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.
Getting around Helsinki couldn’t be easier. There are generally 3 options:
By Public Transport:
The most convenient way to explore Helsinki, is with a little help from public transport.
You can buy a Helsinki City Card, which allows unlimited use of Helsinki public transport for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
The Helsinki Card also gives free entry to the main sights and museums, a free sightseeing tour and discounts on dining, shopping, and tours, so it’s certainly worth the investment.
By Hop On Hop Off Bus:
Standard buses are available around Helsinki with the Helsinki Card.
However, there is also of course the famous Helsinki Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing Bus.
Take a full loop of the route in just 90 minutes to get an orientation of the city, or jump off at any of the 13-15 stops to explore the attractions that interest you the most.
The bus lets you explore monuments such as the Helsinki Cathedral, the National Museum, and the Sibelius Monument.
This option is always popular among tourists, and a is great way to see many famous landmarks around Helsinki at ease.
Some of the best days out we’ve had in Helsinki have been on private tours.
For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.
From food tours, to river cruises and walking tours, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the Finnish capital!
Book your Helsinki Tours: Helsinki: Top Tours & Activities
WHAT TO PACK
DSLR Camera: Canon EOS 90D
Tripod: Zomei Z666 Tripod
Day Bag: Manfrotto Manhattan Mover-50
Reusable Water Bottle: Hydro Flask Water Bottle
Rain Jacket: Columbia Lightweight Rain Jacket
Beanie Hat: Carhartt Rib Knit Acrylic Hat
The most recognisable monument in Helsinki, and the top destination for most tourists visiting the city.
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 Small Group Walking Tour with a local informative and entertaining guide.
The highly regarded tour take 3 hours, and starts at either 10:00am or 2:00pm, giving a great orientation of the city.
Book your Helsinki Walking Tour: Helsinki Small Group Walking Tour
From Senate Square, why not take a walk around the beautifully lit streets of Helsinki in winter.
The town is decorated with Christmas lights from late November, and they make for some of the prettiest streets we’ve seen in Europe.
If Alexander Street is lit up, Helsinkians know that the Christmas season has begun.
Sauna’s are a huge part of Finnish culture. So if this isn’t 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! 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.
Another of the most popular attractions for both tourists and locals are the Helsinki museums.
From the quirky exhibitions at Amos Rex, to the Atheneum art museum, the Finns love their art.
Finnish design and visual arts have been moulded into their culture since the 19th century.
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!
Book your Helsinki City Card: Helsinki City Card
Recently opened is the new Helsinki Central Library or Library Oodi as it’s better known.
On 5th December 2018 it opened its doors to the public and acts as a living room or work hub for locals and tourists in the capital.
The 3 floor meeting place is located right in the heart of Helsinki. So if you’re getting a little cold from the weather, it’s the perfect place to warm up.
Ok, 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 on Kluuvikatu 3 is the flagship for Fazer’s chocolate empire. We strongly suggest stopping by for some warm bread and soup and of course collecting something sweet to take away!
This unusual shaped monument, located in Sibelius Park, consists of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern.
The Sibelius Monument is dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. And 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.
If snow has fallen already then Sibelius Park is beautiful.
There is a detailed group 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 there. You can check it out here: Helsinki and Suomenlinna 5-Hour Sightseeing Tour.
Just outside of Sibelius Park stands one of the hottest cafes on Instagram right now.
Cafe Regatta is the cosiest of cosy when it comes to lakeside cafes. Stood alone and surrounded by snow, this tiny red wooden cabin stands out in a great way.
Run by a local family, be sure to pop in and grab a cinnamon scroll and hot chocolate. Or you could even pop outside and cook some sausages if you’re brave enough!
Even the grinch could walk through here and feel Christmassy!
One of our favourite things to do in Helsinki in winter was to walk through the Esplanade Park in awe of the decorations.
The Esplanadi, as it’s known locally, is just a five minute walk from start to finish and links downtown Helsinki to the Market Square.
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 Markets 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.
The Old Market Hall has served up customers since 1889.
You can find everything inside 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.
If your 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 happen to find yourself in Helsinki at the same time as LUX Helsinki, you simply must go!
LUX Helsinki is a light show that 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 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 be displayed between 5pm and 10pm.
How can we not include the ice rink in our things to do in Helsinki in winter list!
Every year the Helsinki Icepark is set up in the heart of Helsinki, next door to the central railway station and opposite the Ateneum Museum.
Entrance is €6 per adult and €3 per child (under 18) and its a magical way to spend a couple of hours in the city. Also, it’s a great way of keeping warm.
One thing we always try to do when we visit a new place is eat locally.
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.
Oh and also don’t forget to try the typical Karjalanpiirakka on your journey through 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. All rooms come with 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 ’s Katajanokka island, this hostel is a 5-minute ride from the city centre. Kauppatori is ‘ walk away. It offers guest kitchens, free WiFi and a . 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. The 24-hour reception sells city passes and tickets to attractions. Staff can also recommend area activities.
For more places to stay in Helsinki you can check the latest prices here.