Finland has been globally acclaimed for its extremely high quality of life, leading in education and healthcare systems. The northern lights come visit quite frequently, and it’s also known for its quirky Wife Carrying races. But for some strange reason, Helsinki isn’t a popular tourist destination compared to its neighbouring cities like Oslo and Stockholm. But you know what? That just makes it an even more special and exceptional city to plan a family trip in. If you’re thinking of travelling to this small, but remarkable city, you’re doing it right. Here is the ultimate travel guide for Helsinki with kids!
We’ve done our best to select the best museums and places to see around the city; as well as the most delicious Finnish food that you simply cannot leave without trying. Helsinki is one of a kind, and we can assure you that you’ll find it just as great as we did.
Best Time To Visit Helsinki
Located in the highest points of Scandinavia, Helsinki can be extremely cold in the winter. You’ve probably heard all the stories about what winter is like up in these northern European countries – and to be honest, most of them are probably true. We have to admit, spending Christmas in Helsinki would be absolutely wonderful. They have countless years of tradition surrounding this time of year, and celebrate it beautifully; especially because of their strong sense of community and folktales about Santa Claus which have been around for much longer than they can remember. However, because of the drastically low temperatures, we suggest that you skip on visiting throughout the entire winter season. The city is too beautiful to want to stay indoors so you should wait for better weather to do so!
Towards the end of spring, the weather in Helsinki gets better. But during the months of March and April, it honestly hasn’t gotten much warmer than in winter. Although the days seem a little longer than in the colder months of the year, they’ll still cut quite short, so it would be a shame to have to go back indoors so early in the night. May is probably the best month out of the three to visit; you’ll start to see the city start getting a little more colorful and cheerful.
Visiting Helsinki is definitely the best during the summer. The temperature outdoors is great and pleasurable so it’s very easy to spend your days wandering about in the city. You’ll have more chances of enjoying the green areas of Helsinki like it’s beautiful nature parks, and city parks. It tends to be the season where lots of fruits and vegetables grow nicely as well, so you’ll be lucky to get a taste of some of the most delicious Finnish food. After so much time in the dark, the entire atmosphere in the city seems as if a veil of happiness and joy has been put on top of it. It’s definitely our favourite time to visit!
Helsinki is incredible during the fall. The buildings are constantly bathed in golden colors from the sunset, and the changing colors of the leaves make the city look like a medieval fairytale. We suggest sticking to September if you’re travelling during the fall – as you move closer towards winter, the weather starts to get colder and colder. Fall is a great opportunity to visit the outskirts of Helsinki and pay its wonderful woods and forests as they are decorated in vibrant oranges and fiery reds.
How To Get Around Helsinki
Because of the cold weather that takes over the city for more than half a year, it’s likely that using their public transport system to move around will be your preferred way to get from place to place. Here is an overview of al the different systems you can use:
The tram is probably Helsinki’s most popular and easy way to move around. Tourists prefer using it because it runs on a very frequent schedule, reaches pretty much any attraction, and lets you see the city as you travel. You can purchase your tickets either at the Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) ticket machines at any travel point, or buy them through the app. The tickets tend to be valid for around 80 minutes; a useful piece of information that will keep you from purchasing tickets every single time you climb on.
Since the city is quite small already, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use the train. However, you’ll find using the train to travel to and from the airport very easy, and convenient. If you’re thinking of visiting areas outside of the central part of the city, trains will definitely be the best option but for a simple journey to the capital you won’t need to worry about them.
The Helsinki metro is simple and easy to use. If you happen to visit during the winter, it’s a great way to avoid being in the cold weather and rain. The metro crosses along with many important points through the center but also goes a bit beyond its borders towards the east and west. It’s a reliable and fast way to travel and is also open until late at night.
Best Areas To Stay In Helsinki
What most people consider to be the city of Helsinki counts as an entire neighbourhood itself. Helsinki is already quite compact and small, staying in the city center would mean you’re right in the middle of all the action. This is by far the best area to stay in when travelling here; the charm of the old city and majestic sea resting just at its feet will surround you at all times. The center is also the best equipped area with public transport options, and contains many of Helsinki’s top attractions. There are endless options for restaurants, bars, and even public saunas for you to discover.
Kaartinkaupunki is a neighborhood located south of Kamppi. It happens to be the wealthiest area of the city, as well as the oldest. It’s a very family-friendly place with many small cafés, local boutiques, and wonderful green areas to see like the Esplanadi park. The city’s most famous square, Kauppatori Market Square and the Old Market Hall are also located here, so you can be sure that there will always be some sort of vibrancy and joy around you.
