The best places to live in Helsinki
Helsinki is bursting with colourful, modern and vibrant scenes with built-up urban areas backdropped by refreshing forest and waterfront views. 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 preferences.
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 cafes. Set against Töölö Bay, this is a beautiful area to live in. It’s a vibrant neighbourhood 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 one.
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 draw 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 an ideal area thanks to the proximity of a 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.
►Find out what there is to know about renting and accommodation in Helsinki
"I would say that the standard of housing in Helsinki is higher than in many other cities in Europe. It’s common to live in a rented flat provided privately, or by a real estate company or the city. There are several different platforms to find suitable housing."
Daiki is a Japanese expat in Finland. Check out his interview with Expat Arrivals where he talks about his experiences in Helsinki.
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.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.