Strings of light float above Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki’s official Christmas street, a tradition which began in 1949 as a gesture of hope after the darkness of the war years. Candles flicker in the windows of the surrounding shops and cafes and the city is aglow. A blanket of snow makes it even cozier — it may be cold outside but Helsinki radiates warmth during the holidays.
Read more about Christmas in Helsinki at MyHelsinki.fi
Helsinki Christmas Market
Helsinki Christmas Market is located in Senate Square and is the oldest and most popular Christmas market in Helsinki.
This historic area of Helsinki is a gathering place for many events and festivities throughout the year and is notable for the beautiful white cathedral overlooking the square. Designed by Carl Ludwig Engel in the 19th century and completed in 1852, Helsinki Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Helsinki and an impressive example of neo-classical architecture. It is on the steps of the cathedral that the newly crowned St Lucia, a young woman dressed in white, descends each year on the 13th of December. A tradition borrowed from the 4th century Italian Christian martyr, it has become an important and symbolic occasion for the Finns and is definitely worth seeing if you are here.
There are more than one hundred stalls at Helsinki Christmas Market offering a wonderful pot pourri of beautifully-crafted gifts, Christmas ornaments, as well as locally-grown produce, fish, meats and prepared foods. Santa Claus pays daily visits and an old-fashioned merry-go-round spins in the centre of the square, providing free rides for children and a dose of nostalgia.
Visit Helsinki Christmas Market’s website at Tuomaanmarkkinat.fi.
Just a little more than half an hour outside of Helsinki, this small medieval city is picturesque anytime of year but during Christmas the old town of Porvoo is particularly charming and you might easily feel as if you are stepping back in time.
Perfectly preserved colourful wooden houses and riverside huts dress up for the occasion and cobblestone streets are strung with lights. When it snows, this is truly a winter wonderland. Old-fashioned kick sleds or potkukelkkas are still a mode of transportation here, as they are in many small towns around the country. Locals embrace the season and ski the frozen river, and stroll through town to shop, eat in pretty cafes and meet with friends.
Christmas officially begins with a ceremony in Old Market Square on at the end of November and there are festivities throughout the month of December. The thriving community of artists living here ensure you will find something locally-made and authentic.
There is a traditional Christmas market in Old Town Hall Square where purveyors dressed in old-time costumes sell regional crafts and food items. The Christmas Market at the Art Factory, on the other hand, has a more contemporary focus on design.
Read more about Christmas in Porvoo at Visitporvoo.fi.
Finland’s oldest and third largest city, Turku, is a two-hour train ride from Helsinki to the southwest coast, in a dense and beautiful region of the Finnish archipelago.
Situated at the mouth of the scenic Aura River, the original town was settled in the 13th century and has been launching the Christmas season with a traditional Declaration of Christmas Peace since its inception. The essence of the message calls for harmony and graceful celebration and the people of Turku take the tradition to heart, making this a truly Christmas city.
A giant spruce tree is lit up at Turku Cathedral each year and Turku’s official Christmas street, Yliopistonkatu, is adorned with garlands and light. The main Christmas Market is open on weekends the month before Christmas and has two locations.
The Old Great Square is a family-oriented fair, with food, concerts, Christmas characters and a boisterous feel, while the Christmas market at Market Square is a smaller, more intimate event where the locals shop and you might find more refined products.
Both locations are sure to provide some of the Christmas peace and good will that the people of Turku have been harnessing for centuries.
Visit Turku.fi for more information about Christmas in Turku.
Jyväskylä is situated in the middle of Finland, right in the heart of Finnish lakeland, a little over 3-hour train ride north of Helsinki. Jyväskylä follows in the footsteps of the world-famous architect and designer Alvar Aalto – the city has the most Aalto-designed buildings in the world. Jyväskylä is also known for two UNESCO sites: Petäjävesi Old Church and Oravivuori triangulation tower.
During Christmas time, the city gets in the festive spirit with the Jyväskylä Christmas Village. The season starts with the illumination of Christmas lights around the Church Park. Jyväskylä Parish organises welcoming Christmas events for all, such as Christmas bazaars, concerts and special church services. Would you like to try traditional Christmas food? Visit one of the regions many cozy cafés and restaurants. Jyväskylä also arranges Christmas workshops for the kids and other Yuletide events during November and December.
Read more about the Jyväskylä Christmas Village at Visitjyvaskyla.com.