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15 Best Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter

The capital city of Helsinki in Finland is located in the southern part of the country, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland.

Helsinki is a popular tourist destination and perfect for a winter getaway. It’s home to an abundance of interesting museums, historical landmarks, charming Christmas markets and cosy cafes.

Not forgetting, if you really want to experience true Finnish culture, saunas!

So, if you’re visiting the Finnish capital in the colder months, here’s our list of the ultimate things to do in Helsinki in winter.

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1. Senate Square (Helsinki Cathedral)

The most recognisable monument in Helsinki and the top destination for most tourists visiting the city is Senate Square.

Senate Square and its surroundings make up the oldest part of central Helsinki.

With Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace and many beautiful restaurants surrounding the square, these landmarks and famous buildings are one of the top things to do in Helsinki in winter.

Simply take a walk around at your own leisure, or book onto the Helsinki Private Tour with a Local Guide with a local informative and entertaining guide.

The highly regarded tour takes 3 hours and starts at either 10:00am or 2:00pm, giving a great orientation of the city.

Senate Square Helsinki Cathedral Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Helsinki Cathedral is one of the top tourist attractions at any time of the year

2. Walk The City Streets

From Senate Square, why not take a walk around the beautifully lit streets of Helsinki in winter.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the city, the Guided City Highlights Walking Tour is highly recommended.

From window shopping to checking out the architecture, there is plenty to see and explore.

The city is decorated with Christmas lights from late November and they make for some of the prettiest streets we’ve seen in Europe.

Helsinki’s Alexander Street (Aleksanterinkatu) is the main street for shopping, sightseeing and eating. At the weekend it becomes a vibrant, pedestrianised area.

Alexander Street has been the official ‘Christmas Street’ of Finland since 1949 and when it’s lit up, Helsinkians know that the Christmas season has begun!

Alexander Street Christmas Lights Helsinki Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Walking the magical streets is one of the top things to do in Helsinki in winter

3. Visit A Sauna

The famous Finnish sauna culture was born deep in the countryside, but nowadays, Helsinki is where it’s at! 

If this isn’t high up on your things to do in Helsinki in winter list, you must have missed the memo.

With plenty around the city to choose from, Allas Sea Pool and Löyly being the most popular, we can’t recommend them enough!

If you like things to be arranged in advance, the Small-Group Walking Tour with City Planner Guide will take you to Allas Sea Pool along with lots of other points of interest. All with a professional who knows the city inside out!

Some of the oldest saunas are over 100 years old and these are mostly located in the Kallio area of Helsinki. At one time these traditional public saunas were the only option for bathing.

The newer saunas still have the traditional benches and sauna stove but they are now generally very impressive architecturally.

Easily our most memorable experience was jumping into the 24 degree outdoor pool with temperatures around reaching the minuses.

Fun Fact: There are five million inhabitants and over three million saunas in Finland. An average of one per household!

Allas Sea Pool Helsinki In Winter
Take a dip in Allas Sea Pool if you want to get a real feel for Helsinki

4. Museums

Another of the most popular attractions for both tourists and locals are the Helsinki museums.

Home to approximately 80, very diverse, museums you are sure to find some exhibitions that you really enjoy.

From the quirky Amos Rex museum, the Ateneum art museum, the amazing Natural History museum, the beautiful little Helsinki City museum, you are definitely spoilt for choice.

Finnish design and visual arts have been moulded into the Finnish culture since the 19th century. It all started in 1875 with the founding of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design.

In 1961 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England held the hugely popular exhibition ‘Finlandia’, showcasing the the best of Finland’s art and design.

So, if visiting Helsinki be sure to visit some of the many museums, you won’t be disappointed. This has to be on your list of best things to do in Helsinki in the winter.

If you plan on visiting the museums don’t forget to grab your Helsinki City Card that gives unlimited use of Helsinki public transport, and free entry to the main sights and museums!

Ateneum Museum Helsinki Museums Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Ateneum is the most well known museum in the city but there are plenty of others.
Ateneum Museum Helsinki Best Museums In Helsinki Museums
Lauren taking in the art at Ateneum Museum.

5. Library Oodi

Recently opened, is the new Helsinki Central Library or Library Oodi as it’s better known.

If you like things arranged in advance the Guided City Highlights Walking Tour will take you inside Library Oodi as well as visiting lots of other main attractions in the city.

Opening on the 5th December 2018, Oodi acts as a living room or work hub for locals and tourists. It’s an easy place to access for learning, relaxation and work.

Oodi’s services and facilities are open seven days a week, from early in the morning until late in the evening.

The library has a collection of more than 100,000 books, magazines, newspapers, sheet music, films and games. Catering for children, young people and adults.

