City guide to Helsinki with kids. Aleasha Kimber of blog Little Traveller Things is an Online Fashion Editor and mother of a 2 year old and 4 month old. While she agrees her current hometown of Helsinki is impressive in the winter, it is best to visit in the summer for the many free parks, outdoor areas and delicious pastries. Aleasha tells suitcases&strollers her city secrets to discovering Finland’s capital, Helsinki, with kids.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Helsinki with kids?
Helsinki feels a bit like a secret city. It's never overcrowded and feels very safe with children. It's small enough that you can get away from it all but big enough that something is always happening, especially during the summer months.
Where is your favourite place to take kids in Helsinki?
We like to go to Cafe Regatta for korvapuusti which is a delicious Finnish cinnamon bun. What's special about the cafe is that it is a tiny eclectic cabin on the waters’ edge and you can sit looking out over the Baltic Sea while huddled under blankets around an outdoor fire that you can also toast sausages on. It's lovely in both summer and winter.
Where are your kids’ favourite places in Helsinki to hang out?
There are lots of beautiful parks and playgrounds in Helsinki, lots of green open space and Helsinki is surrounded by water.
My daughter likes to catch a ferry over to one of the many islands in summer, for example to Suomenlinna for a picnic and an ice cream.
What is the best free activity to do in Helsinki with kids?
Linnanmaki is a lovely amusement park which offers some free rides for little ones but it is also a wonderful place to visit in summer months just for a wander around.
Like much of Helsinki it only operates on limited days and times during the winter.
Also the ferries that I mentioned earlier are free for parents travelling with a stroller so a day trip to an island can be a completely free activity.
Where is the best place to take kids in Helsinki when the weather is bad?
You'll see a theme here in that I like to go to good places to eat! Moko Market is a cosy indoor cafe and home store which serves great coffee but also has a little indoor play house for children.
The Helsinki Design Museum is excellent and often hosts events that are enjoyable for both adults and children.
Sea Life Helsinki is a great aquarium for children to visit on rainy days.
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Helsinki with kids?
There are a lot of great summer outdoor pop up cafes. My favourites are the ones that open around Töölönlahti Bay. Kahvila Tyyni was my favourite spot to relax with the kids after a walk around the bay. It's even open on Sundays unlike much of the Helsinki cafe scene.
It's a basic little coffee and cake shack with a large deck which looks out over the glistening bay, SUP [stand up paddle board] boarders will paddle by and there is lots of open space for kids to run around and explore. It has a lovely rustic charm about it with a lazy hammock swinging in the nearby trees.
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Helsinki experience?
During winter months I rug the children up in thermals, a snow suit, hat and gloves and head for a Cafe Regatta for korvapuusti and karelian pie which is a Finnish pastry stuffed with rice and served with egg butter. Wrap up in blankets by the fire and take in the sight of the surrounding sea while it is frozen solid.
Head to one of the many wonderful outdoor parks. Finns say there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing so the parks will have children playing no matter how many degrees below zero it is.
If there is snow, find an opportunity to take the children sledding or go for a skate at Icepark in Railway Square.
For a truly authentic Finnish experience you should warm up at the end the day with a sauna. Most accommodation is likely to have one.
Where are your top places for family-friendly restaurants for kids in Helsinki?
Most restaurants in Helsinki are very family friendly.
Stockmann department store has a great restaurant on the 8th floor. You will find lots of parents and children there for lunch on rainy days. It is spacious, has an excellent menu which changes daily and has a little TV corner for kids. It also has great nappy change and nursing facilities for mothers with young babies.
Putte's is a pizzeria and bar which adults can enjoy but it also works well with children. It is a family favourite of ours.
What are your tips for kids' shops in Helsinki?
Marimekko has great children's clothing and it is distinctly Finnish so I would definitely recommend picking something colourful up there.
Visit the Moomin shop for some more iconic Finnish collectables that all children (even the grown up kind) will love.
I also love the Finnish kids clothing you will find at Harakanpesä Shop. There you will find something a little bit different and they have some lovely pieces of Finnish design from smaller brands.
Which is the best place to find family friendly accommodation in Helsinki with kids?
I would recommend an apartment over a hotel with children. Töölö or the Helsinki Design District would be great areas to find an apartment from the likes of Airbnb.
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to Helsinki with kids?
I think one week in Helsinki would be enough to have a good look around with kids. You could even squeeze in a lot over a long weekend.
When is the best time of year to visit Helsinki with kids?
Although Finland is known for its cold weather I actually think it is the most enjoyable in summer. July is a lovely month to visit to get to enjoy all the summer pop ups and visit the islands at their best. There is a great vibe in the city over the summer months; it's completely different!
What is the best way to move around Helsinki with kids?
The tram is brilliant for getting around and for taking in the sights. You also get to ride all public transport for free if you are riding with a child in a stroller.
What are your top 3 family travel tips for families traveling to Helsinki with kids?
· Don't judge a book by its cover. Some of the best cafes and restaurants might not look like anything special from the outside but often they will surprise you.
· There is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. Pack a lot of layers. It's cold outside but very warm inside.
· I might have said it 3 times but be sure to try korvapuusti from Cafe Regatta. Nobody else can do them the same. They bake them fresh batch after batch. Often there will be a queue out the front door but it's worth the wait!
Images: Petri Artturi Asikainen/Visit Helsinki, Governing Body of Suomenlinna/Lentokuva Vallas Oy, Jussi Hellsten/Visit Helsinki, Aleasha Kimber from Little Traveller Things, Seppo Laakso/Visit Helsinki,Linnanmaki, www.moomin.com, Suomen Ilmakuva Oy /Visit Helsinki