Answers from Our Experts (1)
The winter in Helsinki is long and harsh, but the Finns are creative and make the best of what could be a bad situation. Even with few daylight hours, the snow brightens up our lives and makes it possible for all kinds of activities, both outdoors and inside.
1. Cross-country skiing and skating are national past-times. Don a couple of layers, get yourself over to Paloheinä — about 20 minutes away by bus — rent skis and boots, and follow the track. If nothing else, you'll get a real kick out of the glorious, snowy countryside so close to the center of Helsinki. The skating rink next to the central railway station opens early on in the season and closes late due to the use of artificial ice. Here too, equipment can be rented.
2. Enter the land of sauna. If anything's going to heat you from the inside out, it has to be this unique Finnish practice of getting naked and sitting in an over-heated room with a bunch of strangers, sweating your heart out. To show your mettle, dip yourself into the frozen sea to give your heart a real kick-start. The best place to experience this popular pastime is Oittaa, in Espoo, not far from Helsinki where there's a sauna and a hole in the ice beckoning you to plunge.
3. Looking for something a little risqué? Try visiting a swimming hall on Yrjönkatu, in the heart of the city where bathing suits are definitely optional and men and women are segregated according to days of the week. Services include more mature ladies that will wash you with massage-like force, regular massage, cots to relax on and robes to cover you.
4. It is said that golf is the quickest-growing sport in Finland today. When the Finns get hooked, they will find a way and the weather's not going to beat them. Indoor golf centers provide huge nets that catch the balls and screens that monitor your swing. The closest one to the city is at Tali Sports Centre.
5. If all this sounds too hectic, Seurasaari is an island within easy reach where you can wander through the forest, feed the squirrels, take photographs of the old wooden structures and grill a sausage on the barbecue at the café.