• Discover the maritime attractions of Helsinki (c) Jussi Hellsten/Visit Finland

Maritime attractions in Helsinki

Helsinki’s shoreline is adorned by around 100 kilometres of coast and over 300 islands of which many are accessible for recreational use. Proximity to the sea offers an endless number of opportunities in the summer. Enjoy the maritime atmosphere also in the many island restaurants of Helsinki!

Find out more about the maritime attractions in Helsinki below:

Suomenlinna maritime fortress
Recreational islands Lonna and Vallisaari
Pihlajasaari and Uunisaari beaches
Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
Helsinki Zoo in Korkeasaari
Island restaurants
Sightseeing cruises

One of the world’s largest maritime fortresses

Suomenlinna is a maritime fortress that was built off the coast of Helsinki in 1748. Here you can get a real feel for Finland’s position between East and West; Suomenlinna was shaped by three distinct historic eras when helped defend first Sweden, then Russia and ultimately Finland.

Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a notable example of European military architecture. Suomenlinna is among the most popular sights in Finland and a living district that is home to 850 city residents. With its museums and events, and its cosy cafes and restaurants Suomenlinna offers a unique experience for visitors of all ages. Especially children can have a great time exploring the many tunnels of the old fortress.

Suomenlinna (c) Jussi Hellsten/Visit Finland

It is good to reserve at least half a day for a visit to Suomenlinna. The vast fortress is best explored on foot, so prepare for some hiking with good shoes and a windbreaker. During the summer (from 1 June to 31 August) guided walking tours are arranged daily in English at 11am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm. 

Suomenlinna is open year-round and you can get there with the municipal (HSL) ferry that departs from the Market Square throughout the year. In summertime you can also take a JT-Line waterbus from the Market Square. The journey takes around fifteen minutes.

Recreational islands Lonna and Vallisaari

The island Lonna has an interesting history. In the 1880s it was used by the Russian Navy to store mines, in the 1920s it was used as a base for clearing mines, and in the post-war period ships were demagnetised there. Now the island is open to the public featuring a café and restaurant. You can get to Lonna in summertime aboard the JT-Line waterbus to Suomenlinna with departures approximately once every hour. The waterbus departs from the Market Square and stops at Lonna on the way to Suomenlinna.

Lonna. Photo: Photo archive of the Governing Body of Suomenlinna/Suomen Ilmakuva Oy

The island of Vallisaari between Santahamina and Suomenlinna opens up to the public in May 2016. Formerly used by the Finnish Defence Forces, the island offers visitors the chance to enjoy its diverse flora and spectacular views, as well as its well preserved historic fortifications. In its first year Vallisaari can be explored along marked trails, and guided tours will also be available. A ferry connection from the Market Square will begin operating on 14 May 2016.

New attraction, island of Vallisaari, opens up to the public in May (c) Kalle Kataila / Metsahallitus

Summer's favourites: Pihlajasaari and Uunisaari

With its swimming beaches and cafés, Pihlajasaari Island is one of Helsinki’s most popular recreational islands. Visitors can also enjoy the island’s sauna. From early May to the beginning of September a JT-Line ferry carries passengers from Merisatamanranta located beside Cafe Carusel (service from 14 May to 4 September, and 10-11 September) or Ruoholahti (service from 18 June to 14 August).

At Pihlajasaari (c) Maija Astikainen/Mondo

The beautiful island of Uunisaari is situated off the southern shore of Kaivopuisto Park close to the city centre. The island has swimming beaches, a restaurant, a kiosk and saunas. The ferry departs the mainland from the compass by the shore (Kompassitori, Merisatamanranta Kaivopuisto). Uunisaari is open year-round.

Seurasaari is the only open-air museum in Helsinki

Seurasaari island has been a favourite recreational destination for Helsinki residents since the 1880s, when townspeople arrived by boat to enjoy picnics with their families. This popular museum island is located twenty minutes by bus (number 24) from the city centre.

During the summer you can visit the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum that represents Finnish building traditions from the 18th century to the 20th century. Summertime events include folk dancing performances and various workshops presenting traditional Finnish handicrafts, customs and folklore.

Seurasaari summer events (c) Jussi Hellsten/Helsinki365

Combine your trip to Seurasaari with a visit to the neighbouring Tamminiemi Museum that used to be President Urho Kekkonen's official residence. The museum is located beside the bridge leading to the island.

Korkeasaari - discover the whole world on one island

Helsinki Zoo is located on an island called Korkeasaari. The Zoo covers nearly 150 animal species and almost 1000 plant species for you to discover. Most of the animals at the zoo like to live outdoors in both the summer and winter, so you can visit the island whenever. In summertime you can travel to the zoo by ferry from the Market Square and Hakaniemi Market. You can also get to Korkeasaari by bus (number 16) from the city centre or by taking metro to Kulosaari and then walking across Mustikkamaa to the main entrance of the zoo.

Art meets Sand sculpting event at Helsinki Zoo (c) Mari Lehmonen/Helsinki Zoo

Enjoy maritime cuisine in beautiful island restaurants

Helsinki’s island restaurants off the coast of Kaivopuisto Park are open from May to the end of September and can be reached by ferry from the mainland. Try also the popular lunch and dinner cruises departing from the Market Square.

Restaurant Skiffer (c) Jussi Hellsten/Helsinki365

Participating HelsinkiMenu restaurants serve the best seasonal seafood dishes, including perch, whitefish, pikeperch and salmon served with new potatoes in summertime. The crayfish season begins in late July and can be celebrated at any of the island restaurants, for example.

You can also enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee by the sea in the old Relandersgrund lighthouse ship at the end of Aleksanterinkatu street, at Suomenlinna, or any of the cafés along the shoreline by Kaivopuisto Park and Hakaniemi.

Discover Helsinki's archipelago on a sightseeing cruise

In Helsinki it is possible to enjoy the sea even without your own boat. Archipelago cruises depart from the Market Square throughout the summer, and you can also catch the m/s J.L.Runeberg ferry to the idyllic town of Porvoo.

Archipelago cruises (c) Lauri Rotko

Sightseeing cruises as well as lunch and dinner cruises are arranged by i.a. Strömma Finland, Royal Line and IHA-Lines Helsinki Cruises.

Updated 04/03/2016

Excursions at sea near Helsinki