Helsinki — the capital of Finland, one of the European destinations with the highest standard of living in the world. It has been voted in the top 10 most liveable cities globally for many years. Are you curious about the capital of the world’s happiest country? Let’s explore my Helsinki self-sufficient travel through the sharing below. So, where to go, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Helsinki for the first-time? Let’s check out our Helsinki travel blog (Helsinki blog) with the fullest Helsinki travel guide (Helsinki guide, Helsinki tourist guide, Helsinki visitor guide, Helsinki city guide, Helsinki finland travel guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do as well as suggested Helsinki itinerary 3 days 2 nights to find out the answer!
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Helsinki travel blog: Overview of Helsinki
Helsinki is the most populous city in Finland today with a population of over 1.3 millions of people with an area of 213.8 km² (land area) and is also the third largest city in northern Europe after Stockholm and Oslo. Located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, the city of Helsinki is the political, educational and cultural center of Finland. Helsinki is about 80 km to the north of Tallinn, 400 km to the east of Stockholm, and 390 km to the west of Saint Petersburg. Therefore, traveling between these cities is quite convenient and also easy to travel to Finland.
Helsinki blog: When to come?
June to August is the best time to visit Helsinki. Helsinki has a humid continental climate. Due to the influence of the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean makes winters colder and summers warmer than in the rest of the country. When visiting, if you want to enjoy the longest daylight hours (around 18 hours) then go from June to August, so the summer months are your best choices.
Helsinki travel guide: Getting to Helsinki
If you intend to fly to Helsinki from other European cities or other destinantions, you can go to Google Flights, SkyScanner to find the most suitable flight routes depend on your departure point as well as to hunt cheap airfares.
Getting from Helsinki airport to the city center
Helsinki Airport (Helsinki-Vantaa Airport – HEL) or rather Vantaa Airport, is located in the city of Vantaa, about 20 km to the north of the center of Helsinki.
You can take a bus or train from Helsinki airport to Helsinki city center. More information can be found on the HSL website.
Each bus will run on a different route, so you need to navigate exactly where your hotel is to choose a right bus for your convenience. If you want to go to the center, you can take bus 415 or 615. Bus 615 will go to the central station. Ticket price is €4.6/way and there are ticket vending machines right at the airport exit gate.
- Bus 415 (Elielinaukio-Ylästö-Airport)
- Bus 561 (Itäkeskus-Malmi-Airport)
- Bus 615 (Rautatientori-Kartanonkoski-Airport)
- Bus 617 (Hakaniemi-Airport)
You follow the instructions in Helsinki airport to get down to the basement to catch a train. You can take trains I and P, both can reach the city center. Train tickets can only be purchased at ticket vending machines in the basement or in the airport. Ticket price is €4.6/one-way.
Tips: To see which means of transport are most suitable, you can visit the Reittiopas website. You enter the starting point and destination. It will show results and recommend the best options for you.
You should buy a Day ticket (Day Pass) instead of a single ticket to save on travel costs.
Helsinki blog: Getting around Helsinki
Helsinki Card: 24h for €53 and 48h for €73. I recommend you to buy this ticket card because it includes entrance tickets to many famous places in Helsinki such as the stone church, Sea Life and many other museums. Tickets are also cover both types of hop on – hop off sightseeing buses in the city (Design or Panaroma), free public transport including the airport route, free ferry, 50% off of the tour to the old city of Porvoo.
In general, I think this price is too good for such a package of many tourist attractions, other services as well. If you go to a separate place like Sea Life, it will cost you €16. This is probably the most benefits and convenient ticket in Europe that I have ever used. Usually with such city cards, if it give free public transport, it will not be free for hop on/hop off services.
Bicycle rental: €5/day. Each run should not exceed 30 minutes or else you will be charged €1 each time. You can find more information at the city’s official website.
Bus, train, metro, tram tickets: Single ticket: €2.8, 1-Day ticket: €8, 2-Day tickets: €12.
Note that the above fares apply to vehicles in Zone A, B (The center of Helsinki and part of Espoo). If you intend to buy a day ticket for Helsinki – Vantaa airport route, you need to buy Zone ABC tickets for €12/day or €18/2 days. Children from 7-16 years old are discounted half of the above price. If parents traveling with their baby strollers, they can ride all public transport free of charge. Tickets are purchased at ticket vending machines (can be paid by coin or card) or HSL app on the phone. Refer to the website here.
Hop on/hop off bus ticket: €27 for 24 hours.
Helsinki travel blog: Where to stay?
