You’ve got a day or two to spend in Helsinki, and invariably, you’ve got no idea what to see and do. Unlike her more well-known European neighbors, nothing rolls off your tongue when the topic of Helsinki is brought up. It’s also a city that’s widely known to lean on the expensive side. On the other hand, you’re not looking to splurge so wouldn’t mind some savings along the way. Maybe it’s not as costly as Stockholm, Sweden, but if you’re used to the lower costs in some of the inexpensive non-Nordic European cities, then you’ll be in for a bit of a sticker shock.
12 Free Things To Do, See and Use
But not all is lost! In this post, I’ve got you covered. Few things in life are free, however I do want to introduce you to 12 ideas in Helsinki that you can DO, SEE or make USE of that are FREE. You do not have to let those Euros fly out of your wallet and spend your way through in order to have an enjoyable visit of this fine and unique city. By the way, there is a nice Bonus tip at the end of this list.
1. SEE The Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church
This is my must see sight. Think about it…..near the city center, there is a copper dome barely jutting out of an outlay of a massive granite rock, and quarried inside it, is a functioning church! What could be more unique and intriguing than that? Go! Just go!
Read All About The Temppeliaukio Church in my next post where I will lay out some unique facts about the The Rock Church and why it’s worthy of a visit.
2. SEE Uspenski Cathedral
This, I would think, is another must see sight. With over a half a million visitors every year, this makes the Uspenski Cathedral the second most visited church in Helsinki (take a guess which is the first most visited?). If you’ve never been to Russia or don’t think you will ever make it there, this Russian style Orthordox Church would be a great proxy. It’s not some pale imitation though, as you’ll find out in a future article.
3. DO a museum visit on Fridays
During my research I searched a bunch of museums in case anything interesting was in town. Museums usually have some limited free entrance times and in Helsinki, this was no exception. I compiled a quick list of the major and convenient ones – and their free admittance day lands on specific Fridays of the month. Lets go over this list in case your visit coincides. Click to read about it here.
4. DO an Architectural tour down Mannerheimintie street
Take a nice stroll down the most famous street in Helsinki, Mannerheimintie. Here you’ll be turning your head left and right as there’s much to see architecturally. This street has several famous buildings all hailing from different architectural styles and periods. If you have any appreciation at all for architecture, then this is your must do item. I’ll have a future article on this topic.
5. SEE the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square
The Senate Square is a popular spot for the tourists. You’ll see many coach buses dropping off their passengers here. It’s a wide rectangular space surrounded by famous landmarks and buildings. The most impressive of all is The Helsinki Cathedral on the north side. An Evangelic Lutheran cathedral in the heart of the city, it is a spectacular sight with its white façade and tall green domes. Set in a raised area looking over the city, it would be the first landmark you would see when arriving from the sea.
Together, this pair makes up the oldest part of the city and I’ll have a future post covering it.
6. DO shop at Market Square
In front of the seafront harbor to/from Suomenlinna, is Helsinki’s popular central market, Market Square. Here you can find rows of vendors selling various Finnish food, fruits, jewellery, crafts, etc. Along with the outdoor cafes here, it’s a lively spot to visit. No fees required!
7. USE the Helsinki Helpers
While walking around town, keep your eyes out for the Helsinki Helpers. They are a small group of students wearing a green vest with a big “i” information logo in the middle. They travel in pairs and are there to help you, the visitor. So use them – approach them and ask for advice or any questions you have regarding directions, sites, events, etc. Read about the Helpers here as I talk to the project Supervisors about this enthusiastic group roaming the streets of Helsinki for you to use, for Free!
8. USE this amazing free online Service to plan your visit
This free online service is so dang useful. Enough said. You’ll just have to click here to read the post where I present the service and go over some of its features and how to use it. As well I’ll introduce a useful app that you should download to complement this online service.
9. USE the Free Helsinki Wi-Fi
I did mention in my Helsinki introductory article that Helsinki is a high-tech country. As such, the city has Wi-Fi all over the city. Not slow Wi-Fi, but fast Wi-Fi. Oh, did I mention that it’s FREE? Here’s what you need to know (future article). Note: We’ll practice using the free service from tip #9 here. Click here to read all about it.
10. SEE some statues and sculptures around the city
Like in every city, statues generally are representative of some historical figure, idea or event of significance to the city. Helsinki is no different. The great thing about statues is they provide some quick photo ops, you can look at the details of the statue and ponder about it, read the inscriptions, learn some history, and off you go. For more details, look for my upcoming article on a few of the famous Helsinki statues you’ll most likely encounter. Again, we’ll practice using the free service from tip #9 here.
11. SEE some Finnish parks
There are several well-known parks in and around the city, big and small. Ideal for those who want an itinerary an item that is quieter and more tucked away amongst the natural green spaces. We’ll again practice using the free service from tip #9 here.
12. DO browsing/shopping along the Esplanade
Admittedly if you shop till you drop, it’s not free. But it’s free to get in! In Helsinki, the place to shop would be the Esplanade. Go have a look inside the stores on this street block to see what it’s like. You’ll see both international and local brands. Get a sense of what it is that the Finnish people like to eat and drink, their fashion tastes, etc. Or like us, look for souvenirs for your friends and family. However, Helsinki’s got more shopping outside of the Esplanade so we’ll take a quick look at those options as well.
Bonus – USE a Helsinki Greeter
I didn’t want to use the unlucky number 13 in this list, so this last freebie is considered a bonus – USE a Helsinki Greeter. A Helsinki Greeter is a volunteer who is passionate about his city. Book a Helsinki Greeter and this volunteer will give you a couple hours tour of the city the way a local sees it. For FREE!! Unlike the free walking tours that you see advertised in so many European cities where you should provide a decent tip at the end of it, the Greeter tours do not and can not accept tips. They are volunteers. So head on over to the Helsinki Greeter website and book yourself into a slot for a free walking tour. Like, absolutely FREE – no strings attached, zero dollars free!
Armed and Ready
Hopefully, this list of 12 ideas (plus a bonus) gives you a good starting point for your Helsinki visit. Let me know in the comments below which freebie you like best or plan to take advantage of.
As I have only presented a quick introduction to each idea, I will flesh out the details in future articles. But you now have ideas on what to do and see as well as some free things that you can use during your visit or while planning/researching. As you can see it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Free is always welcome! If you encountered anything during your visit that I didn’t cover here, leave a suggestion in the comments. Or if this post has helped you in any way please also consider commenting and sharing this article.
More Articles on Helsinki
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