Helsinki – Free things to see and do

In addition to a large selection of world renowned museums, galleries and attractions for which an entrance ticket is required, there are many inexpensive ways to enjoy a short break in Helsinki.  Listed below are my suggestions for some really lovely free things to see and do.

Helsinki City Museum
Helsinki City Museum

Helsinki City Museum – located on the corner of Senate Square, this fascinating museum explores the history of the city sharing memories of the past through tales of everyday life.  Helsinki City Museum, Aleksanterinkatu 16.  Open Monday-Friday 10.00-19.00, Saturday-Sunday 11.00-17.00

Helsinki Tram Museum
Helsinki Tram Museum

Helsinki Tram Museum – trams have been clattering their way around the streets for over a hundred years.  Take a seat in an old tram and stamp a ticket the way it was done in bygone days.  A fascinating museum for transport enthusiasts.  Helsinki Tram Museum, Toolonkatu 51A, Open daily 11.00-17.00.

Bank of Finland Museum, Helsinki
Exhibits in Bank of Finland Museum

Bank of Finland Museum – displays include the history of money in Finland and overseas as well as the role of the Bank of Finland in the European System of Central Banks.  Bank of Finland Museum, Snellmaninkatu 2.  Open: Tuesday-Friday 10.00-17.00, Saturday-Sunday 10.00-16.00.  Please note the museum is currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic so do check the website for re-opening updates.

Helsinki Central Railway Station
Helsinki Central Railway Station

Central Railway Station – designed by Eliel Saarinen and inaugurated in 1919, the railway station was selected as one of the world’s most beautiful by the BBC in 2013.  Clad in Finnish granite with distinguishing features of a clock tower and its two pairs of statues holding spherical lamps on either side of the main entrance.  Address: Kaivokatu 1, 00100

Winter Garden, Helsinki
Helsinki Winter Garden and Palm House

Winter Garden – founded in 1893 featuring ornate glasshouses and a rose garden.  The palm house contains exotic plants and is divided into separate rooms.  View a large variety of cacti and succulents.  The landscaped garden overlooks the beautiful Töölö Bay.  Helsinki Winter Garden, Address: Hammarskjoldintie 13

Sibelius Monument, Helsinki
Sibelius Monument, Helsinki

Sibelius Monument – dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.  The monument resembles a sound wave made from clusters of organ pipes.  These consist of over 600 steel pipes unevenly grouped together to embody the spirit of the composer’s music.  Address: Sibeliuksen puisto, Mechelininkatu

Inside Oodi Library, Helsinki
Oodi Library, Helsinki

 Oodi Library – this stunning new library was chosen as the winner of the 2019 Public Library of the Year award.  Located in the city centre, it has become a flagship library for a nation of book lovers.  In addition to books there’s a cinema, recording studio, cafe and restaurant.  Step indoors to view its sloping floors and walls and view the Parliament building from its outdoor terrace.  Library card holders can learn new skills such as the use of 3D printers, laser cutters and sewing machines.  Oodi Library, Kansalaistori Square.  Open: Monday-Friday 08.00-22.00, Saturday and Sunday 10.00-20.00.

Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral – is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral.  This neoclassical masterpiece designed by Carl Ludvig Engel rises from the north side of  Senate Square and is a landmark to those arriving by sea.  The current building was completed in 1852 and is adorned with sculptures of the twelve apostles guarding the city from its rooftop.  Helsinki Cathedral Address; Senate Square, Open daily.  Admission free but donations towards upkeep welcome.

Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki
Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki

Uspenski Cathedral – This is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe.  With its golden cupolas and red brick facade it stands as a symbol of the Russian impact on Finnish history.  Uspenski Cathedral Address: Kanavakatu 1, Open: Tuesday-Friday 9.30-16.00, Saturday 10.00-15.00, Sunday 12.00-15.00.

Seurasaari Island bridge, Helsinki
The footbridge across to Seurasaari Island

Seurasaari Island – Cross the wooden bridge to visit this idyllic island which, during the summer months, is home to the open-air museum of Finnish life.  Even when the museum is open, it’s free to follow the scenic coastal trail passing the exterior of the historic buildings on your way around the island.  Spot red squirrels in the trees and enjoy Finnish nature year round.  Take Bus 24 from Kamppi bus station to its terminus.

Helsinki Market Square
Helsinki Market Square

Helsinki Markets – the city boasts three market halls, all providing an authentic cultural experience plus two bustling outdoor markets.  The Market Square is located between the south harbour and Esplanade Park where you can wander the stalls and call into one of the bright orange tented cafes for a coffee and delicious cinnamon bun or if it’s lunch time sample a bowl of the delicious creamy salmon soup with dark rye bread.

Helsinki Old Market Hall
Helsinki Old Market Hall

Old Market Hall located next to the market square overlooking the sea, this market has been serving customers since 1889.  With its central location, it’s very popular with cruise passengers and tourists.  Browse the stalls filled with local gourmet delicacies from cured salmon to handmade chocolates.

