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My Scandinavian Summer: Helsinki & Stockholm Recommendations Needed

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Good afternoon everyone, I hope your weekend is going well.  A few days ago, I wrote Comparing Alaska Airlines, British Airways & Qatar Airways Award Prices for 2 Finnair Flights (DUB-HEL & HEL-ARN).  At the end of that post, I hinted that I needed some recommendations for things to see and do in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.  That is where this post comes in.  I have never been to either city and wanted to reach out to my readers to see if they had any recommendations.  Here is what I have in mind, but I am open to your suggestions as well.  Thank you!

Helsinki, Finland for 2 Days in the Summer

Laura and I love going on canal tours (we did 4 river / canal tours last summer in Prague, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Giethoorn, which is about an hour outside Amsterdam).  I was excited when I came across the Helsinki Canal Cruise on Viator.  I love booking activities on Viator because you can often get 10-15% cash back by going through an online shopping portal and most activities have the “Reserve Now & Pay Later” feature where you can cancel for free up to 24 hours in advance.  Viator also occasionally has card linked offers like AMEX Offers, Chase Offers, and Citi Merchant Deals, so I am hoping one of those deals pops up before my trip.

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Laura and I also love doing food tours in new cities and we have done them in New York City (twice!), Athens, Prague, and Amsterdam.  It is a great way to sample the local food, learn about the history and culture of cities / countries, and get a lay of the land.  I was excited when I came across the City Tour with Food Tasting in Helsinki on Viator.

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There is also the Fortress of Suomenlinna, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is a 20 minute ferry away from Helsinki.

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Last Summer, we had a great time walking around Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park in Copenhagen, so we might check out Linnanmaki Amusement Park, which is a short train ride from our hotel.

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Stockholm, Sweden for 3 Days in the Summer

Hey look, another canal tour!  Therefore, I was excited to see the Stockholm Bridges Sightseeing Cruise on Viator.  I don’t think there is a more beautiful way to see a city than by water, so I’m excited for this activity.

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Hey look, another food tour!  The Nordic Food Walk Stockholm has great reviews on Viator and I am curious how the cuisine will compare to the Helsinki food tour.

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Laura loves all things related to European royal families, so she really wants to check out the Royal Palaces in Stockholm.

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The Vasa Museum has 53,000+ reviews on Google, so it must be worth a visit.  Inside the museum, you can “explore the world’s only preserved 17th century ship. The ship Vasa capsized and sank in 1628.”

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Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Laura and I love ABBA so we are excited to check out the ABBA Museum.

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Lastly, there is Grona Lund Amusement Park that has some incredible looking rides and is right next to the water.  It is fun walking around and seeing the various rides and snacks at amusement parks.

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That is what I have in mind so far.  Did I miss any of your favorite things to see or do in Helsinki or Stockholm?  Please let me know in the comments section below.  Thank you for your recommendations and have a great weekend!

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30 thoughts on “My Scandinavian Summer: Helsinki & Stockholm Recommendations Needed

  1. Aaron R.

    I just got back from eight days in Europe, including three in Copenhagen and three in Stockholm. Both were fantastic. In Stockholm, the Vasa Museum lived up to the hype. My girlfriend and I did both a one-hour boat cruise and a three-hour walking tour of Stockholm, and you can’t go wrong with either one. In addition to the Vasa, it’s absolutely worth roaming around Old Town and Södermalm.

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Aaron, we had a great time in Copenhagen last Summer, so we are looking forward to checking out more Scandinavian cities this Summer. Thanks for vouching for the Vasa Museum, I haven’t heard anyone say that the museum was not worth visiting.

      I love the boating and walking tours, especially the free Sandemans / umbrella walking tours. Have you done any of those free walking tours before?

      1. Peter Lytz

        Please visit Suomenlinna or Sveaborg which is its original name. There is a good brewery on the island. Food is pricey. Consider some Russian style restaurant in Helsinki for a dinner, like Saslik. Not cheap. Reservation mandatory.
        It is a long time since I lived in Stockholm but over all times Operakällaren has been a place with good reputation. I presume reservations are mandatory.


        1. Grant Post author

          Hi Peter, you had me at brewery on Suomenlinna, I think that can be arranged. Thank you for the dinner recommendations too. I’m hoping the food tours will help provide a good sense of what kind of cuisine I like in both countries.

