Helsinki is a cool city but sometimes you need a breath of fresh air. Thankfully, Finland can deliver much more than expected and we’ve got you covered in case you’re looking for something new. Check out these day trips from Helsinki to get some inspiring ideas on what to do next.
First, let’s look at what you have near Helsinki. You are at luck, actually, as the location of the city is great to explore the south of Finland.
Helsinki is on the southern coast, meaning that legendary places like Lapland would take a long time to reach. They are still well-connected to the capital, just not as day trips… so if you’re hoping to see Santa Claus and quickly come back, that’s a bit more difficult to do.
But you still have a lot of options around Helsinki. In the south, you are looking at fascinating nature trips and cute old towns (plus one unexpected city vacation that I’ll get to later – so read on to find out all the details).
Espoo: As Close As It Gets
Espoo is practically a part of Helsinki at this point. It’s super easy to reach by bus or train, you definitely don’t need to rent a car. Don’t tell the locals that they are from Helsinki, though, they might not like it.
Espoo has a unique charm and a separate identity. Let’s not go around and make locals angry!
The town is popular with young families and the lovers of all things modern. It has a distinctly novel vibe, attracting a lot of tech professionals with both the proximity to the capital and the fresh atmosphere. Make sure you check out the modern art museum, a cult favourite among locals, and the lakes that surround it.
Espoo is also a great option if you’re looking for cheaper accommodation near Helsinki. It is very safe, it’s beautiful, and you have the capital right next to you.
Porvoo: Where Everybody Goes
Just 50km away from Helsinki (a.k.a. around 31 miles), it is no wonder that people always go to Porvoo when they have a day off. Since the destination is so popular, there are tons of convenient ways to reach Porvoo:
The cheapest and most convenient way is by bus.
They depart from the main bus station in Kamppi (under the shopping centre). There is also a stop near the metro – right behind the Lasipalatsi building on Mannerheimintie. The journey only lasts around 50 minutes, taking you through the beautiful Finnish countryside.
Porvoo is the second oldest town in Finland, established back in the 14th century and it’s famous for the red ochre buildings and the gorgeous cathedral. If you love history, make sure you also check out Porvoo’s museum, though it isn’t a must.
As far as day trips from Helsinki go, this one is the easiest to organize (it is literally easier to get lost on the way to Espoo compared to Porvoo). Since the town is beautiful and the trip is breezy, this option is highly recommendable, even for visitors that get nervous because of the language difference.
Day Trips From Helsinki for Nature Lovers
Finnish people love to leave the city every once in a while. Since this is the south, the weather is more or less favorable throughout the year. You would still need warm clothes if you plan on hiking, though. Other than that, there isn’t a “hiking level” you can’t cover near Helsinki.
Even complete beginners can enjoy the Nuuksio National Park’s unspoiled beauty. With miles upon miles of forest and some great options for additional activities (Nordic walking, kayaking, berry picking), you could easily spend a few days here.
Alternately, if you want to spend a bit less time and you prefer an organized tour, this half-day Nuuksio tour from Helsinki is a great choice.
However, if you want to do it yourself and spend more time there, bear in mind that your only accommodation option is a tent. It’s best to bring one if you travel from abroad – everything seems crazy expensive in Finland.
If you stick it out long enough, you might get to spot the flying squirrel. This curious little mammal is more common here than it is anywhere else in Finland. It’s a nocturnal animal though, so don’t expect to spot it during a simple walk in the forest.
Staying the night is an awesome way to enjoy nature, see exciting wildlife, and observe the clear Nordic sky.
Day Trips From Helsinki: Turku The Majestic City
Turku is Finland’s former capital and it still has that vintage regal vibe to it. On that note, don’t miss the artsy cafés along the riverfront. They are the perfect place to enjoy the sun and to feel the true vibe of the city.
