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Free Self-Guided Helsinki Walking Tour by a Finn (with Map!)

Helsinki is quaint, laid back, severely underrated, and in many ways the microcosm of Finland. Having resided in Finland for 9 years, I fell in love with Helsinki throughout my numerous visits to the city. A Helsinki walking tour is one of the best ways to see most of the city’s most popular attractions, important landmarks and explore some elegant neighborhoods. This post includes a map for a self-guided free walking tour of Helsinki. Enjoy your walk! 🙂

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Why Choose This Free Self-Guided Helsinki Walking Tour?

This free self-guided Helsinki walking tour itinerary is perfect if you are short on time and trying to save some money. With our free map, you can follow the route quite easily without having to hire an expensive guide for the day.

The tour will take you past the city’s major attractions, landmark public buildings, cultural venues, charming neighborhoods, shopping streets, restaurants, and cafes. You will also see examples of modern architecture.

A particular focus of this walking tour of Helsinki lies in neighborhoods rich in some stunning Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil) architecture, areas that tourists don’t normally frequent.

Helsinki is a treasure trove for those who appreciate such architecture and it brings out the real flavor of the city. With more than 600 Art Nouveau buildings, Helsinki is only second to Riga in the number of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe.

Helsinki Walking Tour Itinerary

The walking tour covers a total distance of approximately 12.5 kilometers (7.77 miles). This walk can be rather demanding, particularly in the summer.

Depending on how fast you go, you could even make a full day of sightseeing out of it. The tour starts at the famous Fazer Café on Kluuvikatu and terminates at Helsinki Central Station.

Feel free to take a break if you feel jaded along the way. I have included some cafes and restaurants in the map where you can take a breather and grab a bite.

On this Helsinki walking tour, you will see:

  1. Karl Fazer Café
  2. National Library of Finland
  3. Senate Square
  4. Helsinki Cathedral
  5. Aleksanterinkatu
  6. Pohjola Insurance Building
  7. Mannerheimintie
  8. Kamppi Chapel of Silence
  9. Amos Rex Art Museum
  10. Mannerheim Statue
  11. Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
  12. Finnish Parliament Building
  13. Helsinki Music Center
  14. Helsinki Central Library Oodi
  15. National Museum of Finland
  16. Finlandia Hall
  17. Rock Church
  18. Punavuori District
  19. Ullanlinna District
  20. St. John’s Cathedral
  21. Design Museum
  22. Esplanadi Park
  23. Havis Amanda
  24. Market Square
  25. Old Market Hall
  26. Helsinki City Hall
  27. Presidential Palace of Finland
  28. Old Customs House
  29. Katajanokka District
  30. Uspenski Cathedral
  31. Kruununhaka District
  32. Finnish House of Nobility
  33. Finnish National Theater
  34. Ateneum Art Museum
  35. Helsinki Central Station

1. Karl Fazer Café

The famous Karl Fazer Cafe is the best place to kick off this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: dji Phantom 4/shutterstock.com

Kick off your Helsinki walking tour at the famous Karl Fazer Café Founded by Karl Fazer in 1891, the café has become a cherished landmark, renowned for its exquisite confections and elegant atmosphere.

Fazer is one of Finland’s most beloved and iconic brands. It’s high-quality chocolates and confectioneries are the most popular ones in Finland.

Inside, the café retains elements of early 20th-century decor, with dark wood paneling and plush seating that create a warm, inviting environment.

Signature offerings include the celebrated Fazer Blue chocolate, a variety of freshly baked cakes and pastries, and seasonal specialties.

The coffee the café serves is pretty good too. The cafe also has a section where you can pick up Fazer sweets and gifts.

Inside, the café retains elements of early 20th-century decor, with dark wood paneling and plush seating that create a warm, inviting environment.

Directions

Your next stop is the National Library of Finland (2). To get there, head north on Kluuvikatu, turn right onto Yliopistonkatu and turn right onto Unioninkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 400 m.

2. National Library of Finland

The National Library of Finland is one of the must-see attractions on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The National Library of Finland may seem like an odd attraction but it is a stunning example of neoclassical architecture.

The current main building was designed by renowned architect Carl Ludvig Engel and completed in 1844. It is characterized by its symmetry, grand columns, and a façade adorned with sculptures and reliefs that reflect the cultural and historical aspirations of the era.

The National Library of Finland’s main interior hall is home to Helsinki’s most mesmerizing murals and also features magnificent marble columns.

The pinnacles of the 28 marble columns are gilded with gold leaf, while the images and ornaments on the domed ceiling symbolize knowledge and learning.

Throughout the library, there are beautifully carved wooden galleries and ornate balconies that overlook expansive reading rooms, filled with antique furniture and lined with tall, arched windows.

Best of all, the National Libraty of Finland is free to enter, so feel free to take a peek inside and snap pictures. You can check the opening hours here.

Directions

Your next stop is the Senate Square (3). Head south on Unioninkatu and you’ll see the square on your left. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.

3. Senate Square

The imposing Senate Square is one of the major sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Dignity 100/shutterstock.com

The Senate Square has been Helsinki’s main square since the 17th century. The present square was built in 1808 by the Russians when they took charge of Finland.

