It's cold and dark in winter in Helsinki

The winter in Helsinki comes in two ways: a clear blue sky or gray with limited daylight hours. Anyway, I can’t complain about the weather, although we have gray days during our visit, Helsinki has its charm in winter. It is a city that has a spatial feeling you feel comfortable compares to other European cities. It may be a less popular destination than other Scandinavian capitals such as Stockholm here’s my blog of Stockholm. Also, Helsinki does not have a collection of medieval streets, but a modern city with excellent facilities. Nevertheless, the Finnish capital Helsinki is still an undiscovered gem for the general public.


I choose to visit in winter because it is cheaper. Flying to Helsinki is not cheap; here’s how to find cheap flights, no budget airlines flying to Helsinki from my point of departure. 

As we have mileage saved with KLM, I could book a less expensive ticket departs from Antwerp through Amsterdam. The night flight took us to Helsinki in more than two hours. The most helpful thing in Scandinavian cities even if arriving so late you don’t have to worry about public transport because they run all night. 

I’m less enthusiastic if arriving on a destination in the dark. Though we’ve done this often, take a flight on a Friday evening for a long weekend trip. But it was a short night as we have to catch the ferry to Tallinn Estonia the next day.

When planning the trip, Tallinn wasn’t on the scheme. My purpose is to focus on Helsinki, but while we’re close to Tallinn, we decided to combine two cities on this trip, and I’m glad we did. It was winter just the beginning of the season it didn’t snow yet, but it was so cold – here’s what to pack for Helsinki in winter.

The facts about Helsinki

You probably heard already that Scandinavian countries are not a budget-friendly destination in Europe. That is true. As a visitor to Helsinki, you will notice that the cost of living is more expensive than Stockholm and Denmark. Finland’s currency is in Euro, which comes handy for visitors coming from the eurozone. Furthermore, debit cards like Maestro (Bancontact) is entirely acceptable anywhere. So for the visitors without credit cards (Visa or MasterCard) can pay with Maestro or in euro cash.

Getting around the city center

Helsinki is a compact city; walking is an ideal way of exploring the city as most of the sights are close to each other. Helsinki has excellent public transport, which goes in all directions in the center. Ticketing counters are nearly non-existence; your phone is your ticket. So it is handy to download the transportation app https://www.hsl.fi/en to your phone. It is a journey planner app that allows you to plan your trip from A to B and vice versa. 

It also calculates expenses, but the cost of transport in the city is 2.60€. Using the app needs a credit card. Add only the exact amount you need for one way trip. With the price, you have the privilege to use all city transport within 90 minutes: bus, tram, train, and metro. You may switch many times as you wish before the ticket expires.

Senate Square is the main tourist attractions
The heart of the city, Senate Square

Senate Square

We start at Senate Square – the main attraction in Helsinki with architecture and history. Here you’ll find four distinctive buildings in neoclassical style: Helsinki Cathedral, the University of Helsinki, and the National Library of Finland. The Helsinki Cathedral looked imposing on the steps above and dominated Senate Square, an attraction that you can hardly miss. While the Senate Building, an elegant style that is common in the early 19th century.

Market square, a good place to find local products
A good place to find local products

Market Square Kauppatori 

Pursue the walk to Market Square Kauppatori not far from Senate Square. The old market square located between the harbor and the presidential palace in a long boulevard. At this point, you reach the port of Helsinki. Kauppatori is an open-air market where you find Finn’s souvenirs, food stalls, and so on. However, if you have been to outdoor markets in other European cities, Helsinki’s price is a bit high compared to other places in Europe. But it’s nice to look around what they have in the offer, though.

Get a panoramic view over the city
Get a panoramic view over the city

Helsinki's Skywheel

Once you’re at the harbor area, you already have the vision of the Ferris Wheel from a distance. Nowadays, in most European cities, can’t without the sky wheels, which offer a panoramic view. Perhaps not the cheapest thing to do in Helsinki; it cost 13€ for three rounds. But you will get a discount if you have the Helsinki pass. The best spot to see the Helsinki skyline. But I suggest going if the weather is clear; otherwise you don’t see anything from a top.

Vanha Kauppahalli is the old market hall of Helsinki
Vanha Kauppahalli is the old market hall of Helsinki

Vanha Kauppahalli old market hall 

It also located on the harbor– The old market hall built-in capstone dated from the 16th century. If visiting Helsinki in winter, this is an alternative indoor sight in a great atmosphere. For the gourmet, it is a place to be; you will find varieties of food stands. Besides the food, you will see all kinds of things for sale, mainly local products and some other things that I’ve never seen before, but they aren’t cheap. Take note; the Old market hall is open on weekdays from 8 am to 6 pm on Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm on Sunday the market closed.

