It can come as a surprise to visitors that a good cup of coffee in Finland can cost as much as NZ$8. With a little inside knowledge however, there are plenty of fun ways to spend a family holiday in Helsinki — without spending much money at all.
Linnanmäki — Helsinki’s amusement park is only open during the warmer months and entry is free. There are many free rides within the park, most of which are suitable for young children. A ride on the towering Panorama is a must to get a bird’s eye view of the city.
Natural History Museum — beautifully constructed displays of wildlife scenes offer a fascinating view of Finnish nature in a building that once housed a Russian gymnasium. Entry is free for the last two hours of the first Thursday of every month.
Suomenlinna — this fortress island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is no charge to enter. There are plenty of tunnels to explore so don’t forget your torch and wear good walking shoes. The ferry ride across is a great way to the see the harbour and is free for children under seven years of age.
Free lunch — Finnish schools provide lunch for children right up until their last year of college. During the summer holidays Helsinki City continues to provide free lunches for children in selected city parks. Open to everyone, they are a great way to meet people and enjoy some of the city’s best playgrounds. Check online for details and don’t forget to bring your own plate and fork.
Architectural tram ride — children under seven years of age ride for free on Helsinki public transport and so does an accompanying adult if the child is in a stroller. Catch the number 4 tram in Katajanokka, a suburb full of beautiful art nouveau buildings, and continue past the iconic Helsinki Cathedral and various works by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Enjoy a picnic by the water in Munkkiniemi before making the return journey. Tickets can be used more than once within an hour of purchase and on different modes of transport.
Seurasaari Open-Air Museum — this beautiful island is set up with examples of Finnish architecture from across the ages. Free to enter it is connected to the mainland by footbridge and is easily reached by bus from the centre of the city. You can also take your own sausages to grill on the fire pits, watched by the interested groups of squirrels who call the island home.
Words: Melanie Dower