Sprawling across a granite peninsula on the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is a fascinating capital city with a storied past. It’s home to outstanding museums that will appeal to all ages, as well as a historic amusement park that has been entertaining families since the 1950s. If you’re traveling with kids in tow, there’s plenty to keep them entertained, without having to overlook the city’s major attractions.
In this guide, we’ll introduce 7 of the top places to visit in Helsinki with kids, from a centuries-old fortress to a state-of-the-art science center. If you’re looking for a comfortable place to stay in the city, it’s easy to find rentals online that are suitable for families, whether you want to be in the center of Helsinki or the surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to compact apartments within walking distance of museums, you can find spacious homes near ferry terminals, ready to be whisked to Helsinki’s offshore islands.
Focusing on the culture and ethnography of Finland, this impressive museum features plenty of family-friendly exhibits that include interactive cave paintings, a miniature medieval village, and the opportunity to take a “future presidential portrait”. Kids can peer through binoculars to see what Finland looked like before the arrival of humans and get up close to toys dating all the way back to the 11th century. If possible, coincide your visit with the Saturday afternoon Detectives of the National Museum tour, which sees kids solving mysteries of the past.
Originally opening to the public in 1950, Linnanmäki is a beloved amusement park that’s still popular with families today. It’s home to more than 40 rides and attractions that will appeal to kids both big and small, as well as arcade games and an outdoor stage that hosts summer concerts. If there are two rides not to miss, it’s the 1896-built German carousel and the Vuoristorata, a wooden roller coaster that has been at the park for more than five decades.
Helsinki is home to one of the oldest zoos in the world, the Korkeasaari Zoo, which occupies an island to the east of the city center. It was established in 1889 and is now home to more than 150 different animal species, including snow leopards, European bison, and Siberian tigers. The Korkeasaari Zoo is a great place for families to learn about Finnish fauna while getting up close to bears, wolverines, and reindeer that are native to the country. The ferry ride to the zoo is all part of the experience and offers wonderful views of the city skyline.
One of Helsinki’s most famous historical attractions is this 18th-century sea fortress, which sprawls across a series of islands to the southeast of the city center. Designed to protect the city against Russian expansionism, it is now designated as one of Finland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is a popular spot for summer picnics. Not only can kids climb atop the defensive walls and see old cannons, but they can explore the underground tunnels and a restored 1930s submarine. Crisscrossing the islands are several walking trails, so you can really make a whole day of it.
This museum focused on Finland’s diverse natural world is another one that kids will love, with exhibits dedicated to dinosaurs and enormous mammals from the Ice Age. They can learn about the Big Bang theory and journey through the Arctic while observing stuffed animals in recreated natural habitats. The Finnish Museum of Natural History also features a fascinating exhibit detailing the climate change research being conducted at the University of Helsinki.
Occupying an island to the west of Helsinki’s city center is this living history museum, which brings to life Finnish traditions from days gone by. It is clustered with cottages, farm buildings, and manor houses relocated from across Finland and dating from the 18th to 20th centuries. On arrival at the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum (which has been going strong since 1909), you’ll be transported to an idyllic setting in rural Finland, with costumed characters going about their daily business. Kids will particularly love the museum store with its old-fashioned sweets.
While it’s a bit of a trek from the city center (20 minutes by train), this interactive and hands-on science center is well worth the effort. It encompasses both indoor and outdoor exhibits that invite kids to explore different scientific concepts and ideas, including everything from digestion to money and the environment. You can learn about artificial intelligence in the “Me, Myself and AI” exhibit or discover the “Power of Play” before exploring solutions for sustainable development in the “Circular Factory”. Heureka also boasts a digital planetarium where family-friendly films are screened.
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