Travelling on a shoestring budget? Want to see everything there is to see in Helsinki? Here are some tips to check out.
Helsinki is full of free performances, from concerts and stand-up comedy to theatres and clubs. Almost all museums offer free entry on certain weekdays and at certain times. Churches are always available to admire both inside and out without spending a cent. You will not want to miss the Lutheran Cathedral, located on Senate Square, or Temppeliaukio Church (known as the rock church – you’ll see why when you get there) in the district of Töölö.
The best thing about the city is its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Its parks are excellent for eating a picnic lunch and listening to music. Esplanadi Park, in the very centre of the city, is favoured by tourists and locals alike, and the Esplanadi bandstand features every imaginable kind of concert and performance on a daily basis. Alppi Park, right next to Linnanmäki Amusement Park, is also a recommended venue for music, dance and theatre at weekends. Linnanmäki, on the other hand, is a great locale for snapping a few touristy photos of the Helsinki skyline, as the admissions to the park and the Panoraama-sightseeing tower within it are free.
Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on a group of islands off Helsinki, forms one of the largest sea fortresses in the world. Take the ferry to this wonderful medley of seascapes, terraces and restaurants. (OK, you got us – the ferry to Suomenlinna is not free. But the Helsinki City Transport boat is not expensive.) Wander along twisting cobblestone paths and venture into the tunnels under the fortress walls.
Seurasaari Open-Air Museum also provides a great setting for an evening stroll through history. This small island is filled with idyllic Finnish buildings covering historical periods from the end of 1600s to the 20th century.
Or fancy wandering in the famous Finnish woods? Helsinki’s Central Park is the place to go to if you want to enjoy the peace and fresh air of a forest.
Different sides of the city
Helsinki boasts a wealth of nightlife. Most clubs require an entrance fee, but there are places with free entry too, especially on weekday nights. Bakers and Kaarle XII in the city centre, for example, do not charge for entry. Pubs generally do not have entry fees. Stand-up comedy is featured at Teerenpeli, a pub next to Kamppi shopping centre.
You might also consider a moonlight swim at Hietaniemi Beach – or perhaps a sunlight swim would be a more appropriate term, since it never really gets dark at night during summer in Finland.
Helsinki is a beautiful city with influences from several different cultures. Cultural history and architecture buffs will find it worthwhile to look around neighbourhoods with very different characters, such as Kallio, a favourite with artists and students. The lovely villas by the sea in Kaivo Park are also worth a visit, as are the walkways around Töölö Bay. Every tourist coach makes a mandatory stop at Sibelius Park, where visitors can admire the monument dedicated to Finland’s most famous composer.
On top of all this, Helsinki has a reputation as a prestigious design city. Doing some window-shopping around the Helsinki Design District is a great way of spending an afternoon. There is plenty to do without spending money.
Note: Some of the destinations are more easily accessible by public transportation, which costs a couple of euros.
Free entry hours to museums in Helsinki
By Jemina Juuti, updated April 2014