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12th December 2018
Helsinki At Christmas Time
[Advent Calendar 2018]

A number of participants of our recent Community Survey were interested in learning more about Remedy's home in Finland. Earlier in the month we featured a small recipe for pannukakku, but this time I wanted to actually delve into what it's like in Helsinki around Christmas-time.

Tuomaan Markkinat. One of my favourite things about this time of year are Christmas markets, and every year Tuomaan Markkinat sets up base at the bottom of the steps at Senate Square. It's quite an impressive sight as looking over the market is perhaps one of Helsinki's well known tourist spot, the Helsinki Cathedral. The stalls are set up in small sheds to protect sellersfrom the elements. But in addition to that, the wooden sheds which fill the marketplace with so many sights and sounds are enclosing a huge and bright merry go round. In each shed, there's a different seller which could be selling things from bakery products to cheese, to fudge, to chocolate. My favourite thing to do is get some roasted chestnuts and tour the sheds. It's also worth checking out a store called FudgeLove (who also has pop-up stores around Helsinki) as they do an AMAZING salmiakki (salty liquorice) and lemon fudge. There's homemade jam, and hand-knitted accessories, and hand-crafted chocolates, a lot of perfect products if you're still looking for a special gift. The Christmas Market is open from 1st-22nd December. For more information on the activities taking place, check out their website, at TuomaanMarkkinat.fi

Senate Square / Photo by Jussi Hellsten, as part of his 365Helsinki project with VisitHelsinki.

Christmas Street. In London, a select few streets are chosen to have Christmas decorations; lights brighten up Covert Garden, Regent Street, and Oxford Street, where the main traffic tends to be, but you only need to walk a little further for it all to descend into darkness again. As Helsinki is a smaller and more tightly-knitted city, Christmas decorations seem to fill more of the area making for a magical walk. There is one street in particular which is focused on this time of year, Aleksanterinkatu, which is also dubbed Christmas Street. In late November, the opening of Christmas Street is celebrated with a switching on of the lights and a parade through Unioninkatu (by the Helsinki Cathedral), Aleksanterinkatu (along Christmas Street, past Stockmann), Mannerheimintie (along the main road) and  Pohjoisesplanadi (through to Esplanadi Park) which makes for a lovely and festive walk even after the parade. With Christmas lights overhead, a number of store fronts start their seasonal displays, some of the most impressive of which is the Stockmann windows.

Christmas Shopfront / Photo by Jussi Hellsten, as part of his 365Helsinki project with VisitHelsinki.

Jääpuisto. Situated next to the Central Railway Station, there's a perfect spot to fit in some ice skating! Tickets start at 3€ for children (under 18), and 6€ for adults. Renting a pair of skates will also cost an additional €6. There are also season tickets (ten visits) available, as well as private lessons for 30 minutes, starting from 25€. The park is located in a wonderful spot with amazing architecture and within comfortable walking distance of a number of restaurants. The park also has a cafe alongside selling snacks and hot drinks for days when the temperature dips.

Treats. It wouldn't be Christmas without some festive treats and Finland is packed with them. There's glögi in almost everywhere, and it's perfect for having when the temperature gets chilly. Glögi is essentially mulled wine and contains spices such as cloves, cinnamon and ginger. The shop-bought cartons tend to be based on a fruit juice such as grape, blackcurrent, or apple. And while the pre-made glögi from stores is non-alcoholic, red wine or vodka can be adde to give it an extra bite. Some of my favourite treats are joulutorttu which are seasonal pastries with prune jam (and can be easily made at home), and Fazer's Vihreitä Kuulia which are fruit jellies.

To learn more about Helsinki at Christmas, visit the tourist website VisitFinland.com.

Useful links for exploring the city this season: Christmas Paths and Other Seasonal Fun for the Whole FamilyNew Year’s Eve at the Senate Square in Helsinki 2019Christmas Markets and Fairs that are Full of Atmosphere.

Aleksanterinkatu / Photo by Jussi Hellsten, as part of his 365Helsinki project with VisitHelsinki.

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