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Wandering Cheapo Helsinki: Five Cheapo Tips

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma)'s imposing entrance.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma)'s imposing entrance.

Helsinki, Finland, is home to high design, price tags to match, and lots of heavy metal fans. The city’s atmosphere combines the obvious Swedish and Russian influences yet also feels, with its gray mid-century apartment blocks, cafés, and Jugendstil beauties, somewhat reminiscent of Mitteleuropa.

How to keep costs manageable in such a pricey Nordic capital? We’ve got a few suggestions.

1. Find a cheap bed. The well-scrubbed Eurohostel, located on Katajanokka, is a cheap spot to lay your head. Rooms are small but spic-and-span, with Ikea-like blond wood bed frames and gray and green room accents. Doubles begin at €53 in the summer, which is pretty darn cheap for the pricey Finnish capital.

Central Helsinki by day...

Central Helsinki by day…

2. Grab a cheap lunch. Grub is expensive in central Helsinki. One good value can be found at the Hietalahti Flea Market café, where the lunch buffet is just €7 per person. Just don’t go assuming that you’ll be able to find such good deals in the flea market hall itself, which is packed to the rafters with spectacular Finnish modernist pieces (as well as some inarguably uninteresting fluff). A trip to the nearby Design Museum (Korkeavuorenkatu 23) will confirm your suspicions that many of the Flea Market’s cast-offs are in fact Grade A modernist beauties.

3. Visit a free museum. The splendid Kiasma (Museum of Contemporary Art) is worth the €7 admission fee for the exploration of its curved passageways and awesome scale alone. But on the first Wednesday of every month, admission is free. Several other museums occasionally offer free admission as well.  Helsinki City Art Museum is free on Fridays, for example.

Helsinki's main cathedral, the Tuomiokirkkoat

Helsinki’s main cathedral, the Tuomiokirkko

4. Free furniture? Well, not really. All those expensive shops full of incredibly dear and well made Finnish furniture can be visited and viewed by any Cheapo with an appetite for good, high-end design. Check out Vepsäläinen and the adjacent Solid Furniture on Annankatu 25, and Amfora Shop on Bulevardi 11 for some particularly inspiring selections.

5. Take a cheap day trip. It’s all relative, of course, but a boat trip to the beautiful island of Suomenlinna—where one of the largest historic maritime monuments in the world holds court—is just €3.80 roundtrip for adults and €1.90 roundtrip for children aged 7 to 16.  Once there, guided walking tours of the island are available most every day in the summer, less frequently in the down season. They are free for Helsinki Card carriers.

About the author

Alex Robertson Textor

About the author: Alex Robertson Textor is a London-based travel writer and editor. He has written for Rough Guides, the New York Times, and Public Books, among other publications; he also guided the tablet magazine Travel by Handstand to two SATW Foundation Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards. With Pam Mandel, he writes copy and generates ideas as White Shoe Travel Content. He is on Twitter as @textorian and maintains his own blog, www.alexrobertsontextor.com.

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2 thoughts on “Wandering Cheapo Helsinki: Five Cheapo Tips”

  1. I have to agree with you that the Museum of Contemporary Art is well worth the admission fee – I managed to a great exhibition about Kazakhstan. Also, make sure you take advantage of the computer access and WiFi at the tourist information center.

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  2. I’d also suggest a wander around many of the open green spaces you’ll find in the city. Especially of the parks just north of the main train station – walk around the edges of the two lakes. Especially on a sunny afternoon, there’s nothing better.

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