Here are some of hotels, apartments with the best reviews on Airbnb.com and Booking.com, you should try to check it out:
- Citykoti Downtown Studios: €109/night/2 people (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Koti Helsinki Boutique Apartments: €120/2 people (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Eurohostel : €17/dorm bed and €41/double room (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Cheapsleep Hostel Helsinki: €21/dorm bed with breakfast or €41/double room (Agoda.com or Booking.com).
In general, the price of a hotel room in the center of Helsinki will be around €40-120 depending on the location. If you want to rent an Airbnb room in the center, it will cost around €60-70 or if you need to travel by public transport with a little far distance, it will cost about €30-40.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hotel Helka (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Lilla Roberts (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Helsinki (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Kamp (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- GLO Hotel Kluuvi Helsinki (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Scandic Grand Marina (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Helsinki travel blog: Where to go, what to do?
Helsinki, Finland is internationally once recognized as the design capital of the world in 2012. Therefore, when you come here, you will encounter very artistic scenes and countless design and art related events taking place all year round.
In addition, Helsinki is also recognized for its architectural works with the appearance of Saint Petersburg and Berlin because during the period of moving the Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki, the Tsar ordered the German architect who designed more than 300 architectural works to construct and create a face for the new capital.
That is why Helsinki bearing an architectural interference between Berlin and Saint Petersburg.
Located off the Finnish capital Helsinki, the Suomenlinna islands consists of 6 small islands famous for their pristine space and surviving fortresses and war tunnels. This tourist attraction was recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage in 1991 and clearly shows the strong identity of Helsinki.
This massive Suomenlinna fortress was built by a group of Swedes in the late 18th century to protect the city from Russia during the war. This is also a typical image of European military architecture at that time. The Finnish word Suomenlinna means: Castle of Finland.
The architectural works here have the appearance of a solid ancient design such as King gate, The Great Courtyard building, Augustin Ehrensvärd’s burial monument, Ehrensvärd museum.
Personally, this attraction is not as magnificent as other places, but it is very large. This place is suitable for those who want to learn more about history as well as immerse themselves in the Nordic nature.
How to get there
You find the way to Market square (Kauppatori) and take the train to Suomenlina Island. Traveling time is about 15 minutes. There is no ticket to access the island, but you need to have tickets to visit the museums on the island. The train tickets will be free if you have an HSL day tickets.
Esplanadi Park (Esplanadin Puisto)
Address: Pohjoisesplanadi, 00130 Helsinki, Finland
Esplanadi Park is located between the two streets of the same name North Esplanadi and South Esplanadi. This place was opened in 1812 and the name means “an area that’s meant to be walked on”.
Esplanadi Park is located in the heart of the city, so it is also the gathering place of locals for many main events of Helsinki. In this park, there are many famous statues, including the statues of three great Finnish writers, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Zacharias Topelius, and Eino Leino.
Address: Unioninkatu 29, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Height: 62 m
This neoclassical architecture cathedral which was opened in 1852 is one of the most representative symbols of the city of Helsinki. This is a Lutheran Protestant church. This church was built during the period when Finland was a Russian colony with the purpose of honoring Tsar Nicholas I.
During the time Finland was colonized by Russia, the church was named after St Nicholas. It was not until Finland gained independence in 1917, then the place was renamed Helsinki Cathedral. The Senate Square right at the foot of the church is also the venue for many important events of Finland.
There is a large statue of Tsar Alexander II as a way of gratitude of the Finnish to him because they believe that it was thanks to Russia that took Finland out of the hands of Sweden that Finland had a chance to break out of the grip of Sweden for more than 600 years and has the opportunity to be as independent as it is today.
This will definitely be a must-visit place that you should absolutely not miss when visiting this Nordic country.
Address: Kanavakatu 1, 00160 Helsinki, Finland
Hours: 9:30AM–7PM/Saturday: 10AM–3PM/Sunday: 12–3PM/Monday: Closed
Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Finland today. This cathedral was designed by Russian architect Alexey Gornoslaev and built in 1862 during the reign of Tsar Alexander II.
The red brick church is located on a high hill with eye-catching and sophisticated architecture. Thirteen golden domes and brick facades are among the most prominent traces of Russian religion in Finland.
National Museum of Finland
Address: Mannerheimintie 34, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Hours: 11AM–6PM/Monday: Closed
The National Museum of Finland is a combination of church and castle architecture to introduce the history of Finland from prehistoric civilization to today’s society.
The museum including four floors with many different collections. If you are interested in the development history of this country, you should not miss this place.
There are also many other museums in Helsinki and there are certain days of the week/month that are open for free. Check the My Helsinki website to see if there are any free museums during your visit.