Punavuori is known as the “cool” and fashionable part of the city – The Design District. There’s lots of Finnish culture to see here. From endless boutiques filled with items made with the ultimate Finnish designs, to warm, welcoming cafés and restaurants, and some of the best antiques and artwork shops, Punavuori has everything to surprise you. There are also plenty of parks and smaller museums to visit and indulge in with kids.
Best things to in Helsinki do with kids
Built in the 1830s, the Helsinki Cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture that characterizes the city quite well. It’s found at the top of the stairs of the beautiful Senate Square. During winter, the whiteness of the cathedral looks beautiful in front of the bright white snow; giving the city such a crisp and frozen appearance. Back in the day, when people would arrive in the city by sea, the cathedral could be seen from miles away! Today, it’s still a very imposing building very important to Finnish history, so it should certainly be among the first things you see when in Helsinki with kids.
Services are given throughout the year, and in the summer it becomes a hotspot for all kinds of events and local festivals. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, you may want to visit their gift shop. It’s located in the bell tower!
Website: Helsinki Cathedral Address: Helsinki Cathedral, Unioninkatu 29, 00170 Helsinki Hours: Mon - Tue and Thu - Sat 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM Wed 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Sun 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM Cost: Free
Porvoo is a little journey away from the center of the city, about 50 km away, but it is most certainly worth the travel. Provoo is an enchanting and charming city known for its red-painted warehouses, and colorful houses that make it seem like it’s been pulled right out of a fairytale.
Old Porvoo is filled with award-winning restaurants, chocolateries, galleries and witty stores with things you could only find there. The National Urban Park hugs the city giving it an even more vibrant red appearance. Besides the beautiful cobbled streets to wonder by, we suggest that you visit some of Provoo’s museums. The Holm House will give you an idea of how the wealthiest Finns lived back in the late 18th century; showcasing stunning antiques and furniture. The little ones will find the Porvoo Doll and Toy Museum most exciting. It contains toys that have been played with and loved for more than 300 years, and who still work their magic at making its visitors smile.
For many people across the world who have come paid Finland a visit, seeing Porvoo in one day simply isn’t enough. If you’re up to make a bigger trip out of it, staying in one of their local B&B’s is one of the best things you could do in your trip to Helsinki with kids.
3. Seurasaari Open Air Museum
One of the best attractions to visit in Helsinki with kids is definitely the Seurtasaati Open Air Museum. In over countless numbers of hectares, this interactive museum showcases traditional Finnish rural everyday life aging from centuries as old as the 18th until the 20th. You kids will be able to let their imagination run loose by playing and engage with a picturesque presentation of cottages, farms and manors, as well as actors dressed in costumes from all parts of the country.
It’s an incredible museum that incorporates fun and pedagogy in a single place in the best way possible – no child has ever complained! On the contrary, it is among the most preferred and loved locations to visit in Helsinki by families across the world.
The museum provides guided tours that allow for even more of a hands-on experience while giving you further information about everything that used to happen around here. There are multiple options for food and drinks such as The Anti Kaffeliiteri café and the Seurasaaren Kruunu restaurant. In fact, the restaurant is set in a lovely building dating back to 1890, and has barely changed since then. We strongly recommend that you opt for a meal here; there is a delicious selection of dishes native to the Seurasaari area. Keep in mind that the museum is only open during the summer!
Website: Seurasaari Open-Air Museum Address: Seurasaari, 00250 Helsinki, Finland Hours: June - August Mon-Sun 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM September Mon-Fri 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM Sat-Sun 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM Cost: Adults 10 EUR Students 8 EUR Child (7-17 years old) 4 EUR Family Ticket (2 adults and 1-4 children) 25 EUR
Vesikko is one of the most exciting museums to visit in Helsinki with kids. This restored submarine from World War 2 carries with it an incredible history that your kids will love to discover. You’ll be able to walk inside the submarine to see how up to 20 soldiers used to live a couple meters below the sea water. To make your experience even more realistic, you can still hear the roaring sound of the engines and machinery that soldiers needed to learn to ignore as they found themselves inside for an unpredictable amount of days at a time.
