Helsinki may be a lot of things, but the one thing it certainly isn’t is cheap. In fact, it’s up there as one of the most expensive cities we’ve ever visited (and we’ve lived in London)! Thankfully, we made it our mission to explore Helsinki on a budget, and we’ve gathered all the insider knowledge to help you maximise your time in the city but minimise your spends. In this guide, we share the best Helsinki budget tips, including affordable hotels & restaurants, the cheapest ways to get around, and the best free things to do in Helsinki.
Helsinki is a modern and forward-thinking city, bursting with energy, art, culture, and awe-inspiring architecture. Scandinavia has a reputation for being expensive, however, and at first glance, Helsinki lives up to it. It’s apparent from the moment you try to book a hotel or hostel, with prices considerably more than other European capitals such as Berlin, Prague or Budapest.
Having said that, you shouldn’t allow this to put you off visiting Helsinki. There are many ways to explore the city on a budget, and still have a wonderful time. By following the Helsinki budget tips and advice in this guide, I guarantee you’ll leave the city feeling like you haven’t missed out on a thing.
Sound good? Let’s get to it then, here’s our guide to exploring Helsinki on a budget.
Helsinki on a Budget – The Best Free Things to do in Helsinki
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Where to Stay in Helsinki on a Budget
There is no shortage of accommodation options in Helsinki; however, most aren’t what I would consider budget-friendly. You can expect a bed in a dorm room to set you back €20-30 per night, while private rooms are easily €50-60. If you stay outside of the city centre, the prices tend to be a little cheaper; however, the additional travel can cost you both time and money. I’ve made some hotel suggestions below to help you decide, or you can click the link to compare all hostels, guesthouses, and hotels in the city.
Hostel & Budget Rooms $ – Cheap Sleep Helsinki
If you’re travelling alone and on a budget, your cheapest option will be a bed in a dorm room. If you’re travelling as a couple or pair, you might find it’s more cost-effective to rent a private room. Either way, both are available at Cheap Sleep Helsinki, which is where we stayed during our recent trip. As hostel standards go, we were impressed. It’s clean, spacious, friendly, centrally located and has kitchen facilities where you can prepare meals. The inclusive breakfast buffet could have been a bit more adventurous, but when it’s free, who am I to complain?
Hostel & Budget Rooms $ – Sweet Dream Guesthouse
A similar set up to Cheap Sleep hostel, Sweet Dream Guesthouse has both dorms and private rooms at a budget price relative to most in the city. Located just 2km from the city centre, you can easily get around on foot or via public transport. Facilities at the hostel include a well-equipped kitchen, a sauna, and striking city views from the rooms.
Mid-Range $$ – Hotel Indigo Helsinki-Boulevard
The difference in price between budget and mid-range hotels in Helsinki is quite a jump. But if you would prefer somewhere a bit more upmarket, Hotel Indigo is one of the best-rated hotels I could find. A major drawcard at this boutique hotel is that they pride themselves on being eco-friendly. Something that Helsinki, in general, is quite famous for. Rooms are modern and well equipped, while top-notch facilities include a 24-hour gym and an onsite bistro restaurant.
Free Things to do in Helsinki
Museums, walking tours and nature areas are just a few of the free things to do in Helsinki. You could easily spend an entire day or two covering what’s on this list, so that’s a large chunk of your trip where you won’t need to spend a penny. Winning!
Free Walking Tour
When looking at the best free things to do in Helsinki, the first thing you should consider is a free walking tour. We absolutely love going on walking tours when visiting somewhere new, as you get to see a huge proportion of the city in a relatively short amount of time.
This historical walking tour of Helsinki provides an excellent introduction to the city, and you guessed it, it’s completely free. You’ll take in iconic sights such as Senate Square, Helsinki Cathedral, Harbour Area and the Market Square while learning all about the cities history from a licensed local guide.
*While the tour itself is free, don’t forget to tip your guide generously if you enjoy it.
Book Your Tour: Helsinki Free Walking Tour
Free Museum Days in Helsinki
From contemporary art and natural history, to national culture and architectural gems, Helsinki is home to a realm of interesting museums. For the most part, the museums are not what you would consider budget-friendly, with many charging admission fees of around €15. However, if you’re strategic with the timing of your trip, many of them offer free entry at least once a month.
We didn’t know this before our recent trip; however, as luck would have it, we arrived on the last Friday of the month. This meant we could visit the National Museum of Finland and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary art entirely free (otherwise €12 and €15 respectively). While we don’t consider ourselves museum buffs, it was nice to learn about Finnish culture & history, followed by some unusual and mind-boggling art.
