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.
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.
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.