It’s located in Suomenlinna, a beautiful cluster of islands part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. One of the main reasons for this is for the large collection of other World War 2 bunkers, museums, and even fortress remains. Cars are not allowed here, so you can imagine the ultimate state of pristine. Keep in mind that Vesikko is only open during the summer!
Website: Vesikko Address: Suomenlinna, 00190 Helsinki, Finland Hours: (May to September) Mon - Sun 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM Cost: Adult 7 EUR Child 4 EUR
5. Suomenlinna Fortress
Another incredible attraction to visit in Suomenlinna is the Suomenlinna Fortress. It was built in 1748, and used to be the base for the Archipelago Fleet. The fortress sextends over six different islands, contains about 200 buildings, beautiful gardens and has walls that used to protect their grounds.It’s a great place to get a sense of old military architecture, and to imagine the amount of stories it contains about protecting the country. In summer, we highly recommend taking the ferry out to the fortress. You can be sure to take your time to look around, since daylight stretches until the high hours of the night, and the last ferry leaves Suomenlinna as late as 2 AM. It forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and once you get there, you’ll find that there are lots of things to explore and discover.
Whether you’re interested in visiting to find out more about its lengthy history, or simply to take in the incredible scenery it sits on, you should definitely consider it among the top things to do in Helsinki with kids.
Website: Suomenlinna Fortress Address: 00190 Helsinki, Finland Hours: Mon - Sun 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM Cost: Free
6. Linnanmaki Amusement Park
One of the best day plans you can do when travelling to Helsinki with kids is going to the Linnanmaki Amusement Park. Not only is this the oldest and most loved amusement park in Helsinki, but of the entire country. Since 1950, the park has continued to create some of the best memories for Finnish families, and we’re certain it will do the same for yours.
The park has something for everybody. For kids who may be more eager to get on more easy-going rides or even traditional arcade games, to visitors looking forward to get on more thrilling and fast-going rides. Get ready to be taken upside down, through waterfalls, and into many other unexpected surprises. Many of the rides in the park have maintained their antique looks from the 1950s, which creates a wonderful nostalgic feeling. If there’s one ride we recommend that you attend is the wooden roller coaster “Vuoristorata”. It has a 50m long drop that we whizz through in 3 seconds!
Perhaps the incredible part of the park is its options for food. From colorful and extravagant milkshakes to the largest hot dogs in town, you can be sure there will always be something to please your palate. There are also several snack bars you can visit throughout the day all around the park. The Linnanmaki popcorn factory is a difficult one to resist!
The park entrance fee is free, and visitors can go on up to 9 rides at no cost. If you’re planning on getting on more rides, you have to buy a wristband ticket for 42 EUR.
Website: Linnanmäki Amusement Park Address: Linnanmäki Amusement Park, Tivolikuja 1 00510 Helsinki Hours: Currently Unavailable Cost: Free up to 9 rides. Tickets for unlimited rides are 42 EUR
7. Helsinki City Museum
The Helsinki City Museum is one of the best museums to visit in Helsinki with kids. It’s definitely got among the most engaging and out-of-the-box exhibitions. For example, there are expositions about the production of food throughout history, a photography exhibit showing glimpses of Helsinki 100 years back, and a hands-on display showing some great memories about the city.
One area of the museum that we could not recommend more is the Children’s Town exhibition. This exhibition is specifically targeted at children, and does a wonderful job at showing them Helsinki’s past from the 18th century until modern times. They’ll have the opportunity to sit on a horse-pulled carriage, or even be the captains of ships who would cross the ocean. Some other things they might see are classroom setups from the 1950s, and cherished treasures from the 1970s.
The museum also offers walking tours in the city, which is always a good idea. There are a bunch of different walks to choose from; whether you want to know the ghost and mystery stories of the city, learn about the everyday life of the working class of Pitkäslta or dive into the street art and architecture of Helsinki, there will be something for you to enjoy for sure.
Website: Helsinki City Museum Address: Aleksanterinkatu 16, 00170 Helsinki, Finland Hours: Currently unavailable Cost: Free
8. Cruise Along The Degaro Canal
A great way to see the city in one go is by hopping on a boat tour in Helsinki’s canals. you’ll most likely pass through some of the best landmarks like The Suomenlinna Fortress, the Korkeasaari Zoo, and the Degerö Canal. The boat tours include a guide to talk you through what you’re seeing in all different languages.
