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I know what you are thinking, is it really possible to do Helsinki on a budget? In my opinion, it is. Helsinki and Finland, in general, are quite expensive but I also know it’s possible to travel here without going bankrupt. So check out these tips and prepare to be thrifty!
By the way, this article doesn’t cover the sights in Helsinki because it would get too long but this extensive post by yours truly does: 25 Free (and Frugal) Things to Do in Helsinki.
Getting Around Helsinki
Helsinki city center is pretty compact so you don’t necessarily need to use public transportation. We have awesome Helsinki City bikes here which you can rent for a mere 5 euros (5,5$)! They are super handy and there are bike stations all around the city. The latest addition is the electrical push scooter, VOI scooter. Just download the app, check the prices and start cruising around!
For long distance journeys out of the capital, check out Matkahuolto.fi for coach connections. The competition has brought prices down so you can find really cheap tickets for off-peak travel times or if you book well in advance. VR is the site for the Finnish Railways and Pikavuorot.fi site combines all of these modes of transportation plus inexpensive airfares from Finnair and Norwegian.
Where to Shop?
Lidl is the cheapest and nowadays there is one in almost every average sized city in Finland. You can find them all around Helsinki, such as Kamppi shopping center and Citycenter right across the Central Railway station. Also the nearby and worthwhile to see neighborhoods, such as Kalasatama, Kallio have them. The best would be to cook your own meals but the snacks in Lidl are cheaper than in other shops.
Other worthwhile shops to know would be Saiturinpörssi and Tokmanni. The latter one you can find in Kaisaniemi, next to the main Railway station. Saiturinpörssi can be found eg. In Kallio district and Kalasatama shopping center. They don’t sell fresh food, such as fruits and dairy but snacks, such as peanuts, muesli bars, noodles, and sweets are cheaper here.
Also, if you need anything, gadgety or some travel essentials, you can find them here. It’s actually a joke among my friends that even though Saiturinpörssi in Kallio is very small it still has everything you could imagine. I would also advise you to buy your beers and ciders here. Cheaper in general and often they have discounts on products close to their end date.
WeFood is a small shop in the new Kalasatama shopping center. It sells donated surplus food that is getting close to its use by date, has damaged packing and so on. The profits are used to support Finn Church Aid’s development programs. As you might guess, you never know what they have in the stock, nonetheless, you can find food with massive discounts here.
Where to Sleep in Helsinki on a Budget?
Cheap hostels and accommodation in general in Helsinki are scarce so better book your stay as soon as possible, at least during the busiest summer months. SweetDream Guesthouse SweetDream Guesthouse in the bohemian Kallio district and CheapSleep about 1km farther are most likely your best bets, around 30 euros (34$) for a dorm bed, the latter one comes with breakfast.
I’d also look into Airbnb but I must say if you insist on a central location it might be difficult finding anything economical. So, instead, be willing to travel a bit farther and you get much cheaper options. I would also suggest Couchsurfing but I know it’s not for everyone. I’ve also heard from fellow couchsurfers that it can be difficult finding a place in Helsinki. Worth a try still.
In Finland, we have Every man‘s right which means you can sleep anywhere as long as it’s not too close to anyone’s home and doesn’t cause disturbance to the landowner. So pick a spot for your tent and enjoy nature!
Where to Eat in Helsinki?
Might be wise to fill up your stomach at lunch hour because you will find better deals. I think the lunch prices have gone up a bit too much but you can still find lunches for 10 euros (11$) and under, especially vegetarian ones. And by the way, we don’t have a strong tipping culture here which might come as a surprise to someone. Check out the link to learn about the differences in the waiting culture of the States and the Nordic countries.
Asian restaurants tend to be cheaper so I’d look for those, eg. New Bamboo Center in the city center and Happy Garden, Du Dii and Nilgiri in Kallio. For a proper brekkie brunch, Factory in Kamppi is a super good value for money (7,5E or 8,5$).
It’s really hard finding a decent-priced cafe/lunch cafe in the city center but there are two in the Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki) metro station; Cafe Metro and Cafe Cao. You can get a cup of coffee and a roll/pastry for 2,5 euros (3$)! Similarly, soups are cheap as chips (well, for Helsinki prices anyway), around 7 euros and lunch you can get for 7-8 euros (8,5$).
The City of Helsinki has numerous cafeterias which function mostly as lunch restaurants for the city staff but there are 2 restaurants that I could nevertheless recommend.
Puro is situated in Kamppi, on the 8th floor of Sähkötalo, designed by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The décor includes many Alvar Aalto designed items and the balcony offers great vistas while enjoying your modest-priced lunch, 10,5 euros. They have a selection of cafe products also.
Another one is Kaupungintalon ravintola at the Senate Square. Considering its location in the tourist hub, you can find moderate priced coffee here plus sweet and savory snacks.