    2. GUWonder

      The Vasa Museum is one of my favorite museums and definitely worth checking out since it’s so unique. It’s a museum that is really loved by people of all ages and happens to be the one place I keep returning to without reluctance when hosting near and dear visitors in Stockholm. I also often end up having to go to nearby Skansen too, but once and done was enough for me there even as I can’t count the number of times I have repeatedly ended up there anyway. If you’re into amusement parks in the traditional ride style, there is Grona Lund nearby also and the Abba Museum. I also typically try to prioritize a tour of the Royal Palace and also of the Riksdag/Parliament building. Watching the changing of the guards at the palace on Gamla Stan/Old Town is still my thing too. There is also the possibility to take a boat to go out to Drottingholm Palace and then either take the boat or public transport back into the city center.

      There really is a lot to love about Stockholm, and I have enjoyed calling it home.

      1. Grant Post author

        Hi GUWonder, thanks for all those great suggestions. I did not have the Riksdag/Parliament building on my to do list, but I will probably end up walking past it as we go to the Royal Palace. Laura loves watching the changing of the guards.

  2. Tyler

    For Helsinki, the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum was a nice walk through a living history island park on a sunny day, seems in line with your other picks. My son got an “single” scoop ant the ice cream stand and it was comically large (also apparently lavender flavoring in ice cream is a thing). Took an Uber to the entrance without issue, also on a bus line.

    We also visited the Hallwylska museum which is a turn of the century mansion (if you are into that sort of thing), offers English tours in Sunday. We were the only ones on the tour a while ago and it was interesting chatting with thedocent. https://hallwylskamuseet.se/en/visit-us/guided-tours/

    In Stockholm, the Vasa museum, while heavily visited, is still definitely worth it.

    If you don’t already know, there is a state run liquor monopoly, only very low alchohol beers sold at convenience stores. We grabbed bottles of wine to have at the hotel, made the strolls more fun, at non-restaurant prices!

    Obviously only a random persons opinion, but your blog is in my feed reeder so I thought I’d pay it back, have a great trip.

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Tyler, thank you for being a long time reader and first time commenter. Your comment is super helpful and I hope you comment again soon.

      I added the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum and Hallwylska Museum to my starred places in Google Maps. The Hallwylska Museum is a short walk from our hotel, so we will try to check that out. I have never had lavender ice cream, but I will give that a shot too.

      If you think of any other interesting places to visit, please let me know :)

  3. C J

    I normally go from Stockholm to Helsinki and I just love love this ….There is a cruise/ big ferry boat that leaves Stockholm around 5 pm and the sun is setting and the cruise ship leaves the port nice and slowly as you flow through the archipelago islands it is just magnificent and after the sun goes down, you have your own booth to sleep and wake up in the morning and you’re in Helsinki I think it was $95 the last time I took it, but it’s truly a great way to see the archipelago and as you share it, you like the canal boats to go through the city and I think this will be an awesome trip . Miss you brother love, CJ.

  4. Nate

    Honestly thought Helsinki was kind of drab and we caught an amazing upgrade with a balcony at the Hilton. We had two kids with us so we were limited, and we didn’t find to super kid friendly minus the free subway and tram rides. The day trip to Tallinn was absolutely worth it. You’ve only got two days in Helsinki, but I’d bolt to Estonia for one! Also phenomenal duty free on the ship as that’s where everyone gets their booze.

    Stockholm was far superior and just an amazing place to walk around. Didnt make it to the Nobel peace prize museum but that looked cool. The food at the market by the water was amazing, and we did a bit of ferrying around to a couple of places that I can’t remember the name of. Vassa and ABBA museum were great.

    Let me know if you make it to Korea where I’m living :)

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Nate, I did notice that the most popular activities in Helsinki were to take the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. That’s not usually a good sign that the best thing to do in 1 country is to go visit another country.

      I think we will skip Estonia on this trip and try to visit it later on with some of the other countries in that region of Europe.

      I’m glad you liked the Vasa Museum and ABBA Museum. The Nobel Prize Museum is close to the Royal Palace so we might visit both on the same day.

  5. Bil

    Yes, the Vasa Museum is fabulous.
    Helsinki, and the surrounding area, provide LOTS to do.
    I’m planning my ninth visit there in 2025.
    If you don’t sauna at least once there, you miss a cornerstone of Finnish life.
    Would recommend one with access to sea water to get the full effect (though avantouinti- ice swimming – in winter is the penultimate). You will never feel more alert than when you leave after four or five frigid dunks.
    Another good option is by the harbor at Allas Sea Pool.
    DO NOT talk much or loudly while in sauna as that is very poor form.

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Bil, thanks for the sauna suggestion. I have been in many saunas, but I don’t think I have experienced a traditional Finnish sauna. I will try to check that out when we are there.

