Saunders 1865 | Moving to Helsinki

Moving to Helsinki

Are you moving to Helsinki? Founded in 1550, the port city of Helsinki is the most northern capital on the European continent.  Whilst it is a bilingual city, with Finnish and Swedish being the most spoken languages, most of the population speak English as well.  With a well-earned excellent reputation for education, Helsinki is the most populous municipality and urban area in Finland, a country known for wild reindeer, the Northern Lights and icy lakes and, of course, Lapland, in the far north of the country, home to Santa Claus.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Helsinki report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Putting Helsinki on the Map

Finland is sandwiched between Russia and Sweden, with Helsinki located in the south on the shoreline of the Gulf of Finland, only 55 miles across the gulf from Tallin, Estonia.  Helsinki is a small, attractive city with outstanding architecture and is located in the province of Uusimaa.  With an abundance of parks and green areas, the public transport system is efficient, safe and well organised.

  • Trams, the metro, buses, commuter trains and the ferry to Suomenlinna all operate on a single ticket, which can be purchased either from ticket machines, the driver or by sending an SMS text message, proving you are using a Finnish network provider. You can also transfer between vehicles using the same ticket.
  • Many of the buses in eastern Helsinki are feeder lines for the metro, while nearly all other routes end near Helsinki Central Railway Station.
  • 50% of commuters use public transport, while 28% use a private car although 48% of households have access to at least one car.
  • The tram network runs on both dedicated tram lanes and in mixed traffic. It covers the densely populated central districts and a few of the adjacent areas.  More than 50 million tram trips are made every year.
  • The metro links the city to the eastern suburbs, 3 miles are in a tunnel though the centre of the city.
  • The commuter trains run from the city to the north-east and north-west suburbs.
  • City Bikes was opened in 2016, with 50 stations or hubs, and 500 bicycles serving the inner city. It is currently expanding to an additional 100 hubs and 1000 bikes.
  • Helsinki-Vantaa Airport handles over 17 million passengers per annum and is 10.6 miles from the city centre. There are a number of buses running between the city and the airport, the Ring Rail Line railway link runs at 10-minute intervals in peak periods, and taxi ranks are outside Terminals 1 and 2.
  • Helsinki is a flat city, making walking to work, or with the kids at weekends, reasonably easy.
The Areas

Helsinki is a small city – some say it is a large town – with its most expensive real estate closest to the downtown area and the esplanade.  Of course, moving further out to the suburbs is cheaper and the properties are larger.  Gentrification is happening in the capital area in the traditionally rougher districts.  For example, a former industrial area, Vallila, has seen an influx of people and gentrification in the last 20 years and showcases early 20th-century beautifully renovated houses.  The central areas can be categorised: the design district of Designkortteli, shopping and beaches at Kauppatori, the hustle and bustle of Kampii, nature in Toolo, and hipsters in Kallio.

In rented accommodation do not expect to find carpets, curtains or any lights other than kitchen and bathroom lights.  You will, however, find a fridge/freezer and a communal sauna.  Furnished or serviced apartments are generally in good condition, and include utilities, broadband, and full kitchens with modern appliances.  Cleaning and linen services may be included.  Finding adequate housing can be time-consuming and confusing, but using the services of a relocation specialist will be extremely helpful.  Accommodation is generally in the form of apartments, while free standing houses being difficult to find in the city.  Larger family houses with gardens generally involve a long commute to work.

Rentals do not stay on the market for long, so you need to snap them up quickly.  There are an estimated 120,000 expats living in the city.

Image result for map of helsinki neighborhoods


Kaartinkaupunki is in the centre of Helsinki, this area is extremely expensive and close to the Esplanade.  A quiet area housing the well-heeled, it is one of the wealthiest and oldest parts of the city.  The Jugend, gothic-looking buildings date back to the early 1900s.  Climb the hill in Kaivopuisto and take in a great view of the harbour.

Töölö is a vibrant area, home to trendy cafes and boutiques, set against the backdrop of Töölö Bay, forming the sprawling north of the city centre.  It even has its own local market square and is within walking distance to the city.  It is home to the Finnish Parliament House and was the site of the first town planning competitions to be held in Finland.  Töölö comprises Taka-Töölö and Etu-Töölö.

Kamppi is in the very heart of the downtown area, close to public transport, and very popular with expats.

Punavuori is within walking distance to work, but the rentals are lower quality than Kamppi.

Eira, Kulosaari and Kaivopuisto are more expensive areas in the exclusive embassy areas.

Viikki is close to downtown and includes the Vanhankaupunginlahti Nature Reserve and some of the best parks and natural areas in Helsinki.  It is great for families, close to good schools and the university.


Tammisalo is 10km to the city.  It is an expensive but popular residential area.

Kallio, at the eastern end of Helsinki, is one of the most densely populated areas in the city and has undergone a major facelift.  Boutiques, trendy cafes and lower rental prices attract a diverse, young entrepreneurial population.  It should be noted that as a previously low-cost area, the apartments are small.  It is popular with students and has handy tram connections.

Itakeskus is a few miles from the city centre and offers affordable, functional apartments.  Home to the completely enclosed Itis shopping centre, the good transport links makes commuting easy.

Kartanonkoski, a leafy suburb may be too far from the city for some, but this quiet area is ideal for families who need to be near an international school, with good bus links into the city.


Arabia is a new area with good bus and tram connections.  The annual Arabia Street Festival, held in May, celebrates the colourful living space, street art and urban culture, giving an insight to what urban living in the capital may mean in the future.

