Port of Helsinki Overview | 9 Best Things To Do In Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Cathedral

Welcome to the port of Helsinki!

The happiest city in the world and Europe’s northernmost capital, Helsinki is the largest city in Finland and one of the frequent stops in Scandinavia and Baltic cruise itineraries. Often considered the gate between the West and the East (Saint Petersburg is only 400 km/250 miles away), Helsinki features a blend of Western and Eastern cultural influences reflected in the city’s architecture and lifestyle. In this article, read about:

  • Port of Helsinki (Helsinki cruise terminal, getting around, useful info)
  • 9 best things to do in Helsinki port and Helsinki shore excursions

Visit also our cruise port guides to Copenhagen, Tallinn, Oslo, Stockholm, Tromso, Bergen, Olden, Alesund

Port of Helsinki

Get your cameras ready for magnificent photo opportunities of the beautiful landscapes as the cruise ship sails through the Finnish archipelago on the way to Helsinki! Port Helsinki is one of the busiest passenger ports in Europe and Finland’s largest cargo port. It consists of 4 cruise terminals: South Harbour, West Harbour, Katajanokka, and Hernesaari.

  • Hernesaari terminal – The majority of large cruise ships dock at Munkkisaari Quay (3 berths: LHB, LHC, and LHD), located approximately 3.5 km/2.2 miles away from the city center. The terminal consists of several facilities, including a tourist information booth, restrooms, free Wi-Fi, souvenir shops, and a taxi rank. If you decide to walk to the city center, it will take you approximately 30 to 45 minutes, or you can hop on buses #14 or #17 to take you downtown.
  • West Harbour – International cruise ships used to dock at Melkki Quay, located at the south end of the West Harbour, about 3 km/2 miles from Helsinki city center. However, West Harbour is nowadays mostly used by ferries, as the brand new ferry terminal has recently been built at the Lansisatama Quay. Here, you can take a 2-hour ferry ride to Tallinn. A new ferry terminal boasts modern facilities and great access to the city center by public transport.
  • South Harbour – This port consists of two terminals (three docks): Makasiini Terminal (Pakkahuone Quay) and Olympia Terminal (Olympia Quay), located within a 10-minute walking distance from Market Square and Helsinki downtown. Smaller cruise ships usually dock at Pakkahuone Quay, where cruise passengers can find a tourist information desk, souvenir shops, restrooms, luggage lockers, and other terminal facilities.
  • Katajanokka – Located in the Katajanokka district, this terminal serves smaller cruise ships and ferry transportation to Tallinn, Estonia. You can find souvenir shops, ATMs, luggage lockers, and restrooms at the quay, as well as parking and a taxi rank. This terminal is located within a short walking distance from the main Helsinki highlights.

NOTE: Your cruise ship will most likely dock at Munkkisaari Quay (Hernesaari terminal), as that one is mostly used by international cruise ships. Other harbors are mainly used for ferry transportation to Tallinn, Stockholm, Saint Petersburg, and other places.

Port of Helsinki
Port of Helsinki. Source: Pixabay.