With glass and steel structures and wooden facade, this striking building combines traditional and contemporary Finnish architecture.

This three floor meeting place is located right in the heart of Helsinki and also has a cafe/restaurant which offers delicious food from morning until evening. 

So, if you’re getting a little cold from the winter weather, it’s the perfect place to visit and warm up!

Library Oodi Helsinki Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
The brand new Library Oodi

6. Fazer Cafe

Okay, so if you haven’t heard of Fazer chocolate before you arrive in Helsinki, we guarantee you’ll be addicted by the time you leave!

From the air hostesses handing them out on the plane, to the hotel rooms leaving them on the tables, Fazer is everywhere.

Founded in 1891, the Fazer Cafe, located in the heart of Helsinki on Kluuvikatu 3, is the flagship for Fazer’s chocolate empire.

Karl Fazer was 18 years old when he decided to study to become a confectioner. After studying in St Petersburgh, Berlin and Paris, Karl returned to Helsinki and quickly established the most popular cafe in the city.

Today Fazer Cafe is a modern, yet classic cafe with beautiful decor that gives the vibe of glamorous days gone by. Here you can meet friends for a delicious breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea/coffee or glass of wine.

There is also a shop where you can buy freshly baked breads, cakes made on the premises and Fazer’s classic sweets and chocolates. 

We strongly suggest stopping by for some warm bread and soup and of course collecting something sweet to take away!

Fazer Cafe Helsinki Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Fazer Cafe – the home of Helsinki chocolate

7. Sibelius Monument

This unusual shaped Sibelius Monument, located in Sibelius Park, consists of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern.

Unveiled on September 7th 1967, the Sibelius Monument is dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius who died in 1957. The landmark was designed to embody the spirit of Sibelius’ music. 

Some people felt that the monument did not honour Jean Sibelius. As a result, a large bust of Sibelius was put at the base of the monument.

Although it’s a little walk outside of the main city centre, it’s a definite option when looking for things to do in Helsinki in winter.

When we visited there had been a fresh fall of snow and Sibelius Park looked calm and beautiful. There’s a cafe in the park to get some drinks, warm up and enjoy the tranquility.

There is a detailed Helsinki and Suomenlinna 5-Hour Sightseeing Tour that includes a visit to the Sibelius monument, as well as many other places such as Esplanade Park and Suomenlinna, and dives into the history of the area.

Sibelius Monument Helsinki Sibelius Park Instagrammable places in Helsinki In Winter
We had to snap a quick photo in front of the Sibelius Monument before the tour buses arrived.

8. Cafe Regatta

Just outside of Sibelius Park stands one of the hottest cafes on Helsinki Instagram right now.

Located by the sea, Cafe Regatta is a traditional red cottage cafe with outdoor seating and fire pit. It has definitely brought a part of the Finnish countryside to the middle of Helsinki.

The building was originally owned by the famous coffee family, Paulig. It was built in 1887 as a shed for their fishnets to be stored, next to the family’s villa.

Run by a local family, Cafe Regatta was established in 2002 and this lovely setting is now very popular with locals and tourists.

Famous for its fresh cinnamon buns, blueberry pie, hot chocolate and other delicacies, all served in a charismatic atmosphere, you will struggle to experience anything like it.

There are also delicious sausages available to buy that you can cook yourself on the fire pit outside.

The inside of the cafe is quite small although beautifully decorated. The outdoor space is much larger, with room to accommodate a lot more visitors and those that want to enjoy the fresh Finnish air.

Cafe Regatta is the cosiest of cosy when it comes to cafes. Standing alone and surrounded by snow, this tiny red wooden cabin really stands out in a great way.

Visiting Cafe Regatta is one of our fondest memories of our trip to Helsinki and we would recommend it as one of the best things to do in Helsinki in winter.

Cafe Regatta Helsinki Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Cafe Regatta – Our favourite of the things to do in Helsinki in winter.
Cafe Regatta Helsinki Instagram Spots In Helsinki
Lauren inside warming up with a hot chocolate.

9. Esplanade Park

Even the Grinch would walk through here and feel Christmassy!

One of our favourite things to do in Helsinki in winter was to walk through the Esplanade Park and gaze in awe at the decorations.

The Esplanadi, or Espa, as it’s fondly known by locals, is the most famous park in Finland and thought of as the green heart of Helsinki.

The park was originally built in the early 1900s for wealthy Finns to promenade (take a leisurely walk to meet and be seen by others). It is now visited and enjoyed by all Finnish people and tourists alike.

Situated at one end of the park is the Kappeli restaurant, one of the most historic restaurants in Helsinki. Opposite Kappeli is Epa Stage which hosts a festival of music each year with around 200 artists and groups performing.

