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" 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 in the Zoo, 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. Zoos are often the last refuge for many endangered species.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm May-Aug, 10am-4pm Oct-Mar, 10am-6pm Sep & Apr
Prices: adult/child €12/6, incl ferry ride €18/9
Ferries leave from the Kauppatori (eastern end) and from Hakaniemi every 40 minutes or so during May to September, and bus 16 goes from the train station daily 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.
Opening hours: 10am - 5pm most days. Check before arrival.
**Prices: **Free unless your group is larger than 8 people.
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.
Opening hours: 11am - 6pm, the journey from Helsinki city centre to the museum takes less than half an hour by bus.
**Prices: **€12 for adults, free for children under 18.
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.
Opening hours: 10am-5pm Mon-Wed & Fri, 10am-6pm Sat & Sun, 10am-8pm Thu
Prices: adult/child exhibitions only €22/15
Planetarium in the Helsinki Science Museum
Helsinki Icepark at 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; 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.
Opening hours: Mon–Fri 2 pm – 9 pm, Sat 10 am – 9 pm & Sun 10 am – 6 pm
Prices: €6 adults, €4 students, senior citizens, draftees, unemployed, €3 children under 18, Skate rental €6, helmets for children free at the booth
A must for winter is a visit to the Helsinki Ice Park
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.
Opening hours: May - Sept 11am - 10pm - please check for opening times for your specific date before you go.
**Prices: **1-day adult/child ride pass from €33/21, entry-only free
The Finnish Museum of Natural History’s exhibitions show the diversity of nature. The exhibition that tells about the Finnish environment, taking the visitor from the summery archipelago to wintry Lapland with its mountains. The ”History of Life” exhibition presents the course of evolution from the Big Bang to dinosaurs and larger mammals of the Ice Age. Through the exhibition ”World Nature” the visitor is taken on an exploration that begins from the polar areas and ends in the tropical warmth. The secrets of the bones are introduced in the exhibition ”Story of the Bones”. Different theme events and visiting exhibitions are a part of the museum’s calendar. New shows include Change in the Air opening November 2015.
Opening hours: 9am-5pm Tue-Fri, 11am-4pm Sat & Sun
**Prices: **adult/child €5/2.50
Moving in - the Mammoth arrives at the National History Museum
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 great place for the entire family to enjoy the tropical warmth year-round, with terraced pools, massaging whirlpools, waterslides and a unique sauna section carved from the bedrock. The **Black Hole (closed tube that is completely dark the whole way) **pipeslide features sound and light effects. ** Our boys really love the waterslides in Northern Europe - they are far more intense & fun than they find at home. Outdoors there are carpet slides, rapids, a "Salt Sea", pipeslides and liana tower.
There is also a ski slope here - summer or winter 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.
Suomenlinna (Viapori/Sveaborg) fortress is one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world. 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 people 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
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, underground Helsinki Playground, complete with climbing wall 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.
Opening hourse: 10am - 8pm everyday.
Prices: €12 for child over 3 including two tokens, free entry for adults.
Not sure if they are familiar with the Moomins? Moomin World in Naantali is very well done and my colleague Leila enjoyed it with her daughter who at the time was 12 years old. To get there, they 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 cosy wooden buildings. So transfer from Turku train station to hotel, drop off luggage, visit 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.