It’s a great, fun way to discover the history of Helsinki with kids whether it’s good or bad weather. During rain or snowy periods, you can sit in the enclosed part of the boat to stay warm. The staff is always friendly, and willing to help. The boats are also equipped with snacks and beverages you can enjoy for the ride.
Who doesn’t love sightseeing by boat?
9. Pihlajasaari Island and Mustasaari Island and Hietaniemi Beach
In the summer, Finland transforms into a wonderful place for hiking, walking and swimming. Some of the best places to visit in Helsinki with kids to do some of these activities are its islands and beaches: Pihlajasaari island and Mustasaari island and Hietaniemi beach.
Pihlajasaari is very close to the city centre, only 3 km away. It used to be a residential island, but is now an outdoor recreational area full of groves, and beaches. Among the Finns, Pihlajasaari is very popular and loved, so you know it has to be good.
Mustasaari Island has been often compared to paradise, where families and children tend to spend most of their summer days. It’s only a 15 minute ferry ride away from the city, and contains everything you need for a fun day in the sun. There are playgrounds and cafés, but you definitely cannot skip their famous cinnamon buns: Korvapuusti.
Hietaniemi beach probably the best option out of the three to take a dip in the water. Local volleyball and basketball players love to come out here for a game, while children enjoy playing in the playground. The beach also has cafés to enjoy a meal in by the water; just the perfect way to end the day to a cheerful summer day in Helsinki.
10. The Theater Museum
Located at the Cable Factory, The Theatre Museum is one of the city’s best kept secrets. It’s the only museum in Finland dedicated to the performing arts, so you can imagine that it’s treated with lots of love and care. The museum has incredible exhibitions celebrating some of the best musicals and shows that have stolen our hearts across the world, famous performers and more. The permanent exhibitions of the museum show everything that happens in the backstage of theatre shows and the types of costumes, props, stage sets and stories theatre attics have stored throughout the years.
Best of all, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to give a performance of their own. With a set stage in the Arkadia Theatre, everyone is encouraged to dress up and role play pretending to be actors, directors, stage designers, and any other role you can think of to deliver the performance of your dreams.
It’s truly a great museum – you can be sure that your kids will walk out with a smile on their faces.
Website: The Theatre Museum Address: Theatre Museum, Cable Factory, Tallberginkatu 1 G 00180 Helsinki Hours: Tue, Thu - Sun 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM Wed 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM Cost: Adult 10 EUR Child 5 EUR
What To Eat in Helsinki With Kids
One of the most finger-licking desserts to try in Helsinki with kids is Lingonberry Pie. This beloved pie is as simple as it sounds; just a bunch of lingonberries inside a lively crispy crust. Make sure to eat it along with some coffee in one of the city’s quirky cafés; it will bring out its deliciousness even more.
Potatoes with Herring
Having such a close relationship with nature and the sea, you could only expect that one of the best things to eat in Helsinki would be a dish of fresh herring and potatoes. This simple dish is probably a staple in the entire northern area of Europe, so you definitely have to try it when you’re there. Although herring can seem quite intimidating for kids, you’ll be surprised how much the local children love it. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, a plate of herring will always be welcome at the table.
Juustoleipä with Cranberry Jam
When visiting Helsinki with kids, we think the most trouble you’ll have is detaching yourself from a plate of Juustoleipä with cranberry jam. Juustoleipä is a traditional Finnish cheese, which is then grilled until a succulent golden crust is formed on its surface. Even though it may be wonderful by itself, eating it with cranberry jam takes it to a whole different level. The locals usually eat it for breakfast — if you ask us, there’s no better way to start the day off right.
Helsinki is the best city to visit for those with a sweet tooth. The Runeberg Torte is a traditional dessert pastry made from almonds, raspberry jam and rum. It’s been around since the 1870s and has continued to be a favourite among the locals, so you can be sure it will leave you feeling rather content.
Karelian Pies are yet another Finnish pastry that will make a good impression when visiting Helsinki with kids. This time, they’re a savoury pastry – they’re made from rye flour, and contain a rice filling with egg butter. They’re offered in pretty much every bakery, and have become a strong part of Finland’s identity. From the original Karelian pie, around a dozen or more variations have been created with different measurements, fillings and ingredients.
Traveling to Helsinki with kids is none other than delightful, and couldn’t be happier to hear you’re interested in going as well. If you have any questions about traveling to this stunning city let us know in the comments, we’d love to help you out! We’re also looking forward to hearing about more stories and memories about visiting Helsinki with kids. Don’t hesitate to comment!