This is a very cosmopolitan area of Helsinki with lots of shops and restaurants surrounding the park that entice visitors. People also like to enjoy picnics, watch performances and listen to music in the park grounds.

Walking down the pedestrianised avenue of trees you will see several sculptures of people who have contributed something to Helsinki.

One of these being Finland’s national poet and author of the Finnish national anthem, Johan Ludvig Runeberg.

Esplanade Park is also where the Helsinki Panorama Coach Tour departs from. This is a 1 hour 45 minute coach tour with audio commentary in 10 languages.

It drives past the Parliament buildings, Finlandia Hall and stops at the Temppeliaukio Church or the Sibelius Monument. A great way to get an overview of the Finnish capital!

Esplanade Park Helsinki Esplanadi Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Take a steady stroll down Esplanade Park whilst in the capital

10. Christmas Markets

If you’re looking for things to do in Helsinki in winter then Christmas time must be close!

At the end of Esplanade Park you’ll find the cutest little Christmas Market with a fire pit in the middle.

The difference with this Christmas Market is that rather than the usual stools and stands laid out, there are actual cabins!

Cabins that you can go inside and have a seat with a hot drink to warm up from the freezing temperatures outside.

Aside from that, there’s also the oldest and most popular Helsinki Christmas Market located in Senate Square.

Directly in front of the famous Helsinki Cathedral is where you’ll find over 100 stalls full of crafted gifts and ornaments. As well as traditional Finnish fish, meats and other foods.

For those visiting with children, this is where you’ll find Santa who pays daily visits to the market.

There’s also a tradition on 13th December where St. Lucia descends the cathedral stairs honouring the 4th century Christian martyr. An occasion that most locals will head out for!

A popular Christmas tour is the 2-Hour Christmas Guided Walking Tour which visits the Christmas Markets as well as all the magical decorations around the city.

If you’re a big fan of Christmas markets then make sure to add Tallinn Christmas Market in Estonia to your bucket list!

Helsinki Christmas Market Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Warm up in the cabins at the Christmas markets.

11. Old Market Hall

The Old Market Hall in Helsinki is the oldest indoor market in all of Finland and has always been a place for local vendors to sell their produce to the masses.

At the time of opening, the hall had 120 stalls as well as 6 shops in the central gallery. Regulations stated that vendors were allowed to sell meat products, eggs, butter, cheese and garden produce.

In the market now, you can find everything from cheese to shellfish, vegetables to fruits and cakes to spices. With a mixture of traditional takeaway market stalls and sit down cafes this is an ideal spot to plan lunch at.

Some of the more unusual delicacies you can try are reindeer spring rolls, elk kebabs, reindeer soup, reindeer chips and bear in a can.

The Old Market Hall has served customers since 1889 and being situated on the waterfront, is a beautiful setting for those looking to get some great photos.

So if you’re looking for a place to rest and warm up during your things to do in Helsinki in winter trail, this is ideal. Also the locals are super friendly!

If you want to learn more about the Old Market Hall, the Helsinki Layover Walking Tour visits here as well as other main attractions.

Old Market Hall Helsinki Market Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Lauren outside the traditional Old Market Hall.

12. Lux Helsinki

If you happen to find yourself in Helsinki at the same time as LUX Helsinki, you simply must go!

Lux Helsinki is a yearly light festival that transforms local buildings and spaces into works of urban art during the darkest time of the year.

This amazing light show trails around the city centre and brings in artists from around the world.

The event is free of charge to people of all ages and is a diverse light festival that presents both new and old Helsinki.

Landmarks are lit up, lanterns are hung and crowds gather to walk the streets and take in the beauty surrounding the capital.

In 2019 LUX Helsinki was held from Saturday 5th – Wednesday 9th January and the light installations were displayed between 5pm and 10pm.

LUX Helsinki Finlandia Hall Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
LUX Helsinki definitely makes for a memorable event

13. Ice Skating

How can we not include the ice rink in our things to do in Helsinki in winter list!

Every year, from December until March, the Helsinki Ice park is set up in the heart of Helsinki, next door to the central railway station and opposite the Ateneum Museum.

You can rent skates from the Ice Park. Helmets and helping sleds can be borrowed free of charge.

After your skate relax and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and snacks at the Ice Park cafe. In addition, take in the amazing views of the city lights and historical buildings all around you.

Entrance is €6 per adult and €3 per child (under 18) and it’s a magical way to spend a couple of hours in the city. Also, it’s a great way of keeping warm!

Ice Skating Helsinki Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
Charlie was too scared to put the skates on

14. Eat Local

One thing we always try to do when we visit a new place is eat locally.

