Embracing the chilly season with its distinctive Nordic charm, Helsinki transforms into a dazzling winter wonderland. The city is known for its diverse array of winter activities, offering visitors a cool winter escape.
A standout among Helsinki’s winter attractions is the Helsinki Christmas Market. In this article, I share the confirmed dates for 2023, opening times and local specialties you’ll find at the Christmas stalls.
In winter, Helsinki transforms into a holiday hub, with Christmas lights and festive decorations adorning the city streets. It’s the perfect setting for a winter escape, complete with a variety of holiday activities, including the traditional Christmas market and ice skating rinks.
Helsinki Christmas Market 2023
The centrepiece of the city’s holiday celebrations is the Christmas market in Helsinki’s Senate Square.
This traditional winter market offers a broad selection of homemade crafts, unique ornaments and special gifts. Live music and entertainment feature prominently at the market, contributing to the festive mood.
The Christmas tree at the centre of the market is a major draw, further enhancing the holiday vibe. It serves as an ideal spot for visitors to enjoy a warm cup of glögi and fully appreciate the pretty location.
Dates and Location
Helsinki Christmas Market dates: 1st to 22nd December 2023.
Location: Senate Square.
Opening times: Sunday to Thursday: 11am to 7pm. Friday and Saturday: 11am to 8pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Ice skating: Yes, at Jääpuisto Ice Park.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten-free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Unique Finnish traditions; extensive range of homemade crafts; distinctive glögi experience amid enchanting holiday decor.
Recommended tour: City centre walking tour with a local guide.
Specialities: Glögi, Finnish pastries, smoked salmon, sausages, rye bread; local, seasonal, heart-warming delicacies.
Where to stay: Solo Sokos Hotel is a highly-rated hotel, not far from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Helsinki Christmas Market
The Kruununhaka neighbourhood, just a stone’s throw from Senate Square, is an excellent place to stay for its proximity to the Christmas Market and other main attractions. With its picturesque streets and nearby historical sites, it combines convenience and charm.
For accommodation, I suggest the Solo Sokos Hotel – it’s a high-rated establishment, perfectly positioned for experiencing the festive atmosphere.
Location of Helsinki Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
Exploring Helsinki through a city tour can provide valuable insights into its distinct history and culture. Despite the chill, winter visits reveal the city in a different, enchanting light, showcasing its unique architecture and festive atmosphere.
This small group walking tour of Helsinki is highly recommended for first-time visitors; it’s an efficient way to see numerous city highlights under the guidance of a local guide and at a reasonable cost.
You’ll have the opportunity to visit iconic attractions such as the historical Senate Square, the impressive Helsinki Cathedral and the unique Temppeliaukio Church, carved directly into solid rock.
As an alternative, consider delving into the Finnish culinary scene through this dedicated food tour. These tours have recently gained popularity and offer an engaging way to understand local culture through its flavoursome cuisine.
Christmas in Helsinki
The video below gives you a glimpse into the atmosphere of the Helsinki Christmas Market. Watch it to get an idea of the stalls, the variety of goods on sale, and the overall festive ambience.
Christmas Specialties in Helsinki
Karelian pies: These are traditional Finnish pastries, typically baked with a rye crust and filled with rice porridge. Originating from the eastern region of Karelia, they are a versatile delicacy often served with egg butter.
Joulukinkku: As you navigate the food stalls, you’ll come across Joulukinkku, the Christmas ham. This Finnish staple is cooked and glazed slowly in the oven, typically served cold and thinly sliced.
Lanttulaatikko: This translates to ‘swede casserole’, one of the essential dishes in a traditional Finnish Christmas meal. Swede is cooked, pureed, mixed with bread crumbs, treacle and spices, then baked in an oven till it gets a lovely caramelised top.
Rosolli: Rosolli is a classic Finnish salad prepared for Christmas. It includes diced beetroot, potato and carrot mixed together with pickles and topped with a creamy dressing made from whipped cream and beetroot juice.
Joulutorttu: Christmas wouldn’t be the same in Finland without Joulutorttu. These star-shaped pastries are made from puff pastry and filled with prune jam. They’re often dusted with powdered sugar before serving.
Glögi: A warm, spiced drink, similar to mulled wine, that’s enjoyed during the holiday season. Non-alcoholic versions are made with blackcurrant or grape juice, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and other seasonings. Alcoholic versions might include wine, vodka, or brandy.
Piparkakut: These are thin, crisp gingerbread cookies. They’re often intricately decorated and can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Food at the Christmas Market
Finnish Sausages: At the Helsinki Christmas Market, you can sample the hearty Finnish sausages, known locally as ‘makkara’. They are usually grilled or smoked and often enjoyed with a dollop of mustard.
Reindeer Kebabs: Reindeer meat is commonly used in Finnish cuisine, and you can try them in the form of kebabs at the market. These kebabs are succulent, juicy and provide a unique taste of Finnish tradition.
