Solo Travel Helsinki: An Independent Visitor’s Guide to Finland’s Capital

stunning helsinki cathedral in finland

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As a city, Helsinki is wildly underrated, in my opinion. On my own solo travels in Europe, not too many backpackers I spoke to had Helsinki on their itineraries. 

However, I think Helsinki is worth visiting even as a solo traveler. Sure, you don’t get as many hostels as the neighboring Baltic countries, but Finland’s capital city is perfect for people who just want a mellow break in a beautiful city.

Furthermore, a chilled out vacation in Helsinki is especially great for new solo travelers.

As someone who’s been to Europe a lot, I’m frequently asked about cities and countries that are good for beginners who are ready to explore the continent but at the same time, don’t want anything too challenging just yet. 

In addition to Scotland and Ireland (which are great for native English speakers), I always recommend Scandinavia as an ideal region for dipping one’s toes into the pools of international travel. 

First, let’s talk about my own experiences as a woman traveling alone in Helsinki, and then we will get into more specific and practical tips for planning your vacation.  

taking a day trip to a nearby fort

Solo Travel Helsinki: My Own Experience

Solo travel in Helsinki was a low-key and relaxing experience for me. I had just finished a three week adventure through Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and was thrilled to arrive at Helsinki to simply chill. 

I visited Helsinki at the height of the summer in August. Skies were cerulean blue and temperatures mild, and the sun lingered for much longer than I had originally thought. 

The city was bustling, but not packed with gigantic tourist hoards. 

For me, a solo trip to Helsinki was remarkable easy and stress free, which is why I think it’s a perfect destination for solo travelers who feel nervous or uncomfortable with flying overseas. 

Unlike other cities, Helsinki was blissfully free of common scams and pickpocketing. I didn’t find myself checking on my purse nearly as much I had in other destinations. 

The locals in Helsinki, while helpful, were also quite introverted and kept to themselves, creating a situation where I didn’t have to worry about standing out in a crowd. 

All in all, solo travel in Helsinki was kind to me.

solo travel helsinki tip: it may be a busy city but it is also compact and easy to walk

Practical Tips for Solo Travel in Helsinki

Getting Around Helsinki

Domestic and international flights land at Helsinki-Vantaa airport which is located about 19 kilometers outside the city center. Sure, you’re not inside the city, but getting downtown is a breeze. 

A train station located between Terminals 1 and 2 will take travelers to Helsinki’s city center. Trains operate on a regular schedule.

Like most European cities, Helsinki has excellent public transportation, which saves solo travelers the stress of having to rent a car in a new country.

If arriving by train, you will come in at Helsinki Central Station. The station’s remarkable Stone Men statues and art nouveau design make the building itself a tourist attraction! So pause and take some photographs! 

see many gorgeous churches with 1 day in helsinki

Solo Travel Essentials for Helsinki

You want to pack in accordance to the time of year for your solo trip to Helsinki. However, you will want to bring these items no matter what’s on your agenda. 

  • A Small Day Backpack: You will outside a lot in the city center and islands. I recommend having a small daypack for touring Helsinki and the surrounding area. 
  • Compact High Quality Camera: You will want to expand beyond your phone camera especially on Suomenlinna. I personally recommend a Sony Alpha 6400 mirrorless camera for a compact piece of equipment that takes good quality shots. 
  • Cozy Travel Scarf: Helsinki is a beautiful city in Northern Europe and is located on the stunning Baltic Sea. Evenings, even in summer, may feel chilly. I highly recommend bringing a travel shawl or scarf for additional warmth and comfort. 
  • EU Power Adapter: As always, you don’t want your electrics to die in Europe. Make sure you have the proper power adapter so your camera and phone can charge overnight.
  • Lonely Planet Helsinki Pocket Guide: Lonely Planet makes my favorite guidebooks, and solo travelers to Helsinki are in luck! Bring a pocket guide to Helsinki on your trip for the best information on attractions and other important details. 
  • Travel Insurance: Finland, like much of northern Europe, is remarkably safe, but you’ll want to bring travel insurance for extra protection. You never know when illness will strike, and Finland’s hospitals are expensive to pay out of pocket as a citizen. I always use World Nomads for my trips and have never been disappointed! 

solo travel helsinki tip: splurge on a hotel if you want

Helsinki Accommodation

I think a lot of solo travelers may feel turned off from Helsinki due to the price of visiting this city.

And sure, accommodation in Helsinki is more expensive than nearby Tallinn. However, the city still has a few budget options for solo travelers with financial flexibility. 

Buuuut also feel free to splurge too! No judgement here! 

  • Eurohostel: Do you want a free morning sauna with your hostel? Then look no further than Eurohostel. The traditional Finnish sauna is a great experience that you don’t want to miss! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
  • Hotel Katajanokka: If you’re planning on spending a little more money, then I recommend going to Hotel Katajanokke, which is actually where I stayed in Helsinki. This hotel actually used to be an old prison, and reading about the building’s history is quite fascinating! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
  • The Yard Hostel: A lovely locally run hostel that is both green and social. Not to mention, the location is absolutely ideal for sightseeing fun. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.

bridges lace the islands near helsinki

Why Take a Solo Trip to Helsinki

My friends, there are many reasons to travel solo to Helsinki. Like I said, this is a city where you can turn inward and deeply enjoy your own company, especially at the end of an intense trip.

