Our Stay in Helsinki was heavily accidental really, in that we needed to spend a night there on our way back from Rovaniemi Lapland. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Helsinki is a small, inviting and child friendly capital city, and one not to be missed. It provided a great last day to our adventure, and we are pleased that we accidentally stumbled across it. Another advantage to budget, independent travel.
We arrived into Helsinki at 9.30pm after travelling from Rovaniemi on the amazing day train. Be warned that this small capital does not open late, and by the time we had left the train and found our hotel most places to eat had closed by 10pm. We walked around for ages looking for open eateries, and in the end had to resort to a Burger King (as the kids were understandably hungry). If arriving late it may be worth heading straight for food.
Where to stay: As we were arriving late and leaving the next day we opted for a hotel close to the train station. This way we could explore and then pick up our luggage before heading back to the station to travel to the airport. Hotel Arthur was a 5- 10 minute (with children) walk from the station. It ticked all the boxes for location and large family rooms but at £140 I felt it was quite expensive. A distinctly 1980’s style, with a somewhat dubious breakfast selection. I probably wouldn’t stay there again but it was fine for our needs, mainly due to location.
When You Only Have a Short Time in Helsinki:
We had just over half a day in Helsinki, so had to be selective about where to visit. We stuck to central locations that we could reach on foot. Although we did not have the opportunity to visit all the main attractions, I did some research on what we should visit. I will list them further into the blog.
1.Senate Square: Christmas Market
As we were travelling in December we walked the 5 minutes to Senate square to check out the Christmas Market. Situated in the heart of Helsinki’s Old Town in Senate Square, this is a beautiful location. I was struck and pleased by the total lack of Christmas commercialism, approximately 50 small wooden stalls are dotted around the square selling home made gifts, and food. We all enjoyed wondering around and drinking a hot chocolate.
The Highlight for the Children was the Old Dutch Carousel, located in the middle of the market. An added bonus and further nod to the traditional non-commercialised market is that the Carousel is free (you can make a donation if you like).
2.Helsinki City Museum – Children’s Town:
Located right next to the Christmas Market and Senate Square (in the oldest house in Helsinki) is Helsinki Museum, completely free with a dedicated “Children’s Town”. Such a fantastic find, and one I would highly recommend to anyone traveling in Helsinki with children. We spent 2 hours there, and had to drag the children out so we could catch our flight. Set over 4 floors we initially looked around the main museum, which was nice for a wonder…. the kids were highly amused to find the top floor was dedicated to HELSEXINKI, and a large number of associated sculptures..we made a fairly quick exit before the 5 thousand questions from the children started. The real beauty in this museum is Children’s Town.
On entering the Museum head right, and look for the signs to Children’s town. It is hidden behind some doors,and located over two floors. The town depicts Helsinki through the ages, and includes completely interactive exhibits. Including an old school, house, dock area, horse and carriage and children’s bedroom to name a few:
Top Tip: There is an activity room and area for eating packed lunches if you have one. This would be a great place to eat with the family when traveling on a budget. Plus the kids will be entertained by the craft activities.
Unfortunately we had to dash for our 3pm flight so had very little time in Helsinki, however as always I had researched some other potential places for us to visit. I have listed them here with links in case they are useful: