Ever wondered what to do in Helsinki in winter and what are the top places to visit? Did you want to try traditional Finnish sauna, ice-swimming, walking on a frozen sea, visiting some unusual churches and monuments and tasting delicious Scandinavian cuisine? Check out what are the best things to do in the Finnish capital in winter!
The country of The Moomins (high five if you know them!) with the capital of a similar size to Oslo, is great for the weekend trip. Finland is well known for its winter activities and the magical Lapland, and Helsinki in winter is very picturesque. Even if you are going somewhere else in Finland, spending a couple of days in Helsinki is well worth it. You can also extend your stay and take the opportunity to explore a few from the day trips from Helsinki.
What to do in Helsinki in winter? Spend a great weekend in Finland!
Below are my recommendations on what to do in Helsinki in winter to make sure you have an amazing time in Finland. They include traditional Finnish activities, as well as some more unusual ones. Take your pick and have fun spending winter in Finland’s capital city.
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#1 Try traditional Finnish sauna and ice swimming
The saunas are a big part of Finnish culture. With 5 million inhabitants in Finland, there are over 3 million saunas – averaging one per household. Isn’t it crazy? Luckily, Helsinki also has some public saunas for you to try, so you don’t have to invite yourself to the people’s houses (although, that would be a great experience too :)).
However, since I was in Helsinki with Alex, we wanted to have a more social experience and we decided to go for the newly established Löyly sauna, located by the coast. Löyly offers two sauna rooms heated by 7,000-kg stoves, lounge, terrace, restaurant, bar and, my favourite part, access to the frozen sea.
Cooling yourself down after the hot sauna is what Finnish people often do, so trying ice-swimming was a must for me.
It was an amazing and very refreshing experience to take a dip in the frozen sea and then quickly run back to the sauna to get the feeling in my body back, haha. Check it on the video below!
Check out Helsinki in winter (and my ice swimming attempt) on the video:
You can see the whole video, and more, on my Youtube channel.
#2 Travel through the frozen sea to the UNESCO fortress
Fortress of Suomenlinna is a sea fortress, located on a group of islands, located at the entrance to Helsinki harbour. It dates back to the 18th century and is a great example of European military architecture. The islands are so peaceful to walk around with cute cafes located in the colourful wooden houses. The ferry trip is very short as it lasts 15 min and costs 2,20 euros. The views from the boat are great and it’s worth taking it even just for those!
Read more: What to pack for Norway in winter – applicable also for Helsinki in winter!
#3 Walk on water
In the low temperatures the water in the Töölönlahti bay freezes, which makes it the perfect place for a Sunday stroll, cross-country skiing or unusual “walking on the water” experience.
When you walk around Helsinki in winter remember to dress properly in cozy winter clothes. If you get cold, you can always warm yourself up in the cafe.
There is a cute rust-red wooden cafe located just by the bayside in the Töölönlahti bay, called Regatta. It serves delicious cakes and coffee and offers the sausages to be grilled on the outside fire overlooking the bay.
Read more: 6 Best Day Trips From Helsinki
#4 Visit Sibelius monument
An interestingly looking monument dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It’s located in the Sibelius park next to the Töölönlahti.
#5 Go to the church
Regardless if you are a frequent church visitor or not really, visiting a few of the Helsinki churches is an interesting experience.
A distinctive landmark in the city’s landscape, the Helsinki Cathedral became a well-recognized symbol of a city. Built on top of a small hill with the set of stairs leading to it, it towers above the surroundings. Its white walls and tall green domes can be spotted from far. Free entry.
Chapel of silence is made from wood and has an unusual shape of a cone (or a yogurt cup ;)). The interior is very simple and it’s meant to offer a moment of silence in one of the busiest areas of Finland. Free entry.
Temppeliaukio Church is built directly into the solid rock. It has a rounded shape and the light enters through the dome roof around the copper center. The church is one of the most popular places to visit in Helsinki and there are concerts organized in the venue. The entrance fee to the church is 3 euro.
#6 Try traditional Finnish food
Different types of fish and meat including reindeer or even a bear, arctic berries and wild mushroom in different combinations create unique flavours of Finnish cuisine. Sea buckthorn juice will give you a daily dose of vitamin C, you will find lingonberries in your Finnish vodka shot, eat hot Karelian pasty and have a dessert of spongy farm cheese in a cinnamon sauce with sour cloudberry jam. Yum! Licorice is also a popular flavour in Finnish cuisine, but not everyone likes it. We went for dinner to Lappi and loved it, highly recommended!
#7 Visit Helsinki markets
Helsinki has several outdoor and indoor markets. We visited the ones next to the harbour, located close to the Market Square. The indoor one offers a nice warmth during the walk on a cold day and on the outdoor one you can find everything from home-made food to handmade souvenirs.
Where to stay in Helsinki?
The stay in Helsinki was a gift from my boyfriend to me, so this time we stayed in a very nice luxury hotel, Lilia Roberts. If you want to treat yourself, that’s the place to do it. The rooms are very unique, the hotel is full of art and their breakfast is just amazing! Check prices and book here.
Other options to stay in Helsinki:
Read more about Helsinki and Finland:
- 6 Best Day Trips From Helsinki
- Norway winter clothing – what to pack for Norway in winter, applicable also for Helsinki in winter
Would you like to visit Helsinki in winter? Do you have any other ideas of what to do in Helsinki in winter? Share in the comments!
Published: February 2018, Updated: March 2019.
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