The famous German architect Carl Ludvig Engel was appointed to reconstruct Helsinki after it was declared the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812. Engel designed the square in such a manner that the buildings on the four sides of the square represented the four powers of the state as conceived at the time: senate, church, university, and commerce.

A lone statue of Tsar Alexander II stands in the center of the square. The main building of the University of Helsinki and the Government Palace (which houses the Prime Minister’s office) also lie in the square.

Senate Square has been a central stage for many of Finland’s key historical events and continues to be a popular site for cultural gatherings, festivals, and tourist activities.

Directions

Your next stop, the Helsinki Cathedral (4), is situated in the northern part of the Senate Square.

4. Helsinki Cathedral

The magnificent Helsinki Cathedral is one of the main sightseeing points of this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

Helsinki Cathedral is perhaps the most iconic edifice in Helsinki’s cityscape. The cathedral was also designed by Carl Ludwig Engel but was only finished in 1852, 12 years after his demise.

The cathedral’s striking appearance is characterized by its clean, bright white exterior and green domes, with the central dome supported by four smaller ones.

Originally built as a tribute to the Grand Duke, Nicholas I of Russia, the cathedral was initially named St. Nicholas’ Church until Finland’s independence in 1917.

Its exterior is graced by statues of 16th-century Protestant reformers like Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, and Mikael Agricola, who translated the Bible into Finnish.

The interior of the Helsinki Cathedral is spacious and uncluttered, highlighting its Lutheran simplicity. The altarpiece and the organ are focal points, surrounded by minimalistic decoration.

Directions

Your next stop is Aleksanterinkatu (5) which borders the south side of Senate Square. You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.

5. Aleksanterinkatu

Aleksanterinkatu is one of the main sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Popova Valeriya/shutterstock.com

Aleksanterinkatu, often referred to as “Aleksi” by locals, is one of Helsinki’s most vibrant and historic streets, bustling with activity and steeped in cultural significance. Stretching from the Senate Square to Mannerheimintie, this street serves as a main thoroughfare through the city center, linking key attractions and commercial areas.

Throughout the year, Aleksanterinkatu is a hub for shopping, with stores ranging from international brands to local boutiques. The street is also home to the flagship Stockmann department store which is the largest such store in the Nordic region.

Renowned for its lively atmosphere, Aleksanterinkatu is a great place to observe Helsinki’s charming old trams.

Directions

Your next stop is the Pohjola Insurance Building (6). Head west on Aleksanterinkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

6. Pohjola Insurance Building

The Pohjola Insurance Building is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Kiev.Victor/shutterstock.com

The Pohjola Insurance Building is one of my favorite architectural edifices in Helsinki. This lovely building is a notable example of Finnish National Romanticism, a style that flourished in the early 20th century.

Designed by architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen, and completed in 1901, the building served as the former headquarters for the Pohjola Insurance Company.

Characterized by its robust, red granite façade, the building embodies the National Romantic emphasis on materials native to Finland and motifs inspired by the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic.

The exterior is adorned with intricate carvings and statues that symbolize protection and safety, reflecting the building’s original purpose as an insurance company office.

Notable features include the detailed reliefs and grotesques that guard the entrance, adding an element of mythical allure.

Directions

Your next stop is Mannerheimintie (07). Head west on Aleksanterinkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

7. Mannerheimintie

Mannerheimintie is one of the main sights to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Grisha Bruev/shutterstock.com

At 5.5 km in length, Mannerheimintie is Helsinki’s longest street and most important street. It is named in honor of the Finnish military leader Carl Gustaf Mannerheim.

Mannerheimintie stretches between various neighborhoods of Helsinki and is home to many eateries, bars, and malls. It is also the location of some of the city’s most prominent buildings, cultural venues, and landmarks.

Directions

Your next stop is the Kamppi Chapel of Silence (8). To get there, head north on Mannerheimintie, turn left onto Simonkatu and turn right on a small path that leads to the Kamppi Shoppin Center. You’ll see the chapel on your left. You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.

8. Kamppi Chapel of Silence

The Kamppi Chapel of Silence is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The Kamppi Chapel of Silence is an unusual and intriguing wooden building located in one of the city’s busiest squares. Its lustrous copper exterior and oval-shaped design make it difficult to overlook.

Take a look inside even if religion isn’t your thing and you’ll notice that the chapel offers an oasis of calm from the bustling city.

The Kamppi Chapel of Silence is open daily from 10:00-18:00. The entrance is free.

Directions

Your next stop is the Amos Rex Art Museum (9). Head north on Narinkka, turn right onto Mauno Koiviston aukiou, turn left onto Lasipalatinaukio. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.

9. Amos Rex Art Museum

The Amos Rex Art Museum is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: StockphotoVideo/shutterstock.com

The Amos Rex Art Museum lies behind the famous Lasipalatsi (Glass House) building which is home to the Art Deco Rex Cinema (Bio Rex). The historic Lasipalatsi Square has been metamorphosed into a surreal undulating moonscape.

