Last week we came back from our holiday in Finland, and I can only say that I loved it! The weather was perfect—sunny with the occasional showers—Helsinki is a nice, functional, clean city, the countryside is gorgeous, and the people are kind, somewhat reserved and quiet which is always a nice change from loud and chaotic southern Spain.
But mostly, Helsinki is a kid-friendly city which made it so much easier to have a successful trip with a demanding two-year-old and an unpredictable 7-month-old.
If you’re planning a trip to Helsinki with small kids, you can see photos with anecdotes from our trip on Instagram (and I’ll keep posting them), and here’s some ideas for kid-friendly places and activities in Helsinki. If you have any question, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you out with your planning.
- We booked this AirBnb apartment in the fashionable Ullanlinna district. The apartment is small, and it’s somewhat tricky to get the pram in the lift, but it was otherwise perfect for the four of us—the owner Nadja has young kids of her own so she understood our needs perfectly, providing us with toys, books, a highchair and a cot. The district is great for kids, with lots of playgrounds walking distance, a Mumin Cafe right next door (priceless!), and the beach area with a beautiful green park, a big playground and Carusel for a quick family-friendly bite.
- Stockholm is just a boat away. The overnight cruise experience is well worth with the little ones (we went with Viking Line this time, and will try Silja next year), but the city—at least the part we saw—is not kid-friendly at all: I googled and asked several locals with kids, but we couldn’t find a single family cafe! Actually, the only kid area we found was in this cute kid shoe shop.
- Tallinn is also just a boat away and so worth a day trip. The boat is completely new (finished early 2017) and modern—the play room has a big TV outside so parents can keep an eye on their little ones while enjoying a cup of coffee (most relaxing 2.5 hours of our entire holiday!). In Tallinn you can’t miss the Children Museum Miia-Milla-Manda (which is really a children’s indoor playground)—somewhat old and stuffy, but full of amazing hidden treasures in every room to discover and play with (Oliver would have spent there an entire week!).
- The amusement park Linnanmäki is great for a fun afternoon—it’s just the perfect size and only 15 mins away from the center. IF you’re not planning on doing the rides yourself, you can buy entrances only for the kids.
- Hesburger (the Finnish McDonald’s) on the 6th floor of the mall Stockmann, in the very centre of Helsinki, has a nice soft play area that you can use even without consuming, as we did. On the same floor, past the toy section, there’s a handy and clean nursing area and a bathroom with a small children toilet that Oliver absolutely loved.
- Suomenlinna is a nice afternoon trip: Oliver and I visited the Toy Museum (this is an actual museum, but Oliver unexpectedly really liked it), and then we all walked all the way to the other side of the island to watch the huge cruise ship to Sweden pass through the narrow stretch of sea very close to the cliff where we were standing. Beautiful!
- If you want to buy some toys that you won’t find anywhere else, there’s a lovely toy stand at the Kauppatori market where all the toys are handmade (thus one of a kind) in a cottage in the woods. Simply gorgeous.
- There’s a nice buffet restaurant in the Botanical Garden that opens for lunch from 11.30am to about 2.30pm (~10€ per person), and has high chairs for the little ones and serves very traditional homemade Finnish food. Real yummy!
- Five stories underground (yep!), in Hakaniemi, the play centre Leikkiluola is definitely worth a visit with kids—it’s 9€ per kid to get in no matter how much time you spend there. Oliver had SO MUCH fun!
A few things you might want to know:
- Prams go free on public transportations, so as long as you have one, you don’t need to buy a ticket for one of the parents.
- Saunas are the quintessential of Finnish culture. Ask any Finnish person and they’ll tell you that babies and toddlers CAN (and should) have saunas—for a few minutes and only if they seem comfortable. We greatly enjoyed our family sauna + jump in the lake in front of the Mökki, and it knocked both baby and toddler down for a good nap. Perfect!
- Mumin Cafes are your best bet to enjoy a relaxing coffee while your little ones play in the kid area (there are 3 or 4 in Helsinki, so you even have some variety). This and this were our main pit-stops everyday.
- August is NOT summer! Alex convinced me to pack for summer… well, for someone who’s not Finnish, summer in Helsinki is long pants and layers—and always, always a raincoat in your backpack. Live and learn.
This is it! There are so many more things to do with kids in Helsinki—like Korkeasaari if you like zoos, or Seurasaari island to see and feed birds and squirrels—but they’ll have to wait until next year!