Helsinki is an awesome city to visit as a family, whether it is summertime, or winter as it was when we visited it. We visited the Finnish capital after seeing Santa in Lapland and in this post I’m sharing with you 5 awesome things to do in Helsinki with kids, along with giving you some hints and tips for visiting this brilliant European city.
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*We were kindly gifted 2 adult 24-hour Helsinki Cards in collaboration with the Helsinki Marketing to use during our time in the city.
*Post was originally published in January 2019. Updated in March 2020.
As some of you already know we did an epic Finnish holiday in December 2018. After spending time in Lapland, we had a few days in Helsinki before returning to Portugal. And it was a city that surprised us. We weren’t sure what to expect of the city, having heard mixed reviews but we were pleasantly surprised.
We left feeling like we could have spent another few days in the city to fully explore and discover what it has to offer. To help with our exploring we were kindly given two adult 24-hour Helsinki Cards (from Strömma) by the team from Helsinki Marketing.
Helsinki is the capital of Finland and has a huge amount to offer families, whether you are visiting in summer or winter time. From playgrounds and water parks to a zoo and aquarium, there are plenty of things to do with kids in Helsinki. The Helsinki Marketing team helped us plan our Helsinki adventures by taking into account the amount of time we would have in the city, aside from our one-day trip to Tallinn, and also the sort of things we like doing in cities with our son which we shared with them. We found that the best Helsinki tourist attractions for kids were the following, as suggested by the Helsinki Marketing team:
- Natural History Museum
- SkyWheel Helsinki
- Soumenlinna Sea Fortress
- Children’s Town at the Helsinki City Museum
If you plan to visit Helsinki as part of a bigger trip to Finland and are looking to ensure you see the best of Finland, then this collection of posts about things to do in Finland should be your starting point.
The Helsinki Marketing are also a great point of contact too. As mentioned and based on our suggestions, they helped us create a great itinerary for our time in Helsinki with kids and I am sure they can do the same for you. Why not check out their web page at My Helsinki.
Best things to do in Helsinki with kids
In this section I am going to share with you the top 5 things that should be on your Helsinki itinerary with kids. Some of these suggestions are ideal if you are visiting Helsinki with a toddler and all can be enjoyed even with older kids.
5 awesome things to do in Helsinki with kids
Natural History Museum of Helsinki
The Natural History Museum Helsinki which is under the directorship of the Finnish Museum of Natural History was somewhere we visited after going to the Helsinki aquarium ( see below). And it is by far one of the best museums in Helsinki. Luonnontieteellinen museo, its name in Finnish, is housed in a building which is over 100 years old and looks very impressive from outside.
This is one of the Helsinki museums that is not covered by the Helsinki Card but is one that should not be missed. Entry in 2019 cost €15 per adult and €7 per child between the ages of 7 and 17. Under 7’s have free entry. A family ticket for 2 adults and 4 children cost just €38.
There are four floors in total, with the top fourth floor housing toilets and a balcony. We started with the History of Bones and the first floor and ended our visit with the very impressive History of Life Exhibition on the third floor where we saw some amazing dinosaur skeletons.
It was such an amazing Natural History Museum and we were so glad we’d included it in our Helsinki itinerary. There is so much to explore and discover in the Helsinki Natural History Museum with kids and you’ll easily spend a few hours there.
The museum opens either at 9am (winter) or 10am (summer) and it is best to check their opening times and closure days on the website. The museum can be reached by taxi, tram or is within walking distance to the central train station. If you are wondering what to do in Helsinki with a child, I highly recommend this museum.
SeaLife Helsinki Aquarium
Our first day in the city occurred after we had arrived on the Santa Express Train overnight from Rovaniemi after our visit to Santa in Lapland. We decided to get a taxi from the centre of the city to SeaLife Helsinki, as we were a bit tired from our train journey and it was cold enough. We hadn’t gotten our bearings so thought this was the best option. We got one easily from the central train station and less than 15 minutes later we’d arrived.
Whenever we visit a city with our son, we always try to visit an aquarium and/or zoo. It’s something that he enjoys and since we’d visited SeaLife in London with him, we were very happy to learn there was one in Helsinki from the people at My Helsinki. After paying our entrance fee, we got a treasure hunt from the lady on the till and started to make our way through the Helsinki aquarium.
