11 Budget Winter Activities in Helsinki

Published March 25, 2024

Helsinki in the Wintertime

Going to Helsinki in wintertime provides a great chance for an active holiday. The city has a lot of attractions that can keep visitors busy and entertained. You can also try many winter activities in Helsinki. From skiing and ice skating, there is something for everyone. Helsinki also has a wide range of cultural and historical sites that can be explored during the winter months. With all these activities and attractions, Helsinki provides a great opportunity to enjoy a winter holiday.

In Helsinki, winter usually starts late. Snowfall in the city is common at the end of December or the beginning of January. Gulf of Finland stores a huge amount of heat from the summer which delays the seasons in Helsinki. Typically, February is the coldest month, but the winter season can stretch into March.

The winter in Helsinki can also be quite unpredictable; some years the temperature may remain above zero for too long, resulting in wet and drab days. However, there are years in which snow is plentiful and the temperature stays below zero for prolonged periods – these are the ideal times to experience the wonders of wintry Helsinki, such as ice swimming.

If you’re looking to get the full experience of winter and city life, Helsinki is a great place to do it and partake in various winter activities. If your main focus is on winter activities, then Lapland is the ideal destination to make sure you get your fill of snow.

When is the Winter?

Helsinki Centre winter
Winter in Helsinki starts in December and ends in March or April.

Winter Activities in Helsinki

City Saunas

If you’re visiting Finland in winter, we highly recommend you experience a Finnish sauna. Helsinki Centre is home to a few of them and our article can help you get familiar with the Finnish sauna culture. Don’t miss out on this unique sauna opportunity in Finland!

Kotiharjun Sauna
Kotiharju wooden-heated sauna is in the Kallio district in a private building.

We recommend visiting a Finnish sauna being one of the best winter activities in Helsinki.

Dipping in the Cold Water

Swimming in icy water is an experience that has been gaining popularity in recent years. People are attracted to the idea of immersing themselves in a body of water that is at a sub-zero temperature. This activity is considered by many to be an exhilarating and refreshing way to enjoy the natural elements.

The sauna and ice swimming make a great pair. Though not everyone likes the idea, the sensation afterwards is unmatched. Löyly ja Kulttuurisauna and other public saunas provide the chance to dip in the sea in the Helsinki Centre. Combining the two is the only feasible way to experience the full effects.

Those who have not yet tried ice swimming may be unaware of the potential health benefits, but they should be aware that the transition from hot to cold can shock the body. For safety reasons, it is advisable to consult with your doctor before taking the plunge.

Ice Skating

Engaging in ice skating can be a fun activity. It is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and offers a great form of exercise. Skaters can enjoy the challenge of mastering new skills, perfecting their techniques, or simply gliding around the ice. Ice skating can be a great way to spend time with family, friends, or just by oneself.

In winter, Brahe Sports Field is one of the many places to ice skate near the city centre. With skate rentals available from the cafe, it’s an ideal spot to enjoy some outdoor skating. After all your hard work, why not treat yourself to a hot chocolate to warm up?

If you have no experience in ice skating, you may feel a bit apprehensive. Yet, with a little bit of courage, it can be one of the most rewarding winter activities in Helsinki. Indeed, it is a popular pastime among Finns.

Cross-Country Skiing in the Suburbs of Helsinki

In Finland, cross-country skiing is a mandatory part of the school curriculum. Those visiting Helsinki can go skiing on many trails. Lack of snow is not an issue as the routes are filled with snow artificially.

If you’re a novice skier, Paloheinä is an ideal spot to start. You can rent skis there and even attend courses. Paloheinä is only 30 30-minute bus ride away from the Helsinki Centre.

Grilling Near the Frozen Sea

Have you ever tried to barbecue in the great outdoors during the cold winter? Cafe Regatta, a comfy cafe close to the shoreline of Helsinki city centre, has the perfect setting for it. You can either enjoy a cup of hot coffee indoors or cook a sausage outside on the campfire.

Although we are in Helsinki, the atmosphere of this cafe has a certain exotic quality to it.

Walking on the Ice

The process of walking on the frozen sea, often referred to as “ice walking,” can be an exhilarating experience. It is an adventure that allows an individual to explore the icy waters while taking in spectacular views and perhaps some wildlife. The process of ice walking requires a lot of preparation, including special gear and layers of clothing. It is important to take safety measures, such as having a guide or a partner, before setting out on an ice-walking journey.

In January and February, the sea usually freezes with a sturdy layer of ice. When you walk on the ice, it can give you a sense of liberation. Nevertheless, it is never advisable to go on alone and it is recommended to ask the locals if the ice is secure. If you do happen to fall in, it would be wise to bring some safety gear.

We recommend trying ice walking, however, it is best to do so with someone familiar with the activity. Unexpectedly plunging into frigid water is not the type of ice swimming experience that you are hoping for.

Going to Pubs

One of the popular activities many people enjoy is visiting bars. A great way to have a fun evening with friends is to go to pubs and socialize. You can order drinks, listen to music, and meet new people. Karaoke is also popular in Helsinki. A night at the bar is always an exciting way to spend time with friends.

At one point, there was an ice bar in Helsinki, where everything was built from ice. Sadly, it no longer exists, but it won’t be long before a new one is established. In the meantime, there are many great bars in the Helsinki Centre that you can visit if you’d prefer a warmer atmosphere.

