Helsinki in the winter is full of light and laughter
Winter in Helsinki is full of outdoorsy activities and cosy spots to warm yourself up afterwards. Here are some fun things locals love to do to beat the cold and dark months.
Get your skis or skates on
Even in the middle of Helsinki city, you are never far away from skiing. There are over 200 kilometres of cross-country skiing tracks in Helsinki and a lot of these can be accessed easily by public transport. Some of the most popular spots are Paloheinä and Tali, the latter even has an indoor sports park.
If you prefer downhill skiing, there are several ski resorts that you can reach in less than an hour from Helsinki. The closest is Granibacken, a smallish ski park with three slopes in Kauniainen. Also close by are the family friendly Peuramaa and versatile Talma.
Helsinki also has dozens of free skating rinks where you can both skate and play ice hockey. Nearest to the city centre are Brahenkenttä and Väinämöisenkenttä. It is worth noting, though, that there is no skate hire on most of the city owned skate rinks, so bring your own skates with you.
Light up the darkness
The very popular festival of light art Lux Helsinki delights in early January. The many installations can be seen by walking a designated route around Helsinki. In addition to the art pieces in central Helsinki, Lux has little offshoots around the city including several art works at the Korkeasaari zoo.
Winter is also a fantastic time to do some star gazing. The Finnish astronomical society Ursa has a useful map where you can check out the best places to see stars from. If you would like to know more about astronomy and space, also make sure you visit the Helsinki Observatory. It is a lovely museum that attracts both grown-ups and kids.
Have a cup of something warm
There is nothing like a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine after time spent outdoors. When the ice is thick enough, have a walk around the island of Lauttasaari and treat yourself afterwards in Paseo café. In addition to hot drinks, it has lovely views and a roaring fire to keep you warm.
At the Akseli Gallen-Kallela Museum Tarvaspää there is Café Zoceria. The cosy wooden house, huge cake slices, and high-quality coffee will make you happy after a stroll around the snow-covered garden.
Café Regatta is a legendary red wood cabin in Töölö. The café is known for its hot chocolate, huge cinnamon rolls and the option to BBQ your own sausage over an open fire. Dress up warm because you will have to sit outside.
Heat yourself up in a sauna
Of course, there is no better way to round off your trip to Helsinki than a sauna. The public saunas have very high standards and many of them have the option for a wintry swim. The sauna, restaurant, and bar Löyly is loved by locals and visitor alike. It is worth seeing just for its cutting-edge architecture, but its sauna and swimming spot are great too.
Bang in the middle of Helsinki city centre is Allas Sea Pool. It is a full-service urban spa with restaurants, saunas, and outdoor pools. One of the pools is even kept heated all year round. There are also yoga classes available, including sauna yoga.
If you want a traditional Finnish sauna experience your best bet is Sauna Hermanni, a public sauna that has been in operation since the 1950's. It is a simple but homely no-frills place where you can even take your own snacks to enjoy afterwards.