Liha Perunat: A common street food staple, liha perunat translates to ‘meat potatoes’. It consists of diced meat and potatoes, typically pork, fried together and served hot, perfect for warming up in the chilly weather.
Finnish Pancakes: Also known as ‘letut’, these pancakes are thicker and smaller than their American counterparts. They are typically topped with jam or sugar, providing a sweet treat amidst the savoury options.
Gingerbread Cookies: While gingerbread cookies, or piparkakut, are a Finnish tradition, they’re also commonly found in Christmas markets across Europe. They’re loved for their sweet and spiced flavour.
Roasted Chestnuts: Roasted chestnuts are a quintessential Christmas market snack across Europe, and Helsinki is no exception. The vendors roast them over an open fire, providing a warm and comforting snack that’s perfect for walking around the market.
Mulled Wine: Known as glögi in Finland, this warm spiced wine is an international Christmas market staple. Vendors may also serve a non-alcoholic version for those who prefer it.
What to Buy
Finnish Design Items: Helsinki is renowned for its design scene, and the market reflects this. You can find everything from home decor items to clothing and accessories that showcase Finnish design aesthetics. They typically display a minimalist approach, drawing inspiration from nature.
Handmade Crafts: Local artisans exhibit their work at the Christmas market. You might come across beautifully crafted wooden items, delicate ceramics, and intricate jewellery, each item echoing the artisan’s skill and creativity.
Nordic Sweaters: Warm, woolly, and adorned with Nordic patterns, these sweaters are both practical and stylish. They’re typically knitted with heavy wool to combat the Finnish winter and often feature traditional patterns and designs.
Finnish Food Products: You can also find local food products that make excellent gifts. Finnish honey, berry jams, and salmiakki (Finnish liquorice) are among the popular choices. They allow you to take a taste of Finland back home.
Christmas Decorations: The Christmas market in Helsinki has an assortment of holiday decorations, many handmade and unique to Finland. These range from traditional Finnish Christmas elves, known as ‘tonttu’, to beautifully crafted ornaments made of wood or glass.
Finnish Sauna Accessories: The sauna is a significant part of Finnish culture. You’ll come across various sauna-related products at the market, from aromatic sauna oils to beautiful wooden ladles and handcrafted sauna buckets.
Finnish Literature: You might find a selection of books by Finnish authors, both in English and Finnish. They’re an excellent way to learn more about Finnish culture, folklore and history.
Traditional Toys: Handmade wooden toys make an excellent, timeless gift for children. These toys, often hand-painted, provide a quaint, old-world charm that contrasts beautifully with modern mass-produced toys.
For further travel inspiration, this guide provides a detailed and informative overview of the Christmas markets in Finland, including the best markets to visit, local traditions and popular food specialties. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to plan their festive adventure in Finland.
The Visit Finland is a great resource for anyone planning a trip to Helsinki. It provides helpful information on the city’s attractions, transportation and events, making planning your trip easy and getting the most out of your Christmas visit.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
If you’re looking for ways to be more sustainable this Christmas in Helsinki, here are some ideas to consider:
Travel with Public Transport: Helsinki has an efficient public transportation system. It includes trams, buses, ferries and metros, most of which run on renewable energy sources. To minimise your carbon footprint, make the most of these services instead of using taxis or hiring cars.
Stay in Eco-Friendly Accommodations: Numerous hotels in Helsinki have embraced sustainability. They use renewable energy, follow strict waste management practices and focus on energy efficiency. By choosing such accommodations, you contribute to the demand for sustainable practices in the tourism sector.
Avoid Food Waste: It’s easy to over-order when faced with delicious Finnish Christmas cuisine. However, try to order only what you can finish to prevent food waste. Some Helsinki restaurants also have apps to sell surplus food at the end of the day at discounted prices, which is a great way to reduce waste and enjoy local dishes.
Choose Locally Produced and Ethical Souvenirs: When shopping at the Christmas market, opt for local crafts and produce. Not only do these purchases support local artisans and businesses, but they also reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods over long distances.
Eat Sustainably: Helsinki has a vibrant food scene with many restaurants sourcing local, organic ingredients. Eating at such places supports local farmers and reduces your food’s carbon footprint. Additionally, consider trying vegetarian or vegan options, as plant-based diets are generally more sustainable.
By making sustainable choices this Christmas, you can help reduce your impact on the environment and contribute to a more sustainable future for Helsinki.
Helsinki Christmas Market starts on the 1st December and ends on the 22nd December 2023.
The Christmas markets in Helsinki are held at Senate Square in the city centre.
The Christmas markets are open Sunday to Thursday: 11am to 7pm. Friday and Saturday: 11am to 8pm.
If you would like to leave a review of Helsinki Xmas Market, comment below.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Helsinki, Finland. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.