There are 50 aquariums of various shapes and sizes to explore with nearly 200 different species including fish, eels and frogs. At different times during the day there are fish feeding and talks and we managed to catch the sturgeon feeding talk. It was conducted in both English and Finnish and our son was quite intrigued. Unfortunately, even though we found a few of the treasure hunt tanks, we couldn’t find anyone to stamp our map. There wasn’t a self-stamp either. So, we ended up ditching the treasure map. Which was a pity as our son had been enjoying it, checking for the right numbered tanks.
We spent a lovely couple of hours at SeaLife Helsinki and, although I didn’t think it was as good as other aquariums we’ve been to, it was a good way to spend a couple of hours with our son and I even learned some interesting facts about conservation and also the epidemic that is plastic pollution in our seas and oceans. So much so, we’ve started making efforts to become as plastic free at home as we can.
SeaLife in Helsinki is open everyday from 10am and can be reached either by taxi, bus or by taking a tram. The Helsinki Card entitles you to a discount to the entrance fee. Normally costing €16.50 for adults and €13.00 for children (age 3 to 14 years), entry is reduced to €9.00 for both adults and children with the Helsinki Card. If you are in Helsinki with toddlers, then the aquarium is a great place to bring them, especially as there is a sand pit and play area ideal for younger members of the family.
Having visited the London Eye a few times before, when the tourist board suggested a visit to the Helsinki SkyWheel, I knew we’d add it to our itinerary for Helsinki. The Helsinki SkyWheel is one of the best-known landmarks and is located near Market Square, just beside the ferry terminal for visiting the Soumenlinna Sea Fortress.
In operation for a few years now, it offers some amazing 360° views across the city. Some of the Helsinki main attractions that you can easily spot include the Top of the Rock Cathedral. After paying our entrance fee, we walked up to the barrier and straight on, there was no queue as we had arrived shortly after opening. A staff member helped us on and explained that we could close the window vents if it was too cold. And then we were off.
We got four revolutions on the SkyWheel to enjoy the city views. I think we got them as we were the only people on the wheel and it didn’t stop to let anyone else on while we were on it. While it is no London Eye, the views across Helsinki and the harbour are lovely and it’s a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the city. Our son loves these types of wheels and cable cars, and if your kids enjoy them, they’ll love the Helsinki SkyWheel.
With our Helsinki Cards we were given a discounted entry fee. It is normally priced at €12 per adult and €9 per child between the ages of 3 and 11 (under 2’s are free). The rate with the My Helsinki Card is €10 per adult and €7 per child. The rotation usually lasts for 30 minutes. It is usually open from 11am and operates all year round thanks to its climate-controlled pods, which I will point out are much smaller than those of the London Eye. It can be reached by taxi or by tram, or for those with older children, you can walk to it from the central train station in about 20 minutes. If you are looking for fun things to do in Helsinki with kids, the SkyWheel is a must.
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Located at the mouth of Helsinki Harbour, Suomenlinna is a sea fortress and naval base for the archipelago fleet and was built in the 18th century. It once housed over 6000 inhabitants but even today it still has 850 permanent residents. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of Helsinki’s most popular tourist attractions.
To reach Suomenlinna Sea Fortress you need to take a ferry. The Helsinki Card entitles you to free passage to the island. However, we could not figure out how to use our cards to avail of the free passage and ended up paying for our ferry trip. The ferry takes just 15 minutes to reach the island and is also a car ferry. Full instructions on how to use the Helsinki Card for travel on public transport including the ferry can be found on the MyHelsinki website.
We had just a few hours to enjoy the island, due to a late start to our day, and we only just scratched the surface of the island. During our time on Suomenlinna (the castle of Finland) we visited the Suomenlinna Museum which tells the history of the naval fortress from the 18th century to present day. It’s a fascinating place and is somewhere you should not miss if you visit the fortress.
The Helsinki Card entitles you to free entry whereas it normally costs €8 per adult and €4 per child between the ages of 7 and 16. Under 7’s are free but the man behind the cash desk mistakenly took our four-year-old for a seven-year-old and we ended up paying for him, a mistake I didn’t realise until we’d left the island. So, do watch out.
Also, on Suomenlinna is the Military Museum which my husband enjoyed while I took our son to the Suomenlinna Toy Museum. We had been warned not to expect much of this, but we loved it. There were toys from all eras, from the 19th century to the 1970’s and I even recognised one or two. The toys on display are a collection from Finland and reflect Finnish games and social history.
