Spending Christmas in Santa Claus’s home country sounds like a dream but the realisation that everything is closed on that day can be very daunting. All Christmas Markets in Helsinki close by 22nd December and most other attractions including restaurants are closed on the 24th and 25th. However, if you are in Helsinki from 23rd to 25th December, fret not, here is a list of what you can do and see during those days.
Day 1 (23rd December)
23rd December is the last day before Christmas when most of the attractions are open. Therefore we suggest the following itinerary to maximize your experience in Helsinki.
Head over to the quaint town of Porvoo
Porvoo is one of the six medieval towns of Finland. Its charm and quaintness will make you fall in love with it almost immediately. Colourful houses by the river, little boutique shops, and beautiful cafe’s offering mouth-watering desserts – take your time to explore Porvoo’s Old Town on foot.
Located only a 50-minute bus ride from Helsinki, Porvoo offers a quiet retreat and makes for a great day trip. Don’t miss the famous Runeberg’s Cake named after the Finnish Poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg.
How to get there: You can catch the bus to Porvoo from Kamppi Bus Station in Helsinki. The frequency is quite high and the tickets can be bought online. Even though we visited this little town after Christmas, we recommend that this will be a good day trip when most of Helsinki is shut.
Return to Helsinki and explore the TRE Christmas Market
This indoor Christmas Market has plenty of handicrafts and other gifts to make you indulge during Christmas time. Make sure you stop by Stockmann to see their Holiday display on the main display window.
End your evening with a delicious Finnish meal at restaurant Muru
Restaurant Muru was just down the road from Hotel Indigo Helsinki Boulevard, where we stayed comfortably throughout our time in Helsinki. Reservations at Muru are necessary and the food is quite exquisite. It was here that we had the best truffle risotto ever.
Day 2 (24th December)
Christmas eve in Helsinki is even quieter and more festive than Christmas day. Most public transport stops plying by 4 PM until noon the following day. This means that one has to seize the day not just for the limited daylight but also to make the most of public transport.
Start your day with the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
This UNESCO world heritage site is a 20-minute ferry ride from Market Square. The ticket costs €5 and is valid for 12 hours. Suomenlinna can be explored entirely on foot. Just remember to pick up a map from the tourist information centre located on the main quay.
You can choose to spend as much or as little time since the frequency of the ferry is quite high. Although all cafe’s, shops, and museums are shut on Christmas eve, it shouldn’t prevent you from exploring the island and soaking in its historic beauty.
When you work up an appetite, return to Helsinki and enjoy lunch at Hotel Kamp. Experience their Christmas menu which has a delectable salmon soup, and some mouth-watering desserts.
After that, why not enjoy a sauna to relax and recharge. Most hotels, including the one we stayed at, have saunas that are open throughout the day.
Spend the evening exploring Helsinki on foot
Walk down Esplanadi park and admire the Christmas lights. If you are lucky, you will spot a Nutella crepe cart right next to the Runeberg statue and get to sample Helsinki’s version of ‘street food’.
From there, discover the Helsinki and Upenski Cathedrals.
For Christmas eve dinner in Helsinki, we recommend the festive buffet at Hotel Katajanokka. It’s no surprise that most restaurants are closed, and that’s why we highly advise you to make a reservation for Christmas dinner in advance.
Day 3 (25th December)
The best thing to enjoy on this cold, quiet day in Helsinki is a swim in the hot sea pool at Helsinki Allas. Recharge your senses and spend Christmas day relaxing with your family while overlooking the Baltic sea.
After your relaxing swim, walk over to the market square and grab a hot cup of glögi (glögi, also called glühwein or mulled wine, is a spiced, usually alcoholic drink, served warm) from this pop-up cafe located under a tent. They also serve Irish coffee and freshly baked Christmas cake among other delicacies.
Christmas dinner at Restaurant Savotta (open for dinner only)
Located right opposite the Helsinki Cathedral, Restaurant Savotta serves some of the best Finnish food we ate in Helsinki! We highly recommend that you make your reservation at least 3-4 weeks in advance as this restaurant is very high in demand.
This meal would be the perfect end to your Christmas weekend in Helsinki!