When it comes to festive celebrations, it is hard to beat the unique charm of a Nordic Christmas. Scandinavia is renowned for its incredible seasonal traditions, and the cities of Helsinki in Finland and Oslo in Norway are sublime destinations for a holiday getaway. Filled with a magical atmosphere, centuries-old customs, and a delightful dusting of frost and snow, the enchanting spirit of these two cities really comes into its own over the Christmas period.
So whether you are thinking about packing your bags for a festive getaway and looking for somewhere new or you can’t get the memory of the savory seafood eateries you visited in Oslo during your last cruise, here are some of the highlights of Christmas in Oslo and Helsinki.
Helsinki’s Festive Charm
Helsinki is an atmospheric city at almost any time of the year. The magic and mystery of its Arctic location lends the city a wild, remote gravitas, and means there is always something to explore. But at Christmas the cold winter frost blankets the city, lending it an extra level of ethereal charm and meaning that almost everything you do feels extra festive.
One of the best things to do is to head to Senate Square where the iconic Helsinki Christmas Market is based, a huge open-air caravanserai draped in the rich aromas of spiced mulled wine, gingerbread, and smoked salmon, with an incredible array of craft stalls, traditional food trucks, and unique gifts to buy.
After the market, head to Esplanade Park for a stroll surrounded by an incredible Christmas atmosphere. This beautiful green space is lit up with dazzling lights and exquisite decorations, and if you are lucky you may encounter groups of carolers spreading warmth and joy through song.
The annual St. Lucia Day procession is a huge and exciting occasion in Nordic countries and the version in Helsinki is about as grand as it gets. The march is lit entirely by candlelight and the processioners sing beautiful hymns as they walk. This amazing spectacle is designed to bring light to the darkest day of the year and remind everyone that cold will end and the sun will come again…something that is very necessary during the long, dark nights of the Finnish winter!
Another incredible Finnish experience that isn’t necessarily festive but does offer an interesting twist on ordinary Christmas celebrations is to embrace the sauna culture and go for a Christmas day sauna and plunge! This invigorating experience involves unwinding in a warm, cozy sauna
before braving the cold outside and taking a dip into an icy plunge pool, before returning to the warmth of the sauna.
Oslo’s Winter Wonderland
Just a short hop across the Baltic, Oslo is also full of wintery, festive spectacle. The Norwegian capital embraces Christmas with as much gusto as Helsinki, and shares many of the same themes. The Christmas Market in Spikersuppa Park in the historic heart of the city rivals that of Helsinki in charm, and lets you indulge in uniquely Norwegian delicacies such as gløgg (mulled wine), lompe (potato wraps), and warming hot chocolate.
Norwegian folklore is a huge part of their Christmas traditions. No festive visit to Oslo would be complete without a trip to the Norsk Folkemuseum, which is transformed into a gorgeous Christmas village over the holidays, complete with wooden houses and authentic artisans who run workshops in traditional Christmas crafts like candle-making and woodcarving.
Both Helsinki and Oslo are incredible options for a Christmas getaway, offering a delightful blend of Nordic traditions and seasonal wonder. From curious customs to cozy Christmas markets, a festive trip to the frozen north is a truly enchanting experience!