You don’t have to visit on the last Friday of the month to appreciate the free museums though. Other museums are offering free admission on weekdays as well, so check out the My Helsinki website to see which museums you might be able to visit for free.
Free Galleries in Helsinki
On the contrary, all galleries in Helsinki are always free of charge. So if you’re at all interested in art, you’re right in luck. Visiting the cities range of impressive art galleries and exhibitions is a great way to spend the day. And regardless of whether you’re an art lover or not, it’s one of the best things to do when visiting Helsinki on a budget. Check out this list of the best art galleries in Helsinki to help plan your schedule.
Unbeknown to some, Helsinki is an archipelago of around 330 islands, which means a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle is never far away. Seurasaari Island is the easiest of the islands to get to as it isn’t entirely isolated, and you can get there by bus or on foot.
It’s free to explore the island which features various walking trails, dense forests, and beautiful views over the water. During the Summer months, Seurasaari is also an open-air museum displaying various traditional houses that originate from all over Finland.
While we visited Helsinki in winter and the open-air museum was closed, we still enjoyed the nature side to Seurassari island. If you’re a nature lover looking for free things to do in Helsinki, make this spot a priority.
Next up on our list of free things to do in Helsinki is the remarkable Oodi Library. A relatively new addition to the cities diverse collection of architecture, the multi-storey library has quickly become one of Helsinki’s most recognisable landmarks.
To walk around inside the new age library is free of charge, and it’s worth it to experience the co-existence of literature and digital intelligence. The library acts as a working space on the one hand, with all the mod con technology and quiet areas. On the other, there’s a sprawling library of books that occupies the entire top floor.
Oodi is unlike any other library I’ve ever visited, and you won’t regret stopping by during your time in Helsinki.
Senate Square & Helsinki Cathedral
Located in the oldest area of Helsinki, you can find some beautiful architecture around Senate Square. Most notable is the Helsinki Cathedral, often referred to as the ‘white jewel’ of the city. Designed in a traditional neo-classical style, the 17th-century cathedral stands in stark contrast from the contemporary architecture found elsewhere in the city.
While we didn’t experience it ourselves, the cathedral is open for viewing at certain times of the day, and it’s free. Otherwise, walk around the square and admire the other buildings which include the University of Helsinki, the National Library of Finland, and the Government Palace.
Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. Even though we’ve never actually been to Russia, we immediately recognised its resemblance to Russian architecture. Boasting a facade of red brick with golden cupola domes, it’s one of the most beautiful architectural gems we saw during our time in Helsinki. Unfortunately, the cathedral was closed when we visited; however, if it’s open, you can look around inside for free. You’ll also find a lovely view of the surrounding cityscape from this spot.
Sibelius Park & Monument
Another favourite free thing to do in Helsinki is the Sibelius Park and monument. The park itself is nothing more than a series of scenic walking trails and green open spaces. But the primary attraction which undoubtedly steals the show is the unusual Sibelius Monument.
Known for his captivating music & symphonies, Jean Sibelius was and still is the most respected Finnish composer of all time. Designed to capture the essence of his music, the Sibelius Monument is an abstract structure of 600 steel tubes. Similar to a pipe organ, the tubes create musical notes using the wind. It’s quite impressive really and a worthy stop on your Helsinki itinerary.
If you’re exploring Helsinki on a budget, it’s unlikely you’ll want to pay €15 to visit inside the new Amos Rex art gallery of emerging artists. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the playful landscape that adorns Helsinki Plaza.
With its domed subterranean galleries emerging up from the ground, Amos Rex is another example of Helsinki’s contemporary and forward-thinking architecture. You’ll often find groups of families and friends here running up the steep slopes and sliding back down again. The area also makes for some unusual photo opportunities.
Free Sauna in Helsinki
If you didn’t know already, saunas play a significant role in Finnish culture. Most family homes have them, and they are considered a necessity for a happy and healthy life. Generally, saunas are separate for men and women, and it’s not unusual for locals to get completely naked. Of course, you can to, or you can wear a towel if you feel uncomfortable.
While there are several Finnish saunas in Helsinki, very few are free, and the most popular ones aren’t exactly budget-friendly. But I did my research, and while we didn’t get round to visiting ourselves, I found this great article about Somposauna – A free public sauna in Helsinki. I’ll be honest, it looks and sounds way cooler than the trendier ones in the city centre, so I highly recommend checking them out if you’re in Helsinki on a budget.