Of course, there are probably an infinite number of reasons to take a solo trip to Finland’s capital, but these seven immediately sprang to my mind as I fondly look back on my own experiences. 

take a solo trip to helsinki to enjoy the public squares
Solo Travel Helsinki Tip: Relax in the Squares and People Watch.

Compact and Walkable City

Helsinki is remarkably walkable for a capital. As a solo traveler, it’s super nice to not have to navigate the metro 24/7 or track down a taxi or a ride share. Your own two feet will do the job well as you explore Helsinki. 

For example, major attractions such as Helsinki Cathedral, Museum of Contemporary Art, Temppeliaukio Church, the Market Square, the National Museum of Finland, and more, are all within a reasonable distance.

Ultimately, planning a self-guided walking tour is truly not a huge undertaking on your part. 

Of course, I don’t mind using public transportation and Helsinki has a fabulous infrastructure (more on that later!), but as a solo traveler, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that you can just walk to most of the spots on your itinerary.

The less stress, the better, right?

be sure to explore beyond helsinki to the islands

Easy Day Trips to Stunning Natural Islands

Helsinki has wonderful natural beauty within reach of the city center. In particular, solo travelers will love escaping to an island wonderland without too much planning or effort.

For example, one of my favorite places to visit near Helsinki is Suomenlinna, which is an incredible sea fortress that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Not only is Suomenlinna historically significant, the island provides a safe haven for an independent traveler to “get into nature” without worrying about getting lost in the wilderness. Best of both worlds, huh?

Regular ferries leave Helsinki’s main harbor which makes reaching Suomenlinna a true breeze! 

estonia has many russian cathedrals

Easy Day Trips to Tallinn in Estonia 

Sometimes as a solo traveler planning day trips is a stressful process. Depending on the location, other destinations may be difficult to reach using public transportation and the logistics make you want to throw your hands in the air. 

Luckily, this is not the case with Helsinki and Tallinn.

This might sound odd, but I find traveling between countries with ease very empowering when I’m alone, and thus need to rely on myself to get everything done! 

A brief visit to Tallinn is made easy thanks to the many ferries that service both Finland and Estonia. Do your research ahead of time as ferry vary by time and cost, and you want to find a boat that you are comfortable on.

bright blue skies in helsinki happen in summer

Excellent Safety Record Day or Night

Safety is super important for solo travelers. And I’m not only talking about violent crime either. Petty crimes, such as silly scams and pickpocketing, can wreck an otherwise amazing trip. 

I mean, one of my biggest fears is that my passport will be stolen, and I will waste hours (and money) in the US Embassy, but that’s another post for another day. 

In Helsinki, I felt incredibly safe, even near the big tourist sites. No one hassled me for money, tried to slap a friendship bracelet on my wrist, shoved petitions in my face, or did anything else that made me feel unsafe. It was wonderful.

Of course, you want to use usual street smarts, too. For instance, I arranged a cab with the hotel when I had to leave at 4:00 in the morning for the airport.

As an independent female traveler, Helsinki is not only statistically safe, but feels safe in real time. 

finland has lovely cafes

Eating Alone is a Breeze in Helsinki 

Eating alone is sometimes awkward, but I had zero issues enjoying a meal in Helsinki.

Mostly because of Helsinki’s Market Square.

This market is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Helsinki. In addition, this port area is where you will find the ferries departing for Suomenlinna.

Seafood is your best option here. Order delicious salmon or shrimp, and sit near the water without worrying about asking for a table for one!

Feel free to explore the cute souvenir stands too! 

In addition to Market Square, Helsinki is home to several wonderful cafes where you can sit at a small table outside and participate in some quality people watching. I enjoyed a coffee right on the square in front of Helsinki Cathedral and had a blast watching the street performers. 

solo travel helsinki: make sure to see the churches

Plenty of Churches for Solo Reflection

Helsinki has a wide variety of beautiful places of worship that are open to visitors, including solo travelers. 

Regardless of your religious background, these churches and cathedrals are a delight to experience alone without another person distracting you from the ornate artwork and magnificent architecture. 

Honestly, I love European cathedrals and churches when I’ve been walking all day and need a break to unwind with my own thoughts. And Helsinki’s churches was splendid in their diversity. 

I’ve listed a few examples for you.

Amazing Churches in Helsinki

  • Helsinki Cathedral: The most famous icon of Helsinki is the towering white Helsinki Cathedral located on Senate Square. No trip to Helsinki is complete without taking photos here!
  • Temppeliaukio Church: This Lutheran church is very unique because it was built into solid rock. Unsurprisingly, it’s also known as The Church of the Rock. 
  • Uspenski Cathedral: Eastern Orthodox churches are known for their lavish golden interiors, and Uspenski Cathedral certainly doesn’t disappoint one bit! Take your time to marvel at this cathedral’s stunning masterpieces and alter. 

gorgeous island views near helsinki

Strong Tourism Infrastructure and English Speakers

Concerned about potential language barriers? No worries.

You will absolutely encounter English speakers in Helsinki. It’s great to learn a few words of Finnish, but residents speak excellent English and will help you if you feel lost. 

Furthermore, Helsinki has a very strong infrastructure in place for tourists that should help reduce some of the anxiety that comes with jetsetting around the world alone. Signs and streets are clearly marked, and hotel staff are more than willing to help solo visitors navigate their city! 

If you plan ahead, you should have no problems wandering Helsinki on your own. 

solo travel helsinki idea: ride the ferris wheel

I hope you enjoyed reading about my guide for solo travel in Helsinki. Have you ever visited Helsinki? What sort of advice would you offer travelers coming to this city?

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