Surrounded by water on three sides, Helsinki overlooks the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, and offers some of Scandinavia’s most spectacular views. Originally established as a trading town in 1550, the capital city has evolved into a modern, well-planned city filled with broad, tree-lined streets, plenty of open parks and gardens, and stunning neo-classical architecture—most notably in Senate Square, which dates back to the 1700s and, today, plays host to the city’s numerous cultural festivals and events. The city is also the site of a proposed Guggenheim museum, which recently named its six shortlisted design concept entries.
8 a.m.—Start your day with a hearty breakfast buffet. Helsinki is known for serving a mean smörgåsbord—a giant buffet with an array of hot and cold dishes, including Baltic herring and smoked salmon—as well as reindeer, bear, elk and other game meats. Once you’ve stuffed yourself, walk off the extra calories by strolling through Sibelius Park, where you can view the Silbelius monument, an artistic work dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius that consists of 600 steel pipes arranged in a wave-like pattern. While in the neighborhood, we suggest you also take some time to explore the Olympic Stadium, which was built in 1938, home to the 1952 Olympics, and is one of the few Olympic buildings that’s still in active use.
11 a.m.—Next, make your way to the famous Senate Square, where the 17th-century buildings are considered a masterpiece of city design and neo-classical architecture. The Square is surrounded by the Government Palace, Cathedral, University buildings, libraries and the elegant Lutheran Cathedral. Built between 1830 and 1852, the cathedral is actually a parish church, but major State and University events take place here.
Noon—Time for lunch. To see as much of the city as you can in such a short space of time, we suggest taking our Celebrity excursion to nearby Porvoo, Finland’s second oldest town, to see the picturesque Finnish countryside. The tour highlights several of Helsinki’s tourist attractions, including Embassy Park, Market Square, Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, the Presidential Palace. While here, it’s a must to enjoy a traditional fish meal at one of the town’s many fabulous restaurants.
3 p.m.—Once back in Helsinki, find your way over to Temppeliaukio Church, also known as “Rock Church” because it’s carved out of solid rock, and one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Dusk is a perfect time to visit, as the church will be bathed in a natural light that enters through a skylight surrounding the center copper dome.
Alternatively, if you’re more into lifestyle traveling than historical sightseeing, consider skipping Rock Church to wind down your day with our excursion to the world-famous Arctic Ice Bar. As part of the experience, you’ll be able to go tobogganing, husky-dog sledding, and of course, throwing back a vodka (or two) from the bar’s ice-made glasses. As guest @Pdzambo puts it, the experience was “truly amazing. We felt like little kids again playing in the snow.”
For more on Celebrity’s Shore Excursions, read more at the Celebrity Cruises website.