4.50, lunch of the day was €5.70 or €7 depending on portion size (Sep 2015). Lunch between €4.50 and €7.
- 4 Ravintola Kamome (former Kahvila Suomi), Pursimiehenkatu 12, ☏ . M-F till 21:00. The Japanese tourists come because the cult hit movie Kamome Shokudo was filmed here! Japanese cuisine.
- 5 Central, Pietarinkatu 15, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 12:00-23:00 mostly. One of the oldest restaurants in Helsinki, dating back to the 1890s. It has been in its current location since the 1960s. Serves a wide variety of common restaurant fare in Finland: salads, pastas, steaks and hamburgers. Main courses €16-33.
- 6 [dead link] China Tiger, Korkeavuorenkatu 47, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 11:00-23:00, Sa Su 12:00-23:00. One of the best Chinese restaurants in Helsinki. Excellent food, a nice atmosphere and really good service. Extra points for the interior design. Lunch €9.2, mains from €12.8.
- 7 Gastone, Korkeavuorenkatu 45, ☏ . Nice restaurant with an Italian flavor. Reservations suggested, particularly on the weekend.
- 8 Juuri, Korkeavuorenkatu 27, ☏ . Open M-F 11:00-14:00 (lunch) & 16:00-22:00 (à la carte), Sa 12:00-22:00, Su 16:00-22:00. Tiny restaurant known for its special Finnish entrées called sapakset (a play on tapas), with roots in Finnish food tradition. Try the cabbage roll with crayfish or the egg cheese with marjoram. All sapakset €4.3, main dishes €24, lunch sets €7.5-10.
- 9 Sea Horse, Kapteeninkatu 11, ☏ . Established in 1933 as a basic eatery, this joint has slowly become a local legend affectionately known as Sikala ("Pigsty"), and both the decor and the menu are still preserved from the 1950s. A long-time Wallpaper Magazine favourite. Try the famous herring dishes or the onion steak Meals €10-30..
- 10 Tamarin, Iso Roobertinkatu 18, Fredrikinkatu 49, Eteläesplanadi 4. Tasty Thai food. Main dishes around €14, lunch buffet €8.5.
- 11 Zucchini, Fabianinkatu 4. M-F 11:00-16:00 (lunch served the whole time).. Cozy vegetarian lunch restaurant with a daily changing soup and main dish (around €9).
- 12 Cafe Samovarbar, Suomenlinna C66 (east side of Suomenlinna, follow signs to Toy Museum from the main path). 11:00-17:00. Lovely cafe in the toy museum with proper espresso, ice cream, local snacks and wines, with a terrace overlooking the sea.
- 13 Saaga, Bulevardi 34 B, ☏ . Traditional Lapp food in kitschy Lapp surroundings — reindeer horn chandeliers and the lot — but unlike some of the competition, they don't compromise on food quality. The octolingual menu runs the gamut from smoked elk to bear meatballs. Don't miss the buttermilk pancakes (äkäset) for dessert. €50 for a full meal.
- 14 Särkänlinna, Särkänsaari island, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Särkänlinna offers a Nordic cuisine. Located Särkansaari island, it provides a magnificent premise for any kind of function from dinners for two to elegant weddings or private parties. Särkänlinna is especially famous for its traditional crayfish parties.
- 15 Savoy, Eteläesplanadi 14, ☏ . A luxurious restaurant with a magnificent view of downtown Helsinki's rooftops. Savoy is decorated just as Alvar Aalto designed it in the 1930s, and they still serve some of the dishes that Field Marshal Mannerheim used to order, such as the famous Vorschmack (a comparatively cheap €18). Other mains from €40, while the opulent "Menu Savoy" will set you back €102.
- 16 [formerly dead link] Boathouse, Liuskasaari island, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Open in summer (1 May-30 Sep). On Liuskasaari island, Boathouse offers seasonal kitchen and a wide selection of wines.
- 17 Demo, Uudenmaankatu 9-11, ☏ . An unusual high-class restaurant geared towards the young and trendy, Demo's decor is minimalistic, but the food is of excellent caliber. There are no menus, only set courses pre-chosen based on what is fresh and available for the evening. Easily deserving of its Michelin star. Reservations essential.
