Hello, Helsinki! Finland’s capital city on a budget.
Notoriously expensive, Finland’s capital city of Helsinki can actually be experienced for less money than you might think. The most popular attractions can be visited for little to no cost, and — of course — we’ve got you covered when it comes to affordable accommodation.
Designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, Helsinki Cathedral is one of the city’s most popular attractions with its towering columns and green dome, and can be visited for free. Find all twelve apostles on the rooftop standing watch, and enjoy a picnic on the steps on a sunny day.
Next up, and right at the foot of the cathedral is Senate Square with more Neoclassical architecture from Carl Ludvig Engel, including the Government Palace, the University of Helsinki’s main building, and the National Library of Finland. Check out Sederholm House, which is Helsinki’s oldest stone building, and current home to the always free Helsinki City Museum. Pop in for a look back through the city’s history. Senate Square also hosts regular concerts, and each day at 5:49 in the afternoon, you can listen to the Sound of the Senate Square, a modern-day version of the glockenspiel, which travels from one building to another and lasts for just over five minutes.
Market Square is the city’s most famous market, and its stalls sell everything from fish to produce to locally made crafts. You can keep costs down by simply strolling through and window shopping, however this is an excellent place to try traditional foods and support local artisans selling crafts.
A €5 ferry ticket is all you’ll have to pay to check out the 18th-century Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site spread across six islands. Walk the 1.5km Blue Route to see the fortresses’s most important sites and learn about its diverse history.
For a very reasonable €3, you can go see the unique Temppeliaukio church, which has been nicknamed Rock Church due to the fact that it was constructed directly into solid rock. The copper-lined dome connects to the church walls, which are made up of the rocks it was built into, by windows that allow natural light to flood the interior.
It’s estimated that Finland is home to some 2 million or so saunas, which means that for a truly authentic Finnish experience, a visit to a sauna is obligatory. At €12 for adults and €8 for students, Sauna Hermanni — one of the last remaining public saunas in the city — is an excellent choice for a hot and steamy reprieve. Keep in mind that payment is cash only, towels are available for rent, and snacks such as coffee and sandwiches can be purchased, however you’re also free to bring your own.
Because of its smaller size, Helsinki is easy to navigate on-foot. Free, sustainable, and good for you, walking also creates more opportunities for discovering quaint shops, hidden gems, and tucked-away streets just waiting to be discovered. For those looking for a quicker way of getting around, unlimited use of public transportation costs start at €9 for a day and drops in price as the number of days increase (i.e. €18 for 3 days).
Where to Stay
Centrally located right by Market Square, Eurohostel Helsinki has everything you need for a comfortable stay including a restaurant, daily breakfast buffet, and a sauna (of course!), as well as bicycle rental and 24 hour reception selling varies tickets and passes for attractions throughout the city.
For a unique and serene stay in an old school building, try Hostel Suomenlinna, which, as you may have guessed, is located in the Suomenlinna UNESCO World Heritage Site. Board games, books, complimentary tea and coffee, and a cosy lounge area complete the tranquil setting.