Hard and soft, dark and bright, warm and cold — Helsinki offers moods for every taste. The city has a personality unique to itself. Relatively untouched by tourism, surrounded by nature, and full of secrets that let you live you a like a local while traveling, the Finnish capital is a great destination for photographers interested in street photography, architectural photography, and outdoor/landscape photography.
Here are some tips from a fellow photographer and explorer living in Helsinki.
Walk, cycle, or catch the tram but, most importantly, walk as much as possible.
Helsinki is one of the most walkable cities in the world and its central neighborhoods are easy to navigate on foot or with inexpensive rental bikes (best from May to October). Wear your comfiest shoes, charge your camera batteries, and get ready to explore every inch of the city.
Look up and down, sneak into the courtyards, and search for the prettiest doorways, facades, and parks. Take in the atmosphere of the city, but enjoy the silence of nature, too.
Helsinki’s residents are lucky to live in a city with 12 unique months, and four seasons that each create interesting settings for photography.
WInter days are short, so you have to make the most of them. Experience the city as a winter fairy tale — catch the first snowflakes (most likely in November or December), see the frost in the trees, and walk the snow-covered streets. In December, the city is decorated with Christmas lights, and during the first days of January, Helsinki glows with the Lux Helsinki light festival — you’ll definitely need a hot drink (Glögi) from the Christmas market to stay warm during the chilly photowalks.
The first months of the year are the best for winter landscape photography, especially toward the end of January and February when the sun lingers in the sky, the air is coldest, the Baltic Sea freezes, and the city is most likely to be covered by white snow. During these days, head to Kaivopuisto Park or Uunisaari Island in the southern part of the city, or Seurasaari Island in the west, for the best views.
Late winter is when you can capture the most beautiful sunsets. But winter is dark and the days are short, making it the perfect time for exploring indoor spaces as well — architecture, design, and numerous cozy cafes. Do as the locals do — drink lots of coffee and stay warm in the sauna.
Spring in Helsinki actually feels shorter than summer, as the snow has typically barely melted by the time the first terraces open for the summer season. My favorite time of the year, mid-May is when the city turns green, the days grow longer, and Helsinkians prepare for the summer months. The city comes alive again and the locals enjoy every possible moment of sun. Soft light and clear skies create amazing settings for photos — especially by the seaside.
After a long and dark winter, there is no time to lose during the summer in Finland. Locals spend every possible moment outside — in parks, terraces, and by the seaside — making the city vibrant and eventful. Take your time — there’s no rush to capture the sunset or sunrise since “the golden hour” can last for hours.
Wake up early, explore the empty streets in the perfect light, and head to the Market Square in South Harbor for soft morning sun, coffee, and cinnamon buns. Watch the vendors set up their stalls, smell the fragrance of berries, vegetables, and fish — all perfect subjects for colorful photos. Summer days are best for exploring the nearby archipelago and its amazing islands, easily accessible by water buses. Head to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress Island (a must) for history, Vallisaari Island for nature, or Pihlajasaari Island for a day on the beach. Catch one of the sightseeing boats for a few hours: it’s a great way to explore Helsinki by sea — the routes that go toward the eastern archipelago are my favorites. During the golden hour, search for the best waterfront reflections and sunsets by the sea in Siltasaari, Hakaniemi, Kruununhaka, or Katajanokka. Ateljee Bar in Hotel Torni, Suomenlinna Fortress Island, or the Uspenski Cathedral are also great spots to watch the sunset.
After the lush summer months, the city quickly changes color. Clear blue skies, soft tones of sun, and trees with autumnal orange and yellow leaves create amazing opportunities for urban photography. For the best views, head to Kaivopuisto Park, Seurasaari Island, Vanha Kirkkopuisto Park, Siltasaari, or Suomenlinna Island. Once again, search for the waterfront reflections and sunsets. The best months for photography in Helsinki are September and October, when the days get darker and locals prepare for the coming winter, but the city is still alive with events such as the Helsinki Festival and Helsinki Design Week.
After experiencing the four seasons of Helsinki you are one step closer to living like a local. For the best experiences, make friends with the locals and ask for recommendations. Finns may seem shy, but we are proud of our city and more than willing to share our recommendations. Each neighborhood has its own charm, and even the city center is not ruined by tourism. Check out Hietalahti Flea Market, Hakaniemi Market Hall, and some of the public saunas( such as Kotiharjun Sauna or Culture Sauna).
The various neighborhoods of Helsinki can be easily explored on foot, and each has its own personality. Katajanokka is famous for its art nouveau, and Luotsikatu Street may be one of the prettiest in the city. Southern neighborhoods Eira, Kaivopuisto, Ullanlinna, and Punavuori are full of charming streets, parks, and gorgeous architectural details (and great little cafes, restaurants, and design shops). Huvilakatu Street might just be the most photographed in Helsinki, and for good reason. Korkeavuorenkatu, Bulevardi, and Esplanade Streets offer Parisian vibes. For picturesque buildings and street views, check out Kruununhaka and Töölö. Last but not least, the Finnish Museum of Natural History in southern Töölö features the most spectacular staircase in town.
In search of something more unique? Head to Kallio, Merihaka, and Suvilahti for perfect street photography moments. For more modern scenes, check out Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Finlandia Hall, Main Library of Helsinki University (Kaisa-House), and Löyly Sauna for its wooden architecture. Temppeliaukio Rock Church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
Helsinki provides a great setting for photography — for every style and in every season.