If you are coming in summer, you can’t miss the Aura Fest. Aura usually happens in August and it is one of Turku’s biggest event. Most of the artists are local – this is the place to enjoy Finland’s best performers in hip-hop and pop, and electronic music. There is the occasional foreign artist as well.
But why Aura? I’m glad you asked, it’s actually the name of the city.
Down By The River In Turku
The River Aura has always been at the very heart of the city. After all, Turku was first established because of its’ proximity to the Baltic sea plus the availability of drinkable water from the river. In all of those centuries, Turku still hasn’t lost its’ significance.
There are organized tour that you can be part of, and our recommendation is this one. This is actually a day tour that focuses on the water-part, meaning that you will do some kayaking and discover the world’s largest archipelago this way.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to get into the water, you will still have to be near it if you plan to explore by yourself. The best route to take in Turku is to follow the river – from the Cathedral all the way down to the Turku Castle.
You start at Turku Cathedral. Stand on the steps and follow the river with your eyes, you will soon spot the Castle to the left.
Head over to the Great Old Square and check out Brinkkala Mansion, which houses the Vartiovuori Observatory (check their opening times, you might get to visit). Right next to it is the Luostarnimäki Handicraft Museum where you can see traditional crafts from the area.
Walk back to the river and you will see Pinella. This is Turku’s oldest restaurant, overlooking the Vähätori square. If you plan on staying the night, remember this area. Not only is it home to the best restaurants in town, it’s also a nightlife hotspot.
The City Library building nearby is where you will find plenty of free cultural events, ranging from vintage movie nights to modern art installations. Check out their social media or their website to see what they have on the day of your visit.
At Låna, which is right by the square, you can hire an electric picnic boat to cruise up the river. The price might be a bit steep but it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Cross the river at the city’s favorite Library Bridge, which, unlike most things in this town, is a modern work of art. It brings you straight in front of the old library. In this area, you will find Kaskis, a local gourmet favorite, owned by a Finland Master Chef winner.
Whether you love reality TV or not, Kasiks food is one of the best things Turku has to offer. Just remember to make a reservation.
Cross the river again and you will see the large Turku Art Museum standing over the city. While this is not a must, art lovers will definitely enjoy exploring it.
You are now near the restaurant riverboats, another Turku speciality, as well as the Pharmacy Museum, housed in Qwensel House from the 18th century. Cross back to the eastern shore on the Theatre bridge.
The Turku theatre is being renovated but you can enjoy some splendid Art Nouveau architecture in this area.
The Samppalinna Open Air Theatre is a must if you stay the night. Housed in an old windmill, this is the ultimate “history meets modern art” experience. Of course, you do need some Finnish unless you’re going to a dance performance.
Martinsilta Bridge is the last bridge over the river. This way large sea vessels can enter and you can go out into the sea on a tourist boat. It is fairly affordable and a fun way to see Turku’s seashore.
But there is something better than cheap: free stuff. In that case, I am talking about the little orange ferry Föri that has linked the riversides for more than a hundred years.
Climb up the hill in front of you. You can sip some coffee in what used to be a prison, which is an experience in itself. The Café Kakola is a prime spot to observe the city lights, it really doesn’t get more Instagrammable than this.
Finally, walk through the squares to the Turku Castle – there is a permanent exposition here but the guest artwork is also worth checking out. The Turku castle is a symbol of the city so it really shouldn’t be missed.
And there you have it, the day trips from Helsinki also include a city break. Taking a break from a city to another city… Yeah, seems logical. But seriously, you have to visit Turku, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country!
More Day Trips from Helsinki?
These were just our top day trips, but there are more options for you. For instance, did you know you can also visit nearby Estonia from Helsinki? It doesn’t even take long to reach Tallinn and it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit yet another country.
Since there are so many extra opportunities for day trips from Helsinki, why don’t you leave your own in the comments down below with additional suggestions or ideas? This way you can give fellow travelers some cool ideas and you can also make us jealous.