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Finnish Christmas markets

4 minute read

Credits:: Julia Kivelä

Finland’s Christmas markets add an extra dash of magic to the season’s festivities

Finns love to celebrate the holiday season. Starting in early December, people gather for pikkujoulu (or “little Christmas”) parties, and markets bustle with shoppers sipping hot Finnish mulled wine, or glögi. Experience the Yuletide cheer for yourself at these Finnish Christmas markets.

Credits: Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo

Helsinki

Located in Senate Square is the oldest and most popular Christmas market in the capital. Helsinki Cathedral, designed by Carl Ludwig Engel and completed in 1852, overlooks the scene, and on December 13th, the newly crowned St. Lucia descends the cathedral’s stairs. It’s a Christmas tradition that honors the 4th-century Christian martyr, and it’s an important and symbolic occasion for Finns that’s worth seeing.

In addition to the St. Lucia procession, Helsinki Christmas Market has more than one hundred stalls offering a potpourri of beautifully-crafted gifts and Christmas ornaments, as well as locally-grown produce, fish, meat and prepared foods. Santa Claus pays daily visits and an old-fashioned merry-go-round spins in the square’s centre, offering free rides for children and a dose of nostalgia for adults.

Visit Helsinki Christmas market’s website at Tuomaanmarkkinat.fi.

Credits: : Julia Kivelä
Credits:: Jussi Hellstén / Visit Helsinki

Porvoo

Just over half an hour outside Helsinki, the small medieval city of Porvoo holds a charming holiday market that will make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Perfectly-preserved wooden houses and riverside huts dress up for the occasion and cobblestone streets are strung with lights. And when it snows, Porvoo truly becomes a winter wonderland. Here, as in many smaller towns across the country, old-fashioned kick sleds, or potkukelkka, are still a winter mode of transportation. Locals wholeheartedly embrace the season – they ski on the frozen river and stroll through town to shop for gifts, eat in pretty cafes and meet with friends.

Christmas in Porvoo officially begins with a ceremony in Old Market Square at the end of November, and there are festivities all throughout December. One is the traditional Christmas market in Old Town Hall Square, where vendors dressed in old-time costumes sell regional crafts and food items. The other is the Christmas Market at the Art Factory, which is more contemporary and focused on design. Whether you visit one or both, Porvoo’s thriving artists community ensures you’ll find something beautiful and locally-made to bring home.

Read more about Christmas in Porvoo at Visitporvoo.fi.

Credits: Visit Porvoo

Turku

Finland’s oldest and third-largest city, Turku, sits on the southwest coast, just a two-hour train ride from Helsinki. Situated at the mouth of the scenic Aura River, the original town was settled in the 13th century and has been kicking off the Christmas season with a traditional Declaration of Christmas Peace since its inception. In essence, the message calls for harmony and grace, and the people of Turku truly take its spirit to heart.

Aside from the declaration, there’s also a giant spruce tree lit up at Turku Cathedral, and the city’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: one in Old Great Square and another in Market Square. While the Old Great Square location is a family-oriented affair with food, concerts, Christmas characters and a boisterous feel, the one at Market Square is a smaller, more intimate event featuring high-quality products. Both markets offer a hefty dose of the Christmas cheer and goodwill that Turku is known for.

Visit Turku.fi for more information about Christmas in Turku.

Credits: Timo Jakonen

Tampere

Tampere, Finland’s second largest city, is located in the southwest in Lakeland. The former textile factory town was established on the banks of the Tammerkoski Rapids in the late 18th century, and today, it’s known for its rich culture and beautiful lakeside nature.

During the holiday season, Tampere’s Christmas market in Central Square has a decidedly artistic vibe, but it offers much more than just arts, crafts and specialty foods. Held throughout December, this festival also provides plenty of entertainment, including concerts, theatre performances, glass blowing and forging demonstrations, and of course, daily visits from Santa Claus.

Another beautiful Christmas Market can be found at Stable Yards, a historic and idyllic shopping yard in the Finlayson factory area. In addition to its permanent arts and crafts shops and ambient café, Stable Yards sets up a lively market and small petting zoo during the holidays.

Read more about the Tampere Christmas Market at Tampereenjoulutori.fi.

Credits: : Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo
Credits:: Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo
Credits:: Laura Vanzo / Visit Tampere

Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä sits in the middle of Finland, in the heart of Finnish Lakeland, and it’s a little over a three-hour train ride from Helsinki. Famous for having the most buildings designed by Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto, Jyväskylä is also known for its 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. Celebrations begin with the illumination of Christmas lights around Church Park. Jyväskylä Parish organises welcoming Christmas events for all, including bazaars, concerts and special church services. To try traditional Christmas foods, visit one of the region’s many cosy cafés and restaurants. Jyväskylä also arranges Christmas workshops for kids, as well as other Yuletide events during November and December.

Read more about the Jyväskylä Christmas Village at Visit Jyväskylä site.

Credits: Visit Rovaniemi

Oulu

Oulu is a city on the west coast of Finland with a population of about 200,000 people. Founded in 1605 by Sweden’s King Charles IX, the city sits at the mouth of the Oulujoki River on what was once an ancient maritime trading site.

Because of its location in the middle of the country, Oulu is often considered Finland’s gateway to the north. It’s also home to the southernmost fell region, making it a popular winter holiday destination for both downhill and cross-country skiers. You’re almost sure to have snow here during the Christmas season, providing the perfect ambiance for the Tiernatori Christmas Market. Held in Rotuaari Square in the heart of Oulu, this busy marketplace fills with handmade Christmas products and traditional fare each December, and it also shows a unique Nordic re-telling of the classic Christmas carol, We Three Kings, on the Rotuaari stage.

Credits: Antje Neumann

Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland with 62,000 inhabitants including, legend has it, Santa Claus (or Joulupukki) himself. Just 10 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, this city is known for its beautiful nature and spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. And while Rovaniemi only officially became a city in 1960, there’s evidence of settlements here from as far back as the Stone Age.

Rovaniemi is also home to the beloved Santa Claus Village, which draws thousands of Finnish and international visitors each year and is, in essence, one giant Christmas market. Visitors can meet Santa every day here, and with its handmade crafts, Finnish designs, traditional cuisine and activities for kids (including reindeer rides and excursions to the “forest of the elves”!) a trip to Rovaniemi during the holidays offers a one-of-a-kind experience in Finland’s original Christmas city.

Read more about Rovaniemi’s Christmas magic at Visit Rovaniemi site.

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