A series of bulbous domes with circular windows sprout out of the ground connecting the plaza to an underground art hub, the Amos Rex Art Museum.

The futuristic design is something that Stanley Kubrick would have been envious of and you can often see people of all ages scaling the five volcanic space pods posing for selfies.

Directions

Your next stop is the Mannerheim Statue (10). Head north on Lasipalatinaukio, turn right on Salomonkatu, turn left onto Mannerheimintie and then cross the street onto the other side. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

10. Mannerheim Statue

The Mannerheim Statue is one of the main sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The Mannerheim Statue is one of the prominent monuments you’ll encounter when walking up Mannerheimintie.

Baron Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951) was a political and military leader, explorer, general in the Russian Imperial Army, and President of Finland from 1944–46.

He played an undeniably large role in Finland’s military conflicts in the first half of the 20th century. Mannerheim even topped a nationwide poll of 100 Greatest Finns in 2004.

The bronze statue is raised on a granite podium and shows Mannerheim on horseback.

Directions

Your next stop is the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (11) which is just beside the Mannerheim Statue.

11. Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is one of the best places to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Vermette108/shutterstock.com

The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is one of the best examples of modern architecture in Helsinki. Designed by American architect Steven Holl, the Kiasma building is renowned for its dynamic, curvilinear form that symbolizes the abstract nature of contemporary art.

The shape of the building is supposed to mirror Helsinki’s geometry. Its flowing lines and use of natural light connect the interior spaces with the urban landscape outside.

Kiasma houses an impressive collection of Finnish and international contemporary art, with a focus on works from the 1960s onwards. The museum hosts mixed-media shows, art installations, contemporary drama, and art workshops.

Directions

Your next stop is the Finnish Parliament Building (12). To get there, head north on Mannerheimintie until you see the building on your left. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.

12. Finnish Parliament Building

The imposing Finnish Parliament Building is one of the must see attractions on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The Finnish Parliament Building, located in Helsinki, is a monumental example of 20th-century architecture. Completed in 1931, the building was designed by architect Johan Sigfrid Sirén, who won a national competition to determine its design.

Constructed from a combination of Finnish granite and a striking façade of red Kalvola granite, the Parliament Building is both imposing and elegant. The building’s 14 Corinthian columns and 46 steps leading up to the main entrance provide a good backdrop for photos.

Fun Fact

Finland achieved universal suffrage in 1906, becoming the second country in the world to adopt universal suffrage. As a result of the Finnish parliamentary election of 1907, Finland became the first country in the world to elect female members.

Directions

Your next stop is the Helsinki Music Center (13) which lies on the opposite side of the street. You’ll be walking a distance of 50 m.

13. Helsinki Music Center

The Helsinki Music Center is one of the main sights on this free self-guided walking tour of Helsinki. C: Kiev.Victor/shutterstock.com

The Helsinki Music Center is another typically snazzy and striking piece of Finnish architecture. It is the city’s premier venue for classical music concerts.

The building comprises various cuboid glass sections and is topped with a sloping grass roof.

The Helsinki Music Center is another typically snazzy and striking piece of contemporary Finnish architecture. It is the city’s premier venue for classical music concerts.

Completed in 2011, the building is the product of a collaborative design by architects Marko Kivistö, Ola Laiho, and Mikko Pulkkinen. Its exterior boasts a sleek, modern aesthetic with a façade predominantly made of glass and metal, allowing for natural light to permeate its interiors.

The Music Center’s acoustically superior main concert hall serves as the home for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The music center is also home to the renowned Sibelius Academy, where budding Finnish musicians learn their trade.

Directions

Your next stop is the Helsinki Central Library Oodi (14) which lies to the east of the Helsinki Music Center. Walk through the Kansalaistori Plaza. You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.

14. Helsinki Central Library Oodi

Points of interest Helsinki: View of the new Oodi Library, one of the best things to explore on a Helsinki walking tour.

The Helsinki Central Library Oodi, opened in December 2018, is a striking example of modern architectural innovation and civic design.

Designed by the Finnish architecture firm ALA Architects, Oodi is notable for its futuristic, undulating form that contrasts beautifully with the traditional government buildings nearby. Its façade, a mixture of glass and wood, reflects the Finnish affinity for nature and transparency in design.

The library spans three floors, each with a distinct purpose. The multi-million dollar library features not only books but 3D printers, recording studios, gaming rooms, a small cinema, and other leisure facilities.

The top floor houses the book collections in a serene, light-filled space, offering the city through its sweeping glass walls.

The best thing is that these are all free for the public to use. Due to the sweeping design of the building and its sweeping glass walls, visitors are treated to some stunning views of Helsinki from the inside.

Visiting Oodi is one of the cool and exciting things to do in Helsinki and it’s not hard to see why.

Directions

Your next stop is the National Museum of Finland (15). To get there, get back onto Mannerheimintie and continue north. You’ll be walking a distance of 450 m.

15. National Museum of Finland

The National Museum of Finland is one of the most famous places you'll see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The National Museum of Finland is one of the notable points of interest on this free self-guided walking tour of Helsinki. Designed by architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen, and completed in 1910, it is a striking example of Finnish National Romanticism.

