Finland’s capital city can only boast 5 hours of sunlight during winter days, but the long nights don’t put a damper on the seasonal fun. Instead of hibernating, Helsinki has some incredible events to take advantage of during the colder months.
Bundle up and start planning a city break to Helsinki for some of the world’s best winter activities:
Dine in Old Market Hall:
Serving Helsinki since 1888, Old Market Hall’s wooden stands offer a classic Finnish market experience. Until the late 1800s, most of Helsinki’s markets were haphazard and located outside. Old Market Hall was the first to become a covered market, meaning it is perfect for escaping the winter chill. When the market first opened, it hosted about 120 vendors. Today that number is closer to 25, but the range of delicacies on sale is still impressive. Stop in for smoked and cured fish, local chocolates, gourmet cheese, homemade soup and more. It’s also found in the centre of the city, so it’s guaranteed to be close to your Helsinki hotel!
Embrace the sauna
In a country of 5.4 million people, Finland also boasts 3.3 million saunas. To say that sauna culture is ingrained in Finnish life would be a major understatement. However, most of these saunas are now found inside private homes. Loyly Sauna in Helsinki is working to preserve and reinvigorate the idea of the public sauna. The sauna is beautifully designed with architectural flourishes, but it is Loyly’s location that remains the impressive detail. Situated on directly on the coast, it is even possible to take a dip directly into the chilly Baltic Sea after lounging in the steam.
Ski and skate without leaving the city
What other world capital offers skiing inside the city? Making the most of their snowy winters, Helsinki has more than 200 km of cross country skiing trails around the capital. Accessible by city bus is Paloheinä Recreational Center, where it is possible to hire skis and explore the trails on winter days. Those who prefer ice skating can partake in the sport atop the city’s frozen lakes, or lace up right next to the Central Railway Station for a spin around the seasonal Icepark.
Invest in a pulkka
While skiing and skating require a bit of balance and skill, the one winter activity that appeals to all ages and levels of experience is certainly sledding. Plastic sleds known as pulkka can be purchased at shops throughout the city for around £10. Join the fun and head downhill at Kaivopuisto Park, famous in Helsinki for its sledding fun.
Take the Christmas Path through the Botanical Gardens
The University of Helsinki Botanical Gardens offers the best blend of indoor and outdoor activities to admire the capital city in winter. Stroll through the glittering greenhouses to enjoy the exhibits while well sheltered from the weather. Then button up your jackets for a stroll along the botanical paths in the direction of Seurasaari island. During the month of December, the area hosts a Christmas path that is filled with lights, decorations, and free holiday porridge for children.
Board a ferry across the ice
The most beloved day trip from Helsinki is a jaunt over to Suomenlinna. The cluster of islands is reachable in about 15-20 minutes via public ferry which departs regularly from central Market Square. Suomenlinna is best known for its fortress, which was founded in 1748. Today, many of the old garrisons and fortress buildings have been converted into homes, studios and restaurants. The fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and can be explored via various paths throughout the year. There are also several museums – ranging from military history to vintage toys. But best of all may be the ferry trip itself, because the boat cuts through blocks of ice on winter days and turns a simply voyage into a unique Nordic experience.
Have you been to Helsinki? For more ideas, make sure to check out things to do in Helsinki!