Free Summer Helsinki for Families

3.7 park lunch

There is spring in the air, that means the summer will be here soon too (only another 3 months to go…). To add to my summer feeling, we have been planning our summer holidays (yay!!!). But I think even our hometown Helsinki has tons of fun and affordable things ohn the offer for families during the summer time, both for those living here and those visiting. The public transportation is free for one adult with a child in a stroller, and the city of Helsinki offers a free lunch for children in most of the big playgrounds (bring your own bowl and spoon) at noon during the schools summer break. The meal is to support families when children don’t get a free lunch at school, but all children are welcome.

Behind the links you’ll find my reviews on our favourite destinations for little family outings:

The islands, definitively. Maybe the best one for families is Mustasaari, where you get by taking a bus boat, already an exciting thing. It is a short boat journey to the island with a playground, child-friendly beach, animals (sheep, rabbits and chicken last year), various events, restaurant and overall good facilities. Another obvious choice is the Suomenlinna fort, also reached by ferry. A picnic there is a tradition we definitively will pick up again this year, a shame really, that we never made it there last summer. There are two smaller islands reached by a bridge, Seurasaari and Tervasaari, that I like if there isn’t that much time. On Seurasaari you can easily spend a whole day too, there are squirrels to spot and feed, an open air museum, plenty of nature, bbq places, summer cafes etc. Tervasaari on the other hand is a tiny island by Kruununhaka, so very central, but still a little peaceful oasis for a picnic, watching mats being washed the traditional way or dogs play. Our experience of Harakka island wasn’t the greatest as our timing sucked but I’ve been told they have great Island Adventures for children (programme for 2014 in Finnish here), which we may try with our daughter this year. They also have other nature programme for all ages. We also plan to do some camping on Kaunissaari this summer (as we have been meaning to do already for a couple of years…), which can be reached by a taxi boat from Vuosaari (also a good place for a little excursion with e.g. nice beaches).
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The gardens: There are lovely gardens around here, which are great for all ages. The Winter garden‘s have a long tradition in our family and have the advantage of a fish pond, lovely rose gardens outside and good tables to enjoy your own packed lunch by. Kaisaniemi Botanic Gardens are so centrally located that they are easy to pop in to, loads of hide and seek places and great labyrinth of paths (close by, towards the railway station, there is a little playground and a kiosk too, also not far from the Hakaniemi market and the boats over there), and Marketta Garden in Espoo, which “is the biggest permanent garden and landscape exposition in Finland” but also offer a great statue park for kids to play in as well as a playground. Not quite gardens but presenting something natural anyway: the Haltiala farm (and then there is Fallkulla farm but I’ve yet to blog about that one). Also, there are plenty of playgrounds in Helsinki, which you will find following the link.

Marketta

Haltiala

Winter garden

tram

Child-friendly museums, especially for rainy days: The ones we’ve liked most so far, have been the Tram Museum, Children’s Town in Sederholm House (but it will close for renovations on March 30th), and the Toy Museum in Espoo (free only certain times). Most museums in Helsinki have some day a month free admission. Libraries are good options for rainy days too, most of them have board games and cosy reading areas suitable for the whole family.

Hakaniemi Farmer’s Market, I just love the atmosphere over there. Great cafes and affordable veggies grown closeby, and even porridge and/or soups for a few euro. Why not the Wholesale Markets by the presidential palace too, but they sell a lot more touristy stuff and have higher prices on meals as well. Not too sure about the price on the veggies.
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Children’s events and shows: We are looking forward to the kidsfestival Skiditfestarit, which will be held in Kallio again in July. We loved the activities last year, as they were perfect for the whole family to do together. There was also a concert for children, free as well, which would have been great if it had not been so loud. I’d say the festival is aimed for kids 0-12 years old. Another, more known, but in my opinion also more commercial and less for the whole family (as in parents watch what kids do) festival Lastenfestivaalit is usually held in August. On top of that most events have something for children, it may be worth checking the programme out for e.g. world Village Festival in May, Helsinki day on June 12th and the programme in Alpine Park (Alppipuisto).