My son was fascinated by some of the toys and we seriously considered buying a limited-edition Peter Rabbit teddy, which when we compared its price to that of the UK, was considerably cheaper to buy in the toy museum than in the UK. But we’d have never gotten it home.
After enjoying the Toy Museum, we stopped for a cake and some warm Gloggi before getting the ferry back to the city. And I can highly recommend the Gloggi in the lovely tea room at the museum. Mr Passports even made it to us for some after the Military Museum.
All-in-all, we really enjoyed our visit to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and would love to go back and spend a full day on the island. It was so much bigger than we anticipated and there was so much we missed. I think a visit in summertime would be ideal.
Entry to the Toy Museum is normally €7 per adult and €3 per child between the ages of 3 and 17. But the Helsinki Card discounts adult tickets to €5. Entry to the Military Museum costs €7 per adult and €4 per child between the ages of 7 and 15. The Helsinki card entitles adults and children to free entry. Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is accessed only by ferry whose terminal is located at Market Square near the SkyWheel.
Children’s Town, the Children’s Museum Helsinki
The Helsinki children’s museum is called Children’s Town and is located in the Helsinki City Museum near the Rock Church, Temppeliaukio Church. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Helsinki, dating back to 1757, Children’s Town is a great childrens museum. Opened in May 2016 with the younger generation in mind, this is one of the best free things to do in Helsinki with kids.
In Children’s Town Helsinki, both children and adults can learn about the history of the city through play and activities. You jump into a horse-draw carriage, sail a ship, work in a cobbler shop, dress up in a variety of outfits and even put on a puppet show as our son did. He had other visitors stopping to listen to his tales as he used a hand puppet. He even got a round of applause from them.
There is an 18th century shop for playing shop in, an old classroom with desks that reminded me of primary school and a great display of toys of all shapes and sizes. I even spotted a Cabbage Patch Doll, something I coveted as a child for years.
Children’s Town is free to enter and is heaven to children. It was the perfect place for us to end our sightseeing and exploring of Helsinki. Open daily from 11am, Children’s Town is easy to reach via taxi, tram and is also walkable from Helsinki Central Train Station in less than 15 minutes. If you are visiting Helsinki with kids, be sure to stop by Children’s Town.
These are some of the top things to do in Helsinki with kids and can easily form an itinerary for two days in Helsinki with children. I would advise that you give yourself plenty of time to spend exploring Suomenlinna Fortress as we only saw a fraction of it during our few hours there. Summertime would be best as the days are quite short in Helsinki in winter and the wind was icy cold during our time on the island.
You will also need plenty of time to see all of the exhibitions in the Natural History Museum in Helsinki as the three floors are filled with interesting things as well as some interactive displays. And finally, Children’s Town is a great place to end a day of exploring with kids as they can run free and play to their hearts content. Helsinki, for kids and their family, has a wealth of things to keep everyone happy.
Other great things to do in Helsinki with kids
Now that we’ve shown you the best things to do in Helsinki with kids, here are a few more ideas of stuff to do in Helsinki as a family.
Visit the zoo
Had we had more time in Helsinki we would have loved to have visited the zoo as it’s something we try to do on city breaks with our son. The Helsinki Zoo, or Korkeasaari Zoo, is home to over 150 different species of animal from across the globe. It is located on an island which you reach by ferry, or car (over the bridge) and was featured in my round up of the best zoos around the world to visit with kids post. It’s one of the top places to visit in Helsinki for animal lovers. You can get discounted entry when you use a valid Helsinki Card.
Take a canal tour
If you are visiting Helsinki in the summertime, why not enjoy a canal tour. Head out onto the water and enjoy a picturesque cruise while seeing some of Helsinki’s hidden gems from the water. You’ll pass by Suomenlinna, the island of the zoo and catch sight of the icebreaker fleet, all while learning about some of Helsinki’s history. This canal tour is included in the Helsinki Card.
We elected not to do our tradition of taking the Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing bus during our visit to Helsinki as we visited in December and it was bitterly cold. But, when we return in the future, we plan to visit in summer and the sightseeing bus tour is top of our agenda. The tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes and passes all the things to see in Helsinki. It is included in the Helsinki Card and is ideal if you are short on time and are considering what things to do in Helsinki in a day. It can be an ideal way to get around the city while squeezing in as much as possible.
