Wouldn't you like to go to the happiest place on earth? Of course you would. Finland, despite its dark winter months, routinely ranks as one of the happiest places on the planet. Therefore its capital, Helsinki, must be a great place to visit, right?
Well, yes, it is. With a rich history and unique culture, plus a small-town atmosphere you won't find in most European capitals, Helsinki has a lot to recommend it as a tourist destination.
But all this happiness doesn't come cheap. Helsinki is a place that can eat a hole in even the most generous travel budget, and those cheap flights with budget airlines won't seem like such a great deal when you realize how much it costs to visit one of the major cities of the Baltic region.
Helsinki is expensive. That doesn't mean there aren't ways to save money on your Europe trip. Beyond taking cheap flights, budget travelers have some good options for cheap accommodation and rock-bottom prices that compare favorably with most cities in northern Europe. Drop off your bags at a luggage storage in Helsinki, and you'll find some great deals in the city, even if you're traveling on a tight budget.
Saving money begins almost the moment you arrive at Helsinki Airport. So let's take a look at the options for budget travel in the Finnish capital. All you need is a cheap flight and a little research, and you'll find Helsinki can be a very affordable option despite its reputation for high prices.
Cheap places to stay in Helsinki
Saving money on your next trip begins with finding cheap places to stay. Accommodation is often the biggest part of your travel budget, so finding bargain hotel rooms or other places to stay with cheaper prices is never a bad idea.
If you travel in the less popular off-season, you'll find that you can find good deals even on hotel rooms with easy access to the city center. But there's more to Helsinki than just the historic old town, as many of the city's neighborhoods are great places to stay.
Plus, thanks to the growth of the sharing economy, you can also look for an Airbnb rental that can not only give you a cheap place to stay but also lets you immerse yourself in the local culture. Plus, short-term apartment rentals often come with kitchen facilities, so you can save money by buying groceries and cooking your own meals. Some further research might even turn up the option to house sit for a local, which is always a great option for budget travel.
If you want to stick to hotel rooms, there are still lots of places you can save money without staying in the back end of nowhere. Here are some of Helsinki's best budget hotel options.
Originally founded by the YWCA, this bright and cheery budget hotel maintains that same affordable ethos even under new management. Helka offers a range of rooms at different price points to suit every travel budget. The most basic option, the Smart room, comes with two twin beds, a private bathroom, 49 inch TV with a Chromecast, and free Wi-Fi. There is also an option for a Smart single room, the smallest and cheapest in the hotel, which costs €123 in the peak summer season and includes a buffet breakfast.
At the other end of the scale, the Loft Junior Suite offers a king-size bed and a private Finnish sauna and costs €243 per night in August.
If you're traveling on a truly minimal travel budget and price matters more than anything else, this no-frills hostel might be your best bet. After all, the clue is right there in the name.
CheapSleep Helsinki is built around socializing, with a cozy café, desks and free Wi-Fi for co-working, and even arcade games in the common areas, so it's the perfect place to meet other budget travelers. There's even a convenient grocery store downstairs that makes buying fresh food easy. Plus, the hostel has a full kitchen so that you can cook for yourself.
Located just 10 minutes from Helsinki Central Station via public transportation, this hostel means you can stay close to the popular attractions of the city without spending a fortune.
They have several dormitories, including multiple women-only options, and there are also private rooms available if your travel budget stretches that far. A bed in the largest 26-bed dormitory will cost you just a little over €30 a night, even in the height of summer, while the most luxurious room, a double room with a private bathroom, only costs €100 a night.
There's lots to recommend about this two-star hotel, but the location is what makes it a top choice for budget travel. The Hotel Finn is located right in the center of Helsinki, well within walking distance of the city's top attractions. You can expect to pay more for hotel rooms in the central district, but the Hotel Finn offers a great way to save money, especially in the off-season.
The soundproofed rooms include a desk that makes this an excellent choice for business travelers who don't have a generous travel budget. The hotel includes parking for an additional charge, which can be hard to find in the center of the city. And families will love the triple rooms that can accommodate even a large group at a price that is ideal for budget travel.
In the middle of August, a twin room will cost you €149 per night, which puts it above the median price of a Helsinki hotel room which is around €111. A quadruple room with four single beds goes for €224 during this time period. So it's certainly not the cheapest option for budget travel in Helsinki. But the ability to take free walking tours of the city right from the front door of the hotel makes it a great option, even for those looking to save money.
Cheap things to do in Helsinki
In many ways, Helsinki deserves its reputation as an expensive place to travel. But if you can find a cheap flight and an affordable place to stay in the Finnish capital, you may well find that some of the city's top attractions are either completely free to visit or at least surprisingly affordable. Check out some of these things to do to make your travel budget stretch much further and save big while you explore this fascinating country.