The museum’s architecture is heavily inspired by medieval churches and castles, reflecting Finland’s rich history and cultural heritage. The exterior is adorned with intricate frescoes and reliefs that depict scenes from Finnish folklore and mythology.

The building’s granite façade, steep pitched roofs, and towering entrance add to its historic allure. It sort of resembles a Gothic church with its stonework and tower. The building is guarded by a stone bear, an important national symbol.

Inside the entrance hall of the building, the ceiling is decorated with scenes from Finland’s national epic, a poem known as the Kalevala.

The museum’s collections span from prehistoric times to the present day, including treasures such as the prehistoric Susiluola artifacts and the exquisite medieval church relics.

Directions

Your next stop is the Finlandia Hall (16) which lies just across the street. You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.

16. Finlandia Hall

The beautiful Finlandia Hall is one of the best things to see in Helsinki on this free self-guided walking tour.

Finlandia Hall is one of the top sightseeing attractions in Helsinki on Mannerheimintie. Designed by the legendary Alvar Aalto, Finland’s most famous architect, this building is a landmark of modern architecture in Helsinki.

Alvar Aalto was one of the most acclaimed architects of the 20th century. Many of Aalto’s designs focus on simplicity and functionality and his buildings get their aesthetic character from their dynamic relationship with their natural surroundings, unique use of materials, and smart use of lighting.

The angular Finlandia Hall is no exception and is one of Aalto’s most popular and celebrated creations. The exterior of the building is characterized by its use of white Carrara marble and black granite, creating a striking visual contrast that captures the natural light and mirrors the changing seasons of the Helsinki landscape.

The building’s asymmetrical form and sweeping lines are typical of Aalto’s approach to breaking the rigidity of conventional modernism, adding movement and fluidity to the structure.

Finlandia Hall hosts conferences and events, as well as a variety of music and dance performances.

Directions

Your next stop is the Rock Church (17). Head north on Mannerheimintie, turn left onto Cygnaeuksenkatu and continue. Then turn right onto Temppelikatu and finally turn left onto Lutherinkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 750 m.

17. Rock Church

The stunning Rock Church is one of the must see sights to visit on this free self-guided walking tour of Helsinki.

The captivating Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) is one of my personal favorite attractions in Helsinki as it is one of the most unique sights you’ll come across in the city.

Designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969, this Lutheran church is carved directly into a massive block of natural granite, making it a distinctive feature of Helsinki’s cityscape.

The Rock Church’s most striking external feature is its dome, which is lined with 22 km/13.7 mi of copper stripping and spans 24 meters/78 feet in diameter. It is supported by reinforced concrete beams that radiate outward from the center, resembling the rays of the sun.

Inside, the church’s walls are the natural rock faces, left rugged and unfinished, which provide excellent acoustics that are highly prized for concerts. The interior is bathed in natural light that filters through the glazed dome, creating a serene and almost mystical atmosphere.

The simplicity of the furnishings and the wooden pews focus attention on the natural beauty of the stone. I like how the austere interior is relatively free of iconography and religious symbolism.

The Rock Chuch is open daily but opening hours vary, so check the website before you visit. The entrance costs 8 EUR.

Directions

Your next stop is the Punavuori district (18). Head southwest on Fredrikinkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 1.4 km.

18. Punavuori District

The trendy Punavuori district is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

With its lively street life and cultural richness, the southwestern district of Punavuori epitomizes the urban cool of Helsinki. Punavuori is one of my favorite places in Helsinki and I love its youthful energy and bohemian charm.

The neighborhood is densely packed with a mix of old and modern architecture, featuring beautifully restored buildings, chic boutiques, and cutting-edge galleries.

The streets of Punavuori are alive with a dynamic mix of cafés, restaurants, and bars, catering to a diverse and cosmopolitan crowd.

Look out for a diverse range of building types here, from charming late 19th-century residential buildings and Art Nouveau structures to Functionalism from the early 20th century. Many of these older buildings are beautifully preserved or thoughtfully renovated, featuring ornate façades.

Directions

Your next stop is the Ullanlinna District (19). Head north on Lasipalatinaukio, turn right on Salomonkatu, turn left onto Mannerheimintie and then cross the street onto the other side. You’ll be walking a distance of 1 km.

19. Ullanlinna District

The Art Nouveau Ullanlinna district is one of major sightseeing attractions on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Popova Valeriya/shutterstock.com

One of the joys of exploring central Helsinki on foot is seeing some lovely Art Nouveau architecture, a style known locally as Jugendstil. Ullanlinna, an affluent district in Helsinki, is celebrated for its exceptional concentration of Art Nouveau architecture

The buildings in Ullanlinna are renowned for their intricate facades, adorned with organic and floral motifs, asymmetrical designs, and often a rich use of color and texture. Look out for the frequently featured curved lines, ornate balconies, and elaborate window frames.

This makes it very different from the usual plain, boxy structures characterized by simple, unadorned façades found in many other Helsinki neighborhoods.

