Is Helsinki expensive? Everything I spent in 24 hours

View of Helsinki Cathedral, a large place of worship, in the evening with a view up the steps

Visiting the capital of Finland and wondering “Is Helsinki expensive”?

Whether you’re on a city break or are on a wider trip (perhaps heading up to Lapland to visit Santa Claus Village), Helsinki’s well worth visiting. 

BUT, that said, it’s not the cheapest European capital, with the average price of food, hotel rooms and attractions being higher than many other places on the continent. 

In this article, I’ll go into EVERYTHING I spent in 24 hours in this Finnish city on my recent trip to the Baltics and Finland. 

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Is Helsinki expensive? A quick overview

Enjoying Suomenlinna for FREE!

Here’s what I spent in 24 hours in Helsinki: 

  • Helsinki 1-day travelcard (valid on all transport in zones A and B, which covers the city centre): €9
  • VALO Hotel and Work accommodation (in Zone B, around a half-hour tram from the centre): €70 – this didn’t include breakfast or spa/ sauna access
  • Fat Ramen takeaway: I paid €25 for delivery and some extra edamame beans but if you’re dining in, you could get ramen for €13
  • Spa/ sauna access at the hotel: €20
  • Joe and the Juice coffee and pastry: €8
  • Walking tour: €10 tip for the guide
  • Coffee and pastry in Johan & Nyström: €9
  • Train ticket to Helsinki Airport: €4

I did a few free activities in Helsinki: 

  • went inside Helsinki Cathedral 
  • went inside Uspenski Cathedral
  • took boat to Somelinna (included in my transport card) 
  • walked around Somelinna

I also wanted to go to the National Library of Finland, but I didn’t have time. 

Cost of Travel in Helsinki: Is Finland expensive? 

So, while the city can be on the expensive side smart budgeting can go a long way. 

Your travel costs will vary greatly depending on your choices regarding accommodation, dining, sightseeing, and transport – I was quite pleased with how I budgeted while still making sure I did everything I wanted to!

Accommodation Costs

The sauna and hot tub at VALO Hotel

Stay costs in Helsinki can fluctuate broadly. 

As mentioned, I paid €70 for VALO Hotel & Work, which was quite a nice, trendy space, with free wi-fi, a comfortable bed and good facilities.

My rate didn’t include breakfast and it was set a little out of the city centre (this saved me money, and the transportation costs weren’t too high – staying in the downtown area will be more expensive). 

Of course, if you’re travelling as a couple, this can be split – if you’re a single person you may get small discounts on hotel rooms but unfortunately, you will always end up spending a bit more! 

The best deal I’ve found for accommodation is Eurohostel, a hostel and budget hotel.

On a random Tuesday in February (off-season) I found that private rooms (with shared bathroom) cost €44 per night and a bed in a six-person dorm room costs just €24 per night. Of course, these rates can raise significantly during peak season and at weekends. 

If you’re looking for a modern, 3* hotel in the city centre, the best deal I’ve found is Hotel Finn, which comes in at €106 on the same Tuesday night in February. 

The best value five-star property I’ve found is Marski by Scandic. The most basic room starts at €113 on the same Tuesday night in February, with rates rising to €215 for the most luxurious rooms.

Food and Dining

Coffee and the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever eaten at Johan & Nyström

Helsinki isn’t known for its low food prices, but more and more budget-friendly places are popping up daily. 

If you can, try to time your trip to coincide with a Restaurant Day! These days happen four times per year and, on the day, anyone can open their own pop-up restaurant. 

I got takeout from Fat Ramen on the first night, which cost me €13 – I didn’t think that was too pricey for an excellent bowl of ramen. 

The second day, I didn’t eat all that much as I was so busy exploring, but pastries and coffee set me back €8-9 per time. I highly recommend the cafe Johan & Nyström for amazing cinnamon rolls – there are a few around the city.

I would recommend scheduling in one or two coffee shops into your trip to Helsinki – they’re an integral part of Finnish culture and the pastries are usually very tasty and filling (plus, Finnish people drink the most coffee of any nation in the world!). 

At the airport, I had lounge passes with my credit card to use up so I dined there for free. 

Here are some cheaper places to eat in Helsinki: 

  • Fafas: Known as the best falafel in town 
  • Putte’s Pizza: A popular pizzeria with decent prices. 
  • Street Gastro: A sandwich joint.

Alcoholic drinks 

Honestly, if you’re visiting Helsinki on a budget, I’d recommend avoiding alcohol entirely.

I did see glogg (Finnish mulled wine) at the Christmas market for €6 (which was the same price as Tallinn!) but both a pint of beer and a glass of wine clocks in at around €8 in city centre venues. 

Transport and Travel Expenses

The snow-covered island of Suomelinna

Getting around Helsinki is convenient using the efficient public transportation network, including buses, trams, the metro, and local trains. A one-day travel card is €9 and covers unlimited travel on public transport within the city centre (zones A and B, which should cover all the destinations you want to visit). 

If you want to take a taxi, a 20-minute ride from Helsinki Cathedral to VALO Hotel and Work started at €18.80 on my Bolt app.

