Let’s say you find yourself in Helsinki, Finland this December. It will undoubtedly be dark and cold. Chances are, the arctic wind coming off the Baltic Sea will be slicing through your wool coat like a knife, so venturing outside does not sound like fun, until you realize that December is the month of Christmas markets in Helsinki!
Women’s Christmas Market, December 2-6
This is my favorite Christmas market and the largest in town. There are four rooms filled with a wide selection gifts, decorations, and food made by Finnish women. Last year I bought Christmas elf napkin rings, traditional Finnish spicy Christmas mustard made with Calvados, fur earmuffs, a hand knit shawl trimmed with feathers, and some Christmas tree ornaments. After shopping, refuel with a cup of coffee and some tasty gingerbread. The market is held in the Vanha Satama building in the Katajanokka section of Helsinki (on the tram 4 line).
St. Thomas Christmas Market, December 7-20
Vendors line both sides of Esplanadi park in the center of Helsinki to sell their wares. This market is not limited to Christmas decorations, but there are also hand crafted items that make nice gifts, like iron candlesticks; cups and decorations made from birch wood; furs; and knits. It is held rain or shine.
Indoor Market at the Old Student’s Hall, December 14-23
This market is held in the cozy confines of the Old Student Hall at the intersection of Mannerheimintie and Alexanderinkatu (decorated to the nines and known as “Joulukatu,” or “Christmas Street” in December), two of Helsinki’s principle thoroughfares. It is smaller than the St. Thomas and Women’s Christmas markets but it has unique jewelry, knits, and Christmas decorations for sale.
Upon leaving the Old Student’s Hall, you will not have to walk very far in the cold before coming across some warmth. A glöggi (mulled, spiced wine) stand is conveniently located outside the Old Student’s Hall. Grab a steaming glass of glöggi, stroll down Alexanderinkatu, and check out the Christmas windows at Stockmann, Helsinki’s main department store. If you still have energy to shop, head to the forth and fifth floors of Stockmann for more Christmas decorations and a selection of house wares crafted in the Finnish modern design tradition.