Helsinki is a city widely known to lean on the expensive side. But, on the other hand, you’re not looking to splurge, so you wouldn’t mind some savings along the way. Maybe it’s not as costly as Stockholm, Sweden. Still, 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. Few things in life are free. However, I do want to introduce you to 12 free things to do in Helsinki, so you do not have to let those euros fly out of your wallet and have an enjoyable visit to this fine and unique city.
Free things to do in Helsinki: See the Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church
This is my must-see sight. Think about it…..near the city centre, there is a copper dome barely jutting out of an outlay of massive granite rock, and quarried inside it is a functioning church! What could be more unique and intriguing than that? Go! Just go!
Free things to do in Helsinki: Visit a museum 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.
Free things to do in Helsinki: Do an architectural tour down Mannerheimintie street
Take a pleasant 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 hailing from different architectural styles and periods. If you appreciate architecture, then this is your must-do item.
Free things to do in Helsinki: Chat with 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 regarding directions, sites, events, etc.
Free things to do in Helsinki: Make use of the Wi-Fi
Helsinki is a high-tech city. As such, there is Wi-Fi all over the area. Not slow Wi-Fi, but fast Wi-Fi. Oh, did I mention that it’s FREE?
Free things to do in Helsinki: Take a walk at the Senate Square
The Senate Square is a popular spot for tourists. You’ll see many coach buses dropping off their passengers here. It’s a vast 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.
Free things to do in Helsinki: Visit Uspenski Cathedral
This, I would think, is another must-see sight. With more than half a million visitors every year, Uspenski is the second most visited church in Helsinki (guess which is the first most visited?). So if you’ve never been to Russia or don’t think you will ever make it there, this Russian style Orthodox Church would be an excellent proxy.
Free things to do in Helsinki: Enjoy shopping at Market Square
In front of the seafront harbour to/from Suomenlinna is Helsinki’s popular central market, Market Square. Here you can find various Finnish food, jewellery, crafts, etc. Along with the outdoor cafes here, it’s a lively spot to visit. No fees required!
Free things to do in Helsinki: Visit the parks, especially Esplanadi
There are several well-known parks, big and small, in and around the city. Ideal for those who want an itinerary, an item that is quieter and more tucked away amongst the natural green spaces.
If you’d like to combine a promenade with shopping, the place to be is the Esplanadi area. It’s not free to shop but you can freely wander. Go 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 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.
Free things to do in Helsinki: See 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 town. Helsinki is no different. The great thing about statues is they provide some quick photo ops; you can look at the statue’s details and ponder about it, read the inscriptions, learn some history, and off you go.
Free things to do in Helsinki: Book 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 of hours tour of the city the way a local sees it. For FREE!! 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!
Hopefully, this list of ideas gives you a good starting point for your Helsinki visit.