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I'm planning a trip to Helsinki (a quick trip indeed, just one day and a half) and I don't want to miss some spots like the Suomenlinna island (the only UNESCO site in the zone) and the Seurasaari island (the open-air museum).

Does anybody have any clue about how much time I should consider allowing in order to visit the islands and permit enough time for the rest of the city?

My guess is that both the islands are visitable in half a day but I can't find any guide that gives precise information on this point.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Seurasaari is quite similar to Suomenlinna, only smaller. A straight circuit of the island on foot takes about an hour, but there are plenty of interesting old buildings to poke your nose into (most free, a few not), a couple of nice rustic cafes and even two nudist beaches (one for men, one for women), so it's easy to spend half a day here as well.

Most visitors opt to get there on bus 24 from the city, but my favorite way of getting to Seurasaari is on foot, since it's a nice, easy walk and there are a whole bunch of interesting places along the way. Here's a half-day itinerary I wrote a while back for Wikivoyage:

http://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/A_seaside_stroll_in_Helsinki

And oh, don't try to cover both islands in one day, that's too much. If you have to pick only one, my guests have usually found Seurasaari to be the more interesting/"authentically Finnish" of the two. And while neither is particularly enjoyable if the weather is poor, Suomenlinna's exposed position means it's actively terrible if it's cold, windy and/or rainy.

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thank you for your answer. I accept it since is the one that covers nicely both Suomenlinna and Seurasaari –  shard Jul 25 '12 at 7:09
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Just my 2¢: I'd recommend Suomenlinna over Seurasaari any day (and wouldn't call them very similar). But weather matters, for sure. On a sunny, warm day, with good company, Suomenlinna is perfect for some sightseeing + a picnic (don't be in a hurry). –  Jonik Aug 7 '12 at 16:02
    
Similar from a point of view of tourist logistics, not so much what you'll find what you get there. And YMMV, but semi-ruined fortresses overrun by tourists like Suomenlinna are a dime a dozen in Europe, while chunks of easily accessible Finnish nature with lots of bizarre old houses like Seurasaari are not. –  jpatokal Aug 8 '12 at 1:54

I wrote a blog post about my trip to Suomelinna - it's doable as a half day trip, if you want, but you could also take a picnic and enjoy the grassy areas if it's nice and sunny (beware, it was freezing with an off-shore breeze in summer when I was there).

The boat takes 15-20 minutes including boarding.

Wikitravel has several guides for Helsinki - including when you only have a certain amount of time - ranging from just two hours in Helsinki, to two days or longer. I used this as a great guide when I went around as it gives you a good route. They recommend the fortress even as a ferry ride alone, even if you only have a few hours.

For Seurasaari, they point out that you need at least half a day. Given your time schedule, you may wish to consider dropping this part of your trip and exploring downtown Helsinki more - there's a LOT to see and enjoy.

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I can at least answer the question for Suomenlinna. Take the ferry over there which takes approximately 15 minutes and leaves quite regularly from Helsinki's city center (Market Square).

Then it really depends on your taste. You can easily spend a whole day on Suomenlinna. There are bars where you can get a drink, very tasty restaurants, some museums and you could also spend the whole day sun-bathing and swimming around the small beaches at Suomenlinna.

But if you just want to stroll around the island, get a drink/snack and relax quickly at the beach, I would say half a day (~4 hours) is enough.

(When I was there last year we spent around 4 hours there and in my opinion we have seen everything important, and we also spend some time at the beach and in a bar.)

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thank you for you answer. For what concerns the Seurasaari part, do you know of any good website where I can plan the visit of the city? –  shard Jul 24 '12 at 10:46
    
@user1187008 Unfortunately not, but I'm sure someone will answer the second part of your question soon. If I remember correctly, we have some Finland experts here, some of the even citizens. –  RoflcoptrException Jul 24 '12 at 11:57
    
+1 for whole day in Suomenlinna — if it's nice summer weather. Many activities to do, as you say, and in general it's a uniquely lovely place to hang out. –  Jonik Aug 7 '12 at 16:21
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Tip: if you have all day, or visit several times, you'll find quite various picnic and sunbathing spots on the different islands. Try e.g. places in/around the fortress at the tip of Kustaanmiekka, or the (smooth, rocky) shores of Länsi-Musta, which is a bit quieter island. (English is missing a good word for rantakallio.) –  Jonik Aug 7 '12 at 16:29

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