Huvilakatu is one of the most impressive sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

Make sure to stroll down Huvilakatu which is a goldmine for Art Nouveau connoisseurs. Candy-colored low-rises dot this beautiful street.

Many of them are over a century old and continue as part of an almost unbroken chain along the length of the street. The façades of the villa-like houses, their towers, and balconies are creatively decorated.

In addition to its historical buildings, Ullanlinna is noted for its peaceful parks.

Directions

Your next stop is St. John’s Church (20). Head east on Tehtaankatu, turn left onto onto Kapteeninkatu, and continue onto Korkeavuorenkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 800 m.

20. St. John’s Church

The wonderful St. John's Church is one of the main attractions on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

St. John’s Church in Helsinki stands as the largest stone church in Finland, exemplifying the neo-Gothic style. Designed by the Swedish architect Adolf Melander and completed in 1891, the church’s architecture is marked by its twin spires that soar impressively over the Helsinki skyline, reaching heights of 74 meters.

The exterior is constructed from red brick, adding a distinct warmth and texture that contrasts beautifully with the often gray Finnish sky.

The interior of St. John’s Church is equally striking, featuring vaulted ceilings and large, arched windows that fill the space with natural light, illuminating its intricate stained glass work.

The church also has wonderful acoustics and is a particular favorite for choral concerts.

Directions

Your next stop is the Design Museum (21). Head north on Korkeavuorenkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 140 m.

21. Design Museum

The Design Museum is one of the major sights on this free self-guided walking tour of Helsinki. C: Grisha Bruev/shutterstock.com

The Design Museum is another impressive Neo-Gothic edifice you’ll encounter in Helsinki.

The Design Museum in Helsinki is a vital institution showcasing the rich history and vibrant presence of Finnish design. Located in the Design District, the Design Museum is housed in a 19th-century neo-Gothic building designed by Gustaf Nyström, that originally functioned as a school.

ts architecture combines historical elegance with modern functionality, making it ideal for displaying design artifacts. The structure features ornate brickwork and large windows, reflecting its educational and aesthetic heritage, now repurposed to showcase Finland’s rich legacy in design.

The museum’s interior is modern and versatile, designed to showcase a permanent collection that includes iconic works of Finnish design alongside temporary exhibitions featuring contemporary design innovations.

Directions

Your next stop is Esplanadi Park (22). Head north on Korkeavuorenkatu and turn right onto Eteläesplanadi. You’ll be walking a distance of 600 m.

22. Esplanadi Park

The famous Esplanadi Park is one of the must-see sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

Esplanadi Park, affectionately known as “Espa” by locals, is a central green oasis in Helsinki, stretching between the Market Square and Mannerheimintie.

Established in 1812, this urban park serves as a popular gathering place for both tourists and residents, offering a picturesque setting with lined trees, vibrant flowerbeds, and beautifully maintained lawns. Esplanadi is flanked by historic buildings, upscale shops, and cafes, enhancing its charm as a cultural and social hub.

The park also features a bandstand where live music performances are held during the summer months, contributing to its lively atmosphere. Statues and sculptures throughout the park celebrate Finnish artists and historical figures, adding a touch of cultural heritage to its scenic paths.

Directions

Your next stop is Havis Amanda (23). Head east through the park and cross Unionkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 275 m.

23. Havis Amanda

The iconic Havis Amanda statue is one of the main attractions that you'll pass on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

Next up on our self-guided Helsinki walking tour is Havis Amanda (or Manta), the most popular and iconic statue in the city. The statue was designed by Finnish sculptor Ville Vallgren in 1906 and unveiled in 1908.

It depicts a mermaid emerging from the sea, symbolizing the birth of Helsinki. Standing on a granite fountain, the sculpture is adorned with four fish spouting water and surrounded by sea lions.

Each spring, students traditionally place a student cap on her head in a festive Vappu (May Day) ceremony, marking the statue’s role in local cultural traditions and festivities.

Directions

Your next stop is the Market Square (Kauppatori) (24). Head east through the plaza. You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.

24. Market Square

The centrally located Market Square is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Kiev.Victor/shutterstock.com

The open-air Market Square (Kauppatori) is situated at the eastern end of Esplanadi Park by the south harbor. This bustling marketplace is famed for its lively atmosphere and stunning seaside location, offering panoramic views of the Gulf of Finland.

Traditional market stalls abound, selling a variety of Finnish goods, from fresh seafood and seasonal produce to handicrafts and souvenirs.

The square hosts various cultural events throughout the year, making it a dynamic meeting place that captures the essence of Helsinki’s commercial and social life.

Directions

Your next stop is the Old Market Hall (25). Head south on Eteläesplanadi. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.

25. Old Market Hall

The Old Market Hall is one of the most notable attractions to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The Old Market Hall in Helsinki, known locally as Vanha Kauppahalli, has been a cornerstone of the city’s culinary scene since its opening in 1889. Housed in a charming, long, red-brick building, the hall exudes a warm, inviting atmosphere with its wooden stalls and vintage decor.

