Purchasing a tourist card is something to consider when taking a city break but is it good value or do you worry you may end up visiting a whole host of mediocre museums to ensure you have saved money?
Having tried these cards on several European city breaks, I can honestly say they have certainly been worth having, particularly if you opt for the 72 hour card, which is proportionately much better value.
In Helsinki I was given a complimentary 72 hour Helsinki Card for my own use, courtesy of Visit Helsinki: my husband Dougie purchased his own. The cost of one card is 64 euros for 72 hours (54 for 48 hours, 44 for 24 hours).
We tried not to make sightseeing decisions based purely on whether they were now ‘free’ but this is a hard habit to break. One of the great advantages of the card, however, is that, if a museum doesn’t inspire, you don’t have the overwhelming urge to stick it out because ‘we’ve paid so we’d better get our money’s worth’.
How did we use the Helsinki Card?
|Image: Visit Helsinki|
If there is any likelihood of you using public transport in Helsinki, the card will make the whole process so much easier. Yes, you can don your sturdy shoes and walk to many of the attractions in the city but it’s lovely to know that if your feet are aching, you can always take a tram to bring you back to the centre again. On one rainy afternoon, we jumped on a tram and completed a figure of eight around the city until the weather changed.
One of the main attractions in Helsinki is Suomenlinna island – you can’t ‘do’ Helsinki without taking a trip there. With the Helsinki card you don’t need to pay for the ferry (5 euros return)
Another beautiful island is Seurasaari. With our Helsinki card we were able to take the bus to the water’s edge before crossing the bridge on foot – a saving of about 5-6 euros on the return ticket.
Suomenlinna Museum (Free, saving 6.50 euros )
The museum tells the history of the fortress from the 18th century to the present day. Our favourite part was the 25 minute widescreen film which was surprisingly informative. I normally switch off or become fidgety when museums show films but this time I kept my headphones on to the very end – so it must have been good!
Suomenlinna conducted tour (Free, saving 10 euros).
If we had been paying as we go, I doubt we would have chosen to take the tour and yet this proved to be one of the highlights of the day with guide, Michael’s knowledge and sense of humour.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma (Free, saving 12 euros)
An eye-catching building on the outside matches the contemporary work shown within: a variety of changing exhibitions showing the latest developments in visual art. The Face to Face exhibition appealed to me and, in particular, a video exploring the reactions of Alzheimer’s sufferers to a pianist playing music from their youth.
Design Museum (Free entry, saving 10 euros)
An enjoyable, if rather short, canter around Finland’s national design and industrial art museum. We loved the Finnish fashion exhibition and these crazy outfits.
Kunsthalle Helsinki (50% saving on 10 euro ticket)
We made a bee-line for the Taidehalli to see the current Julian Opie exhibition. Despite him being a British artist, the only time we had seen his work up close before had been in the elevators of The Thief Hotel in Oslo. Strong colours, the use of graphic LED animations, huge 3D sculptures and intricate mosaics made for a stunning exhibition.
Sports Museum of Finland (Free, saving 5 euros)
Located at the Olympic stadium, this proved to be a super little museum. Dougie, being more sporty than me, found it all fascinating stuff, reading about all the famous sportsmen including the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi. He also spent an inordinate amount of time playing X Box tennis and downhill skiing, until I had to drag him away as there was a young child eager to have a try. Whilst the Flying Scotsman was hitting the virtual slopes, I rather enjoyed reading about Finland’s more unusual sports such as wife-carrying, mobile phone throwing and swamp volleyball.
Olympic Stadium Tower (3 euros, saving of 2 euros)
A fabulous way to see the views across the city. A quick elevator ride up to the top of the 72 metre tower and Helsinki in all its glory is laid before you. The entry fee also allows you into the stadium itself. I would recommend a cushion for the wooden slatted seats if you were actually going to watch something there.
Finnair SkyWheel (free, saving 12 euros)
Another super way to see Helsinki from on high, the SkyWheel operates all year round. Like all the other attractions we visited during our stay, there were no queues. The ride last 10-12 minutes, taking passengers to a height of about 40m.
What else could we have done?
The choice of a Panorama sightseeing tour by bus (free, saving 31 euros) or a boat trip on the canal route (free, saving 24 euros). I can’t believe we didn’t take the opportunity to choose from either of these amazing offers. Next time…
There were many more ‘free’ museums we could have visited – military, photography, architecture – but there is a limit to what you can reasonably do in 72 hours and still have time to eat, drink and sleep. There were also discounts for attractions such as Helsinki Zoo, Linnanmaki Amusement Park, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, a number of restaurants and a selection of shops.
Not counting transport, we would each have paid about 66 euros for the attractions we visited in three days. If we add in ferries, trams and buses on top of that you can see that 64 euros for a 72 hour card is good value – even more so if we had taken one of the special inclusive tours.
The Helsinki Card will save you money even if, like us, you aren’t trying to fit in as many museums as possible. But the fact that it takes the hassle out of visiting places – not having to find the right money or use credit cards to buy tickets – makes for a less stressful experience. And psychologically, although you have paid an upfront fee, you can’t help but feel you have complimentary access to much of what Helsinki has to offer when you wave that orange card around.
Thank you to Visit Helsinki for my 72 hour card.