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See the best of Stockholm, Turku, and Helsinki in a week

by on September 4, 2015

Are you looking for recommendations for the ultimate Scandinavian road trip to visit Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Turku? I’ve got you covered. If you want to start from Copenhagen and tour Southern Sweden, read my previous post and see my recommendations for where to stop before heading to Stockholm. The Swedish capital, of course, makes a great starting point for your trip as well. Flights to Stockholm tend to be cheaper than to Helsinki, Finland, so if you want to visit both cities, Stockholm might be a better one to fly to. The Arlanda airport has car rental places easily accessible at the airport, in case you want your adventure to be a road trip.

SS Stockholm. Photo by Katja Presnal.

SS Stockholm. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Stockholm favorites

My favorite way to discover the city is actually by boat, and I recommend an authentic Swedish Smörgåsbord buffet on a brunch cruise in Stockholm’s Archipelago aboard the SS Stockholm. Not only do you get to relax on the boat, but you can also enjoy the delicious Swedish cuisine.

Artipelag museum just outside Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Artipelag museum just outside Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Katja Presnal.

You can also take a boat to the Artipelag modern museum, or to Drottningholm Palace, but it’s much faster to get to both by car.

Drottningholm Palace, Drottningholm, Sweden. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Drottningholm Palace, Drottningholm, Sweden. Photo by Katja Presnal.

For a gorgeous stay outside the city center, I recommend Hotel J in Nacka Strand. For a downtown stay, one of my favorites is Hotel Kung Carl, close to the luxurious Sturegallerian shopping center (where the Sturebadet day spa is a must visit!).

Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Gamla Stan, the Old Town area of Stockholm is one of the most popular tourist sights, and for good reason! The narrow streets transport you through time, and you can find cute shops, authentic Swedish restaurants (try the ones that are under ground in cellars), and of course, the Royal Palace is in Gamla Stan. Check out the royal guards guarding the palace and see the change of guards.

Next stop: Turku, Finland

If you liked the Stockholm archipelago, you will love the archipelago on Finland’s side. It is the largest archipelago in the world by the number of islands, although many of the islands are very small. It only has 257 large islands, but when the small islands, and all the smallest uninhabitable rocks and skerries are also counted, the Turku archipelago has over 50,000 islands.

Viking Grace ferry from Stockholm to Turku. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Viking Grace ferry from Stockholm to Turku. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Take a ferry to Turku, and drive around the Turku archipelago. Visit picture-perfect coastal towns like Naantali or Nauvo, or just take a quick break from the city and get to Ruissalo island in Turku for beach relaxing, camping, golfing, sea kayaking, or nature hikes. You can also take the steamboat SS Ukkopekka from Turku to Naantali to see the archipelago up close.

Ruissalo Island. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Ruissalo Island. Photo by Katja Presnal.

You’ll find the “real” Turku downtown experience by the Aura river. Visit the Turku Cathedral, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum and cross the river to enjoy amazing lunch at Tintå or Smör, then continue your river walk. Cross the river with Föri, the small pedestrian ferry, or walk all the way to see the Suomen Joutsen ship docked in the front of the Forum Marinum Maritime Centre, and you are almost at the Turku castle, definitely, also worth a visit.

Suomen Joutsen ship in Turku, Finland. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Suomen Joutsen ship in Turku, Finland. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Head to Helsinki

Continue your road trip to Finland’s capital, Helsinki. If you like architecture, on the way make a quick stop in Paimio to see Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium, the world famous modern hospital built in 1932. In Helsinki, check in at Klaus K Hotel or GLO Hotel Kluuvi right in the city center within easy walk to museums, like the Amos Anderson Art Museum, Kiasma, and Ateneum.

Shopping in Helsinki. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Shopping in Helsinki. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Helsinki is not the cheapest shopping destination, but if you’re looking for unapologetic style, Helsinki offers it in its small boutiques. You can find traditional Finnish design and fashion in the Marimekko shops, but head for IVANAhelsinki for a quirkier look, and definitely don’t leave without seeing the shoes at Minna Parikka’s shop at Aleksanterinkatu. Right next door, visit also My O My, the true trendsetter of the city. Check out the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square, and then continue shopping at the Tori Quarters’ artisan shops. I highly recommend dining at Salutorget, a stunning restaurant built in an old bank; try their blinis, they are amazing.

Arabia factory and Fiskas headquarters in Helsinki. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Arabia factory and Fiskas headquarters in Helsinki. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Design lovers and fans of Arabia ceramics also love the visit to Arabia factory and the factory store. The Arabia factory is the largest ceramics factory in the Nordic countries and is nowadays part of the Fiskars Group.

If you are looking for authentic local culinary adventures in Helsinki, I recommend heading to Market Square, Kauppatori. Market Square can be quite touristy and features lots of souvenir sellers (anything from reindeer hives to t-shirts and jewelry), but it is also where locals shop for seasonal foods, or come for lunch or for cup of coffee and sokerimunkki, a doughnut with sugar on the top. You can get smoked salmon, fried Baltic herrings, and even reindeer meatballs – as well as pretty much everything in between. A little more sophisticated food market, and lunch place, is the Old Market Hall, Vanha Kauppahalli, right next door the Market Square, but their prices are also higher. For less touristy food markets, you can also visit Hakamiemi Market Hall, or Hietalahden Kauppahalli.

The Helsinki market place, Kauppatori. Photo by Katja Presnal.

The Helsinki market place, Kauppatori. Photo by Katja Presnal.

When in Helsinki, make sure to enjoy the surrounding nature and coastal views. You can take a boat from the Market Square to visit Unesco’s World Heritage site fortress Suomenlinna, an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands. Or head to Kaivopuisto, one of the oldest parks, and Merisatama, the seaside boulevard close to Kaivopuisto park to enjoy long walks. Walk all the way to Café Carusel to enjoy cinnamon buns with coffee and a sea view.  

Porvoo old town in Finland. Photo by Katja Presnal.

Porvoo old town in Finland. Photo by Katja Presnal.

For a quick road trip from Helsinki, I recommend visiting old coastal town Porvoo for its idyllic old town, nature, and coastal activities. Budding artists also will like the Art Factory, where you can take art classes by some of the local artists. It was my daughter’s highlight from our trip to Finland. If you can, adventure in the archipelago from Porvoo, the coast of Porvoo is absolutely stunning.

You’ll find even more ideas about what to visit on your road trip through Denmark, Sweden, and Finland on my Findery notemap.

This post, which was first featured on the Findery blog,  was written by Katja Presnal of Skimbaco Lifestyle on behalf of Findery. Discover more things you should be sure not to miss on Katja’s notemap Road Trip Through Nordic Countries, and read more about Finland at Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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