It offers a diverse array of Finnish and international delicacies, including gourmet cheeses, artisan breads, and specialty coffees. You can also indulge in fresh, locally caught seafood such as salmon, herring, and Baltic shrimp, which are staples at many stalls.

Traditional Finnish sausages, reindeer, and other game meats such as bear and moose are also available, often smoked or cured, providing a taste of the local wilderness. These items often make for interesting souvenirs or gifts.

The Old Market Hall is not just a place for tourists since many locals do their shopping here.

Directions

Your next stop is City Hall (26) which lies on Pohjoisesplanadi, just across the street from the Market Square. You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.

26. City Hall

The Helsinki City Hall is one of the main sightseeing spots on this free self-guided walking tour of Helsinki.

The City Hall was designed by Carl Ludwig Engel in Neoclassical style in 1833. It served as a hotel till 1913 and hosted many important cultural premiers.

Today, it is home to the office of the Mayor of Helsinki and hosts City Council meetings.

Directions

Your next stop is the Presidential Palace of Finland (27). Head east on Pohjoisesplanadi. You’ll be walking a distance of 175 m.

27. Presidential Palace of Finland

This free self-guided Helsinki walking tour takes you past the Presidential Palace of Finland.

The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the President of Finland. Originally designed by architect Pehr Granstedt. it stands as a stately example of early 19th-century architecture.

The building was completed in 1820 and was initially a merchant’s house before being transformed into a palace by Carl Ludvig Engel, who added its neoclassical façade.

The palace is an imposing structure with a majestic appearance, featuring grand columns and a serene, cream-colored exterior.

Directions

Your next stop is the Old Customs House (28). Head north on Mariankatu, turn right onto Päävartiontori, and continue onto Kanavakatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 400 m.

28. Old Customs House

The splendid Old Customs House is one of the most beautiful sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Popova Valeriya/shutterstock.com

Constructed in the early 20th century, the Old Customs House is one of the fascinating historic buildings in Helsinki.

It was designed in the National Romantic style by renowned architect Gustaf Nyström. This massive building is truly an architectural marvel and I really love its brick stonework, intricate details, and beautiful design.

The building served as a bonded warehouse until the 1960s, after which it lay abandoned for over 40 years. It is now home to some companies and is used as an exhibition area.

Directions

You’re already in the Katajananokka District but some of its more scenic streets (29) are a short stroll away. Head southeast on Kanavakatu, turn left onto Pikku Satamakatu, and turn left onto Kruunuvuorenkatu. After checking out this street, follow the map and navigate your way onto Luotsikatu, Kauppiaankatu, Vyökatu, and finally Laivastokatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 700 m.

29. Katajanokka District

This free self-guided Helsinki walking tour takes you through the affluent Katajanokka district.

Historically, the Katajanokka District served as an industrial and harbor area but has since transformed into one of Helsinki’s most prestigious residential zones. It’s a must-visit for those interested in architecture and Helsinki’s historical development.

Like the Ullanlinna District, Katajanokka is renowned for its exceptional collection of Jugendstil architecture. Being a fan of architecture and Art Nouveau in particular, I love walking around here.

Architects such as Lars Sonck, who designed several buildings in the area, embraced Jugendstil to create structures that were both artistic and emblematic of national identity, incorporating motifs inspired by Finnish folklore and the natural world.

Marvel at the pastel-colored walls and rich designs of the towers and windows on the exceedingly picturesque streets of Kruunuvuorenkatu, Laivastokatu, Luotsikatu, Kauppiaankatu, and Vyökatu.

The buildings on these streets feature curvilinear forms, floral motifs, and elaborate stonework, with façades that often include asymmetrical elements, rounded windows, and extensive use of ceramics and stained glass.

The use of materials such as brick, plaster, and decorative tiles adds texture and depth to the buildings, while stained glass and wrought iron work contribute to their ornamental elegance.

Directions

Your next stop is the Uspenski Cathedral (30). Head west on Laivastokatu, turn left onto Satamakatu, turn right onto Rahapajankatu, and finally turn right again onto Pormestarinrinne. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

30. Uspenski Cathedral

The stunning Uspenski Cathedral is one of the highlights of this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

Uspenski Cathedral is a magnificent representation of Eastern Orthodox architecture in Western Europe. The cathedral’s commanding presence on a hillock and architectural beauty make it a prominent landmark in the Helsinki skyline.

Completed in 1868, Uspenksi Cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in the region, designed by the Russian architect Alexey Gornostaev. It stands as a symbol of Russia’s historical influence on Finland, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time of its construction.

The exterior of Uspenski Cathedral is striking, characterized by its red brick facade and thirteen green-and-gold onion domes, representing Christ and his twelve apostles.

The cathedral’s interior is equally magnificent, adorned with a lavish array of icons, murals, and ornate decorations that reflect the rich traditions of the Eastern Orthodox faith. Gold and rich colors dominate the space, creating a sense of awe and reverence.

The iconostasis, a wall of icons and religious paintings, is particularly striking, featuring intricate woodwork and golden embellishments.

