Helsinki, Finland


Helsinki is one of the less-visited Scandinavian capitals. That’s not surprising as Stockholm and Copenhagen are both embarkation ports for Baltic cruises, while Helsinki is a port of call. While not offering as many highlights as Stockholm, Helsinki features it’s own delights, most of which are within walking distance of the city center.

In the summer, Market Square is a bustling craft and food center. Here locals shop for produce and fish while tourists shop for souvenirs and enjoy local food plates. Within a couple of blocks of Market Square is the lovely Esplanade Park on one side, a great place for people watching and relaxing; behind is Senate Square and the towering Helsinki Cathedral; and to the other side is the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral.

Within a few blocks are the downtown shopping centers, the Ateneum Art Museum, the architecturally stunning Central Railway Station, and the cutting edge Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, with its interesting park benches that may challenge you to sit on them.

Helsinki has a large Design District — a 25-street area featuring some 170 members, including jewelry and clothing designers, interior designers, art galleries and hotels. Pick up a Design District map from the local tourist office for details, and get ready to explore.

Further afield is the Temppeliaukio Church quarried out of the natural bedrock, the Sibelius Monument, and Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s largest historical maritime fortresses built on six islands. One can readily spend a day or more at Suomenlinna.

For those arriving by cruise ship, the downtown area is about a 10-minute bus or cab ride from the pier.