Visit a museum
As well as the already mentioned Helsinki children’s museum, the Toy museum and Military museums on Suomenlinna, and the amazing National History Museum of Helsinki, there are a number of other museums throughout the city to enjoy, many of which are free.
One which we’d like to visit on our return trip is the Tram Museum, dedicated to showing the history of the transport that has been bustling through the city for more than 100 years.
There are a host of museums including art museums such as the famous HAM, Helsinki Art Museum, the National Museum of Finland and the Seurasaari Open-air museum whose entry is included in the Helsinki Card. For the full list of museums included in the Helsinki Card, click here.
Take a dip in the sea pool
If you and the kids are brave enough, and are looking for unique things to do in Helsinki in winter, why not head to the sea pool for a dip. Located at the waterfront next to the SkyWheel you’ll find the Allas Sea Pool, which is open year round and has saunas, both fresh and sea water pools, and a wellness centre doing things like yoga. The pool water is kept at a comfortable 27C, making it accessible both in summer and winter. Check the website for more details.
Enjoy some green space
Did you know that 1/3 of Helsinki is green areas and many of this encompasses parks, ideal places to visit with kids. There are various parks, woods, forests, beaches and other green areas to be enjoyed in the different areas of the city and can be a welcome break from sightseeing. To find out more about the different green areas, visit the City Nature website. And best of all the majority are free.
Tips for visiting Helsinki with kids
Aside from sharing with you what to do in Helsinki with kids, I thought it would be useful to give you some tips for visiting Helsinki in case you need help planning your getaway to Finland with kids. In this section you’ll find advice for getting to Helsinki, how to get around Helsinki with kids once you are there and ideas for where to stay in Helsinki.
How to get to Helsinki
Helsinki is easily accessed from around the world via air travel. It has a large international airport with arrivals and departures throughout Europe, with links to Asia and America via places like Dubai, Doha and Amsterdam and Paris. To find the best flights and latest prices, we recommend checking Skyscanner.
Helsinki also has ferry connections to Estonia, Sweden, Russia and Germany. There is also a train connection to Russia from Helsinki with the train company VR. Check this website for international train and ferry connections to other countries.
Getting around Helsinki
Helsinki is a city with flat, broad pavements, so it is quite easy to get around the city on foot, even with a stroller. It has a great public transport system and taxis and Ubers are in operation in the city.
Helsinki Public Transport
Helsinki has a great public transport system with buses, trams, trains, ferries and a Metro system, all serving the city and surrounding areas. The best way to use the public transport system during your stay is to get a Travel Card from HSL. There are both personal and multi-user cards. There is a 5 euro charge for the card and they are available for tourists from sales or service points (check this link for more information). This card is the cheapest way to travel around the city, handy if you are visiting Helsinki on a budget.
Note that under 7’s travel free on public transport within Helsinki as does one accompanying adult.
The HSL travel card does not give entry to any paid-museums or tourist attractions, nor is it valid on the sightseeing buses. If you’d like a one-size-fits-all card, then the Helsinki Card would be better.
The Helsinki Card is valid on public transport, guided tour bus, gives entry to many museums free as part of the card, gives discounts to other tourist attractions and also the summer sightseeing boat tour. I discuss the Helsinki Card in more detail below.
The Helsinki Card
We were kindly given a set of 24-hour Helsinki Cards to explore the city with from My Helsinki. The Helsinki Card by Stromma offers free or discounted entry to a huge range of the top Helsinki tourist attractions, including those I’ve featured above. You can also avail of free public transport with the Helsinki Card, just note that under 7’s have free public transport anyway. The card will give you free access to many of the sightseeing tours and operators in the city including the Panorama Sightseeing tour bus, the Beautiful Canal Route cruise and the Hop On Hop Off bus.
The Helsinki Card is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours for adults and children between the ages of 7 and 16 years of age. Not only does it give you free public transport and free or discounted entry to tourist sites, it also offers discounts in certain food retailers and some discounts with shopping retailers. Check the Helsinki Card Guide book for full details of these.
