Helsinki, the capital of Finland is the most northern capital city in mainland Europe (being beaten out for the top spot by only Reykjavik in Iceland)! It’s one of the coldest cities in Europe in winter and while some people thought we were crazy for visiting, we fell in love with the snowy city! We visited in the depths of winter, in the middle of January and yes it was cold, but it was also incredibly beautiful. We had a wonderful time wandering around in the snow, visiting the Helsinki Cathedral, admiring the festive lights, experiencing the Finnish sauna culture and swimming in the freezing Baltic Sea! There’s plenty to see and do in Helsinki in winter and whilst our visit was short and sweet, we loved it and would definitely return one day.
Helsinki was still decorated in lights from Christmas and so we spent the morning exploring Helsinki’s centre on foot. It snowed fairly heavily all day, without a single break! We’d had lots of snow in Riga and Tallinn too and so we felt like we were getting used to traipsing around in the snow and honestly, as an Aussie I don’t think I’d ever tire of snow! It’s just to magical and a white dusting makes everything look so beautiful.
One of the main sights I had wanted to see in Helsinki was the Helsinki Cathedral. Located only a couple of blocks from Market Square, the Cathedral looked so magical surrounded by fresh powdery snow!
We’d booked Hotel Fabian for our stay in Helsinki, a boutique hotel which was only a few blocks from Market Square, in the heart of Helsinki! The staff were welcoming and very eager to help with directions and information about the city, and our room was absolutely stunning. As we were in Helsinki for less than 24 hours, we’d booked one of their ‘Comfort rooms’ which was more than enough! It was stylish and spacious with a large bathroom complete with rain shower and luxe toiletries and a soft, cosy bed which was just what we wanted after a busy day walking around in the snow.
We arrived at the hotel at 10am, as we’d caught the early ferry from Tallinn and it was lovely to be able to check straight into our room. My only slight complaint was that when we booked they advised us we could have an early breakfast before our flight which consisted of a croissant each and a takeaway tea. It was better than nothing, but we had expected a little more (especially as the breakfast reviews are excellent). For $210 our stay at Hotel Fabian was wonderful, and we would definitely recommend it and book again.
I absolutely love Finnish saunas, and when we travel we always try and book hotels with a sauna and pool. Saunas are a huge part of Finnish culture! Finland has 5 million people and over 3 million saunas which is pretty incredible! Apparently even Burger King in Helsinki has a sauna, which I personally think is just strange! Helsinki has some amazing public saunas which allow you to experience the Finnish sauna culture for yourself.
When researching public saunas in Helsinki, we came across Löyly, Helsinki’s newest public sauna which offers two sauna rooms, a lounge, terrace, bar, restaurant and outdoor access to the icy sea (for swimming)! It is a very social sauna experience and you need to book online in advance.
It was here that we did as the locals do and ticked ice swimming off our bucket list, brrrrrr! Löyly has an outdoor path to the sea and stairs down into the icy sea! To us, it was more painful than refreshing however it was a big tick off the bucket list and after a two second dip we ran back into the sauna to try and warm up. At the time I thought I would never do it again, but now I’m wishing I was back there in snowy Helsinki, sweating in the sauna and waiting to cool down in the icy sea. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!
We had our uber drop us back in town so we could have a look at the lights in the dark! Everything looked so beautiful lit up in the snow and I’m so glad that even though it was freezing, we took the time to stop and have a wander around, admiring the festive lights!
It was then time for a quick takeaway dinner, something we rarely do but in this case our sleep was more important! We ate dinner in bed before setting our alarm for 3am for our flight to Rovaniemi! I’ve wanted to visit Rovaniemi, which is located in Lapland in the Arctic Circle ever since I first saw photos of it and knew it was going to be a higlight of this trip! Because our flight was so early, we booked our airport transfers through hoppa, a company we’ve used for transfers in Sydney, Istanbul and all through Europe! We’ve always found hoppa to be reliable, on time and easy to book! They’ve always provided excellent service ensuring our airport transfers are relaxing and stress free, which is exactly how you want to feel when you are travelling to or from an airport!
We loved visiting Helsinki in winter, everything looked so beautiful covered in snow and I’m so glad we got to tick ice swimming off our bucket list! Whilst Helsinki certainly isn’t cheap, we found it to be cheaper than the other Scandinavian capital cities of Copenhagen and Stockholm, however much colder!
Looking for more on Helsinki? Read our Five things to do in Helsinki in Winter!