Inside the temporary Hakaniemi Market Hall, Helsinki
Inside the temporary Hakaniemi Market Hall

Hakaniemi Market Hall opened in 1914 and currently closed for renovation.  All is not lost though as the market traders have moved into a temporary building beside the outdoor market next door.  The many stalls here are mostly frequented by locals stocking up on provisions including meat, fish, sausages and cheese.  There are numerous non food stores offering handicrafts and gifts plus several cafes.

Hietalahti Food Hall, Helsinki
Hietalahti Food Hall, Helsinki

Hietalahti Food Hall  built in 1908 as a traditional market hall and re-developed in 2013 as a food hall, it also served as an antiques hall for several years.  It is now home to a variety of inviting bistros and cafes catering for all tastes and budgets.

Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki
Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki

Suomenlinna Island – constructed during the Swedish era as a maritime fortress.  In 1991 Suomenlinna Fortress was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list as a unique monument of military architecture.  It has served in the defence of three realms Sweden, Russia and Finland.  There is no charge to explore the island as you just need to buy a return ticket for the ferry which is part of the local HSL transport system.

Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki
Suomenlinna Island

Pick up a leaflet from the tourist office and follow the blue route taking in the main sights across the fortress starting at the main quay and terminating at the King’s Gate.  Enjoy a cliff top walk and either find a scenic bench for a picnic or pop into one of the island’s pretty little cafes.

Kaivopuisto Park, Helsinki
Kaivopuisto Park, Helsinki

Kaivopuisto Park – one of the city’s largest and oldest parks, located at the tip of the Helsinki peninsula and within easy walking distance from the centre.  Climb up to the highest point in the park by the observatory for some stunning coastal and city views.  Walk back into town through the neighbouring Eira district where you can view many beautiful old villas and international embassies.

Eira district of Helsinki
Beautiful villas in the Eira District

 

If you have enjoyed reading this post, you may also like:

The National Library of Finland and the Bank of Finland Museum

Kamppi and Herttoniemi, Helsinki

 

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Helsinki Free Things to See and Do

 

53 thoughts on “Helsinki – Free things to see and do

    1. That’s so true and then it makes the ones you need to pay for seem not so expensive when you mix them in with free activities. Thanks for taking an interest and commenting on this Helsinki post Tanja. Hope your week goes well. Marion

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    1. The city might At first glance appear experience but there are so many free or inexpensive things to see and enjoy. Nearly all cafes offer free refills of tea and coffee and the cinnamon buns are so huge that we just bought one and shared it! I do hope this post might have inspired you to visit Helsinki as I’m sure you would enjoy it. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Marion.

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  1. Great post. I remember a church that was half underground…. can’t remember it much it was a long time ago. just looked it up – Temppeliaukion Church. any chance you visited that? Not as grand as the cathedral but quite interesting!

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  2. Thank you for this! I’ve been thinking about a Finland trip in the future. My great, great grandpa is from Finland so it’d be nice to see one of the motherlands. Found a cool tour where you ride an icebreaker and can jump in the water wearing a survival suit. Beautiful pics!

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  3. Isn’t it wonderful to find free things to do in a city? I’ve checked out three of them: the Sibelius Monument, Helsinki Cathedral, and only a glimpse of the Uspenski Cathedral. I also recall an outdoor market on the day I went, which was not too far from the Esplanade, and it was a beautiful day! Definitely worth going to Helsinki for that. 🙂

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    1. Yes, you are quite correct Rebecca,there is an interesting market at the end if the Esplanade by the sea where you can sit in a zipped tent in winter to warm up with a hot drink and a bun. Thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated Marion

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    1. It’s always a bonus to discover some good things can be enjoyed for free, and although coffee shops can be more costly than in the U.K. nearly all of them offer free refills so that’s another positive in my book! Hope your week is going well and thanks for commenting. Marion

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  4. I know that Helsinki, like all the other Scandinavian cities, is pretty expensive, and that’s why I am glad to see there are so many amazing free things to see in Helsinki, particularly Oodi Library. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Oodi library is stunning and I could have stayed there all day Aiva. There are lots of other interesting free things to do in the city and I’m certain you would enjoy the fact that you are never more than a few minutes away from the forest or the sea. Hope your week goes well and thank you for taking the time to comment. Marion

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  5. Helsinki looks better and better. Absolutely love all the market halls and the cathedrals, looks like so much to see and do. It’s always been somewhere I’ve fancied going so maybe we’ll have to do something about that.

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    1. You certainly will Jonno. Low cost airlines are launching services from the U.K. into Helsinki from next t month so perhaps a spring time visit might be a possibility. Thanks for taking an interest in this post and have a good week. Marion

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  6. Wow, I’m really surprised at all the things you can see and do for free in Helsinki! The Tram Museum and Winter Garden would be high on my list … oh yes, and of course the beautiful Oodi Library! And I like the coastal trails and parks with its scenic walks! This is a great selection, thanks for sharing Marion. Enjoy your week 🌸.

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