15 Free Things To Do in Helsinki in Winter

things to do in helsinki finland

 

[Updated Jan 2022]

The first time I went to Helsinki it was to do a house sit for a Dutch couple. As is the nature of house sitting, I didn't get to chose when I went there (it was dictated by when they wanted to leave there), hence why I ended up there in a very cold wintery February. But no worries, Finland is enchantingly beautiful in the winter (in the summer too, but that's for a different post). Additionally, this blog was a year old at the time, and yet to take off financially, so I was on basically zero budget (which was the main reason I was house sitting). Thus this blog post that was intended to be about things to do in Helsinki actually ended up being about free things to do in Helsinki in winter.


14 Free Things to Do in Helsinki in Winter

Although Helsinki wasn't exactly at the top of my bucket-list (which, at the time as a newbie traveller, was unoriginally crammed with more famous cities), I ended up being really happy that fate (aka house sitting) took me there. It remains to this day one of the most silent places I've ever been, I found it very clean and I felt really safe there - (at the time these were all things I was really into.) I definitely didn't wrap up warm enough though. But enough about me and my mistakes, let's explore free things to do in Helsinki in the winter :)

#1. Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is arguably the most recognisable site in Helsinki - it stands high, low-key dominating the landscape in that way that Christian architecture from back in the days loves to do (in this case, the day was sometime in the 1800s). If you want a photo of yourself that says 'hey look, I've been to Helsinki' you can get it in front of this cathedral. Which is exactly what I wanted, so no judgements from me if that's what you want too.

what to do in helsinki finland



I thought the stars on the dome were really pretty, but I have no recollection of actually going inside, which apparently I did because it's free to do and it's a decent place to warm up. According to past me it was 'a little boring inside - not spiritual or creepy or anything'. Which explains why I don't remember it. But I think when it comes to free things to do in winter, stepping inside a warm building, for free, which just so happens to be one of the top monuments not just in Helsinki, but also in Finland, is fair game for the top spot on this blog post.

#2. Sauna for free at Sompasauna

Is there anything more Finnish than a sauna? Moomins maybe. I don't know who first invented the sauna (because I googled it and nobody knows), but I do know that in Finland saunas are extremely popular - like many people have them in their houses kind of popular. And of course, nothing says 'enjoy winter in Northern Europe' more than a sauna, but this post isn't just about winter, it's also about zero cost, so how can you sauna for free in Helsinki? 
 
At Sompasauna of course - my commie heart loves this place: there are no staff on-site, it's open 24/7/365 and people are encouraged to work together to keep it going - e.g. cutting wood together to keep the sauna going. A fair deal for a free sauna :D and a cool idea in general. #saunagoersoftheworldunite

Update: they are currently closed cause of the pandemic, follow their insta for updates.

#3. Kamppi Chapel, the Chapel of Silence

Kamppi Chapel or Chapel of Silence is another free religious site. Before I went I misunderstood and thought it was a religionless church and a quiet oasis in the middle of the city. It definitely was quiet, but there were also a lot of bibles - in about 30 different languages.




Anyway, with free entry it's definitely worth a look, I loved all the wood! It really was peaceful and the staff were very friendly. And it looks like an alien ship from the outside.

#4. Free Museums in Helsinki

natural history museum helsinki

If you get a Helsinki Card museum entry is free. But the Helsinki card itself costs money (unless you're a blogger and they give them out to you). But those without the card, don't worry, there are days of the month where you can visit each of the museums for free e.g. The National Museum on Fridays after 4.15pm, you can check out the full list here!

#5. Free Walking Tours

There are a number of free walking tours in Helsinki, which like they say on the tin, are free. If you have enough to tip please do, so the workers are paid and so that other people who cannot afford to tip get a chance to discover the city too, let's redistribute our wealth :) 

 
 
If you're uncomfortable with not knowing how much to tip, or want to go on a private tour of Helsinki that's possible too :)

#6. Temppeliaukio Church

Also known as the Rock Church because it is literally built into the rock. This was my personal favourite church in Helsinki (maybe because I'm an earth sign heh heh).

temppeliaukio church

Being built into the rock just gave it this really earthy, natural, almost pagan-ish feel and there was a piano playing in the background added to the whole ambience and peacefulness of the place. It's free to enter, and, of course, another great place to warm up.

#7. Sibelius Park

In the heart of Sibelius Park is Sibelius Monument - over 600 metal pipes built to honour Johan Sibelius, a Finnish composer. Sibelius Park is, you guessed it, outside so it loses points if (like me) you don't dress properly for winter, lol. But it gains points for being super pretty in the winter. It's free to enter.

#8. Library Oodi

 
Yet another great place to warm up is Library Oodi. Like most good libraries it's free to enter and there's a whole space for tourists and locals alike to hang out and work.

