How cold can Helsinki get during winter? If we are being totally, completely honest with you, it can get so freaking cold that it shakes every fiber of your being. Shoot, your tickets are booked, does it mean you are going to spend all the time at your hotel room wrapping up in a blanket waiting for your flight out?
Not at all!
Winter in Finland is rough, but you just need to pack the right clothes with you. Helsinki is beautiful during winter, especially around Christmas time when the city is literally sparkling in lights. The coldness and darkness will not stop you from having a wonderful time in Helsinki because there are plenty of amazing things to do here in winter.
Top Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
1. Finnish sauna and ice swimming
There is no better time to go to a Finnish sauna than when the weather is freezing outside. If your accommodation doesn’t have a sauna (which would be strange), we can totally recommend you visit one of these saunas: (linked list of saunas from previous post).
And you know what else? Winter time is the perfect time for ice swimming, an experience of a lifetime. And you have to do it right when getting out of the sauna with steam coming off your body. We guess you are wondering, why on earth would anyone willingly plunge into a freezing water hole in the ice? Let’s be honest, that first dip into the icy water is scary as if you will be frozen to death, but trust us, you will survive feeling refreshed and so proud of yourself.
2. Get cozy at Cafe Regatta
We just cannot say it enough, Cafe Regatta is the cutest cafe in Helsinki. It is a popular place to go to at any time of the year. Just because it is touristy doesn’t mean Regatta loses its charms. Just imagine stepping into this cozy cafe on a snowy day and squeezing yourself into the tiny interior space with a cup of hot tea and a freshly-baked cinnamon bun… Ah! Heaven!
3. Check out Helsinki Christmas Market
If you are in Helsinki when Christmas is around the corner, you are in for a treat. Helsinki Christmas Market is the place to relax, enjoy food and drinks, shop gifts for your loved ones and lifting up your holiday spirits. These cute little huts offer you lots of handicrafts and design items from Finland. And most of all, the old carousel set up in the central of the market is definitely a real hit with kids.
4. Stop by the Christmas display window at Stockmann Department Store
Every year when people rush to the center to do their Christmas shopping, no matter how busy it gets, they still stop for a moment at Stockmann Department Store to admire their Christmas display window. It is a whole enchanted world magically squeezed in a tiny space behind the window. If you travel with children, remember to bring them here as it would melt their heart.
5. Go ice skating at Helsinki Ice Park
Now, how’s about some sport? Ice skating in the heart of Helsinki is undoubtedly a highlighted experience on your visit to snowy Helsinki. If you didn’t pack your own skates, don’t worry as you can rent a pair and borrow helmet and helping sleds for free. It is a fun thing to do with your travel companions while appreciating the beautiful decor lights around you. When you get tired of gliding on the ice, why not warm yourself up somewhere cozy with a cup of naturally mulled wine? Hmm… a free museum perhaps?
6. Warm up in a free museum
Fancy a free visit to a museum? Helsinki has many to offer. For example, Helsinki City Museum is always free of charge and great news to families with kids, Children’s Town Exhibition promises you a fun time learning about Helsinki’s history together. In addition, Sinebrychoff Museum and Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) always have some free-of-charge exhibitions. If you are in town on the first Friday of a month, many museums offer free entry, including Kiasma, National Museum of Finland and Museum of Finnish Architecture.
7. Visit an indoor garden
Helsinki has two beautiful indoor gardens: Winter Garden and Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden. The latter is very close to Central Railway Station though you have to pay an entrance fee to enter the glasshouse. However, if you fancy a walk and want to save some money, Winter Garden is a better choice as it offers free entry to all visitors and takes a lovely stroll along the bay to reach. This indoor garden is home to over 200 different plants, many of which are exotic. We cannot speak for anyone, but we totally adore the Cactus Room the most.
8. Drink a lot of Glögi and eat a lot of joulutorttu
Glögi and joulutorttu is the perfect combination for a cold winter day.
Glögi is a Finnish version for mulled wine, a traditional drink during winter. It can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic and usually served with raisins and blanched almonds.
Joulutorttu is a Finnish Christmas treat, which is made of puff pastry in star or pinwheel shape filled with prune or apricot jam and dusted with icing sugar.
In case you don’t have a kitchen to prepare your own joulutorttu and glögi, you can still enjoy them at a Christmas market or local cafe.
9. Take shelter at a library
Helsinki has around 40 libraries, which not only offer food for the soul but also keep you warm from the winter coldness. For book worms and architecture enthusiasts like us, you won’t regret spending time at one of there libraries:
- Oodi: We wholeheartedly rank Oodi as the most interesting piece of modern architecture in Helsinki.
- Helsinki University Library at Kaisa Talo: This is such a beautiful building that blends in so splendidly with the existing surroundings.
- National Library of Finland: No doubt this gorgeous piece of work is one of the best-kept secrets of Helsinki. You can read more about it HERE.