Hietalahti, close to the harbour features modern apartment blocks with good views.  To the south of the city, this area hosts the most popular flea market in Helsinki, the Helsinki International Bible Centre and a couple of good seafood restaurants.

Helsinki’s Silicon Valley, Ruoholahti has modern buildings and is popular for expats.  A distinctive neighbourhood, built along the western seafront, the businesses rub shoulders with canals and unique shops.  Great transport links to both the capital and Espoo make this well suited for commuters.


Both within walking distance to the CBD, Kruununhaka and Katajanokka are quiet residential areas, with good transport links.  Ullanlinna is an up-market area near to the ocean, with tram connections to downtown.

Haukilahti is just a ten-minute bus ride to the city.  It is popular amongst young well-to-do families.  Lauttasaari is an island between Espoo and Helsinki and is a very popular family area with expensive villas along the seafront and good bus connections.

Who Lives and Works in Helsinki?

With its highly industrialised free market economy and high standard of living, Helsinki attracts expats in the IT and healthcare sectors.  Finland’s main industries include metals, wood, electronics, telecommunications and engineering.  Agriculture is mainly limited to maintaining self-sufficiency in basic crops, due to the harsh climate.  Exports account for nearly one-third of the GDP, so foreign trade is vitally important.  Unemployment stands at around 10%.

The biggest employer in the country is the City of Helsinki, with around 38,000 employees.  While the City employs biologists, doctors, lawyers, engineers and planners in many fields, the most common employment-types are in early childhood education, social services and health care.

Helsinki, and Finland, consistently maintains the highest standards of environmental sustainability and protection.  It has a strong, vibrant democracy and tops a multitude of other countries in terms of press freedom and a lack of corruption.

International and local companies represented here include Microsoft – since their takeover of Nokia; Stora Enso, the world’s largest paper manufacturer; Neste Oil; UPM-Kymmene – the world’s third largest paper manufacturer; Aker Finnyards which manufactures the largest cruise ships in the world; Rovio Mobile – creators of Angry Birds; ABB; Carlsberg and Siemens.

The country’s excellent economic performance is attributed to its high standard of education and sophisticated infrastructure.

The Best Bits

Helsinki has really low crime rates, living costs in line with salaries, and consistently remains one of the best places in the world to live.  The area of the city is made up of two-thirds of the Baltic sea and only one-third of land.  315 islands make up the sea area.  Many Hollywood movies were filmed in parts of the city that resemble St Petersburg, including Gorky Park.

  • Helsinki has endless summer days of up to 19 hours, but winter nights reach almost 18 hours of darkness
  • In a city dating back to 1550, historic sites include the UNESCO-listed Suomenlinna, an inhabited sea fortress, which forms part of the capital.
  • Helsinki Cathedral, built between 1830 and 1852, is a neoclassical Lutheran Cathedral.
  • Exhibitions are held at the cultural centres, the Helsinki City Museum and Helsinki Art Museum. Virka Galley in City Hall also plays host to exhibitions.
  • Helsinki City Museum also comprises Hakasalmi Villa, Burgher’s House, Tram Museum and Worker House Museum.
  • Various theatres host a number of theatre and dance performances.
  • Six cultural centres offer diverse film offerings to all segments of the population. Some of these are open and free to the public.
  • Espa Stage, located in the Esplanade Park, is the busiest summer venue. From May until August, free concerts, dance and many other cultural events are hosted here.
  • Harakka Island has studios for artisans and artists who organise exhibitions on the island during the summer months.
  • Indoor sports facilities include 70 gyms and sports halls, which include four swimming pools, one horse riding stable and three ice rinks.
  • Outdoor sports facilities include sports tracks, fields, beaches, swimming pools, and snow skiing slopes.
  • Music events, such as Kaisafest and the Weekend Festival showcase famous international pop artists and bands.
Bringing the Kids

With one of the highest standards of education in the world, expats will appreciate such a remarkable learning culture.  The proven record of academic excellence and a special culture of more individualised attention helps kids reach their full potential.  There are no private schools here, even the president’s children attend public schools.  The admissions criteria differ from school to school, but it is a given that birth certificates, report cards, residence permits, immunisation records and proof of identity will have to be produced.  Public education is free in Finland, including university.


Lessons are taught in Swedish and Finnish, so these schools should only be considered if the job posting is long term.  The high standard of education throughout the country ensures that there is little difference in education from one school to another, with the exception of international schools.


This is the preferred option for most expats, with the advantage of a familiar curriculum for the children.  There are a number of international schools in Helsinki but many of them are over-subscribed with long waiting lists, and the fees are high.

Housing supplements are available for university or college students living in rented accommodation.

Education and the well-being of the youth is important here, so there are many activities and attractions for family days out.  These include theme parks such as Linnanmäki, the Serena Water Park, Harakka Nature Centre, Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, Helsinki Zoo and Children’s Town in the Helsinki City Museum.

Relocating to Helsinki

With so many good points, the icy winters may be the only deterrent.  However, a surplus of exceptional education facilities, great accommodation, efficient public transport, a thriving economy, many cultural highlights, and a low crime rate make Helsinki a great place for expats and their families to live.  The range of residential areas and fast-moving rental properties will offer a challenge to newcomers, but the services of an experienced, expert relocation agent will overcome many of the challenges and make your move smooth and hassle-free.


City Centre
Family friendly
Good Schools
Great Transport
Natural Beauty
Average Monthly Rent - Helsinki
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €912
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €736
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1698
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €1183
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