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Moving to Helsinki

The cost of living is high in Helsinki, but many expatriates are drawn to the city nonetheless, with the majority of expats being partners and families where one spouse is Finnish. It is estimated that there are over 120,000 expat families in Finland, with the majority choosing to settle in Helsinki.

About the City

Helsinki is located in the Uusimaa region of Finland, and with an urban population of 620,000 in 2014, it is the country’s largest city.

The origins of the city date back to the 16th century, when a trading port was established there by the Swedish King Gustav I. However, the town did not undergo major development until the 19th century once it had been annexed by the Russians.

Helsinki became the capital of Finland in 1812, as the previous capital Turku was considered to be too close to and too much influenced by Sweden. Finland eventually achieved independence in 1918, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. 

Today Helsinki is a very attractive place to live, often topping league tables with its high standard of living. The capital is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, with around 10% of the population having been born in another country. With a rapidly growing innovative technology sector, Helsinki’s prosperity looks set to last. 

The Climate in Helsinki

Finland’s climate is affected by the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift, which bring warmth to the region. July is the warmest month, with temperatures averaging 17.8°C and maximum temperatures reaching as high as 33°C. January and February are generally the coldest months, when temperatures are around -4°C, with record lows dropping to below -30°C.

There can be snow as early as November and as late as April, but the majority of Helsinki’s snowfall occurs from December to March. In January and February, expats moving to Helsinki can expect to see over 20 cm of snowfall each month.

Helsinki’s northern latitude means that it has extremes of daylight hours, with days as short as 5.5 hours in the winter, and with up to 18.5 hours of daylight in the summer.

Finding Accommodation in Helsinki

Rental accommodations are expensive in Helsinki, but their quality is generally high, too. There are several areas of the city which are particularly popular with expats moving to Helsinki, such as Kallio, an up and coming area conveniently situated north of the city center. The majority of property available to rent consists of apartments. Houses for rental are harder to find, particularly in the city.

Generally, houses are for sale rather than for rental, and are more widely available in the suburbs and in the neighboring areas of Vantaa and Espoo, both of which benefit from good infrastructure for those needing to commute into Helsinki.

Francois Bertrand

"I found a former Helsinki expat who had recently moved back to Brazil, so we swapped all the important need-to-knows."

Maria Loura

"Some information on InterNations helped me a great deal, and I'm sure other expats in Helsinki feel the same way."

Global Expat Guide