Traditional foods in Finland usually include fish, reindeer, pork and beef with different vegetables. Rye, barley and oats are also a staple of the Finnish diet.

You will find lots of really good restaurants, cafés and street stalls to choose from in Helsinki.

We were fortunate enough to be granted access to many of the best restaurants in Helsinki, our favourite though being Savotta.

Offering genuine Finnish food and atmosphere, with a view across to Senate Square and the famous Helsinki Cathedral, it was a perfectly romantic way to end our trip to Finland.

Another of our favourite restaurants in Helsinki was Yes, Yes, Yes. An awesome vegetarian and vegan restaurant with a quirky set up!

Oh and also don’t forget to try the typically Finnish Karjalanpiirakka (small, open pastries made from a rye dough and stuffed with rice porridge) on your journey through Helsinki!

In addition, if you do the Guided City Highlights Walking Tour , apart from visiting all the main attractions in the city, you will get tips on all the best places to eat and drink.

Restaurant Savotta Helsinki Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter
A beautiful way to end our top things to do in Helsinki in winter

15. Ferry To Tallinn

The beautiful city of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, is just a 2 hour ferry ride away from Helsinki.

Three different ferry companies run ferries up to 12 times a day from Helsinki, with return tickets starting at €10, rising in the summer season up to €60/80.

The best option is to book a Return Day Trip Ferry Ticket to Tallinn in advance as it can get busy.

Also departure from Helsinki to Tallinn is either 7:30am or 10:30am, with returns either 4:30pm or 7:30pm or 11:30pm.

Apparently, spending a day in Tallinn is a very Finnish thing to do and there are not many Finns that have not seen the sights of Tallinn.

The cobblestoned Tallinn Old Town is well known for its beautifully preserved medieval architecture. With its pretty lights and decorations as well as cosy cafes and shops it has a lovely vibe.

Tallinn’s Christmas market runs from late November until the first week of January. It was, not surprisingly, ranked the number one Christmas market in Europe in 2019.

With its amazing selection of festivities and stalls, set in stunning historic surroundings, it certainly has a magical feel.

The market itself is run by citizens and visitors. If you’re lucky enough to catch it when it’s snowing, then you’ll experience Tallinn’s real fairytale charm.

Tallinn has a very different feel to Helsinki and is definitely worth a visit. Especially don’t miss Tallinn Old Town whilst there.

Christmas Market Tallinn Things To Do In Tallinn In Winter
Exploring Tallinn at Christmas.
Old Town Tallinn Things To Do In Tallinn In Winter
Tallinn really is a beautiful city.

Where To Stay In Helsinki

Luxury

Hotel Kämp

Established in 1887 as Finland’s grand hôtel, Hotel Kämp is located in the heart of Helsinki opposite the beautiful Esplanade park.

The hotel features 179 spacious rooms, 15 of which are luxurious suites. The spacious rooms combine historical elegance with high-quality facilities.

All rooms feature comfortable beds, marble bathrooms and Chromecast-streaming systems.

Guests can also order in-room dining and enjoy the lovely view over the park, the city or the inner courtyard. The Brasserie Kämp a la carte menu boasts a wide range of European dishes and an extensive list of beverages.

Mid-Budget

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel

Featuring the Plaza Restaurant, this historical hotel from 1917 is next to Kaisaniemi Park, 150 yards from Helsinki Central Station.

All rooms come with Finnish design items. As well as a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee maker and Magic Dream beds with a pillow menu. Some rooms offer city views.

Free fitness centre access and modern air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi are all available. Plaza Restaurant also serves drinks, while snacks and light dishes are available at the 24-hour lobby bar.

Budget

Eurohostel

Located on Helsinki’s Katajanokka island, this hostel is a 5-minute tram ride from the city centre.

It offers guest kitchens, free WiFi and a free morning sauna.

Bed sheets and towels are also inclusive of your stay. 

Eurohostel’s fresh, simple rooms have shared bathroom facilities. Additional communal areas include kitchens and lounge rooms. 

Guests can enjoy a daily breakfast buffet onsite. Eurohostel’s lobby also has vending machines with drinks and snacks.

For more places to stay in Helsinki, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.

Additionally, on Hostelworld it’s possible to find cheaper options.

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. 

They search websites and airlines around the globe to find you the best possible routes and prices.

Book Your Accommodation

Use Booking.com to find the best accommodation deals.

They consistently return the cheapest rates on everything from guesthouses to hotels for all of your budget needs.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

They provide travel and medical incident insurance built specifically for digital nomads.

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile. 

Book Your Rental Car

Use RentalCars.com to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.


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14 Best Things To Do In Helsinki In Winter