Allas sea pool and the harbor areas
Allas sea pool and the harbor areas

Helsinki's harbor and surrounding

Coming from Market Square, pursue walking to Alla’s sea pool. If one wants to take the outdoor swimming in the winter, this is the place to go, and it is open year-round. We went for the views, not for swimming. Take the stairs to go up for a great look. I could sit here for a long time and gaze at the sea if it wasn’t so cold. I’m trembling while watching the local people swimming, impossible to believe. 

The Orthodox church Uspenski Cathedral
The Orthodox church Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

The most significant Russian orthodox church in Scandinavia. Built-in 1862-1868, designed by the Russian church architect Aleksei M Gornostajev. The characteristic crown has in the onion-shaped of gold. The stunning building in red brick is standing on the height to the northeast of the harbor. A few steps will lead you to the upper ground of the church, where a gorgeous view from the top.

Sibelius Park and the monument, Helsinki
Sibelius Park and monument

Sibelius Park And Monument

I came across this site. The location is out of the city center, but bus number 24 takes the route to the monument. Sibelius is a popular place for tourist groups in Helsinki. The lovely location situated in a green park, and by the water. It only takes five minutes to see the monument. It looks like a chime, but the whole thing made up from hundreds of welded pipes, a design pattern inscribed on the memorial. The tubes are supposed to represent trees as Sibelius inspired by nature, and if you have time, take a walk around the bay.

Kamppi Chapel of Silence, Helsinki
One of Finn's unusual style Kamppi Chapel of Silence

Kamppi Chapel of Silence

It doesn’t look anything like a chapel in the first place due to its unusual architecture, a great masterpiece of Finnish design. The location in Narinkka Square is the commercial center of the city close to the train and bus terminal within Kamppi Shopping. The opposition between the quiet of the church interior and the bustling noise of the city surroundings is impressive. It is a Chapel of Silence; however, the tiny oratory is heavily guarded and randomly with surveillance camera; prohibited for a photograph inside.


Where to stay in Helsinki

Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel, Helsinki
Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel

If you have been to other Scandinavian cities, hotel prices in Helsinki are just the same. However, you can spare some bucks by comparing different booking sites. Various price agreements ensure that you sometimes pay less for the same room at one provider than elsewhere. We were staying at the Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel.

For a European trip, I mostly book the accommodations through Booking.com or Hotels.com. These two are my favorites booking sites. With booking.com, you get a loyalty program as a genius discount. But it is not a simple indication.

Consistently Booking

We’re now twelve years member with booking.com and booked lots of hotels with them in the past years. We spend more than 50 different hotels every year during our trip. Nowadays, we have a great discount and get more benefits as level 2 members of the site.

With Hotels.com, it is different rules. You must book or stay for ten nights booked through them, and get one night free – is like a saving card. So they’re less appealing – but don’t underestimate they can be a lot cheaper sometimes. The only thing I dislike you have to pay straight for the booking and take exertion if you want to cancel the room, unlike booking.com. 

Inexpensive dining in Helsinki

When it comes to dining in Helsinki, I would say they are expensive. I am not complaining about the prices of accommodation, but the food is incredibly costly. Okay, I admit they are not so expensive as Norway and Iceland but should look where to eat I don’t want a surprise when the bill comes. Searching where to dine for an affordable price gives a few alternatives by scrolling to my favorite search engine for restaurants Tripadvisor. 

Although we only have one day in Helsinki, but not crazy to spend so much money on food while I’m not a gourmet person. If you like Italian food Rax Pizza is recommended – a buffet pizza for 13.95€ all-in. It even better than pizza hut, as there were not only pizza but other dishes available for the price.


Tips: Getting from Vantaa Airport to the city center

There are different ways to reach the city center. The cab is expensive, 50€ for a short ride. While only 17 km to the city. The cheapest way is by train and buses. It is sensible to download the app on your phone for public transport, as already mentioned above. The train at the airport operates from Monday to Friday until 01.51, and on Saturday & Sunday, runs till 01:41 after midnight.

Tickets are available at the platform on a vending machine for 4.60€ one way. The local buses line 615, which connects Helsinki Airport with the central railway station, runs a whole night. 

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