Welcome to the port of Helsinki!
The happiest city in the world and Europe’s northernmost capital, Helsinki is the largest city in Finland (with roughly 650 000 inhabitants) 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 way of living. In this article, read about:
- Helsinki cruise port (Helsinki cruise terminal, getting around, useful info)
- 10 best things to do in Helsinki port and Helsinki shore excursions
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.
Helpful info & links:
- See the port of Helsinki on Google Maps
- 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. See the currency converter
- 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. An adult ticket costs 3.10€ and is valid for 80 minutes. The best and cheapest option is to buy a day ticket which costs 9€ per person. 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 (around 19 stops in total). 24-hour ticket prices start at around 30€. 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
- Helsinki has a humid continental climate with long, cold winters and pleasant summers. For useful cruise packing tips, check out my article What to Pack for a Cruise in 2023 – Top 60 Cruise Essentials
- Book a private transfer to/from Helsinki cruise port
- Check out Helsinki rent-a-car deals
- Explore Helsinki tours and activities
- Find accommodation in Helsinki
- Get an e-sim card to have access to the Internet at all times!
- Search the best European cruise deals!
10 Best Things to Do in the Port of Helsinki
Many attractions in 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 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.
The entrance fee is 5€ and tickets can be purchased directly at the entrance of the Church. 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. Check out the official webpage for updated information https://temppeliaukionkirkko.fi/
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. Get more info at the Helsinki Cathedral website
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.
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.
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 see a short video about Suonmelinna’s history in the auditorium.
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 Helsinki Card, a ferry ride and a visit to the museums are included. Find more information on the Suomenlinna Fortress website
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.
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 critics 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).
8. Helsinki Winterworld
Experience Finnish winter in the summer season and let Lapland come to you at this amazing winter complex in Helsinki! Here you will find numerous snow attractions and activities for everyone like a toboggan hill, kicksleds, fun skis, ice sculptures, snow igloos, and much more. The temperature inside Helsinki Winterworld is -3 C (25 F) but no worries, you will be provided with all required thermal clothing to enjoy your visit.
The easiest way to get here is by taxi and the ride takes approximately 25-30 minutes each way. To secure your spot in all the activities, especially the husky ride, it is better to pre-book your visit to the Winter World. You can also show up directly at the site, however, availability is not guaranteed.
Please note that Winterworld has been permanently closed (information updated in April 2023). Check out for updates online!
9. 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.
10. 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.
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.
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!
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