Accessible Helsinki: lots to see and experience

A woman in a wheelchair between two bookshelves, is taking time to browse through the books at Oodi library
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Helsinki offers lots to see and experience for all tastes and needs for people with reduced mobility. Thanks to the compact size of the city, many of the sights can be taken in during even a short stay, while there’s also plenty to do for longer visits. One of the nicest things to in Helsinki is simply to stop and enjoy the serene combination of city, sea and nature. Here are 10 points of interest in Helsinki that I as a wheelchair user can highly recommend.

Sanna Kalmari
Palmuasema.fi
Sanna Kalmari

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on a cluster of islands close to the city centre. When construction of the fortress began in the 1700s, accessibility was obviously not a consideration, but in past years the popular tourist attraction has gradually been made accessible. There are still lots of cobblestones and some tricky height differences, but I would still recommend going. You can get to Suomenlinna from the Market Square aboard the municipal HSL ferry, and passengers traveling with a manual or electric wheelchair (including mobility scooters) travel free of charge. The crossing takes about a quarter of an hour and is a fun experience in itself, as Helsinki is really pretty when viewed from the sea. Some paths on the islands are more accessible than others; more information about accessibility is available on the Suomenlinna website or from Tourist Information at the quay. Accessible restaurants, cafés and WCs can be found throughout Suomenlinna. What I like to do most at Suomenlinna is ride around the islands and admire the scenery, stopping from time to time for a picnic or a meal at a restaurant. Suomenlinna is most accessible when there is no snow on the ground.

Temppeliaukio Rock Church

Excavated out of solid granite, Temppeliaukio Rock Church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki thanks to its stunning architecture and acoustics. The church is fully accessible, and the entrance is on the same level as the church floor. There is also an accessible WC. The church is situated 1.5 kilometres from the Central Railway Station, and you can get all the way to the front door by taxi. The nearest tram stop is around a hundred metres away, but there is quite a climb up the hill to get to the church.

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Kaivopuisto shoreline

Kaivopuisto is a quiet residential district and a popular park. A promenade follows the shoreline, offering beautiful views of the sea. My favourite summer activity is riding along the Kaivopuisto shoreline from one end of the park to the other – almost three kilometres in total. The paths are level, and there are only a few climbs and descents. The promenade is lined with lovely cafés and terraces. Accessible WCs can be found at Café Ursula and Café Carusel, for example. The Kaivopuisto shoreline is also a good destination for cruise passengers who want experience Helsinki on foot or by wheelchair or mobility scooter, as it is just two kilometres up the coast from the cruise terminal at Hernesaari. The Olympic and Makasiini ferry terminals by the Market Square are also just a short distance from the park.

Helsinki Central Library Oodi

Helsinki’s brand-new central library opened to the public in 2018 and is well worth a visit, even if you aren’t interested in borrowing books. Oodi has been designed as a “living meeting place” that houses not only books but also a café, a restaurant, art and lots of different workspaces. Each of its three floors has its own character, and the building as a whole is an architectural work of art. The design plays with all kinds of levels and steps, but also with ramps. Several accessible WCs can be found inside the building. From the top floor you can enjoy beautiful views over the city and to Parliament House across the street.

Looking down the length of a corridor in Helsinki's Old Market Hall, customers are discussing with shop staff, browsing and making purchases. The height of the market hall dwarfs the traditional, dark wood shop fronts.
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Old Market Hall

The atmosphere inside the Old Market Hall next to the Market Square is always delightful. The indoor market hall has served customers since 1889 and today sells the finest cheeses, meats, vegetables and sweet treats too. There are several cafés where you can sit and enjoy the food. The hall is accessible and there is an accessible WC. At the same time you can visit the Market Square, although the cobblestones can make it tricky for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. From the Market Square you can admire Uspenski Cathedral, the Presidential Palace and the Allas Sea Pool.

