29 things to do in Helsinki with kids
Finland is pretty close to paradise for kids – long summer days with plenty to keep you exploring outside, or snowy fun in winter. Even school days here are shorter than usual across Europe. And there are Moomins. While the capital might not have reindeer and Santa, there’s plenty to do in Helskini with kids as well.
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We visited Helsinki in May, with flowers blooming on Suomenlinna and the sun finally setting around 11pm. Travelling from Tallinn, we only had a few days but even with a goal of seeing as many attractions in Helsinki in two days as possible, we had dozens left on the wishlist.
So whether you’re planning to visit Helsinki in winter, are looking for free things to do in Helsinki or looking beyond the city centre, here are my top things to do in Helsinki with kids.
The sea fortress on Suomelinna island is a highlight of any Helsinki city break – the Suomenlinna ferry whisks you the 15 minutes across the bay, and it’s free to explore the island itself. Or there are guided tours, plus various museums to explore. If you visit in summer, don’t miss Submarine Vesikko.
Read more about our day on the island and why it’s great to visit Suomenlinna with kids
Suomenlinna toy museum
Even if you’re not tempted by a military fortress or maritime museums, the little toy museum on the island is very fun, right from the huge bear at the entrance to displays of toys and games dating back decades. It doesn’t take long to explore, but younger kids will love it.
Try a cruise
With over 300 islands in the archipelago of Helsinki, the city of Helsinki isn’t the only place to do your sightseeing – exploring the bay is one of the best ways to understand life in the Finnish capital, even if you can’t visit them all. The 90-minute archipelago cruise is a great introduction.
Or a canal tour
Or combine the open waters with a cruise down Helsinki’s Degero canal for another view of the city, passing the zoo and Suomenlinna along the way.
Hop-on hop-off bus
Explore on dry land with the hop-on hop-off bus which covers some of Helsinki’s highlights in a 90-minute loop – or you can hop on and off along the way, with the ticket valid for 24 hours. The bus route runs to the cruise port, if you’re only spending a day in the city as part of a Baltic cruise, but only runs during the summer months.
Take the tram
Tram line 3 loops through the city in a helpful circular route, so you can get a look at Helsinki without wearing out your feet – and have the fun of riding on a tram. If you have a Helsinki Card, travel is free – and children aged under 7 also travel free. Read my review of the Helsinki Card.
Helsinki tram museum
Tram fans will also love the chance to board one of Helsinki’s old trams, stamping tickets the old-fashioned way, hopping into the driver’s seat and discovering what powered them before electricity. It’s set in Korjaamo Culture Factory in Töölö and entry is free.
On the island of Korkeasaari, the 22-hectare zoo – first opened in the 19th century – has 150 different animal species, including the big cats in Cat Valley, and plants from around the world. Open year-round, you can travel by ferry over the summer or reach it by bus outside those times. The animals are also used to the Finnish winter, so you’ll spot them year-round too.
Sea Life Helsinki Aquarium
Perfect for chilly weather, the aquarium transports you to a series of undersea worlds, from the tropics to the rainforest, past sharks, seahorses and rays through an ocean tunnel. Keep an eye out for special offers where you can name your own ticket price.
Swim in the sea (pool)
Set right alongside the harbour front, the Allas sea pools feel a world away from the bustle of the market square nearby. Two, including a kids’ pool, are heated and there’s one filled with the bracing waters of the Baltic – filtered but as chilly as you might expect. Even littler ones will enjoy splashing in the warm pools though, and there’s a cafe/bar on the steps above. Best for sunny days though!
National Museum of Finland
Far from the dull and dusty displays of most traditional museums, there’s plenty for kids to get hands on with here – wave at the statue of the bear outside then try everything from VR goggles to listening to different music, setting yourself up as the future Finnish president, seeing how people have changed over the decades in the country and tracing its history back to Finland’s origins.
Seurasaari open air museum
Set on its own island outside the city centre – bus 24 will take you across the white bridge from the mainland – you can step back in time at the open air museum. With houses from the 18th and 19th century, the 87 buildings brought from across Finland aim to bring Finnish traditions to life. There are also guides demonstrating some of the country’s crafts – including troll making! – and you might get to see folk dancing. The island is open year-round, but the buildings are closed during the winter months.
Kiasma art museum
Helsinki is home to a string of art and design museums and galleries to tempt older kids, but if you’re visiting with primary and preschool aged children, the place to visit is Kiasma. Family activities include colour play workshops for babies and toddlers, as well as a Monster Route trail through the museum with questions to answer and colouring, aimed at ages 5-8. The contemporary art museum has only temporary exhibitions, not all of which are suitable for kids, so it’s worth checking the information on the website before you visit.