As popular with locals as it is with tourists, this island fortress is one of the top things to do in Helsinki, free or not. This fortress was built in the mid-18th century as a response to Russian aggression, and it protected the port of Helsinki for centuries before being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Suomenlinna can only be reached from the water, so you'll need to pay to take the ferry from Market Square to the island. A single ticket costs less than three euros and is also included with a Helsinki Card, which can help you save money on the city's best attractions and on public transportation.
There are lots of hiking trails to explore on Suomenlinna, and you can make your trip more budget-travel-friendly by bringing your own food and having a picnic on the island like most people from the city do on a sunny day. There is also a museum on-site and guided tours available for a fee, but a cheaper option is to plan ahead by downloading the app and giving yourself a self-guided tour of this iconic destination.
Another of the top attractions in Helsinki, this striking church isn't free unless you're going there to pray. However, admission is only five euros, and it's worth it to see a building unlike any other in the world.
Temppeliaukion Church was opened in 1969 and owes its fame to the fact it is carved out of solid rock. The circular skylight surrounding the dome lets in plenty of natural light so you can explore this iconic church. There are also concerts held in the church at regular intervals, taking advantage of the unique acoustics of the rocky chamber to provide an almost otherworldly experience.
This impressive cathedral may be the most famous building in Finland, and it's certainly one of the most significant landmarks in Helsinki. Built in the mid-19th century as a tribute to the czar of Russia, this magnificent church is completely free to visit and is well worth seeing to admire the architecture and get some peace and quiet in the middle of town.
Cheap places to eat in Helsinki
Friends & Brgrs
There's nothing cryptic about the name of this burger joint. It's a great place to bring your friends or make new ones and an excellent place to enjoy burgers and fries. That may not be the healthiest option for food in Helsinki, but the low prices here make it a popular choice for budget travel.
A burger and fries combo, including a drink, will set you back in the region of €15, which isn't especially cheap, but it isn't bad for food in central Helsinki and compares quite favorably even with fast food. Plus, the quality of these burgers, with ingredients sourced from organic farms, is a long way ahead of anything you'll find at a certain clown-themed restaurant we won't mention. In fact, these burgers might be some of the best street food in Helsinki.
This Italian chain may not provide authentic Finnish food, but it is a good option for budget travel. Offering a selection of hearty pastas starting at around €13, Vapiano also offers salads, pizza, and dessert. Popular with Helsinki's younger crowd, it's a great option if you're looking to save money.
If you're hungry for something a little more authentically Finnish, track down this bright red boathouse by the water's edge and feast on the famous cinnamon rolls. Known as Korvapuusti in Finnish, these rolls are one of those food items you just have to try while in the city.
Cheap bars in Helsinki
Kallio is your best bet for drinking on the cheap in Helsinki. This lively nightlife district maintains a grungy working-class vibe and is where you'll find the city's large student population and international travelers rubbing shoulders in some of the most affordable bars in the city.
Known for live music and tasty Vietnamese food, which comes as something of a surprise for a trendy bar in the Finnish capital, Siltanen is also popular for affordable beer and a limited but tasty range of cocktails.
This colorful and semi-legendary bar in Kallio offers a relaxed vibe and some great deals on drinks. A pint of Finnish beer will only cost you around five euros, and keep an eye out for happy hour when the drink prices get even lower.
This popular bar, also located in Kallio, offers free billiards to keep you entertained and some great drink specials. If you can play chess, show up on Tuesday evenings for chess club, and you'll get 20% off all food. With a range of satisfying bar food like pizzas, burgers, and good veggie options, it's a great place to enjoy a meal.
Bonus budget tips for Helsinki
- Visit during the off-season: Helsinki is a popular summer destination, so visiting during the off-season (fall, winter, and early spring) can help you save money on accommodations and activities.
- Utilize public transportation: Helsinki has an extensive and efficient public transportation system, including buses, trams, and trains. Consider purchasing a Helsinki Card, which includes unlimited public transportation and free or discounted admission to many attractions.
- Look for free activities: There are plenty of free things to do in Helsinki, such as exploring the city's parks and gardens and admiring the architecture of the Lutheran Cathedral.
- Eat at local markets and street vendors: Helsinki has a thriving street food scene, with plenty of affordable options available at local markets and food trucks. You can also save money by cooking your own meals using ingredients from supermarkets.
Along with excellent free things to do in Helsinki, the Finnish capital offers exciting bars, great restaurants, and some surprisingly affordable places to stay. Find the cheapest fares for flight tickets, and you can start enjoying Helsinki on the cheap. Just don't forget to leave your bags behind at a Bounce luggage storage to make the most of your trip.