Picture: Jussi Hellstén / Visit Helsinki
On the seaward horizon from the Market Square, you’ll catch a glimpse of the church tower that doubles as a lighthouse on the island fortress of Suomenlinna, and it is also from the Market Square that the passenger ferries depart for the fortress.
Suomenlinna is Helsinki’s top tourist attraction and worth a visit at any time of the year. See the next article for more information on Suomenlinna.
Another island attraction brimming with Finnish history, and also worth a visit in any season, is Seurasaari.
The island holds Helsinki’s Open Air Museum of historic rural buildings, collected from around the country and reconstructed in a peaceful woodland setting.
Another attraction here is the ban on most motor vehicles and even on bicycles, and the forested island is a relaxing haven from the bustle of the city.
Watch out for the hungry and very tame squirrels as you explore the maze of footpaths crisscrossing the island.
Windmills, granaries, entire mansions and manors, boathouses and other meticulously reassembled structures are dotted through the woods.
Seurasaari is also the focus for traditional Midsummer bonfires, dancing and other celebrations, and the old church is a popular venue for weddings then and throughout the summer.
Some sightseeing cruise boats leaving from the Market Square drop in at Seurasaari, but from the land you can reach it along a wooden bridge, close to the final stop of the no. 24 bus.
Seurasaari is to the north of the city centre, and you can combine a visit with a look at the previous home (now a museum) of the late President Urho Kekkonen, the architect of Finland’s post-war political policy.
There are a couple of charming cafés in the area, including the Tamminiemi Café, the interior of which is like an elegant scene from a play by Chekhov.