#9. Helsinki Central Railway Station

free walking tour Helsinki

Helsinki Central Railway Station is an impressive building worth a gawk at (in my opinion). It was built in 1919 and designed by a Finn. At the time I really liked (and I quote) "the strong Germanic looking men holding the lanterns." I love politically problematic past me, she was such a hoot.

#10. Appreciate statue artwork

Whilst we're checking out statues of men, it's worth mentioning the Three Smiths Statue. This one is from 1932 and still has bomb damage from the Continuation War (aka the war between Finland and the Soviet Union in World War 2). What I (sexually repressed fool that I was at the time) found interesting about this statue was a) they are naked but more that b) some 'vandal' had covered up their d*cks parts with Sellotape.. In England vandals can't wait to add willies to art, but apparently in Finland they can't wait to cover them up. Lol.
things to do in helsinki in winter

Having been to Hungary in the winter and seen how they cover up statues there to protect them from the cold, I'm now wondering if Finland isn't just following a similar logic - except they're only bothering covering up the d*cks - which after all, are the weakest most important part (lmao sorry).

what to do in helsinki finland

So maybe naked Finnish men aren't your thing, what about women? Three minutes walk or so from the Three Smiths Statue is a statue of two naked women. It's a tribute to Zachris Topelius (an author and rector of the University of Helsinki).

#11. Christmas Markets

Nothing says winter in Europe more than a Christmas market. Helsinki's can be found at the end of Esplanade Park and is complete with fire pit and little huts you can go into and warm up (unlike most European Christmas markets which are just stalls).

#12. Market Square

free things to do in helsinki


At the time I really enjoyed Market Square because of the 'delicious' salty sardines that I had as a free sample, the reindeer hot-dog I had that wasn't (it was 6 Euros), and looking at the reindeer skins and knives. I'm vegan now so I dunno how much I'd enjoy it lol, but according to Ari Helsinki is a vegan paradise which makes me want to go back and check.

#13. Vanha Kauppahalli, the Old Market Hall

things to do in helsinki in winter

Located right next to the market square is the old market hall, which we much preferred to the Market Square. Partly because it's inside (and warm) and partly because the stuff they were selling was 'cooler' - lots of fish, reindeer, wine and wild boar.

#14. Uspsenski Cathedral

free things to do in helsinki

Uspsenski Cathedral, was, in my opinion, better than Helsinki Cathedral but not as good as the Rock Church. It's Russian and was build in the 1800s. Entrance is free, but they're closed on Mondays. It's certainly an impressive building, but definitely falls in the creepy category in our books - check it out!

#15. The Galleries


I saved the best for last because the galleries in Helsinki are always free. Yey.

Where to Stay in Helsinki (For Free)

Chances are unless you are couch surfing (note: couchsurfing.com has unfo pretty much become a for-profit site, that's why we linked to bewelcome.org above which is still free :) you're not going to be finding free accommodation in Helsinki, right? Well we've got an ace up our sleeve which, unless you're brand new to our travel blog, won't surprise you: we house sat in Helsinki!

House Sitting in Finland

House sitting = free accommodation in return for looking after the pets and house of a family. Check out our post about what it's like to house sit in Finland, you can also check out our favourite House Sitting website to see if they've got any House Sits in Finland and if you find one you like we can give you a 10% discount off Trusted Housesitters!

house sitting in finland
However, although you'll see lots of house sits come up in countries like the UK and Australia, the craze hasn't really reached Finland yet, so you might want to try one of these other options instead:

AirBnB

We (used to) love AirBnB and although we haven't personally tried it in Helsinki, we've tried it in so many other countries (including Estonia, Hungary and Vietnam).

Hotels in Helsinki

helsinki place to stay cheap

If you're looking for a super cheap place to stay in Helsinki try The Park By CheapSleep. Check out their reviews and/ or book your stay now on Agoda.

luxury place to stay helsinki

But if you're looking for bit more of a luxury place to stay in Helsinki try Hotel Kamp prices start at £224. (Again we haven't actually stayed here, but this is where we would book.)

Getting Around Helsinki

Helsinki has a great tram system, well it actually has a good public transport system in general. The metro is very straightforward and the ticket machines are in English - as are the names of the most important stations (Central and the Uni). 
things to do in helsinki finland

 
The metro tickets are also valid on the trams/buses and some ferries. We took the metro in from Vantaa and our tickets were valid for a whole hour, so we could hop on the trams and see the whole city in the warmth!

Wrap Up: 14 Free Things to Do in Helsinki in Winter

So there you have it, 14 free things to do in Helsinki - most of which are indoors. Helsinki is a really interesting place and we hope you like it. And let us know how it goes!


Thanks for reading! Have you been to Helsinki in winter? What would you recommend doing?

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