Getting Around & Local Transportation

  • Cruise lines normally offer a shuttle service to the city center for a nominal fee. It’s recommended to purchase tickets in advance onboard to avoid lines.
  • The currency in Finland is EURO (€). Finland introduced the Euro as its official currency in 2002, becoming the only Nordic country that uses Euro. Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted.
  • As your cruise ship will most probably dock at the Hernesaari terminal, you will take bus #17 in Matalasalmenkuja, and you will get off at the stops by the Market Square and Senate Square in the city center. Bus #14 is another bus you can take, and it goes to the railway station (get off at Kampintori and walk to the train station). If you are heading to the Helsinki airport, you can go to the railway station, and from there take bus 615, 615T,  Finnair City Bus or train I or P.
  • The distance between Helsinki port and Helsinki airport is around 20 km/12.5 miles (a 30-minute drive)
  • If your ship docks at Katajanokka terminal, you can use trams #4 and #5 to go to the city center if you don’t want to walk (walking distance is 10 minutes).
  • When it comes to the tickets, you can buy them at the HSL ticket machines (cheaper) or from the driver. The best and cheapest option is to buy a day ticket. You can check the timetables and fares at the official website https://www.hsl.fi/
  • Taxis are normally available in front of the terminal. They are metered and like in other Scandinavian countries, quite expensive.
  • Each of the cruise terminals has a Hop on Hop off bus stop (whenever cruise ships are in the terminal). The approximately 90-minute route includes stops at Helsinki’s most famous city attractions, such as Senate Square/Helsinki City Museum, Market Square, Helsinki Art Museum (Amos Rex) and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church), Sibelius Monument, Helsinki Zoo, Helsinki Olympic Stadium, Swedish Theater, and many others. Check out the Helsinki Hop on Hop off bus tours on Viator and Get Your Guide
  • Helsinki Card is a convenient and economical sightseeing package available for 1, 2, or 3 days duration and includes free entry to 30+ attractions and museums, a free bus tour around the city, discounts in restaurants and shops, a free ferry to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and Suomenlinna Museum, and much more. Book a Helsinki Card
  • Book a private transfer to/from Helsinki cruise port
  • Explore Helsinki tours and activities
  • Find accommodation in Helsinki

9 Best Things to Do in the Port of Helsinki

Many attractions in the port of Helsinki are located within reasonable walking distance from the city center. However, consider that ships have limited time in port, so it is always recommended to plan your day in advance. If it’s your first time here, consider taking a guided tour to maximize your day ashore.

1. Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church)

This unique church is located in the Töölö neighborhood right in the city center and represents one of the most visited Helsinki attractions. It has an unusual, circular form and was carved out of solid rocks, which is why it is also known as the Rock Church. Covered by an impressive copper dome and boasting excellent acoustics, the church is a popular venue for concerts.

During the peak summer months, it is strongly recommended to book online to avoid the lines and waiting. There is no elevator inside the Church. Wheelchair users are welcome to the Church hall.

Explore Rock Church tours and activities

Rock Church interior, Helsinki
Rock Church interior
Rock Church
Rock Church

2. Cathedral of Helsinki

This Lutheran Church, also known as the White Church, is located at Senate Square right in the heart of the city. Built between 1830–1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, this monumental neoclassic cathedral is considered the unofficial symbol of the city. With an iconic green dome and marvelous architecture, this cathedral is a perfect blend of Eastern and Western architectural influences.

Wheelchair users can access the Cathedral of Helsinki using the back entrance. There is an elevator that takes you straight to the sanctuary and there is a ramp that will take you to the viewing platform.

Check out Helsinki Cathedral tours and activities

Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral

3. Market Square

No visit to Helsinki is complete unless you spend time at one of the most visited attractions in Helsinki – a bustling harborside open-air Market Square where you can feel the authentic city vibe! Check out the market stands where you find a wide variety of items, including freshly caught fish, fruits and vegetables, coffee, and Finnish handicraft and souvenirs. Do not miss trying Finnish cuisine – Salmon soup with rye bread is the locals’ favorite! Right by Market Square, you can embark on a canal cruise.

Market Square in Helsinki - Salmon on a stall.

Market Square in Helsinki - Fresh fruit
Market Square in Helsinki – Fresh fruit

4. Uspenski Cathedral

Designed by the Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev in the first half of the 19th century, Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe. The imposing red-brick cathedral is located in the city center, only a 10-minute walk from Market Square and other city landmarks. The magnificent religious edifice sits on a hilltop overlooking the city and the harbor and is no less impressive than buildings on Moscow’s Red Square.

Do not miss the opportunity to visit inside and admire the rich collection of icons and Orthodox decorations.  Even though the Cathedral is closed on Mondays, it is well worth it to take a walk to see the Cathedral’s lavish exterior, a clear symbol of Russian influence in Finnish history.

Check out Uspenski Cathedral tours and activities

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki
Uspenski Cathedral. Source: Pixabay.

