Helsinki’s maritime silhouette is part of the national landscape of Finland. In Helsinki, the sea is an essential part everyday life. The sea surrounds the city on three sides. Helsinki has almost 100 kilometres of shoreline and around 300 islands. Many of the islands are accessible for recreational use. The archipelago offers endless opportunities for experiences throughout the year.
Helsinki’s South Harbour (Eteläsatama) is a hub for ferry services and one of Europe’s most beautiful harbours. Many sightseeing cruises let you discover the water and islands. On these unique cruises you can see lighthouses or historical destinations, or even enjoy a sea food lunch or romantic dinner on board. You can also catch a ferry to the Helsinki Zoo (Korkeasaari), Suomenlinna or to the recreational islands that lie off the coast of Kaivopuisto Park. Helsinki has several high-quality island restaurants that are easy to get to by ferry from the mainland.
In the heart of the archipelago is Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is open year round. The fortress islands offer lots to see and do for visitors of all ages: bastion walls, cannons, tunnels, museums, cafés and restaurants. The municipal ferry to Suomenlinna also operates in wintertime and is a fun experience in itself.
In summertime, ferries from the mainland operate to Helsinki Zoo on the island of Korkessaari, the recreational islands of Pihlajasaari and Uunisaari, and the charming historical town of Porvoo.
Wealthy residents built summer villas on the islands off the coast of Helsinki in the 1800s. The island of Pihlajasaari was one of these villa islands that is now a recreational area that is very popular among sunbathers. The smaller island of Uunisaari also has a swimming beach and is located just three minutes from the mainland by ferry. The island of Harakka is rich in plants and birdlife.
Helsinki has two travel seasons: summer and winter. The summer season starts in May and ends in September. Most of the archipelago and island tours run only during the summer season.
For the summery waterways, there is map available at the City of Helsinki Sports Department (in Finnish). During wintertime one can visit e.g. Seurasaari and Korkeasaari islands by foot or bus transportation.
Kalasatama, Jätkäsaari and Kruunuvuorenranta are former harbour areas that are being converted into new residential and commercial districts, offering visitors a unique perspective on the city’s maritime past, present and future.
Long walks by the sea are a part of the local culture in Helsinki. Helsinki’s islands and coastline are perfect places to enjoy the fresh air and swimming. The most popular swimming beach is Hietaniemi, or “Hietsu” as it is known locally. Here you can swim and sunbathe, as well as play volleyball or mini-golf. Visitors can try an authentic Finnish sauna e.g. on the island of Uunisaari or in the brand new Kulttuurisauna “Culture Sauna” beside the sea in Hakaniemi.