Things to see and do in Helsinki with kids
Our guest writer Taru offers her suggestions for the best things to do with kids in Helsinki, Finland's capital.
With the Moomins as national treasures, it makes perfect sense that the Finnish capital should be child-friendly, but geography also plays its part.
Helsinki's coastline wriggles to form gentle beaches and inlets, lapped by the blue-grey Baltic Sea, cafes overflowing along the shores. The coast is dotted with islands – one dominated by a fort, another by a zoo – and offers plenty of natural space & park land where families can roam and explore.
Island-hopping by boat makes any trip more fun, and the city is light on traffic and easy to get around. Helsinki is a city that’s so calm, it’s a relaxing place to explore with children.
Suomenlinna in Summer, photo: Visit Helsinki - Rami Hanafi
Helsinki Zoo, known as "Korkeasaari" (high island) among Finns, is one of the oldest zoos in the world. In Helsinki Zoo, you'll meet animals from the arctic tundra to the tropical rainforest. Approximately 200 different animal species reside here, and there are almost 1000 different plant species - protecting endangered species is a heartfelt matter for the Zoo. The zoos in Europe form a network which works to preserve a number of species. They are often the last refuge for many endangered species.
Normal opening hours:
Ferries leave from the harbouride Market Square (eastern end) and from Hakaniemi every 40 minutes or so during May to September, and bus 16 goes from the train station platform 17 year-round.
Spring at the Helsinki Zoo
In Fallkulla, it is possible to get aquainted with animals in a traditional farm: Sheep, goats, pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, geese and horses. Children can also take part in animal care and help with work on the farm.
Normal opening hours: 10am - 5pm most days. Check before arrival.
Also check out the lovely Haltiala Domestic Animal Farm for another option!
Suomenlinna (Viapori/Sveaborg) fortress is one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world. It was founded in 1748 and built by Augustin Ehrensvärd on islands off the coast of Helsinki. Suomenlinna is one of the most popular attractions in Finland and a place where some people actually live. It was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1991 as a unique monument to European military architecture. An important part of any visit to Suomenlinna is a good meal or a welcome break at one of the cafes. The fortress has a selection of restaurants and charming cafes.
The Visitor Centre, situated in the middle of the fortress at Tykistölahti Bay, is a base and information point for visitors and is the starting point for the walking tours. Suomenlinna is explored on foot. During the summer months, there are daily guided tours in English, Swedish and Finnish around Suomenlinna. In the winter there are tours in English during the weekends.
The Suomenlinna Toy Museum presents old toys, the oldest of which go back to the beginning of the 19th century. The newest toys are from the 1960s. The private collection features hundreds of old dolls, approximately 100 antique teddy bears, and other toys full of history. The toys of the collection originate from Finland and they reflect the Finnish culture and tradition of games.
Underground tunnels at Suomenlinna, credit: Visit Finland, Rami Hanafi
Linnanmäki has entertained families since 1950. The amusement park has an enormous selection of fun rides, from ultra scary to more easy-going. The special wooden rollercoaster is over 50 years old and remains the most popular ride. Linnanmäki also has many arcade halls with the latest games as well as an outdoor stage presenting entertaining performances.
Linnanmäki is close to the Sealife aquarium if you want to combine both.
Normal opening hours: May-Sept 11am-10pm - please check for opening times for your specific date before you go.
Helsinki Icepark at the Railway Station Square is a perfect way to enjoy Finnish winter in an urban way. It makes it easy to enjoy skating or simply a cup of hot chocolate in the cafe while watching the others skate. The Icepark offers its visitors entertaining and instructive programs every day including regular skating lessons by licensed instructors. Skates are available for rent and ice hockey sticks are not allowed. The Park also hosts events, from live music to special performances. Remember that if you are travelling during the Christmas period, be sure to visit some of the enchanting Christmas markets around town.
Normal opening hours during winter:
Sat 10am–9pm &
A must for winter is a visit to the Helsinki Ice Park
Dedicated to the culture of games and play, Finnish Toy Museum presents toys and play situations from the early 20th century to the present day. Finnish toys and special exhibitions.
Normal opening hours: 11am - 6pm, the journey from Helsinki city centre to the museum in Espoo takes less than half an hour by bus.
Vintage toys at the Helsinki Toy Museum
Heureka, The Finnish Science Centre is a hands-on exhibition and action centre, perfect for entertaining older children. Astronomical movies and science programs are shown in the Vattenfall Planetarium. This fantastic hands-on science centre, Imax theatre and planetarium is next to the Tikkurila train station in Vantaa, a satellite suburb of Helsinki.