If you don’t mind paying the premium for the traditional Finnish experience, Allas Sea Pool is arguably the most popular. Here you’ll find a variety of saunas and swimming pools, including a heated outside pool that overlooks the ocean. If you’re feeling brave enough, you might even try the local tradition of a hot sauna followed by a cold dip in the seawater pool. Not for the faint-hearted but a memorable experience all the same.
Another way to pleasantly kill an hour or 2, is to take a stroll around the picturesque Töölö Bay. Despite looking like a lake, the bay is actually connected to the Baltic sea, by a very narrow opening. Around the outside, you’ll find various charming cafes and attractions such as the Finlandia. Located nearby the Oodi Library and National Museum, it’s a convenient and scenic spot to visit on a budget.
Things to do in Helsinki on a Budget
OK, so I’ve separated this next list of activities as they aren’t entirely free, but they won’t break the bank either. Here’s a list of things to do in Helsinki on a budget.
Temppeliaukion Rock Church
In many ways, Helsinki is a futuristic city. Especially their architecture, which is generally quite modern and abstract. The same goes even for their churches, and the Temppeliaukion Rock Church is a prime example. Engineered directly into solid rock, the church is a highlight of our one day in Helsinki.
You could say that the Rock Church gives a paradox impression. From the outside, it is mysterious and unassuming – just an entrance into a towering pile of rocks. But on the inside, the awe-inspiring dome ceiling, the majestic brass organ, and bright purple seating area create a truly unique display.
The church was, until recently, free to enter, but now there is an admission fee of €3. Honestly, it’s worth it. I’ve never seen a church like it, and I doubt I ever will again.
Cafe Regatta is a Lapland inspired cafe that conjures up all the magical feels. You may even be familiar with it already, as it’s become somewhat ‘insta-famous’ in recent years. But either way, you won’t want to miss out on a fresh cinnamon bun at this cute waterfront coffee shop.
Don’t, however, make the same mistake we did and rock up mid-afternoon on the weekend. The queue was all the way down the street, and we missed our opportunity completely. Your best bet is to go first thing in the morning for breakfast, as there’s usually nobody else around.
Unlike Seurasaari Island, Suomenlinna Island requires a return ferry journey, which is why I haven’t included it as a free thing to do in Helsinki. The ferry to Suomenlinna is part of the public transport network, so it’s relatively cheap, and once you’re on the island, it’s free to explore.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have long in Helsinki this time around, and this is an activity that will cost you most of the day. Having said that, many people consider it to be one of the best things to do in Helsinki, and as I haven’t done it myself, I can’t argue.
The island does appear to be very scenic and beautiful, so if you have the time, I expect it would be worth the trip. Once you’re there, you can explore the island on foot, which is home to a stunning 18th-century fortress and beautiful nature areas.
If you’re visiting Helsinki in Winter, you’ll find several ice rinks dotted around the city, and most of them are free. The caveat is that you bring your own skates, so unless you have some hidden away in your carry on, you’ll have to pay the rental fee which is usually around €5-6. Not bad though for a spot of festive fun on the ice.
If you’re a 90’s kid, it’s very likely the Moomins played a big part in your childhood. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Moomin’s are a fictional troll family created by a Finnish creator named Tove Jansson. Although the family are designed to look like Finnish trolls, I can’t help but think they look white hippos.
Nevertheless, the Moomin’s are a national icon to Finland, like Harry Potter is to England and Hello Kitty to Japan. You’ll find Moomin themed souvenirs and memorabilia all over Helsinki, as well as, you guessed it, a Moomin themed cafe.
While neither of us was into the Moomins growing up, we were excited to visit the Moomin cafe. So imagine our disappointment when it was closed! We didn’t have much luck on the cafe front, did we? Alas, I hope you guys will get to experience the fun-filled cafe, where you can dine with your favourite Moomins and indulge in various sweet treats.
If you have an eye for a bargain, you won’t want to miss the Helsinki flea markets. Packed to the brim with antiques, vintage clothes, and other gems that you can’t find at the general stores, you could get lost for hours hunting for treasure. The most acclaimed flea markets are the Hietalahti flea market and the Hakaniemi flea market; however, there are other smaller ones as well.
Where to Eat in Helsinki on a Budget
Finding a budget meal in Helsinki isn’t easy, but that’s not to say it isn’t possible. As we were only in Helsinki for a short time, we survived on buying food from Lidl a lot of the time and cooking at our hostel. However, a local friend of ours did give us some great tips on how and where to eat for cheap.