- 18 [dead link] El Greco, Ludviginkatu 3-5, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:30-22:00. Greek restaurant. Serves authentic Greek food, based mostly on lamb, chicken and fish. Stylishly decorated and spacious. Mains €20-30.
- 19 [formerly dead link] Palace Gourmet, Eteläranta 10, 10th Floor, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M–F 11:30-14:30 and 18:00-00:00. Fine dining restaurant that also offers private rooms for meetings and events up to 500 guests.
- 20 Olo, Kasarmikatu 44, ☏ . Combines North European ingredients into a modern Scandinavian cuisine while using seasons best ingredients available.
- 21 Havis, Eteläranta 16 (Trams 1, 1A and 2), ☏ . The successor of the legendary Havis Amanda, "Daughter of the Baltic", and still the best upscale seafood restaurant in town.
- 22 Saslik, Neitsytpolku 12, ☏ . Traditional Russian delicacies. Russian music and decor of old samovars, stained-glass windows and paintings. Try traditional blinis or Saslik's bear specialities. Meals €20-35, bear dishes €66-76.
- 1 Cafe Succès, Korkeavuorenkatu 2, ☏ . This traditional cafe serves excellent delicacies. Famous for their enormous cinnamon rolls (korvapuusti), also available in Cafe Esplanad.
- 2 Kakkugalleria, Erottaja 7. French-type cafe in the Design Forum. Try the lovely Sacher cake. Take away is cheaper.
- 3 Plootu Furniture & café, Iso Roobertinkatu 32 (Trams 1 and 3 stop at Iso Roobertinkatu), ☏ (mobile). The café/furniture shop Plootu offers a great tea selection (served in a 600ml/1000ml presso pan), smoothies, salads, coffee and pho soup. An atmospheric and fun little coffee shop where everything you dine or drink coffee on is on sale.
- 4 Ahjo, Bulevardi 2 (Klaus K), ☏ . M-Sa. Named after the forge where the mythical Sampo of the Kalevala was made, this is a slick modern bar-lounge with two sides to it: a pure white space as you enter, with a bar counter and sofas, and a darker back room with nooks and crannies for a quieter chat. Drinks €6-8, try the Ahjotonic..
- 5 Black Door, Iso Roobertinkatu 1. English pub. Weekdays are relaxed, weekends have live DJs and a full bar. A place to go for quality beers, ales, ciders and whisky.
- 6 Erottaja Bar, Erottajankatu 15-17, ☏ . A small, consciously crude bar, that used to be one of the primary hipster hangouts in central Helsinki. The bar is now all but deserted by the trendy crowd, and the music turned into the usual fare of hit-list pop, but on the upside the service is friendly and there is ample sitting room at the tables.
- 7 Kaarle XII, Kasarmikatu 40, ☏ . Th-Sa 22:00-04:00. A Helsinki institution better known as Kalle, this former church hasn't had a renovation in years and really needs one. It still continues to pack in a hard-partying thirty-something crowd, especially on Thursdays. Six bars (all small), playing top-40 tunes, rock and Finnish pop. The last of the bars has a dance floor and gets particularly packed, with people dancing on the tables. Minimum age 24.
- 1 Hostel Suomenlinna, Suomenlinna C 9 (ferry connection from Market Square). All year open hostel located at the Suomenlinna sea fortress. Great for a quick escape from the city. The ferry runs from 6AM to 2AM so you are not totally cut off.
- 2 Hostel Diana Park, Uudenmaankatu 9. A small, clean, and friendly hostel with a central location. €27 for a dorm bed.
- 4 Klaus K, Bulevardi 2, ☏ . Helsinki's first boutique hotel, although they prefer the term "personal contemporary hotel". Rooms range from the small Passion & Mystical types to the aptly named Envy Plus. Central location, funky styling and reasonable prices make this a winner. From €115.
- 5 Hotel Haven, Unioninkatu 17, ☏ . Hotel Haven, Finland’s first member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is designed to provide homely warmth, exclusive comfort and high-quality services for the discerning guest. From €169.
- 6 Sokos Hotel Albert, Albertinkatu 30, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.