Aurora Borealis, Finnish Lapland and Lakeland, Finnish sauna, vibrant cities and vast wilderness are some of the things Finland is known for. With its fascinating culture and history, Finland will surely electrify all of your senses and seize you from all angles. It’s a long way to come for just 7 days, but if that’s all you can spare, then this 7-day suggested itinerary will be very useful. There are of course numerous other destinations in this country so you might want to mix and match the suggestions below to create your own itinerary.
Things to know before traveling to Finland:
Language – Finnish is the official language of Finland and is spoken by the majority of the population. Swedish is the other official language, which is spoken by approximately 6% of the population. Most Finns speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking the Finnish or Swedish language. Like other countries in the world, speaking at least some Finnish phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals. Out of courtesy you could always begin with “Puhutteko englantia?”meaning “Do you speak English?”
Etiquette – Finns generally have a relaxed attitude towards customs and manners. Being realist, they are not easily offended by cultural faux pas. They also do not expect visitors to know a lot about their country, but they are extremely pleased if you know some significant events in Finnish history or even their technological achievements. Finns do not normally enter into conversation with strangers but they will gladly help if you need assistance in getting to your destination.
Currency exchange – The official currency of Finland is the Euro (EUR), the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Exchanging money in Finland is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Europe. Currency can be exchanged at the banks, money exchange counters around the city and airports. Most major establishments like hotels and restaurants in major tourist and business destinations accept credit cards. The best way to get local currency is to use ATMs (with yellow signs that say ‘OTTO’), which are widely available in Helsinki and other major cities.
Transportation – Getting around Helsinki and the rest of Finland is fairly easy. Visitors can easily explore its tourist attractions using public transportation, which is one of Europe’s finest. It has efficient subway systems, bus transport networks, trains, trams and ferries. You can also bike on your own or join one of the guided biking tours offered in the cities.
Accommodation – There are many types of holiday accommodation in Finland, from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfasts. There are also plenty of apartment rentals if you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own place with cooking facilities. In Helsinki, we recommend accommodation options available in Designkortteli (Design District), Kauppatori, Kampii or Töölö. If you would like to get to know Finland from a different perspective, then you can stay for a few nights in a cottage which are fully equipped and centrally located in Tampere or Turku.
Detailed Itinerary: Learn more about the history and culture of Finland in 7 days
Day 1: Helsinki
Assuming you had to cross an ocean to get to Helsinki, your first day will be rife with jet lag. Take a flight that arrives in Helsinki Airport – Vantaa (HEL) as early as possible. The airport is about 30 to 40 minutes away from the city center. A taxi ride to the city center costs 30-40 EUR, but you can opt for cheaper and longer options like the regional buses number 615 or number 415 ( 5.50 EUR) or Finnair City Bus (6.50 EUR). Check into your hotel and freshen up before your tour. If your flight gets in early enough, head to a nearest restaurant or cafe for a quick breakfast or lunch.
Where to stay in Helsinki:
Hotel F6 (Fabianinkatu 6, Helsinki 00130, Finland)
Fabian Hotel (Fabianinkatu 7, Helsinki 00130, Finland)
Hotel Indigo Helsinki – Boulevard (Bulevardi 26, Helsinki 00120, Finland)
Hotel Lilla Roberts (Pieni Roobertinkatu 1-3, Helsinki 00130, Finland)
Hotel Kamp (Pohjoisesplanadi 29, Helsinki 00100, Finland)
Start your adventure in Helsinki with a visit to The National Museum of Finland and make sure to have enough time for every nook and cranny. This is a relevant and educational stop to create basic understanding of Finland’s history from pre-historic to the present day. Sticking with the history theme, it is best to squeeze in a trip to The National Library of Finland. Aside from its vast array of heritage, the library itself has a magnificent architecture with an equally interesting history. Spend the rest of the afternoon at The Esplanadi Park, a great place to people watch and do some shopping. Then, end the day with a quiet walk at Ruoholahti Canal, one of the best places in Helsinki for sunset viewing. After dinner, head back to your chosen hotel and sleep early for your tour the next day.
Day 2 (Helsinki)
On the morning of Day 2, get set to experience the glories of Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, an island-set museum where historic wooden houses and buildings were relocated from different parts of Finland to preserve the Finnish traditions. A popular picnic and party venue, the island is also where the Helsinki’s biggest Midsummer bonfires are carried out. After your open-air museum tour, embark on one of the most interesting day trips out of the city by heading to the spectacular sea fortress of Suomenlinna. This sea fortress built on six islands features some of the most impressive military architecture and outstanding fortification, enough to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Suomenlinna can be reached by ferry from the Market Square and travel time is approximately 15 to 20 minutes. You may also join an arranged tour, however, DIY-style will give you complete control of the trip.