16 comments

  1. […] You’ll find there their open hours (staff and toys) and information on which ones serve a free lunch for children (the free lunch link will also give you a few tips on what else there is for families to do for […]

  2. What a wonderful array of things to do! I love the fact that you can get a free lunch while taking the kids to play at the park! And all the lovely gardens!
    Planning travel is always so exciting and nerve wracking I think. I look forward to hearing about what you guys decide to do!

    1. We are still in the middle of some exciting developments that will decide what will happen and how much and where we are able to travel. The one part we will make, at least to some extent happen, is to camp around Finland, we are looking for a bigger tent now. I think the kids will love it, and I’m more game for it now when there is no baby (and the laundry) in our family anymore.

      1. I love to camp,well, in easy ways. I am not one of those sleep under the stars kind of girls. I need showers, toilets (any kind are ok), and a roof (even if its canvas) over my head.

        1. I used to like even those nights under the stars (in Finland there is the “Every mans right” that among others gives you the right to camp everywhere but somebody else’s front yard as long as you don’t harm the nature or somebody’s property) but I don’t feel comfortable doing that with kids. We are looking at getting a bigger tent too, to make it more comfortable. This time we are about to do a bit of a road trip seeing and doing things on the way but staying the nights on well equipped campsites. – No primitive camping in the bush planned for the summer! Still have to see what we actually end up doing.

  3. Oh wow! How awesome is it that they provide a lunch and those are some neat place that are not far from you guys!

    1. Yeah, I love the lunch part, means one less meal to think of and to make. Besides, it’s quite fun, we usually go with a bunch of friends (and most of us in the area know each other anyway) and have a picnic with the kids. And the free part ensures that all kids get at least one warm meal a day. We spent most of last summer in Helsinki, and there really is great places to visit quite close by!

  4. Spring is a wonderful time of year and now I am thinking how I can make a trip to Helsinki happen before the end of JUNE!! Have you decided where you will go for your summer trip?

    1. Still talking 😉

      How about coming up to celebrate Vappu,1st of May? The (crazy) celebrations are on Vappu eve (30/4) and Vappu markets and picnic are on 1st. As that is a public holiday, most people like me will take Friday off as well – and that should totally apply to Italy as well (????) ;). The other good option would be to end your stay in Europe by experiencing Midsummer and the never-ending (well, the sun goes down here in the south, it just doesn’t get dark) day.

      1. I’m listening…May is pretty free at the moment, I will look into it!

        1. Wow, can’t believe you’re talking about summer all of a sudden when you were only just showing us last summer, then winter! Very excited to hear about your summer holidays in a few months.

          Wish I was going with Bakeritalia’s family to see the never-ending day!

          1. That is what living with four *real* seasons is like, there is variation. Lovely for most parts, annoying especially when it comes to children’s clothes and you buy clothes that they can wear for 3 months, then the next seasons comes and when the same season is there again, the clothes are too small.

            But we have really had some lovely sunny spring days lately. Too bad to see the weather forecast predicting heavy snow/slash fall and below zero temperatures on the weekend again. That is early spring though.

            I am pretty sure have covered most of Asia soon, maybe it is time to head over to Europe for a change? 🙂

            1. Oh yeah, the kid’s clothes would definitely be a downside. But on the other hand it’s nice to have distinct seasons.

              1. Oh man, I sounded like a real whinger! I suppose that was an effect of going through all the kids clothes just before 🙂 I actually like the seasonal change, and when not here, I miss it – unlike many others.

                1. I’ve heard much, much worse whinging (including from my own self). That hardly counts! But I did just realise how great it is to be able to have the kids in the same wardrobe for the whole year. 🙂

                  1. Cool, there was some good that came out of that! 😀

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