Sibelius Park and Monument
Address: Mechelininkatu 39, 00250 Helsinki, Finland
Hours: Open 24 hours
Sibelius is an internationally influential Finnish composer. He is one of the most famous composers in the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His music played an important part in defining Finland on the world music map. Because he lived during the period when Finland was under Russian domination, his works focused on the topic of praising his country and people, challenging the Russian colonial government.
His famous work, Finlandia that represents the patriotism and pride of being Finnish, was widely renowned.
The Sibelius Monument is the most important and famous part of this park. It was designed by female architect Eila Hiltunen in 1967.
The Sibelius Monument consists of 600 organ pipes attached to each other and weighs 24 tons. This place represents a vast Finnish forest with special echoes when the wind blows. A smaller version of the monument is also placed at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church)
Location: Töölö, Helsinki
Entrance ticket: €3
Located in the center of Helsinki and opened in 1969, Temppeliaukio stone church is famous for its unique and fancy architecture. From the outside, this church looks like an old tomb and nothing special. But the architecture inside the church is what attracts tourists. Each year this tourist attraction welcomes more than 500,000 visitors, equivalent to 1/10 of the population of Finland.
This rock church is built in a huge rock that jutting out from the ground. In other words, a giant granite block was broken from the inside and built the church in the center of that block. Therefore, the church is surrounded by pristine granite walls, so the resonance is very good. In addition, the ceiling of the church is a block of copper wire. Natural light flows into from 180 glass doors in the ceiling, connecting with bronze arches and granite walls.
This place will be an ideal place for those who want to explore the fancy architecture. It used to attract a lot of attention from famous architects around the world to come and explore.
Helsinki Central Library Oodi
Address: Töölönlahdenkatu 4, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Opened: December 5, 2018
If you still have time to explore Helsinki, you should not miss the experience at the libraries here. Finnish are known for their love of reading and in 2016 were recognized by UNESCO as the world’s most read country.
The country has only 5.5 million people, but they borrow 68 million books every year on average. That’s why many people consider Finland to be a library’s paradise. And the fact that every year the Finnish libraries welcomes more than 400,000 tourists to visit.
In Finland, there are more than 300 central libraries and about 150 mobile libraries – library buses. These cars will go to all parts of the country to serve those who cannot afford to buy books or go to libraries to borrow books to read.
The Finnish government views libraries as symbolizing the importance of learning and education. Therefore, they are always willing to invest, expand and improve the library system all over this Nordic country.
Finnish libraries are not only a place to reading books, but also a place to connect people with each other. In addition to lending books, electronics, sports equipment… some large libraries also have restaurants, coffee shops, recording rooms, places for group events, children’s play areas, 3D printing, etc. The most famous libraries in Helsinki you can visit is the Oodi library and the national library.
The Oodi library was built at a total cost of €100 million from people’s taxes and was only completed in 2018. This tourist attraction is located right near the city center station, so it’s also very convenient to travel. In August 2019 Oodi was voted as the best public library in the world and welcomed more than 2 million visits (accounting for 35% of the population of Finland) every year. This library is designed as “an indoor city square”. So this place is different from the traditional library models before. Come and experience yourself!
The National Library of Finland
Located in: University of Helsinki
A 2-min walk from the Helsinki Cathedral
Address: Unioninkatu 36, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
It is the Finland’s oldest academic library built in 1844. It is responsible for preserving and displaying the collections, printed legacies and unique works in Finland. Located in the heart of the capital Helshinki and close to Senate Square (Helsinki cathedral), this place is very easily accessible to tourists.
If the Oodi library represents simple, modern Scandinavian Nordic architecture. In contrast, the Finnish national library is classical and traditional. If you have time, you should visit both of these tourist attractions.
Address: Hernesaarenranta 4, 00150 Helsinki, Finland
Ticket price: €19/2 hours including towels, soap, shampoo. If you want to rent a bathing suit, it costs €6/2h.
Löyly is the largest and most modern sauna in Helsinki today. (Löyly in Finnish means smoke, the most important part of Sauna because the Finnish think that having a good sauna or not is completely dependent on the quality of the smoke being emitted).
As I said above, sauna is a Finnish invention and weekly sauna bathing has become an indispensable habit for anyone here. Almost every apartment building has a sauna area, so you are allowed to set a time and shower each week. Completely free, of course. As for the more affluent private houses, they also always have a sauna next to the regular bathroom in their house.
Löyly was built mainly to serve tourists as well as corporate groups that often set hours for groups. In this Löyly area, in addition to the sauna, also has a restaurant, conference rooms. So if you have had the opportunity to travel to Helsinki, try this experience. Usually here, every time they experience sauna, they will sit for 10-15 minutes in the sauna room, then go to the beach as shown in the picture to jump into the water. This form is repeated many times in about 1-2 hours. Usually, every time they come ashore, they will drink beer, chat, then go to the sauna to continue to take a bath.
