Helsinki is bursting with colourful, modern and vibey scenes with built-up urban areas as well as refreshing forest and waterfront views. Some areas are quaint and vibey with interesting architecture, and everywhere is worth exploring. The city is walkable but public transport makes getting around – even to areas outside the city – a breeze. While expats often look at central areas such as Ullanlinna and Kamppi, they shouldn't dismiss cities a bit further out. Whether it's to live in or for a getaway or day trip, nearby cities such as cosy, medieval Porvoo are not to be missed.
An expat’s budget will be the biggest factor determining where they live in Helsinki. Other things to consider include proximity to work and schools, availability of amenities, and personal lifestyle choices.
These are some of the city’s most popular expat neighbourhoods.
City centre in Helsinki
Built in the first half of the 20th century in response to a major housing crisis, Töölö is an excellent example of Nordic Classicism and is home to a wide array of trendy boutiques and cafés. Set against Töölö Bay, this is a beautiful area to live in. It’s a vibrant area where residents can buy fresh produce from the small local market square. Excellent transport links make getting around the rest of Helsinki easy. Töölö is split into two neighbourhoods: expats can stroll the park and see the Sibelius Monument in the northern neighbourhood or visit Parliament House in the southern part.
This once-rundown Helsinki neighbourhood used to house many of the city’s lower-income residents. Today, it is one of the most densely populated urban areas in Finland, making it the epicentre of city culture in Helsinki and the birthplace of many global trends. Kallio is also a laid-back residential area which is popular with bohemian artists, young creatives, professionals and expats alike.
It’s home to an eclectic assortment of art galleries and boutique shops, and those who enjoy eating out will find a host of good restaurants in the area, with several specialising in Middle Eastern cuisine. There's always something to see and do in Kallio, be it a concert at Kallio Church or exploring the artisanal crafts and local delicacies in Hakaniemi Market Hall.
Both the young and elderly reside alone in the small apartments of Kallio. Lower rental prices in Kallio drew in many new arrivals, although the area's growing popularity and gentrification mean that rents are not as low as they once were.
Outer suburbs in Helsinki
Located in eastern Helsinki, just a few kilometres from the city centre, Itäkeskus offers functional and affordable apartment accommodation. The highlight of the area is the Itis shopping centre, one of the largest shopping centres in the Nordic region.
Itäkeskus is served by efficient public transport and road links which make it easy to get to other parts of the city.
Not far from the city centre lies the ecological heart of Helsinki. Viikki is home to some of the finest parks and natural areas in Helsinki, including the Viikki-Vanhankaupunginlahti nature reserve.
Helsinki’s university is located here and is a hive of activity, providing a large number of jobs for residents. There are also several good schools in the area, making it a great neighbourhood in which to raise a family.
Nearby cities to Helsinki
While Vantaa is outside of the city centre, the area of Kartanonkoski is a quiet and peaceful leafy suburb. Families may find this to be an ideal area due to the proximity of a well-reputed international school. There are also bus links into the city.
For residents who find Helsinki rent too high, Espoo offers a more affordable alternative. It is outside of Helsinki, but the efficient bus and train links make the commute to the capital comfortable and easy. Expats may even be able to find jobs in Espoo itself – it is Finland's second-largest city and municipality, and affords all the modern conveniences and comforts.
Are you an expat living in Helsinki?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Helsinki. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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