The Helsinki Card costs as follows:
- 24 hours: €48 adult, €24 child
- 48 hours: €58 adult, €29 child
- 72 hours: €68 adult, €34 child
It is really good value for money, and we will definitely be purchasing the Helsinki Cards when we visit the city again. We hope to revisit during summer time, so we can enjoy the city when it’s not so cold. However, there are so many great things to enjoy in the city whether your visit to Helsinki with kids is in June or December.
For more information about the Helsinki Card, check out the Stromma Helsinki Card Website. And for information about the city, it’s tourist attractions and more, visit the My Helsinki website. They can also help you plan the perfect itinerary for your time in Helsinki. Whether you have one, two or more days, they can help tailor something to suit your family or party. You can even check out other peoples Helsinki lists and recommendations via the My Helsinki website. We cannot recommend My Helsinki enough and are very grateful to them for putting together the perfect family itinerary for visiting Helsinki with kids.
Helsinki is quite a large city but you will find many attractions in the centre which are easily visited on foot. Helsinki travel with kids is easy in the city centre as pavements are wide and flat, suitable even for families with younger kids and babies in strollers.
If you’d like to take a walking tour of Helsinki, perhaps with older children, then MyHelsinki has some great walking routes for you to take independently. There are 4 walking routes and they can be downloaded HERE. This brochure is one of the most popular ones provided to visitors of Helsinki and are ideal for mapping out a route to explore Helsinki with kids. There are 4 categories of walks but you can easily mix them up.
You could hire a car if you wish or use either taxis or Uber, which does operate in the city. We found taxis easily enough, particularly outside the main train station where we arrived from Rovaniemi. Personally, I don’t think you need a car in Helsinki unless it is part of a trip in which you plan to visit places outside of the city. We recommend checking rentalcars.com for competitive prices. Just be careful with excess insurance as some hire companies do not accept the policy provided through rentalcars.com.
Where to stay in Helsinki with kids
As a family, we often opt to stay in AirBnB properties. It gives us the freedom of separate bedroom and living space while also providing us with a kitchen to cook breakfast and dinner to help save some money while travelling. For this trip we stayed just a 5 minute walk from the Main Train Station. If you are new to AirBnB, use THIS LINK to get money off your first stay.
If you prefer a hotel, then check out the following hotels as options for families. We stayed in the Clarion at Helsinki Airport and were very impressed, so would recommend their sister hotel in the city.
- Clarion Hotel Helsinki – This four-star hotel is located at the waterfront near the West Ferry Terminal and offers a rooftop pool, sauna, fitness centre and free WiFi. Click here for latest prices and availability.
- City Apartments Helsinki – These city apartments which are rated as four-star are located just 5 minutes walk from the main train station and there are one and two-bedroom apartments, all with free WiFi and a fully equipped kitchen. Click here for latest prices and availability.
- Scandic Grand Marina – This four-star hotel is also located on the waterfront near the Viking Line ferry terminal and is just a few minutes walk from the city centre. The hotel has free WiFi, an on-site shop, sauna and a fitness centre. Click here for latest prices and availability.
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel – Located just 150m from the main train station, this four-star hotel is one of the best centrally located hotels for families with family rooms and suites available. The hotel has access to a fitness centre, there is free WiFi and a restaurant on-site. Click here for latest prices and availability.
As mentioned, we briefly stayed in the Clarion Hotel Helsinki Airport and were very impressed with it. There is a direct train line into the city centre from the area where the hotel is located which could be ideal for those not wishing to stay in the centre of the city. Read our Clarion Hotel Helsinki Airport review here. If you are interested in staying in this hotel, click here for the latest prices and availability.
If you are going to visit Helsinki, kids will have a ball if you included even just a few things featured in this post on your itinerary. It’s a city that has so much on offer that the two days we had in the city, discounting the one day we used to visit Tallinn, just wasn’t enough time. To really enjoy the city, get a feel for it and explore the full potential, you would need at least 5 days in my opinion.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how to spend your time in Helsinki as a family and that you’ve gained some useful tips to help you plan your visit to Helsinki. We are so glad we tagged it onto the end of our Lapland trip and will definitely be returning in the future.
If you are going to be visiting Lapland, I highly recommend you add Helsinki to your Finland itinerary with kids
*My Helsinki kindly helped us create our itinerary for our time in Helsinki. They also kindly gifted us two adult 24-hour Helsinki Cards during our trip to explore the city. We were not asked to write this post.
**All prices are correct at the time of writing this post (Jan 2019)