Snowboarding

Snowboarding is a popular winter activity for those who enjoy the thrill of gliding down a snow-covered slope. It’s a great way to experience the outdoors and have some fun in the wintertime. Snowboarders can be found all over the world, enjoying the slopes and taking in the beautiful scenery. From beginner to expert, there are plenty of challenges and adventures to be had.

Cross-country skiing is less popular among young Finns than downhill, which may be due to its more thrilling nature.

Helsinki Centre is not the ideal spot for downhill skiing or snowboarding since there are no mountains in the vicinity. The south of Finland has a rather flat terrain, making it unsuitable for performing winter sports. However, if you are ready to travel a little further, also snowboarding is possible in Helsinki.

Strolling in the Snowy Suomenlinna

Guides about Helsinki will tell you that Suomenlinna is a fortress once used for military purposes, located in Southern Helsinki. Its history is rich and the landscape is breathtaking. During the summer months, it is a favoured destination for tourists who want to explore its beauty. Consequently, it is highly recommended by travel experts.

You should be aware that the winter winds can be very frigid. Not many services are operational besides a supermarket and a bistro with its brewery. To get to Suomenlinna Island, one can board the public ferry from the market square, which comes about once an hour. A Helsinki region public transportation ticket is all that is needed.

Exploring Suomenlinna in the wintertime is a different option but the islands are incredibly thrilling. When it’s dark, they become incredibly dark, icy and heavily snow-covered. There won’t be many people around, so you’ll forget that you are in the heart of the capital city.

Sledding Down Hills

Going down a hill on a sledge can be an exhilarating experience. The wind in your face, the feeling of flying, and the cold water splashing all around you are just a few of the thrills that come with sledging. It can be a thrilling way to spend an afternoon and a great way to get wet!

Children eagerly anticipate the winter season due to the opportunity to go sledging, even if it might mean getting soaked.

It is suggested that one should take the time to look into a noteworthy article about sledging in Helsinki.

If you’re looking for a spot to go sledding, Kaivopuisto Park situated by the seaside is a great option. It’s a mere 30-minute walk from the city centre or you can take the tram. Plastic trays for sledging can be purchased from larger supermarkets for a few euros.

Gazing the Stars Above a Frozen Lake

In Helsinki, the coldest days are characterized by clear skies. While the occurrence of northern lights in the city is rare, one can still witness the enchanting sight of a starry sky. To fully experience this magical display, a short drive outside of Helsinki, perhaps to one of the numerous lakes, is required. The combination of the frigid air, snow-covered landscapes, and serene surroundings can provide a truly magical escape for urban dwellers seeking respite from the hustle of big cities.

Helsinki in the Coldest Months of the Year

Winter is one of the best times to visit Helsinki. This is when the city is at its coldest and some people say that the Finnish capital shows its other beauty when covered by snow. Temperatures drop to freezing levels and the snow covers the landscape, creating a picturesque winter wonderland. The months of December, January, and February are the best time to experience Helsinki’s winter charm.

We suggest arriving between January and February for a genuine Finnish Winter. Furthermore, post-Christmas is a great time to visit as sales are usually available. Additionally, it is more likely that snow will have already fallen in Helsinki by January.

Helsinki Christmas Market stall
After you have tried winter activities in Helsinki, why not buy local delicacies to replenish yourself?

During March, while temperatures remain relatively low, the length of daylight increases and there may be glimpses of sunshine. Nights can become chilly, but the days can become warmer. This time is suitable for a visit, but we suggest arriving early in March to ensure there is still snow on the ground.

The Appropriate Way of Dressing on Cold Days

In Finland, it is not difficult to decide what to wear indoors. Your typical wardrobe will suffice, as the buildings are kept warm throughout the country.

Helsinki Christmas Market
When Visiting Helsinki in December, you can enjoy the warm atmosphere at the Helsinki Christmas Market.

When participating in outdoor activities, you’ll need to dress appropriately. It is essential to wear warm pants and long underwear to stay comfortable. Socks should be thick enough to keep feet warm and any spaces between clothing should be minimized to avoid letting in cold air. Additionally, gloves, a scarf and a hat should be worn.

At temperatures near 0, the clothes you have are likely sufficient. But if the thermometer drops to -20 degrees, you must be more mindful. Wear at least three distinct layers, with room between them to ensure maximum insulation. Additionally, protect your head and ears. In particularly frigid weather, using a face cream designed for extreme cold temperatures is also advisable. Speak with your local pharmacy to determine the best option for you.

Bottom Line

Helsinki experiences four distinct seasons, with winter being particularly noteworthy. Despite the cold temperatures, the frozen landscape transforms into a winter wonderland, offering breathtaking views. If you’re not fond of extreme cold, don’t worry! Helsinki has also plenty of indoor activities, including saunas, to keep you warm and entertained during the winter. The best part is that visiting Helsinki during winter is affordable, and you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank to enjoy winter activities.

For an optimal winter experience, we suggest planning your trip for January or February. Keep in mind that Helsinki’s weather can be unpredictable, ranging from cold and crisp to rainy. It’s advisable to be prepared for various conditions and adjust your plans accordingly. Embrace indoor attractions during inclement weather, and make the most of the winter Activities in Helsinki when the weather is at its best, basking in the winter sun. Helsinki offers the perfect blend of cultural attractions and winter activities for visitors to enjoy.

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