Linnanmäki, a free-entry amusement park inside Helsinki, Finland is a wonderland for small children with some nice surprises for adults as well. We came to Linnanmäki, as many tourists do, for the wooden roller coaster: Vuoristorata. The name translates to roller coaster in Finnish (literally mountain track), which is not due to lack of imagination but rather a sign of the coaster’s historic status. Vuoristroata was built in preparation for the 1952 Olympic Games. Originally designed as a temporary structure, the coaster became such a favorite and was renewed so many times it became a permanent feature and the landmark of the park.
Vuoristorata might not be a thrill for Americans who’ve grown used to greater than 90 degree plummets and upside down twists and turns on metal giants, but the track does provide some gut-shaking drops, and the mere fact that the whole wooden construction was made more than 60 years ago was enough to add some adrenaline in my case. If that’s not enough, the ride has a special twist for modern riders: it’s not automated. A young brake man rides in the back of the car and controls the speed of the ride, so your particular experience can depend on the temperament of your “jarummie.”
History-seeking visitors should not miss the oldest ride in the park: the 1896 carousel, Karuselli. For those seeking bigger thrills, Linnanmäki has 43 rides in total, including: Raketti (Rocket), an upwards-launch free fall tower; Linnunrata, an indoor roller coaster with a space theme; and Finland’s first water roller coaster, Vonkaputous.
The charm of the park, though, is really in its family friendly attitude. Admission is free, and during the summer months, 11 of the child and family rides are also free, including the panoramic tower that takes visitors up for a rotating view of Helsinki. Some of the rides will require adults to accompany young children. In the summer, the free rides close down around sunset, so be sure to go early to enjoy.
In the fall, as the days get shorter, Linnanmäki literally lights up with the Carnival of Lights, when thousands of lamps are illuminated on all the rides. The park also fills with free music and additional performances on the park’s Estradi stage.
In all seasons, Linnanmäki is striking for its simplicity. The park is not branded with major logos; the music is low or in some areas non-existent, so the atmosphere feels more like taking a stroll through a pleasant area packed with rides and happy kids. The food prices are, predictably, high, but they have surprising quality. In fact, the six main restaurants in the park are run by six renowned Finnish chefs (boasting 4 Michelin stars between them). At least one family buffet is designed to be more budget friendly, so shop around or bring a picnic and enjoy (no outside alcohol allowed).
A wrist band for all day rides is 37E (and if you’re staying in the area, you can add a second day for 7E more), a single ride is 7E. The prices may seem steep, but Linnanmäki is run by the organization Children’s Day Foundation, which donates a large portion for child welfare in Finland, so proceeds of your day out is going to a good cause.
Written by Guest Contributor Anne Siders for EuropeUpClose.com
Anne Siders is a foot-path traveler who delights in the off-beat, the ancient, and the active. She travels for work and for pleasure, and for the opportunity to write and photograph it all.