5. Suomenlinna Fortress

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated on a group of islands off Helsinki and was built by Sweden in the second half of the 18th century as a maritime fortress. Here you will have the opportunity to visit the museums, bunkers, church and fortress wall, as well as enjoy one of the cafes and breweries or even rent a bike for a pleasant ride around the island. Make sure you bring your camera because this place offers fantastic photo opportunities!

There is no entrance fee to the fortress, however, a ticket is required to visit the museums. Tickets can be bought at Suonmelinna Centre or you can purchase tickets in advance online. Ticket to the Suomenlinna Museum includes access to an auditorium where you can watch a short video about Suonmelinna’s history.

To get to Suomenlinna Fortress, you need to take a ferry that departs from the port of Helsinki Market Square. The ride takes approximately 15-20 minutes each way, and ferries run every 20 minutes. If you purchase the public transport day ticket, the round-trip transfer to the island is free and if you buy the Helsinki Card, a ferry ride and a visit to the museums are included.

Explore Suomenlinna Fortress tours and activities

Suomenlinna Fortress, Helsinki
Suomenlinna Fortress. Source: Pixabay.

6. Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

Be transported to the rural Helsinki of the old days and learn how Finns used to live before the modern era. The open-air museum consists of many old houses, farmsteads, a manor house, a church from Kiruna dating back to the 16th century, and other buildings that have been brought from all around Finland.

During the summer months, you will be able to find craft markets and different workshops for the whole family. The museum is located in Meilahti, approximately 7 km/4.3 miles from the Helsinki City Centre and the harbor. To get there, you can take bus #24, and get off at Seurasaari which is the last stop. Entrance tickets are required and can be purchased directly at the museum or booked online. Seurasaari Open-Air Museum is not wheelchair accessible.

Explore Seurasaari open-air museum tours and activities

7. Sibelius Memorial

This unique monument is situated in Sibelius Park in the district of Töölö, approximately a 10-minute drive from the city center. The monument titled “Passio Musicae” was built by Eila Hiltunen in 1967 as a tribute to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The impressive monument features over 600 steel tubes that capture the wind like a pipe organ.

However, this monument was the subject of criticism among the Finnish people so the second sculpture of Sibelius was added to the memorial. To get to the monument, you can take bus #24 from Market Square (the trip can take up to 30 minutes).

Check out the Sibelius Monument tours and activities 

Sibelius Monument
Sibelius Monument

8. Finnish Countryside

If you have already visited the highlights of Helsinki and would like to experience something different, you should take a trip to visit Savijärvi Gård manor, a 100 years old horse breeding farmhouse located in the municipality of Sipoo 40 minutes away from Helsinki. Here you will be greeted by the owners before enjoying a delicious homemade lunch and a guided tour of the farm grounds to see some of the horses. Savijärvi Gård manor is only reserved for private groups, so make sure to check with your Shore Excursions team onboard to find out your options.

Finnish Countryside, Helsinki
Finnish Countryside

9. Village of Porvoo

This charming medieval town is the second oldest in Finland and a popular destination for tourists. Old Porvoo is known for its well-preserved 18th and 19th-century buildings and a 15th-century Cathedral. Enjoy a stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets and admire the colorful wooden houses, many of them converted into arts and crafts shops, souvenir stores, and cozy cafes. The red-painted riverside warehouses are one of the most photographed national landscapes in Finland.

Old Porvoo Village near Helsinki
Old Porvoo Village

Porvoo is located 52 km/32 miles away from Helsinki city center, approximately a 45-minute drive. Due to the limited time in port, I strongly suggest you book a shore excursion with your cruise line or an independent tour operator. If you would like to get to Porvoo on your own, you must take a bus from Kamppi bus station in Helsinki.

Check out Porvoo tours and activities

To Wrap Up

If you are taking a cruise to Helsinki, be sure to plan your day ahead to get the most out of this wonderful port of call!

Visit also our cruise port guide to Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Stavanger, Reykjavik, Dover, Dublin, Cork/Cobh, Glasgow (Greenock), Le Havre, Cherbourg

You may also like our cruise port guides to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Western Europe, Baltic & Scandinavia, USA & Canada, Australia & New Zealand

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