Directions

Your next stop is the Kruununhaka District (31). Head north on Pormestarinrinne, turn left onto Kanavaranta, and turn right and cross the Love Bridge (Rakkaudensilta). Then, turn right onto Meritullintori, turn left onto Aleksanterinkatu, and turn right onto Mariankatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 500 m.

31. Kruununhaka District

The stylish Kruununhaka district is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

Kruununhaka is one of the oldest and most esteemed districts in Helsinki, known for its historical significance and architectural elegance.

Nestled between the city center and the vibrant Katajanokka peninsula, this neighborhood boasts a wealth of neoclassical architecture, with many buildings dating back to the 19th century.

Meritullinkatu, Mariankatu, and Rauhankatu are some of the most picturesque streets Kruununhaka and are characterized by their cobblestone pavements, historic buildings and tranquil ambiance. The area also features charming cafes and shops that add a contemporary touch to its historical ambiance.

Over the years, Kruununhaka has maintained its regal atmosphere, housing important Finnish institutions such as the University of Helsinki and several embassies.

Directions

Your next stop is the Finnish House of Nobility (32). Head north on Mariankatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.

32. Finnish House of Nobility

The Finnish House of Nobility is one of the important things to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The Finnish House of Nobility (Ritarihuone in Finnish) is an impressive representation of neoclassical architecture, completed in 1862. Designed by the German architect G. T. Chiewitz, the building serves as the meeting place for the Finnish nobility, hosting events and maintaining archival records of noble families.

The façade is elegantly adorned with Corinthian columns and sculpted decorations that enhance its dignified appearance. The structure’s symmetrical layout and grand proportions exemplify the neoclassical aesthetic, emphasizing harmony and balance.

Inside, the House of Nobility is just as grand, featuring richly decorated interiors that include a large ceremonial hall with intricate stucco work, heraldic emblems, and a striking coffered ceiling. The coats of arms of 357 noble families embellish the walls of its main hall.

Directions

Your next stop is the Finnish National Theater (33). Head north on Mariankatu, turn left onto Kirkkokatu, and turn right onto Fabianinkatu. Then, turn left onto Kaisaniemenkatu, take the crosswalk on to Vilhonkatu and head west. You’ll be walking a distance of 1 km.

33. Finnish National Theater

This free self-guided Helsinki walking tour takes you past the picturesque Finnish National Theatre. C: meunierd/shutterstock.com

The Finnish National Theater, established in 1872 in the city of Pori on Finland’s southwestern coast, is the oldest Finnish-language professional theater in Finland. The theater is an important cultural institution in Finland and even played a vital role in the Finnish push for independence.

The Finnish National Theater’s building, completed in 1902, is yet another hallmark example of the National Romanticism style. In my opinion, it looks more like a medieval residence or a dollhouse rather than a theater.

Designed by architect Onni Tarjanne, the theater’s rough-hewn exterior is absolutely gorgeous. It is distinguished by its ornate detailing, red roof, turrets, and sculptural elements that incorporate themes from Finnish folklore and mythology.

Fun Fact

The scuttlebutt has it that the Finnish National Theater is haunted by at least three ghosts: one is a former actress dressed in white who roams the corridors in search of a script, and the other two are former Finnish stage actors. One of these actors is the notorious Urho Somersalmi, who infamously hacked his wife to death with an axe—a gift from the Finnish Actors’ Union—before hanging himself from a ceiling lamp hook.

Directions

Your next destination is the Ateneum Art Museum (34). Head south through the Rautantietori Square and cross Kaivokatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

34. Ateneum Art Museum

The Ateneum Art Museum is one of the must see sights on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour. C: Sarah Marchant/shutterstock.com

The Ateneum Art Museum is one of Finland’s most renowned and visited art museums. Established in 1887, the museum resides in an imposing neoclassical building, its façade richly adorned with sculptures and reliefs that speak to its artistic legacy.

The Ateneum’s collections encompass a broad spectrum of over 20,000 works of art, ranging from the 18th century to the modern era, highlighting the evolution and richness of Finnish art.

The museum is renowned for its extensive assembly of works by major Finnish artists such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck, and Hugo Simberg. Two of the museum’s notable highlights are Simber’s gloomily symbolic The Garden of Death and Gallen-Kallela’s Boy with a Crow.

In addition to its Finnish collections, the Ateneum also boasts an impressive array of international artistry, featuring pieces by masters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch.

Directions

Your next destination is Helsinki Central Station (35) which lies diagonally opposite the Ateneum Art Museum.

35. Helsinki Central Station

The beautiful Helsinki Central Station is one of the best sights to see on this free self-guided Helsinki walking tour.

The last stop of this self-guided Helsinki walking tour is Helsinki Central Station, often heralded as one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations.

Designed by the celebrated Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and completed in 1919, this pink-granite edifice is a masterful example of Art Nouveau architecture in Helsinki.

The station’s striking façade is characterized by its monumental use of Finnish granite, lending it a robust, imposing appearance.

The most iconic features are the four giant statues holding spherical translucent lamps, standing as guardians of the entrance—often referred to as the “stone men.” The statues are so iconic that they have even been used as animated mascots in railroad ads!

