Aside from spiralling national debt and the inability of anyone earning a normal wage to get a mortgage, one of the main problems with the global economic downturn, for intrepid travellers at least, is having less money to spend on exploring far away places.
But being a bit strapped for cash doesn’t mean you have to miss out on visiting those places you’ve always dreamed about. As long as you can afford the price of your airfare, the creative traveller will always find a way to make what little money they have last.
It’s possible to get free entry to many of Helsinki’s museums. Friday is a good day to get your dose of Finnish cultural history as admission to the Tennis Palace of Art Museum, the Meilahti Art Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture is free all day.
Alternatively, if you show up at the National Museum of Finland or the Museum of Culture after 5pm on a Tuesday, they will again let you in without charging!
For another gratis cultural fix, churches offer an excellent insight into a country’s history, heritage and architecture. The famous Lutheran Cathedral on Senate Square is worth a look, as is the impressive Temppeliaukion Church, which is carved entirely from the living rock.
Unfortunately Helsinki is too far south for you to be able to see the Northern Lights but you can still experience the slightly bizarre feeling of being able to sit outside and read a book by natural daylight at midnight during the summer. The fairytale feel of the eternal summer daylight is equally matched by the foreboding quality of the winter months, when the sun barely manages to break across the horizon.
Spilling off the land and into the ragged coastal scenery, as Helsinki does, the natural geography of the city is an attraction in itself and makes for plenty of sea swimming opportunities.
There are a number of sandy beaches that are very popular during the summer (and often very busy). Hietaniemi beach is one of the best so you will need to arrive early in the day to stake out a good spot. There are plenty of quieter alternatives though, if you feel like swimming in a bit more peace.
This is a fantastic free mode of transport that should be in more cities around the world! For a two Euro deposit (which you get back on safe return of the bike) you can hire a bike from one of the 26 CityBike stands scattered around the city and cycle away.
The stands are all around the city and you simply return the bike, chain it up again and claim back your deposit. Wearing a cycle helmet is not compulsory but can be hired as well if you’d like to.
Finland Lantern Festival
Taking place 15 days after the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival celebrates spring and the arrival of light – a big deal after several months of almost constant darkness. The free event ends the new year celebrations with a bang and features music, food and, of course, lots of lanterns.
The largest pride celebration in the country, the Helsinki Pride Week is a major event that takes place every summer in late June. Attracting thousands of visitors from across Finland and beyond, the week has a busy programme of exhibitions, discussion groups, parades and more for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Festive markets are a feature of many northern European countries and nowhere more so than in Scandinavia. In Helsinki there are not one but three markets that all take place one after the other. The first is the Women’s Market, which takes places at the start of December and focuses on arts, crafts and food produced by Finland’s women.
The St Thomas Christmas Market follows in mid-December in Esplandi park and the festivities conclude with the Indoor Christmas Market at the Old Student’s Hall which closed just before Christmas.
Hotel Deals in Helsinki
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Photo by DamienHR