As Vietnamese people think, they will probably get sick if bathing like that because of the changing of temperatures is much. It’s like being in a very hot sauna environment (70-80 degrees), then the pores are expanding, then jump into the cold sea water, then easy to get a cold… This concept is not believed by Finnish and I don’t believe it either because I did it many times but it’s okay :). So you should definitely try it when you come here.
It’s really refreshing and good for health after taking a sauna bath. According to scientific research, the sauna bath accompanied by jumping into the cold water of 0 degrees Celsius will help your body have more brown fat – a layer of fat that helps increase the immune system, resistance and improve many other diseases of human.
Helsinki travel blog: What to eat?
I only review a few restaurants that I personally think are okay. Of course, good or bad also depends on the preferences and tastes of each person.
- Vietnamese Pho restaurant. This place is rated as the best Vietnamese Pho restaurant in Helsinki. Price €10/bowl, so delicious. Address: Yrjönkatu 30, 00100 Helsinki.
- Sushi buffet + Asian savory dishes: Fuku is the best. Price €14.5 for lunch and €20-23 for dinner or weekend buffet. There is also a restaurant Itsudemo has the same type but costs €13 for lunch and €17 for weekends. These 2 restaurants are right in the center and very easy to find. There is also Caverna restaurant owned by Vietnamese people but very big. The buffet including about 30 dishes and has beef and chicken noodle soup to eat comfortably, but I find the salty food is not very good, just temporary.
- Set Buffet: Ravintola Factory Aleksi restaurant serves a lot of typical Nordic dishes and is affordable, around €10/serving . In addition, you can eat at the University of Helsinki canteen right in the center of the capital. The price is around €7 a serving.
Helsinki blog: Suggested Helsinki ititinerary 3 days
Day 1: Central Station – Oodi Library – National Library – Helsinki Cathedral – Espalandi Park – Uspenski Church.
Go to the Market square to catch the train to Suomenlina island is also near the Helsinki tourist spots above. However, I found it difficult to go all in 1 day, so I split up to go on day 2.
Day 2: Central Station – Suomenlina island – Parliament building – National museum – Rock church – Sibelius park and monument.
Before going to Suomenlinna Island, you will usually catch a train near the Market square flea market. Take a walk around the market and taste the grilled muikku fish. During these 2 days, if possible, you should include a sauna in Löyly – a pleasant experience in Helsinki.
Day 3: Take the Onni bus to Porvoo or Tallinn, Estonia. With only €20, you can buy a 2-way ferry ticket to visit the capital of Estonia. Then why not go? Obviously the cost is too cheap when you can set foot in another country. Click on this page to receive a discount code of €5 then book your tickets here.
Helsinki blog: The cost of traveling to the city of Helsinki
The mid-range self-sufficient Helsinki travel cost you can refer to as follows:
- Hotel: €35/night, shared
- Meals: €35/day
- Travel: €18/2 days
- Entrance tickets: The above attractions are free except for the rock church for €3 and the national museum for €12.
Helsini travel blog: Some useful tips before you go
To have a cheap Helsinki trip, you can apply the following tips:
- Helsinki tourist attractions to visit on Day 1 are quite close to each other. You can walk if you want.
- I highly recommend you to buy a Helsinki card instead of buying single tickets because with €73 for 2 days, you can catch the train for the airport-city route, take the tram bus in the center, visit the attractions for free, take hop on/hop off, ferry also free… In general, €73 covers all traveling costs and entrance tickets for you.
- Lidl supermarket in the center of Helsinki with very affordable prices compared to local Finnish supermarkets.
- There is a Barbarossa kebab pizza & kebab shop right in the center for only €5 a serving.
- When going to Porvoo, you should take an Onnibus and book online in advance, it will be cheaper than taking the train or other vehicles. Or if you find it complicated to travel, buy a Helsinki card with the tour to Porvoo to get a 50% discount.
- Traveling to Finland without going to Lapland is a huge omission. This is the most famous tourist destination in Finland.
Hope with the above self-sufficient Helsinki travel experiences will help you in your upcoming trip! If you are still wondering about something, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, I will respond as soon as possible!
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Helsinki you can refer to
- Helsinki Card
- Meet Santa Claus at the Arctic Circle 4D3N Tour from Helsinki with Flights
- Helsinki & Tampere 3 Day Trip from Helsinki
- Helsinki Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Helsinki and Suomenlinna Sightseeing Half Day Tour
- Helsinki Highlights Half Day Tour
Read more Finland travel guide here.