First of all, try to book accommodation that includes breakfast and/or cooking facilities. If you can eat where you are staying at least once per day, it could dramatically save you some cash. Another great piece of advice is that most Helsinki restaurants do special offers at lunchtime when meals are far less than they are during dinner hours.
If you consider yourself a foodie and eating out for dinner is an absolute must, I did ask around for where you can find meals for less than €15. As a guideline, the cheapest meals in most restaurants are between €20-25, so €15 is pretty cheap. Here’s what I found:
Another interesting concept that again, we only heard about when we arrived in Helsinki is the ResQ App. The idea behind the app is that you can rescue food from quality restaurants that might otherwise be thrown out or wasted at a cut-throat price. All you have to do is logon, and the app will yield any restaurants in your area that have offers on at that moment. Getting cheap and delicious food while at the same time saving the planet – sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Getting Around Helsinki on a Budget
If you’re visiting Helsinki on a budget, your cheapest option is to get around on foot. Thankfully the city centre is quite compact and easy to navigate while concentrating the majority of significant landmarks and attractions. Walking is also the best way to get to know Helsinki, as you’ll come across other elements of the city you might not otherwise.
If walking isn’t an option, or you want to travel further afield, your best bet will be to take public transport. The public transport in Helsinki is reliable, and relatively affordable, and consists of trams, buses, trains, and the metro.
We only used public transport twice, and that was to get to & from the airport. But, if you plan to use public transport regularly, it’s worthwhile purchasing a Helsinki Card. The card not only includes unlimited access to the cities transport network, but you’ll also get free entry at many of the cities museums and top attractions, as well as discounted dining, shopping, and tours.
For more in-depth info, see this article about getting around in Helsinki. It gives extensive information regarding the different modes of transport, including getting to & from Suomenlinna Island.
Other Helsinki Budget Tips
So we are drawing to a close on our Helsinki budget guide; however, these final few tips might help you to save a few extra pennies.
Partying & Alcohol
If you are looking to party on a budget, Helsinki isn’t the city for you. You’d be far better off looking at Eastern European cities such as Prague, Budapest, and Krakow. Alcohol in Helsinki and Finland, in general, is almost prohibitively expensive. So if you want to save the pennies, you might want to consider staying dry for the duration of your trip.
I mentioned the Helsinki card earlier on, but in case you missed it, I’ll quickly mention it again here as it’s a great budget tip. The Helsinki Card allows you free or discounted admission to many of the cities top attractions. So if you have your heart set on seeing everything but don’t want to break the bank, it’s an excellent investment. Not only that, but you’ll get free use of the city’s public transport network for the entire time that your Helsinki Card is valid, as well as discounted dining shopping and tours. To learn more and book your Helsinki in advance, simply click the link below.
Book Here: Helsinki City Card
Staying Connected in Helsinki
If, like us, you rely on the internet when you travel (let’s face it, who doesn’t anymore), we have the perfect solution. After coming home to too many hefty phone bills and buying countless international sim cards, we were desperate for an affordable solution.
That’s when we discovered TravelWifi. TravelWifi’s portable pocket wifi allows us to quickly and securely connect when we need it the most. Click the link for more information on coverage, packages, and the latest offers.
Otherwise, you can generally find free wifi in most cafes, restaurants and train stations in Helsinki.
Now you know all of our top Helsinki budget tips, let’s take a look at what we averaged per day on spends. Keep in mind that we ate cheap, stayed in a hostel, walked everywhere, and were selective about the attractions we spent our money on. If you insist on paying for every attraction, eating at fancy restaurants, drinking alcohol, staying at a nice hotel etc. you can expect to triple or even quadruple the budget.
*The below budget is per person.
- Hostel: €25
- Meals: €15
- Snacks/Coffee: €5
- Attractions: €15
- Transport: €0
- Total: €60
More on Finland
Travelling to Finland soon? Perhaps these other articles from our Finland series will be of some interest to you.
- One Day in Helsinki – The Best 1 Day Helsinki Itinerary
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Lapland in Winter
- A Guide to Husky Safaris in Lapland
- A Guide to Reindeer Safaris in Lapland
- The Ultimate Winter Lapland Packing List
Thank you for Reading
That concludes Helsinki on a Budget – The Best Free Things to do in Helsinki. We hope you enjoy your time in this fascinating city. If you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please reach out to us in the comment section below, through our contact us page. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram here, where we share further travel advice & inspiration.
Stay adventurous and Happy travels.
Charlotte & Natalie x
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Last Updated on January 1, 2021 by Our Taste For Life