At the Railway Station, you can find Cafe Isabella which has tasty savory pies and snacks but also Finnish korvapuustis (cinnamon roll) and other sweet bakery products. For a complete list of my favorite cafes in Helsinki, click here.
Weather permitting, enjoy your cuppa or lunch at one of the market places, such as Hakaniemen tori or Kauppatori. The lunch prices seem to go up every year but it’s still possible to find good deals.
Similarly, some fresh fruits and veggies might be a little bit cheaper compared to market prices, especially if they are in season. (Vice versa, for that small batch of the first batch of Finnish strawberries, the prices can astronomical, be warned!)
In recent years, the fine dining has given way to simpler and more casual street food restaurants. Helsinki is no exception. My suggestion is to have your dinner in one of these street food joints unless you have that special romantic dinner on your mind.
Fafa’s is a widespread chain (outside the capital also) serving delicious kebabs and falafels. For juicy burgers, try Naughty Brgr, Social Food Burgerjoint or Friends & Brgrs. Lunchtime offers are 10 euros or so (11$ and up).
In Kallio, we are spoiled with choice. There are so many good places, such as Street Gastro, Döner Harju, and Raiku. The latter one serves traditional Finnish dishes and it’s located in Hakaniemi, next to Kallio. Vaasankatu street is packed with small fast food joints so you could just stroll down the street until you have found what you fancy.
Asian restaurants are likewise plentiful and my favorite Thai restaurant is situated here, Tuktuk. It’s not the cheapest but it’s not upscale either. It’s tiny and it fills up fast on the weekends so make a reservation to avoid the disappointment.
Where and What to Drink in Helsinki?
Our tap water is the best tasting and cleanest in the world. Always tastes so good after spending time overseas. So there is no need to buy expensive water bottles or order sparkling water in restaurants.
Alcohol in Finland is notoriously expensive, unfortunately. Once again, Lidl might be your best friend and during summer, do like the locals do, go to a nearby park and have “pussarit” or “pussikalja” which literally means beer in the bag.
Bars in Helsinki are mostly pricey so better to avoid the coolest looking bars or just have one drink. In the heart of the city, you can find Finnish beer bar/pub Villi Wäinö which offers the house red or white wine for 18 euros. That’s a good price for Helsinki! For a glass of sparkling and a small antipasto on the side, go to Tony’s Street Bar along the beautiful Bulevardi. It’s only 5 euros/5,6 $ (at least until mid-June writing this). In Kallio, head to 3 Kaisaa for a cozy bar with a view. From 3-6PM you can get a glass of sparkling for 2 euros. This location is super good watching the world go by too.
If you don’t mind drinking with the common people then I’d suggest heading to Kallio neighborhood, Vaasankatu, and Helsinginkatu (Hesari for short). It still has quite a few cheapos with more or less Aki Kaurismäki vibes, ie. minimalistic interior and not-so-trendy ambiance. Just bear in mind, it can get a bit errrmmm… restless in Kallio at the weekends. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Helsinki is super safe in general.
Helsinki and Finland have awesome parks and forest trails suitable for walking and jogging. Nuuksio is a beautiful national park about 45 minutes from the city center. The park itself is free of charge and has good facilities for hiking and camping. Haltia main building has an extensive display about Finnish nature but it costs extra unless you have Helsinki card.
Another option would be Sipoonkorpi national park also around 45 minutes drive from Helsinki with public transport. Summertime there are free yoga, aerobics and dance classes in parks. Use Facebook to find events. Yoga classes you can find using ”puistojooga”.
Other worthwhile parks/recreational areas which are much closer to the city are eg. Tervasaari, Seurasaari, and Mustikkamaa.
Swimming halls and baths can be found all around the capital area and Finland on the whole. Tickets are relatively cheap, around 5,5 euros (6$) for adults and children half price and they always include sauna.
Sauna is a Finnish institution but unfortunately, not all the public saunas are super cheap, especially the new and trendy ones. You could try the swimming halls and I’d especially recommend Allas Sea Pool Helsinki where you can do SUP yoga in summer like I’ve done.
My favorite public sauna is, however, Sompasauna. It’s the quirkiest sauna ever and what’s more, it’s completely free! Click here to read more.
Most restaurants have free wifi, in addition to the hotels and hostels. You could also visit one of the amazing libraries we have. Definitely do check out the new central library, Oodi. It’s just out of this world! In addition to the normal library things, it offers so many activities, such as sewing, knitting, 3D modeling, poster printing and so on. The list is endless!
Okay folks, I think it’s a wrap. As you can see, you can do many things in Helsinki on a budget. And don’t forget to read the 25 things to do in Helsinki post. The link is at the beginning of this post 😉
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