After a whole day of adventure, go to a Finnish sauna for a relaxing bath experience. Ask your hotel receptionist on where to find a sauna and make sure to learn about Finnish sauna 101 if you are feeling a little unsure about what to do.
Day 3: Tampere
Today you’re up early to travel from Helsinki to Tampere, the second largest region of Finland and is the gateway to the East. Located in southern Finland, Tampere is easily accessible from Helsinki. The city can be reached within 2 hours by bus, train or by car. You can also fly directly from Helsinki to Tampere with Finnair, which takes approximately 30 minutes (one-way airfare starts at 62 USD). Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Tampere or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. Assuming you arrived in the afternoon, you can spend some time in Pyynikki Park and Observation Tower. Do not miss to visit Vapriikin Museokeskus, which exhibits the fascinating history of Tampere.
Where to stay in Tampere:
Scandic Tampere Station (Ratapihankatu 37, Tampere 33100, Finland)
Original Sokos Hotel Ilves (Hatanpaeaen valtatie 1, Tampere 33100, Finland)
Solo Sokos Hotel Torni Tampere (Ratapihankatu 43, Tampere 33100, Finland)
Scandic Tampere City (Haemeenkatu 1, Tampere 33100, Finland)
Lapland Hotel Tampere (Yliopistonkatu 44, Tampere 33100, Finland)
Day 4: Tampere-Hämeenlinna Cruise
On day 4, embark on one of the most fascinating day trips out of Tampere by joining a scheduled cruise on the lakes of Pyhäjärvi and Vanajavesi from Tampere via Hämeenlinna. While on the cruise, you will be introduced to Hämeenlinna, the oldest inland town of Finland and the birthplace of the great composer Jean Sibelius. You will also be able to enjoy the breath-taking views of Lake Pyhäjärvi and Lake Vanajavesi. During the trip you will be served traditional Finnish meal made from the best available ingredients in the region. For schedule and ticket prices, you may visit Hopealinjat’s official website.
In the evening, experience another popular activity in Tampere. For over 50 years, Pyynikki Summer Theater transforms into an open-air opera theater every summer. If your travel date happens to be from June to August, then you can attend a night performance. For performance schedule, visit their official website.
Day 5: Turku
On day 5, check out from your accommodation in Tampere and make your way to Turku, the oldest city in Finland. Taking the bus is the best and cheapest way to get Turku. Buses are reliable and navigable as as they operate on a scheduled timetables and set routes. One way bus fare is around 5 euros and travel time is approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes. Be sure to travel as early as possible so you can settle right away in your preferred accommodation before you take in some sights. Like Helsinki and Tampere, Turku has a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget.
Where to stay in Turku:
Scandic Julia (Eerikinkatu 4, Turku 20100, Finland)
Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel, Turku (Linnankatu 32, Turku 20100, Finland)
Centro Hotel Turku (Yliopistonkatu 12a | Inner Courtyard, Turku 20100, Finland)
Scandic Plaza Turku (Yliopistonkatu 29, Turku 20100, Finland)
Original Sokos Hotel Hamburger Bors (Kauppiaskatu 6 | Turku, Turku 20100, Finland)
The city was the former center of power of Finland until the Russians moved the capital to Helsinki in the 19th century. As a former capital, there are plenty of historical and cultural attractions you can visit in this city. Once settled, head to your first destination, the Turku Castle. Constructed in the 13th century, the castle is one of the oldest buildings in Finland. Then, make your way to Turku Cathedral, the mother church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the most iconic symbol of the city. Consecrated in the 13th century, the cathedral was dedicated to Saint Henry, Finland’s first bishop. End the day at the Turku City Library, the perfect place to wander through and observe local living.
Day 6: Turku
A visit to Turku would not be complete without an archipelago cruise aboard the Steamship Ukkopekka, one of the oldest Finnish steamship still in service. During summer, Ukkopekka sails from Turku to Naantali. Once your group reaches the town, you will take a guided walking tour of Naantali’s idyllic old town.
Day 7: Turku to Helsinki
Easiest way to travel from Turku to Helsinki is by train. Travel time is between one hour and 38 minutes and one hour and 53 minutes, depending on the train you get on. Tickets can be found for 17 EUR and up (very often you can find ticket for 9.90 EUR but you have to book in advance). Fit in one last amazing breakfast or lunch in the Old Town Helsinki. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping before you travel to the airport. Head to the airport in time to check in for your flight back home or extend your stay in Helsinki.
Have you been to Finland? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
This is the end of our 7-day suggested itinerary. The sequence of activities and attractions above are just a guide and you can definitely change it to suit your interests. You may opt to continue traveling independently, or make your way further north to the Lapland. The decision is all yours!
Featured image: Bicycles parked by the river embankment in popular among youth Kallio district of Helsinki (Alina Zamogilnykh / Shutterstock.com)