The main attractions of the city centre are largely walkable.  

Museums and Galleries

Entry to museums and galleries have ticket prices generally ranging from €8 to €15. Here are some of the main museums and their costs: 

If you’re planning on visiting a few museums, take a look at the Helsinki Card, which offers free entry to numerous attractions, public transport and discounts on other attractions and experiences.

​Other attractions

The interior of Upenski Cathedral

I did find quite a few free things to do in Helsinki. 

My top tip would be to take the boat over to Soumelinna. All you need is a travel card (costing €9 for 24 hours) or you can purchase a ticket for the trip on its own. 

​While it was chilly, the boat trip was an experience in itself – I saw the city centre of Helsinki slip away and its many frozen islands en-route to Soumelinna.  

Soumelinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a fortress on an island that has been under Swedish, Russian and Finnish control. Walking around it is completely free, although museums are at an extra cost. 

Helsinki’s two main churches, the Helsinki Cathedral (fondly also known as the Ikea Church) and the Upenski Cathedral, are free to enter – although be mindful of opening hours. 

Libraries are also free to enter, including the National Library of Finland. This was closed on the day I was there but it looks beautiful! 

Whenever I visit new European cities, I always like to do a walking tour; they’re the best way to learn about the city and get some hidden stories and tales that you won’t find out elsewhere!

I used Red Umbrella Tours in Helsinki. They operate on a tips basis – please do give a decent tip as it’s the only way that they can run and how the guides make a living! I gave my guide €10. 

I didn’t visit the Allas Sea Pool (which costs €18 to enter), but I wish I’d had the time to; it’s a complex of saunas where you can dunk into the Baltic Sea – very Finnish! I used the spa at my hotel instead.

Getting to Helsinki

Boat from Tallinn to Helsinki

The cost of flights to Helsinki can be quite low, especially for direct flights from large cities like London. I always use Skyscanner to check prices. 

I took the boat from Tallinn to Helsinki over the Baltic Sea (booked on Direct Ferries) which cost around €50, was very swanky and took just two hours – if you’re able to squeeze beautiful Tallinn too, it’s worth visiting both in the same trip (flights to Tallinn are often cheaper, too!). 

FlixBus also runs from Tallinn to Helsinki via the ferry – if you’re on a budget, this might be a cheaper way to get from one city to another, with tickets costing just €30. If you’re planning on travelling outside of Helsinki, to Turku for example, consider taking Flixbus which starts at just €6. 

For travel to the airport, trains leave Helsinki Station frequently throughout the day, cost just €4 and take 40 minutes – much cheaper than taking a taxi, and around the same time too! 

Daily budget for Helsinki

View of Helsinki coastline

In my 24 hours in Helsinki, I spent a grand total of €152. 

This included food, coffee, attractions, transport, accommodation and getting to the airport. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you could keep costs under €100 per day by opting for a cheaper hotel (even better if you can split it with your travel companion!).

However, I spent very minimal amounts on food and attractions, so I don’t think you could budget that much on these without sacrificing your experience. 

Is Helsinki cheaper than Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen? 

Helsinki, while often lumped together with Scandinavian cities, isn’t typically as expensive as neighbours like Stockholm, Oslo or Copenhagen – which are among the most expensive cities in Europe (and the world!). 

You’ll find that travel expenses for a one-week trip in these cities are higher, particularly in terms of accommodation and dining. 

For instance, while a backpacker could budget around €50-70 per day in Helsinki, the same lifestyle in Stockholm or Copenhagen could push daily costs to over €80.

Is Helsinki more expensive than Tallinn? 

Tallinn Christmas Market

In comparison to Tallinn or other Baltic capital cities, Helsinki comes out as more expensive. 

Although only a short ferry ride away, the price for basic goods and services in Helsinki is significantly higher. 

In fact, many travellers opt to stay in Tallinn and visit Helsinki on a day trip to keep costs down!

​Estonia is the most expensive of the Baltic countries, so Riga (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania) are even cheaper. 

Seasonal travel 

In Helsinki, tourist seasons dictate the cost quite assertively. 

Summer months, with their extended daylight hours and warmer weather, beckon tourists and push prices upwards. 

So, if you visit during the off-peak seasons, particularly autumn or early spring, you might find more reasonable rates for accommodation and attractions.

When I visited, it was a little more expensive due to the festive season (I was there in early December). For the cheapest rates, visit in the winter months of January or February – just be mindful of the costs! 

Tipping in Helsinki

Although I’ve mentioned tipping your tour guide, generally you don’t need to tip waitstaff or barstaff in Helsinki (good to know if you’re coming from the United States). Wages are good in Finland, and there isn’t a tipping culture. 

So, is Helsinki expensive? 

Helsinki may not be a cheap place: it is more expensive than other European capitals, but not quite as pricey as those in Scandinavia. 

Plus, with a few travel hacks to find affordable options for hotels and food and pre-booking accommodation, budget travel is possible, at least to an extent! 

If you’d like to know more, feel free to check out my video about the costs of my day in Helsinki!