Our trip to Norway ended with a 23-hour layover in Helsinki. We were not sad about this. If you are going to have a long layover at least let it be long enough to have some time to explore where you are laid over. We got into Helsinki in the evening, since the layover was overnight we got an Airbnb in town. We were not due back at the airport until midday the following day.

Public transit is probably the easiest system I have ever used. It didn’t matter that most of it are in Swedish or Finnish it was all very easy to maneuver. My favorite thing about the transit is that you can get a day pass and it works for any of the transportation types, bus, light rail, subway, and ferry so you can just choose which one has the best times or availability to where you are going. Google maps gave great directions that included various modes. The town is pretty walkable also. 

We spent the evening and the next day exploring Helsinki. Here are some of our favorite spots:

Dinner Konstan Möljä

After landing and getting to our Airbnb we were very hungry. Fortunately, there was a Finnish buffet called Konstan Möljä, just across the street from where we were staying. Even if you are not staying that close, I recommend it. The food was good, the people were very nice and it was a great way to try a variety of Finnish food all in one place. I can safely say I hadn’t had Finnish food before then. 

Espresso House

This is a coffeehouse chain, the largest in the Nordic Countries. It is much like a Starbucks. The food and drinks were good, it was good fuel for the rest of the day and it was open, which we couldn’t say for much since we got up early to ensure we saw most of Helsinki. 

Senate Square 

Senate Square and the area around it is the oldest part of central Helsinki. It is an odd mix of politics, religion, science, and commercial buildings. Several famous buildings surround the square, The Helsinki Cathedral, The Government Palace, the main building for the University of Helsinki, and Sederholm House. Sederholm House is the oldest building in central Helsinki, built in 1757. The Square also features a statue of Emperor Alexander II, built in 1894. It commemorates his reestablishment of the Diet of Finland.

Today Senate Square is one of the most popular tourist sites and features art events and installations and concerts. 

If you approach the square from the Northside it might feel like you are approaching the edge of a cliff, the stairs are steep and don’t come into view until you are at the top step. 

Pay it a visit and take a selfie with the giant Helsinki sign too. 

Uspenski Cathedral

The Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe built-in 1868. You can’t miss the church, in fact, we didn’t have it on the list originally to see, we saw the tops from Senate Square and had to take a look. It is unique and stands out on the Helsinki skyline. The architecture is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian impact on the history of Finland. 

Suomenlinna Island

Suomenlinna resides on a group of islands just off of Helsinki, its a short ride by ferry, about 15-20 minutes. The ferry cost is included with the transit ticket if you purchased a day pass. It was built in the Swedish era, in 1748, as a maritime fortress and was a base for the Archipelago Fleet, it was named Viapori. In 1917 when it was obtained by the Finnish government and renamed Suomenlinna which means “castle of Finland”

Suomenlinna Island

It is awesome to watch the lively coastline of Helsinki get smaller and smaller as you leave on the ferry towards Suomenlinna. Once on the island, it is easy and preferred to see on foot. The main route is marked with blue signs and can be seen on the map marked in blue also. The Island features 6 museums, 11 restaurants, and cafes, and the walls and cannons of the fortress. There are guided tours available throughout the day in Finnish, Swedish, English, and Russian.  

brewery at suomenlinna island

If you have time you can spend an entire day here. Since we only had less than a day we wandered for a couple of hours before riding the ferry back. It leaves frequently during regular hours. 

Read more about Suomenlinna.

Market Square 

Helsinki has six squares that host markets, the busiest of which are Helsinki Market Square and Hakaniemi Market Square. Helsinki Market Square is often referred to as just Market Square. It is located at the South Harbour at one end of the Esplanade Park, the Market Square is Helsinki’s most international and famous market. The booths sell traditional market foods and treats, handmade crafts and souvenirs. There are also heated café tents where you can have a hot coffee and some yummy food even on cold days and when it rains. It is really easy to get to, it’s located just outside of the ferry stop to and from Suomenlinna Island. It is not very big but it’s worth the stop, especially if you are in the area. I got an adorable little painting, some fresh fruits and David had a reindeer hot dog.


Yes, the fruit. The Finns seem to really like blueberries, and I am totally ok with that. We were offered blueberry juice on our Fin-air flight, I had never had blueberry juice. It was so tasty. As we explored Helsinki for the day we found that blueberries were a very common thing. Blueberry Juice, Blueberry Pie, Blueberry drinks. It goes without saying that if you are in Finland have something blueberry… or all of the things Blueberry.

The Best Layover

So there you have it. Our 22-hour adventure in Helsinki. Layovers can really be a pain, most people avoid them. I can attest that I have had my fair share of less exciting and stressful layovers but this was not one of them. I can wholeheartedly recommend getting the longest layover that you can, then get out of the airport and have a bonus adventure before or after your main adventure. If that layover happens to be in Helsinki for a day you know what to do!

What is your best layover story? Share it below!

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Show 26 Comments


  1. jen

    What a great post. loved the photos! really nice

  2. Uspenski Cathedral looks amazing! What a beautiful church! My husband has been to Helsinki a few times when he was in the military and always enjoyed it. And I have heard of other travelers making the most of a long layover. Looks like you really made the most of it!

  3. Lisa Manderino

    Best Layover ever! How fun to explore this area!

  4. Tricia Snow

    Helsinki is not something I would have considered before you post! Thanks for the tips!

  5. I love blueberries so I would have a blast. I know, however, that is stains so I’ll be careful. What a fun way to spend a layover.

  6. Lee Anne

    Impressive that you were able to fit all of this stuff into a layover!Looks awesome!!

  7. I’m not sure I could only spend one day there, but if I only had one, these are great tips! Thanks!

  8. LOVE that the transportation day pass was universal! That is such a bonus while trying to maneuver through a foreign city.

  9. kmf

    So awesome you had an overnight layover. My former company was based in Helsinki so I’ve visited several times, but there are a couple of places in your list that I didn’t have the opportunity to experience so will next time!

  10. It looks like an interesting place to visit. I like all the yellow buildings in the square.

  11. Cindy

    The buildings are gorgeous! And whatever you were eating at that expresso shop looked yummy!

  12. I love reading about your Finland posts. This is definitely on our places to visit!

  13. Would love to try all these food especially the blueberries drink and goodies !

  14. Helsinki has never been on my radar, but now I would like to plan a visit!I love the beautiful historic buildings. Thanks!

  15. That is a great layover story. I would visit the Senate Square too.

  16. Never considered visiting Finland, fun fact about the blueberries

  17. What a great way to spend a layover. I need to keep this mind when we travel. The airport can be so boring. My son really wants to see Finland, so I will keep these places in mind.

  18. These are great ideas of what to do in a day in Helsinki. I have wanted to go to Finland for some time now. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Awesome! We love taking advantage of a long layover!Great ideas!

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