Helsinki is an unparalleled destination to visit in the summer. Avoid the crowds at the conventionally popular south of Europe and head to to this upbeat city, not only to explore one of Europe’s culturally relevant hubs, but to make use of its excellent rail and ferry connections (detailed below) to explore the surrounding areas.
Note: A day trip to the beautiful fortress of Suomelinna, on a small island by Helsinki, is a great addition to your itinerary. You’d need a full day to plan this trip: more details here.
This is by far some of the most beautiful natural landscape we have ever seen.
There’s really nothing like it. Rent a car from Europcar in central Helsinki or take a train to Hämeenlinna, Lahti, or Kouvola (Repovesi National Park) and bike around to enjoy this stunning natural landscape. If you’re renting a car, we strongly recommend downloading the Google offline map of the south of Finland to help you get around (see more travel hacks here!) We strongly recommend visiting Aulanko, only a few minutes from the Hämeenlinna city center, where you will be surrounded by lush nature and beautiful lakes any day of the year.
It may be expensive but if you’re tight on time, book ahead for the rates and book a car for a day trip from Helsinki to Aulanko, Hämeenlinna. Hämeenlinna has little to offer in terms of tourism (the castle, while beautiful from outside, is not something we can recommend as of July 2017), but the Aulanko area is stunning. Climb the Aulanko Lookout Tower (Näkötorni), hike the numerous trails around, and have a picnic by one of the beautiful lakes around.
Don’t forget to have some cake and tea at an absolute gem of a place we stumbled upon: Vehoniemen Alamaja, at Kaivanto, Länsi-Suomen Lääni. This adorable Victorian-style house is located in the middle of the woods, by a small lake, where you can have delicious home-made cake, tea, or coffee anytime, and even lunch or dinner, given that you arrive at the correct times. You can have authentic Finnish specialties – and even some salmon cake, if you’re up for trying it! It’s located between Hämeenlinna and Tampere.
If you’re looking for a less expensive city-alternative to Helsinki, look to Tampere. It’s worth spending a night here, but if you’re looking to do a day trip, we strongly recommend seeing the Tampere Cathedral, Tampere Hall, the Finlayson Factory, walking by the Tammerkoski, and definitely taking an hour or two to visit the Lenin Museum.
The museum is located in the Tampere Workers’ Hall, which housed meetings of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party from 1905-6. The location is renowned as in 1906, Lenin met Josef Stalin here in person for the first time. The museum was opened in 1946 by the Finland-Soviet Union Society, and is currently maintained by the Finnish Labor Museum Werstas. It was the first museum dedicated to Lenin outside of the Soviet Union. They have an excellent exhibition, and we highly recommend a visit when visiting the city.
If you’re looking to stay in Tampere for longer, we can whole-heartedly recommend staying at Lapland Hotels Tampere. Given how expensive Finland can be, this is extremely reasonably priced. You definitely get your money’s worth here!
If you have a little more time in Tampere, we also recommend visiting Tampere Hall, Kaleva Church, and the Tampere City Hall for the highlights.
There is an excellent rail connection provided by Veturi (VR) trains between Helsinki and Tampere.
Whether you’re taking a day trip from Helsinki or spending a few days in Turku and heading out to the islands nearby, Turku is worth a visit. Visit the Turku Castle and Cathedral, as well as the Sibelius Museum and Aboa Vetus if you feel like seeing the highlights. Take a walk along the beautiful bridges and have a bite to eat at one of the numerous outdoor restaurants and cafes.
You can take a ferry directly from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. We strongly recommend this Baltic gem of a city as a continuation of your European summer travels. The entire Old Town of Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the beautiful castle walls that have withstood hundreds of WWII bombings, enjoy an Aperol-Spritz as you gaze over the gorgeous orange roofs of the city, learn about the history of Tallinn from Occupation to Independence at the Museum of Occupations, and have excellent food and coffee at some of the cheapest prices you’ll see in Europe. We were stunned at how beautiful and romantic this city is (without exaggeration), and it’s no wonder that it is one of Europe’s fastest growing tourist destinations. Your complete guide to Tallinn, Estonia, is coming soon (follow us to stay updated!)
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