Christmas Markets are a Solid Reason to Brave the Cold in Helsinki
Helsinki is perfect for a winter holiday for those who are not afraid of snow and some nippy weather. Over this week and next, Jaunted’s Vancouver-based, Finland-born contributor Tuija Seipell of The Cool Hunter, will report on some of her recent finds in the cold temps of her homeland.
Helsinki is the World Design Capital 2012 and although we will eventually talk design later in this series, for now we’ll look at some downtown Helsinki Christmas markets.
For those who do not live in Helsinki, the massive snowfall Helsinki has received this winter (and last year!) has made the city both beautiful and fun. For locals, the weather is a big hassle. But it makes the visits to the annual St. Thomas Market (Tuomaan Markkinat) in the Esplanade Park (Espan Puisto) next to the main Market Square a real fairy-tale experience.
The snowy path is lined on both sides with more than 140 tiny red wooden huts where artisans, artists and yes, designers, offer high-quality handicrafts. According to tradition, all Christmas preparations must be completed by St. Thomas’s Day (December 21), but this market stays open until the 22nd.
Another long-time Helsinki Christmas market is indoors, in the beautiful Old Student House built in 1870. Affectionately know just as “Vanha” (Finnish for “old”) and with over 160 sellers on two floors, the “Old’s Christmas Market” (Vanhan Joulumyyjäiset) is the largest in the city. Located at Mannerheimintie 3, right downtown and open until the 22nd.
First time this year, the Narinkkatori Market by the Kamppi Shopping Centre, also downtown, has a Christmas World (Joulumaailma) market with 40 stalls and all kinds of entertainment for kids and families, including cookie decorating and even a carousel. This market closes on the 21st.
Another great place for fun gift shopping indoors is the lovely yellow Bock Building erected in 1763 by merchant Gustav Johan Bock. Although this is not a seasonal “market,” it has so many one-of-a-kind shops that it is definitely worth a visit if you are looking for unique Finnish gifts. The shops offer, for example, sauna-related products, the famous Marttiini knives, clothing and jewellery. It's located at Aleksanterinkatu 20, near the Senate Square.
[Photos: The City of Helsinki]