11 Free and Cheap Date Ideas to Try in Helsinki

Helsinki at dusk | © Tiina Kaarela / Good Free Photos
Helsinki at dusk | © Tiina Kaarela / Good Free Photos
Photo of Jessica Wood
9 October 2017

Helsinki may be an expensive city to live in, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of options for impressing a date when you are broke. Finland’s natural affinity for the simple and its love of the outdoors can work in your favour for affordable dating. Here are some of the top places to go and things to do in Helsinki when dating on a budget.

Stroll through Sibelius Park

There’s nothing more romantic than a simple walk in the park, and Sibelius Park in Töölö has plenty to offer. There are the stunningly landscaped gardens, open greens for picnics or games, cafés for a bite to eat, and live musicians at the Sibelius monument. And, for sporting enthusiasts, there are plenty of paths for jogging or cycling together.

Sibelius Park in Helsinki | © Markus Albrecht / Flickr

Relax at the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden

For something a little different try the botanical garden run by the University of Helsinki, where you can see a huge range of rare and exotic plants and flowers at any time of year. The rainforest room is particularly inviting on a cold winter’s day. The outdoor gardens are free for visitors and the regular ticket price for the glasshouses is 9€. However, entry is free every first Friday of the month from 2pm until 5pm.

Kaisaniemi Botanical Garden | © Alexandre Duret-Lutz / Flickr

Picnic under the Midnight Sun

Take advantage of Finland’s unique summer weather by going out for a late-night picnic in full daylight. In Helsinki, the Midnight Sun is visible until as late as 3am around midsummer. Any of Helsinki’s parks or open spaces provide a chance for a unique picnic date.

Take in some art and culture

Impress your date with your artistic appreciation and cultural knowledge at any one of Helsinki’s museums or galleries. You can find everything from classical art to architecture throughout the city. Most of the museums have reasonably high ticket prices, but you can cheat the system a little by checking their websites for free entry windows or deals. The National Museum, for example, has free entry on Fridays from 4pm until 6pm.

Exhibit at Ateneum Art Museum | © Ilkka Jukarainen / Flickr

Have lunch at a market hall

For cheap meals, you can’t get much better than one of Helsinki’s three market halls, which provide locally sourced, inexpensive and organic food. Each one has at least one café or restaurant for a casual, low-budget meal. And, if you’re planning to cook a romantic meal together, the market hall is the perfect place to find quality ingredients. The one located on the South harbour is particularly good for finding the best fish in the city.

Old Market Hall | © Discovering Finland / Flickr

Escape to Pihlajasaari Island

There are many small islands just off-shore of Helsinki, but you’d need your own boat to reach most of them. One exception is Pihlajasaari Island, which is only ten minutes away from Helsinki (on a €6 ferry), yet feels a world away from the city. On Pihlajasaari you can relax at the beach, swim in the ocean, go camping or have some smoked fish from the local restaurant, which has its own smokery.

Beach huts at Pihla Island | © IK's World Trip / Flickr

Have a drink at the library

Yes, there is a place in Helsinki where you can drink while browsing through library books! Sivukirjasto in the Kallio district is a combination of pub and library and serves over 100 types of beer. Not only is it a quirky spot for a date, it is also relaxing, and an ideal place to take someone who loves books.

Watch the stars at Kaivopuisto

The sky may be bright during the summer but during the winter months in Helsinki it is dark for up to 20 hours of the day. You can take advantage of this gloomy weather by going to the Ursa observatory in Kaivopuisto park, where for only 4€ guides will allow you to look through the huge telescope and see the moon, stars and planets.

Kaivopuisto | © kallerna / WikiCommons

Cycle along the shore line

One of the best ways to see Helsinki is by bike, and almost every road in the city has separate cycle paths. Taking a cycle tour along the coastline offers some beautifully romantic views. There are also plenty of cafés you can stop at for refreshments.

Walk to the top of Helsinki

Helsinki isn’t exactly known for its vantage points as almost all the city is entirely flat. One exception is the Malminkartano Hill, an artificial hill built on top of a former landfill. By climbing up the rainbow stairs (and admiring a public art project at the same time), you can take in the best view of the city, or go for a picnic, hike, or bike ride. In the winter, it is one of the best spots in the city for sledging.

View from Malminkartano Hill in winter | © Timo Tervo / Flickr

Listen to some hipster poetry

The hipster bars and coffee shops in Kallio are known for being highly affordable and having a laid-back atmosphere. You can also have a cheap night out at an open mic night or poetry reading. And if your date is impressed by artists, why not show off by reading one of your own creations?

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