Mall of Tripla

Helsinki has numerous malls that are fully accessible and make perfect destinations, especially on rainy days. They also house many great cafés and restaurants, as well as a whole range of other services. My personal favourite is the Mall of Tripla in Passila. The biggest shopping centre in the entire Nordic region, Tripla has lots of shops and restaurants, a hotel, a cinema, the Music Museum Fame and lots more. One of the unique offerings at Tripla is Surf House Helsinki, where the temperature is a steady +27C all year round. It's fun to watch the surfers riding the waves while enjoying a drink at the beach bar. Tripla is connected to Pasila train station, making it easy to get to by commuter train from the city centre.

Ihmisiä Lammassaaren näköalatasanteella
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Lammassaari’s accessible nature trail

Head out of the city and straight into Finland’s wonderful nature! A new accessible nature trail opened at Lammasaari in 2018. The trail is one kilometre long and gets you into the heart of the local nature, ending at an accessible birdwatching platform. You can get there from the city centre by bus in around half an hour or by tax in around 20 minutes.

Helsinki City Museum

On the corner of Senate Square in the oldest quarter of Helsinki you will find the Helsinki City Museum, which is conveniently located for a shorter or longer visit while sightseeing in the centre of town. The fully accessible museum presents the history of Helsinki and everyday life in the nation’s capital, and admission is always free of charge. The museum can be highly recommended for visitors of all ages, and kids will love the Children’s Town interactive exhibition. It’s easy to get around the museum with a wheelchair or mobility scooter, and there is also an accessible WC. Opposite the museum you can admire the impressive white Helsinki Cathedral. Helsinki has many other museums that are also fully accessible. Within a kilometre’s radius of the city centre you will find, for example, the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art KiasmaAmos Rex and the Helsinki Art Museum HAM.

Linnanmäen valokarnevaali
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Linnanmäki Amusement Park & Sea Life Helsinki

The legendary Linnanmäki Amusement Park is great fun to visit, whether you are looking for thrills or just want to enjoy the atmosphere. Admission is free of charge, so you can go just to check it out or to eat out at the restaurants there, even without going on any of the rides. You can get everywhere by wheelchair or mobility scooter, although there are some steep slopes here and there. The amusement park is situated on top of a hill and offers great views over the city. It is possible to get on most of the rides from your wheelchair or mobility scooter, and you can even get on one ride in your wheelchair or mobility scooter. If you have an EU Disability Card that proves you require an assistant or similar documentation, your assistant can claim a free-of-charge wristband with the purchase of your normally priced wristband or ticket.

Sea Life Helsinki is connected to the amusement park, making it easy to access the undersea world in your wheelchair or mobility scooter. There are some narrow spaces and uneven surfaces, but again, your assistant can get in free of charge with the right documentation.

Accessible beaches

Helsinki has two swimming beaches, in Aurinkolahti and Hietaniemi, that offer floating beach wheelchairs that let you enjoy the sea. Both beaches also have Mobi-Mats to make it easier to get across the sand. The Aurinkolahti beach is in East Helsinki and lets you enjoy a real holiday atmosphere; the pretty curved beach is no less than 700 metres long! Hietaniemi, or “Hietsu” as it is called by locals, is a classic beach not far from the city centre. At both beaches, you can borrow accessibility equipment from the lifeguards.

Teurastamo

Teurastamo is a former abattoir that has been transformed into a centre of urban and food culture. There are several restaurants to choose from, and in summertime the courtyard is filled with terraces and various events. The courtyard is open to the public, and you can even grill there. The area is flat, and you can get there accessibly by metro to the nearby Kalasatama metro station.

Accessible guided tours

Happy Guide Helsinki offers accessible guided tours by minibus or public transport.

The majority of Hop-On Hop-Off buses from spring to autumn are accessible. There is space downstairs for a wheelchair or mobility scooter, and the door has a ramp. Sightseeing buses are a convenient way of getting an overall picture of the city, as well as getting from one attraction to the next.

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Helsinki offers lots to see and experience for all tastes and needs for people with reduced mobility. Thanks to the compact size of the city, many of the sights can be taken in during even a short stay, while there’s also plenty to do for longer visits