Helsinki city museum
Made up from five buildings from different eras in Helsinki’s past, the museum tells the tale of life over the years in the city. And in the Sederholm House, the oldest in Helsinki, you can find the Children’s Town part of the City museum with play corners, displays of everyday items and toys from the past (including plenty that those growing up in the 80s and 90s will recognise) plus the chance to steer an 18th century style ship. No entry charge, it’s also ideal if you’re looking for free things to do in Helsinki.
The Finnish Museum of Natural History
Helsinki is home to Finland’s Natural History Museum with displays to take you from some of Earth’s earliest creatures, through the history of evolution – including, naturally, dinosaurs. There are also audio guides, and free entry during some times.
Heureka science centre
More hands-on fun for kids at this science centre in Vantaa, outside the city centre, including a planetarium plus plenty of interactive science and technology exhibits. Even the restaurant is science themed – would you eat black burgers, blue puddings and insects? Admission includes all the shows and exhibitions.
With a puppet theatre, as well as stages with dressing rooms and experimentation stands, visitors of all ages are encouraged to let their imaginations flourish and play around with the various exhibits, along with the chance to be a sound and light designer or director, if you don’t fancy being centre stage.
Kajsaniemi botanic gardens
Part of the university grounds, the lovely botanic gardens sit by the water with a great sensory trail for kids to try out in summer and deliciously tropical greenhouses (helpfully with cloakrooms) to wander around in colder winter weather. The outdoor garden is free year-round, as are children aged under 7.
Hit the beach
With so much water around the city, there’s also a choice of beaches – the golden sands of Hietaniemi (also known as Hietaranta) are some of the most popular, but you could also head to swimming beaches on Pihlajasaari island and Mustasaari island (also home to a nature trail and farm animals) during the summer months. If you fancy a beach walk in winter, Uunisaari is set at the end of a pontoon bridge.
Visit a park
There’s green space galore across the city, and some of Helsinki’s parks also have playgrounds and play areas. Kaivopuisto, not far from the Design District, is a great one if you’re looking for room to run around. Download the free Helsinki for kids map for details of some others, along with other Helsinki city guide tips.
Discover an indoor playground
During the dark winter months, skip the chilly outdoor swings and head to one of Helsinki’s indoor playgrounds. Leikkiluola in Hakaniemi is one of the most popular, with a separate area for younger kids in the underground play area, a trampoline area, ball pool, slides and more.
Explore Linnanmäki Amusement Park
More than your average amusement park, Linnanmäki raises money for Finnish child welfare. Home to the Sea Life Centre, there are also rides (which you can filter by your child’s height to see what’s suitable) as well as more play areas and games.
Adrenaline thrills in the Superpark
With sites in Vantaa and Espoo, it’s a fantastic option for older kids with skate ramps, trampolines, mini golf, climbing walls and more.
Ice skate in winter
Skating rinks mushroom for winter so you’ll never be short of somewhere to test your skating skills – Kallio open air rink is not too tricky to reach from the centre and popular with skates to rent, and hot chocolate for afterwards. Or right in the centre, the Ice Park is next to the railway station and you can even book skating lessons if the Finns’ skills put yours to shame.
See the ice breakers
The fleet of half a dozen heavy-duty ice-breaking ships is moored by Katajanokka island – not all will always be on show (although ice breaking duties tend to take place in the early hours) but it makes for an interesting sight on a walk.
The SkyWheel Helsinki
Discover the city from above on the SkyWheel, Helsinki’s observation wheel next to Allas Sea Pools and not far from the market square. Open year-round, you can gaze out across the sea to some of the islands or look over towards Helsinki’s most imposing architecture.
A rather different view of Helsinki with this 10-minute 4D introduction to the city’s highlights, as if you’re flying over them – for age five and up, there are some scary moments which mean more sensitive younger ones might be upset, but older ones are likely to enjoy it. As well as the 3D cinema, expect rushing wind and water too.
Visit a wooden town
The wooden town of Porvoo is around an hour from Helsinki – and while it’s not in the city itself, it still deserves its place on any list of fun things to do in Helsinki. Wander along cobbled streets and imagine living in one of the historic houses made of wood (plus it’s great for souvenirs or a chilled out break people-watching in a cafe)
Have tea with a Moomin
You could easily come up with a Moomin-themed trip around Finland if you’re a fan; the Moomin museum in Tampere is around two hours outside the city, while Söderskär lighthouse is thought to have inspired some of the stories – in summer, there are ferry trips out to the island. But for a taste of Moomin life, check out the themed cafes around the city. There are several in Helsinki, including in the Stockmann department store as well as other city locations. Not the cheapest drink and snack, so best for true fans!
PIN FOR LATER: THINGS TO DO IN HELSINKI WITH KIDS
Disclosure: Contains some affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a few pennies in return. All opinions on the best things to do in Helsinki with kids and the prices in the Moomin cafe are my own.
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