Winter adventures in Helsinki
Published: 21.12.2021 / Student life / Blog
Are the colder months in Helsinki making you feel a bit low? Look no further, here is a list of fun activities to help you keep the morale high!
Now that winter has arrived and the hours of daylight are becoming scarcer, it is normal to feel bluer and more dejected than usual. Sadly, this is a very common reality for everyone here in Finland, old and new residents alike. Luckily, Helsinki keeps being a lively city during the colder months as well, offering all sorts of activities to keep its citizens busy. Below I compiled a list of the activities I recommend during autumn and during winter equally.
Nature in the city
While the weather might not inspire you to, it is good for the mind and body to spend time outdoors during the dark months too. There are plentiful of parks in and around Helsinki to satisfy your hiking needs or even act as the background for your jogs or long walks. My recommendations for city locations will always be the Viikki nature reserve (reachable from Herttoniemi metro station) and the Mustikkamaa, which you can get to from the Kulosaari metro station. The Viikki natural reserve is the largest natural reserve in Helsinki and is especially famous (along with Lammasaari) among birdwatchers. While Mustikkamaa is popular during the summer, I find its nature beautiful and calming during autumn and winter as well.
A special mention goes to Keskuspuisto in the Töölönlahti area, right in the heart of the city. The thick forest offers plenty of hiding places for squirrels, hares and birds as well as elks, although rarer to spot. If, however, you really feel like going on a proper hike, the Sipoonkorpi track ending in Kuusijärvi External link is your best bet. At Kuusijärvi you will not only find barbeque spots, but also wood and smoke saunas to alternate to a dip in the nearby lake.
On the topic of saunas, there are many public ones around the city, some of them are even free! Sauna Hermanni is the first sauna I visited when I moved to Helsinki in 2019. The saunas are separate for men and women, but the atmosphere is mellow and relaxing, with the possibility to play board games and have tea or coffee in the common room. Kulttuurisauna in Merihaka offers the possibility to do ice swimming in the winter. The saunas are heated using wood pellet and seat covers are also included in the admission.
In case you are on the lookout for a fancier sauna experience, Löyly in Hernesaarenranta is the place to be. Löyly includes a traditional Finnish smoke sauna and two other wood-heated saunas and operates all year round, offering a lovely terrace to enjoy your drinks or meals on to just take in the beauty of the bay. Facilities for men and women are separate. Lastly, if you prefer a more social and money free experience, head to Sompasauna! There are three mixed saunas available, one for each level of heat that Finnish old ladies can stomach. There is no regulation on bikinis and you can bring your own drinks and snacks. There are no lockers nor traditional changing rooms, so I recommend visiting with a light bag and no valuables. It is open all year round and maintained by the general public, so be respectful of the place and its users.
Day trips from Helsinki
Would you want to leave Helsinki for a while? I gotcha! There are many destinations that are within easy reach from Helsinki and virtually for any taste. All the locations I will list here can be reached by public transport with the exception of Tallinn, which you have to reach by ferry. During the early autumn and full winter, Porvoo is the best destination for a day trip. It is a quaint little town and it is also Finland’s second oldest city. Mostly known for its Old Town, Porvoo and its surroundings offer a chance to relax away from the buzzing life of the capital and can be reached by bus from the Helsinki Central Bus Station in Kamppi. Turku and Naantali should also be on your list for a day trip. Turku is Finland’s oldest city, rich and proud in traditions and the former center of commerce in Finland before the Russian rule made Helsinki the capital. Not much of its long history is left due to a fire that in 1827 burned more than half of the city; yet, the walk along the banks of river Aura is still 100% worth it. Nor far from Turku is Naantali, which still carries the image of a medieval town. Although I recommend visiting Naantali during the summer (Moominworld amusement park only operates then), it can still be pleasant to see during the darker months and you could get a real feeling of what it was like to live in a medieval city in the 15th century. Turku can be reached by Onnibus and Naantali can be reached by bus 6 or 7 from Turku.
These are only a few cities you can visit on a day trip from Helsinki, but there are many more. I recommend setting off with no expectations and just take in as much of the Finnish landscape and city life as possible.
During winter especially, Helsinki becomes lively with kiosks selling hot drinks, ice rinks for ice skating and slippery slopes to slide down. Certainly, the weather calls for a hot cup of tea or coffee as well, so do pay a visit to your favourite cafes or try mine in Punavuori (Andante and Round) and in Kauppatori (Kappeli). Kakkugalleria in Kamppi has a 10/10 cake buffet you should not miss (GF and vegan options included) and offers a great snack before a heavy ice-skating session. The rinks have not opened yet, but keep an eye on MyHelsinki External link page to know when they do!
Text: Alice Del Fabro, intern, Career Center Arabia