What’s interesting is that the building incorporates striking Modernist features, such as the great portal archway and clock tower, displaying Saarinen’s move toward more streamlined modernism.

Inside, the station offers a spacious, functional layout with high ceilings and large windows that flood the interior with natural light.

It serves as a major hub for local and national rail services. More than 400,000 people pass through the Helsinki Central Station daily making it Finland’s busiest building.

Fun Fact

While Helsinki Central Station is one of the most beautiful edifices in Helsinki, the same cannot be said for the structure directly opposite its entrance. The building in question is, of course, the infamous Makkaratalo (Sausage House), which gained its unsavory nickname courtesy of the concrete, sausage-shaped band encircling its exterior. Often regarded as the ugliest building in Helsinki, this brutalist eyesore represents the worst of Stalinist-style architecture.

Guided Helsinki Walking Tours

If you are very short on time or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of a self-guided Helsinki walking tour, you can also opt to take a guided tour instead.

Helsinki Half-Day City Tour: This private, 4-hour tour of Helsinki takes you around all of the major sights and highlights of the Finnish capital. Led by a local guide, you can get a feel for Helsinki’s unique atmosphere and listen to interesting stories and legends along the way.

Helsinki Architecture Walking Tour with an Expert: This small group 3-hour tour takes you around Helsinki and helps you gain a deeper appreciation of Helsinki’s buildings and structures.

Where To Stay in Helsinki?

The best place to stay in Helsinki would be in the city center and in the vicinity.

Virtually all of Helsinki’s main attractions can be found here, so it’s a perfect base for sightseeing. I have made sure to recommend only the best of the best (in terms of quality and value) 🙂

Hostel: Eurohostel, a popular choice for budget-minded travelers looking for someplace close to the city center

Budget: Omena Hotel Lönnrotinkatu, an excellent choice if you’re on the lookout for a frugal, no-frills option in central Helsinki

Mid-range: Hotel Helka, an excellent mid-range choice in central Helsinki

Splurge: Hotel Kämp, undoubtedly Helsinki’s most prestigious hotel and still the benchmark for hotel opulence

What Else to See in Helsinki

Obviously, there is plenty more to see in Helsinki than what we have covered in our walking tour.

You’re in good hands as below I have compiled some of our most popular posts on how to spend the best time in Helsinki and its surroundings.



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Now, what do you think? Did you enjoy our self-guided walking tour of Helsinki? Are there any other stops that we should be adding? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).

19 thoughts on “Free Self-Guided Helsinki Walking Tour by a Finn (with Map!)”

  1. Pingback: Britannia Baltic Cruise – Day 8 (Helsinki, Finland) – Here … There … Everywhere

  2. Hello! Love the structure of you blog. Thanks for the great tips.
    Do you think it’s feasible to do this in one day, or would suggest doing it over a couple of days?
    Thanks
    Rachel

    1. Hi Rachel, thank you! The walking tour can be done in 4-6 hours. If you want to go at a leisurely pace or go inside to check out the individual attractions, you can do it over a couple of days. Cheers!

    2. We have used your tours in Tallinn, Helsinki, Stockholm and Cooenhagen. We loved each one. So informative and clear. Thanks so much!

  3. Hi – I loved this walking guide, opening it in Google maps made it so easy and we had a great day following it. Thank you very much.
    Pete

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Glad you found our guide useful and had a great time in Helsinki. Cheers!

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for the guide, it’s brilliant! I have just spent two lovely days in Helsinki, following your guide leisurely. May I suggest two corrections, please? In the first set of directions between nn. 1 and 2 the same street name appears twice. I believe the correct version should read:

    Your next stop is the National Library of Finland (2). To get there, head north on Kluuvikatu, turn right onto (either Aleksanterinkatu or Yliopistonkatu) and turn left onto Unioninkatu. You’ll be walking a distance of 400 m.

    The second one is that in the Uspenski Cathedral they DO allow to take photos, just not with flash.

    Many thanks,
    Kirill

    1. Dear Kirill, thank you so much for your valuable feedback. I have now rectified the errors. Nice to know that they allow photographs inside Uspenski Cathedral now. Glad you had a great time in Helsinki!

      Best regards,
      Mihir

  5. This is an awesome guide! We will be in Helsinki in early Feb. Instead of walking 12km to see these sites, is it possible to rent a bicycle to travel instead? Would it be crazy to cycle in winter and in icy roads? Relatively cheap to rent a bicycle for two and with locks? It’ll be my first time to Helsinki so much appreciated for this info.

    Bernie

    1. Hi Bernie and thanks for your kind words!

      Personally, we would not recommend renting bikes in early February. This is easily the coldest period to visit Helsinki and we’re quite sure you’d be miserable exploring on bikes.

      Luckily, much of the tour can be followed on public transport as well, so we would definitely recommend that instead!

      Hope you enjoy your time in Finland! 🙂

      Jacky

  6. Claes Buurgaard-Jepsen

    Thank you Mihir for great inspiration! We are leaving for Helsinki tomorrow with lot’s to see – now even more thanks to your guide 🙂

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