Helsinki is Finland’s southern capital. It sits on the Gulf of Finland. Mannerheimintie is its central avenue and features cultural institutions including the National Museum, the Parliament House, and the Kiasma art museum. Its ornate, red-brick Uspenski Cathedral overlooks its harbor.
The city is terrific to visit any time of year, but it really lights up at Christmastime. That’s when its holiday markets fill the streets with a sense of cheer. Here are some you won’t want to miss when you’re in town.
Korjaamo Christmas Market (Korjaamon Joulumarkkinat)
The Korjaamo Culture Factory is located in Toolo, Helsinki. It hosts a variety of events throughout the year. During the holiday season, it converts into a market that sells a wide range of locally crafted gifts from 60 vendors. After shopping, you can have a meal at Korjaamo Restaurant, sip mulled wine at the Vaunuhalli Café, or watch a movie in the onsite theater.
Design Christmas Market at Helsinki Cable Factory
The Cable Factory is one of the biggest cultural centers in Finland. It houses three museums, a restaurant, art galleries, dance theaters, and other creative industry spaces. It is also home to the Design Christmas Market that happens over the course of a weekend in early December. Visitors can speak to local designers about the latest trends and can purchase items including ceramics, art, fashion, textile, and lifestyle goods produced by up-and-coming Finnish brands.
Vanhan Joulutori Christmas Market
The Old Student House is a former student house that once served the University of Helsinki. It now hosts events throughout the year including the Vanhan Joulutori Christmas market. The market runs over two stories and offers high-quality hand-crafted Finnish goods. It is a weeklong event that starts in mid-December and ends before Christmas.
Suomenlinna Christmas Market
This market kicks off with a cannon salute by King Gustav III and the Old Militia of Helsinki. Once open, guests can purchase locally made arts and crafts items. Other activities to enjoy are museum visits, craft workshops, and children’s activities. Visitors can also enjoy art exhibitions including drawings by children. Choirs will be performing carols as well. There are cafes and restaurants onsite offering Christmas delicacies and other foods. The island is only accessible by ferry which leaves from Market Square.
Helsinki Christmas Market
The Helsinki Christmas Market is the largest and longest-running in the city. It is held in the heart of the city and attracts thousands of visitors a year. The center of the market features food courts serving regional specialties. Surrounding stalls sell a variety of hand-crafted goods. Farmers set up selling farm-fresh produce. There is also an old-fashioned carousel offering free rides for children. The market starts in late November and shuts down before Christmas.
Porvoo Old Town Christmas Market
Porvoo is a medieval city about a one-hour drive from Helsinki. It’s especially lovely during the holiday season as it hosts a market that’s a sight to behold. The well-preserved wooden houses are decorated for Christmas and the cobblestone streets are filled with light. The frozen river becomes a rink for ice skaters and stalls are set up selling arts and crafts created by local artisans. Vendors dress in old-fashioned costumes adding to the atmosphere selling gift and food products. The Porvoo Art Factory joins in the festivities displaying contemporary art. The event happens over the course of a weekend in mid-December.
Turku Christmas Market
Turku is a two-hour drive from Helsinki and it is considered to be the Christmas city of Finland. Every year on December 24, it hosts the Christmas Peace in its Old Great Square. The event has been going on since the 1320s and it’s considered the country’s oldest Christmas tradition. It includes a market that runs for four weekends up until Christmas. A Christmas tree is set up in front of Turku Cathedral. The official street of Turku, Yliopistonkatu, is decorated with garlands of light. Stalls sell a variety of handicrafts, gifts, toys, and food. Entertainment is provided in the form of music, circus, and theater performances. Santa Claus and his wife and elves are also on hand to add to the festivities.
If you are looking for the ultimate Christmas experience, Helsinki is the place to go. Its markets fill the streets with the spirit of the city creating a nostalgic air. Which will you be visiting when you get to town?