  6. GUWonder

    Over the years of visiting Helsinki, I have found it relatively boring and sleepy and nowhere near as attractive to me as Stockholm. Although never let it be said that Finns can’t party like crazy and make it exciting when the booze is flowing — even in the dead of winter. If having 7 or so days to split between Stockholm and Helsinki, I would do 3-4 days in Stockholm, 2 days in Helsinki and one night in Tallinn with 24-36 hours there.

    1. Grant Post author

      Yes, I got the feeling that Stockholm has much more to see and do than in Helsinki. With our flights already set, I don’t think we have time to visit Tallinn on this trip, but we will add it to a future European trip.

  7. whocares

    The most important thing you can learn from Scandinavia, isn’t actually from anyplace you can visit in particular, from my perspective.

    It is a way of thought intrinsic to Scandinavians (though not necessarily many recent immigrants there). Codified from an older Danish book, the way of thinking is common throughout Sweden. And Norway. Any native Swede or Norwegian or long term expat should know about it. Most Finns I imagine as well.

    Jante Law. Or Janteloven.

    Youtube: BBC Jante Law

    If you don’t understand it, or want to understand it more – just mention it as you are traveling about. See the different reactions to it. Ask some (obvious) recent immigrants as well…see what they know or don’t know about it. What they think about it.

    Contrast with the way of thinking in America and elsewhere.

    I’d be interested to hear what you learn / experience. Heck..if you wrote a decent blog piece on it….I’ll send you something “special” in the mail for your efforts!

      1. whocares


        Denmark also shows up as the most PEACEFUL country quite often.

        Global Peace Index – wiki

        but the most important metric:

        Transparency International – Corruption Perceptions Index

        (Go to Wiki to see recent history ranking or official site to see colored map)

        aka — which countries are more honest. Or maybe – which CULTures are more honest vs dishonest / more lying.

        Only one country – Denmark – gets an A-. The rest fall below. Many at D/F or worse.
        More lying as time has gone on….[folks hiding behind tech is one way] Are there any liars in “heaven?”

        We always hear that trope “99% of people are good, only 1% bad”….I’ll just call bs on that.

        Of course, it depends on what your def’n of “good/bad” is as well.

        Jante Law has some issues..about half the phrases can be tossed out from my perspective / don’t make sense relative to human instinct. But more on that later…

        Lookin’ forward to your observations!

        Have a great trip!

  8. Stacy

    I wouldn’t spend precious time on food tours in Finland or in Sweden.

    -Archipelago boat tour will be beautiful.
    -Stroll the old town and have fika often (coffee break with a treat) Fabrique is a yummy spot. Here is a location near the train station: Fabrique Klarabergsgatan 60
    -I really enjoyed my visits to the Drottningholm Palace, namely time spent in the gardens.
    -Skokloster Castle is a bit out of the city but is an amazing Baroque castle with a fascinating armory. Try to take a guided tour.
    – Check out Swedish design shops such as Svenskt Tenn
    – Fill little bags of Swedish gummy candies (Godis) at a candy store.

    -Must do- sauna in cabin by a lake so you can jump in. A wonderful experience! Airbnb has a “cabin” filter.
    -Visit Fazer Café Kluuvikatu- Fazer chocolate is the best in the world!
    -Rent ebikes and get out into the countryside. In Helsinki you can rent from Bicyclean Helsinki
    -Visit some famous Finnish design shops such as Marimekko Esplanadi and Alvar Aalto Shop or Design Museum

    In my opinion the best of both countries is outside of the capitals. Scandinavians are really good at getting close to nature, neverminding the weather. If at all possible I would suggest renting a cabin away from the city and spending time next to a lake with good coffee and bike rides through the wheat fields. :)

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Stacy, thank you so much for all those wonderful recommendations. I starred all of them in my Google Maps and will try to see as many as I can. I didn’t realize that there are 20+ Fabrique in Stockholm, so that will be easy to find.

      Fazer Café Kluuvikatu and Marimekko Esplanadi are both short walks from our hotel, so those will be easy to get to. I do love chocolate, so we may end up there more than once!

  9. jnrfalcon

    Buy Helsinki card and GoCity Stockholm from TripAdvisor if you still have Target’s free TripAdvisor Plus.

  10. Harcourt Fenton Mudd

    There is a pretty cool brewery called CoolHead Brew. Look it up on Google maps. The pizza isn’t so bad, either. It’s not a must go – but if you do you will probably thank me. It’s off the beaten path.


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