Normal opening hours:
10am-5pm Mon-Wed & Fri,
10am-6pm Sat & Sun
Planetarium in the Helsinki Science Museum
The Finnish Museum of Natural History’s exhibitions show the diversity of nature. There are five permanent exhibitions which are Finnish Nature, World Nature, The History of Life, The Story of the Bones, and Change in the Air.
The "Finnish Nature" exhibition tells about the Finnish environment, taking visitors from the summery archipelago to wintry Lapland with its mountains. Through the exhibition "World Nature", visitors are taken on an exploration that begins from the polar areas and ends in the tropical warmth. The ”History of Life” exhibition presents the course of evolution from the Big Bang to dinosaurs and larger mammals of the Ice Age. The secrets gleamed from bones are introduced in the exhibition ”Story of the Bones”. Finally, the "Change in the Air" exhibition showcases the research done on climate change by the University of Helsinki, with demonstrations of the effects of climate change on our northern environment and suggestions for how we can adjust to the changes. Different theme events and temporary exhibitions are also a part of the museum’s calendar.
Normal opening hours:
Summer 10am-5pm Tue-Sun,
Winter 9am-4pm Tue-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat & Sun
Moving in - the Mammoth arrives at the National History Museum
Near the Senate Square, in the oldest house in Helsinki (built in 1757), is the Children's Town. A part of the Helsinki City Museum, Children's Town is a free exhibition targeted specifically at kids. It is a an opportunity experience and learn more about Helsinki’s history and what life - and play - was like in the 18th to 20th century.
Sea Life takes you on a voyage from the tropical oceans to the Arctic Sea, stopping at the Baltic Sea along the way. Discover strange and fascinating underwater worlds, home to crabs and starfish as well as sharks and rays. Visitors can step inside the ocean tank through a transparent tunnel. The exhibitions present many species whose environments are threatened by pollution and other environmental damage caused by humans. Helsinki's Sea Life is part of the pan-European Sea Life network. The aim is to enlighten visitors about the need for protecting the sea environment and its biggest threats, such as pollution and over-fishing.
Serena Water Park is a great place for the entire family to enjoy the tropical warmth with terraced pools, massaging whirlpools, waterslides and a unique sauna section carved from the bedrock. Some highlights:
- Black Hole (closed tube that is completely dark the whole way) pipeslide features sound and light effects.
- Outdoors there are carpet slides, rapids, a "Salt Sea", pipeslides and liana tower.
There is also a ski slope here where Finland's National Team and top skiers train.
Another waterpark quite convenient for both airport and city and good for kids is the Flamingo Spa & pool complex. It is a good place to go if you have a few hours to spend before or between flights as it is only a 5 minute taxi ride away. It is a local hangout so it can be busy on rainy days.
Experience the adventure in the world of snakes and lizards. See the world’s most poisonous snakes, look into the eyes of giant snakes. See the giant monitors basking or water turtles swimming and spiders waiting for their next meal. This is the biggest tropical zoo in the Northern countries.
In Helsinki on a cold day: Be sure to visit the centrally located Helsinki Leikkiluola underground playground, complete with climbing walls and glow-in-the-dark ghost cave. Dance dome and all the classic indoor playground equipment are perfect for the little ones to get rid of some energy before dinner.
Normal opening hours: 9am-8pm Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm Sat-Sun.
Helsinki and Vantaa now also have several HopLop indoor adventure playgrounds that are very popular. Kids can spend several action-packed hours roaming through adventure labyrinths, trampolines, electric race cars, slides and other fun-filled activities. Each HopLop has cafe(s) in case you get hungry or parents wish to relax rather than join in on the fun.
Not sure if you are familiar with the Moomins? Moomin World in Naantali is very well done and our colleague Leila enjoyed it even with her 12-year old daughter. To get there, take a train to Turku (2hrs) and then a bus to the Moomin World (or we can organise a private transfer).
Visiting Moomin World can be done as a (long) day trip or you could stay in Naantali - a lovely old town with charming wooden buildings. Our suggestion is to transfer from Turku train station to your accommodation in Turku or Naantali, drop off luggage, and head to the Moomin world.
When travelling with a child aged 0-6 years in a pram, stroller or wheelchair, you are entitled to free travel on trains, buses and trams, as well as on the metro and municipal ferry.
Another good thing to note is that catching tram line 3 allows you to circle around the city while watching the scenery from the comfort of your seat. With a Helsinki card, you can use public transport as much as you like - and in any case, kids under 7 years old travel for free!
See the Helsinki public transport route search and timetables when planning your travels.
Also check out our range of unique Scandinavian and Finnish Holidays with children.