With its vibrant neighborhoods, saunas, and innovative and minimalistic design, there’s a lot to love about Helsinki. Like other Scandinavian cities, however, this Finnish city has a reputation for being pretty expensive. Though Helsinki doesn’t seem like a budget-friendly destination at first glance, you can still enjoy your time there, no matter how tight your funds are. Here’s how.

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THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU’LL STAY

Hotel prices in Helsinki can be pretty high. For a budget-friendly trip, consider couchsurfing or using Airbnb instead. You can also use booking.com to explore other options. You’ll find hostels costing anywhere from $30 to $90 per night. If you stay in or near the center of the city, you’ll be within walking distance of many popular sights, museums, parks, and markets.

WANDER AROUND

Helsinki is a compact, yet vibrant, city. By traversing the city on foot, you can gaze at stunning minimalistic architecture that would also look great on your Instagram feed. Depending on the season, Helsinki’s flat ground makes it perfect for exploring by bike. You can get a city bike pass for a day, week, or season.

Luckily, Helsinki’s public transport is also simple and affordable. Trams are the most common form of public transportation in the city, and a single ticket will usually cost you less than three euro. You can also purchase tickets that are valid for a duration of one to seven days. The one-day ticket is nine euro. Wander around a bit by foot, bike, or tram, and see what you discover.

CHECK OUT FREE ATTRACTIONS

Don’t overlook free attractions. Virka Gallery, the Helsinki City Museum, and the Bank of Finland Museum are always free, and other museums have special deals on certain days. The Museum of Finnish Architecture, Finnish Museum of National History, and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art are free on the first Friday of the month during certain hours, and the National Museum of Finland is free from 4-6 p.m. every Friday. For those who love news media or are interested in learning about the history of free speech in Finland, visiting the Päivälehti Museum is also free.

If you’re interested in many of the attractions that aren’t free, you might save money by purchasing a Helsinki Card, which provides admission to more than 25 attractions, discounts on other tourist hotspots, and free transportation. There are three different duration options available: one day, two days, or three days. A one-day ticket costs 48 euro. If you love museums and plan to travel to other locations in Finland, you might prefer purchasing the Museum Card, which provides access to more than 250 museums in Finland, including more than 40 in Helsinki. A card that’s valid for one week costs 39 euro, and one that’s valid for one year costs 64.90 euro.

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EXPERIENCE NATURE

In addition to being known for its design and architecture, Helsinki is also great for nature lovers. Kaivopuisto Park is one of the most cherished parks in Helsinki. With its rock cliffs and gorgeous views of the sea, Kaivopuisto is a great place to relax, play sports, or have a picnic in the summer — it’s also a popular sledding location in the winter. In addition, the park is home to Ursa Observatory, where you can use the telescopes to view stars and solar phenomena for four euro.

Suomenlinna is another affordable natural area. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular historical attractions in the country. It was originally used as a sea fortress, and its construction began in 1748. There is no admission fee — you will just need to pay 5 euro for the ferry ride there.

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EMBRACE MARKET HALLS

Food in Helsinki tends to be on the pricey side. While eating in restaurants will cost you a decent amount, visiting the city’s market halls will provide you with more budget-friendly options. Visit grocery stores for bread, cheese, and other foods to save money. If you’re looking for more affordable restaurants, eat a blini (Russian pancake) or dumplings for less than 10 euros at BLINIt, or visit Ravintola Factory Aleksi at lunchtime for an affordable buffet that includes salads, hot and cold food options, juice, desserts, and coffee.

SPEND TIME IN SAUNAS

Experiencing saunas in Helsinki is a great way to learn more about Finnish culture. This traditional Finnish experience is not only viewed as a great way to relax, but also as a way to cleanse the mind; they are an important part of everyday life. Various public saunas are located in Helsinki, such as Sauna Arla, well-known and founded in 1929, and Kotiharjun Sauna, which costs 13 euro. As a classic Finnish activity, visiting a sauna is well worth the expense.

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Though spending less in Finland’s capital city might require additional planning and effort, you won’t run out of budget-friendly things to do there.

Header image by Joakim Honkasalo

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Paige Sheffield
Paige Sheffield is a writer and traveler from Michigan. Though she’s traveled to various places, she often finds herself going back to China. She has lived in Beijing and Chengdu. Regardless of where she goes, she’s always on the lookout for the best places to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.