Best Sledding Places in Helsinki

6B0D9E34-6602-48A9-BD0B-9DB86C11C0BBOne of the most fun things to do in winter is to go sledding! We helsinkias do sledding a lot – with kids, teenagers and with friends. During last seven days I have tried two different sledding hills in down town Helsinki and can recommend both for you.

First one is in Punavuori district, in the end of Bulevardi in the Park Sinebrychoff. The same place is one of my favourite places around the year – I have written the place before. In Park Sinebrychoff there is simply a great sledding hill, you can go very fast but it is also suitable for kids. Also surroundings are very nice with many old buildings. Here you see families as well as groups of friends having winter fun. There is also a small restaurant ”South Park” where you can have brunch, dinner or just some hot chocolate to warm up as well as art museum (yellow building in picture below). So you can actually spend a perfect winter day in the park eating, sledding and enjoying art!

 

 

Another great place for sledding is Park Alppipuisto near Pasila railway station. There sledding hill is not as wide as in Park Sinebrychoff but if you are not afraid you can enjoy sledding from very high and steep hill. I think Alppipuisto has more ”natural” feeling and you can enjoy winter scenery there in addition to sledding.

 

 

I as well as other Finns have sled at home.  However, if you are just visiting Helsinki, you have to buy or borrow a sled. For buying I recommend visiting XXL sport store in Kluuvi (in Aleksanterinkatu). I guess hotels don’t have sleds to borrow but if you are staying in AirBnb you host could borrow you one if you ask. You can also always go to Park Sinebrychoff and ask to borrow sled from someone (more people there, that is why it is best place borrowing one).

Anna

ps. yesterday was pretty cold so hot chocolate was very much needed after some sledding

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Walking on Ice in Helsinki

E0AFC870-CCB1-4A30-B5BF-91C7E4284EEDOne of the best ways to enjoy Helsinki during sunny winter days is walking on ice. So – if you are in Helsinki and sea has frozen you should definately do that! You don’t anything special expect normal winter clothing. Don’t worry, it is totally safe as long as you see other people doing the same and you follow routes many others have walked before you.

Today I walked late afternoon from work to home and walked on ice of Töölönlahti. Enjoying sun, snow and beautiful scenery I took these pictures. I also decided to walk tomorrow to work if sun shines – surely it is the best way to start your day.

Most common places for Helsinkians to walk on ice is Töölönlahti (go to Finlandia-talo and you will find the place) and in front of Kaivopuisto. In latter case you can also walk from island to island.

Enjoy,

Anna

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Uisge 2017 — Helsinki Whiskey Festival is back in February

To savor some of the best whiskies around Living in HEL will be visiting the Uisge festival on 10 to 11 February 2017 — just like last year, and many a year before that.

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Traditionally, Uisge has been the “it” event for Finnish friends of all things whisky — Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, Japanese, Swedish, Finnish. But especially Single Malt lovers.

The atmosphere is always nice, and surprisingly non-commercial. And that’s saying a lot, when all the big brands are present. It’s not a big bash, more like a low key, very enjoyable event, a meeting of minds with a fantastic, laid-back atmosphere. Everybody’s here for one reason only – the love of Uisce Beatha.

A few whisk(e)y societies will also be present, including the Finnish Malt Whisky Society and the more elusive Friends of Irish Whiskey. If you’re looking to enjoy sampling superb whiskies later in the year, as well, both organize tastings, trips to distilleries and more — and will be looking for new members.

 


If you’re like us, do come early, come on Friday and bring along a friend. Also, a notepad to jot down your favorites is recommended, because this being Scandinavia, you wouldn’t be able to buy a bottle of your newest favorite even if you tried.

IMG_3433.JPGThe tastings also have a stellar reputation both taste-wise and information-wise. Enquire ahead at uisge2016(at)yahoo.com (mention you’re of age and want to have this information).

Tix are available here for 18€ per day. Smart money is on buying in advance, Uisge usually gets crowded so tickets may or may not be available at the door.

The price of the entry fee includes a custom-printed nosing glass and the sampling prices are more than reasonable, even for the rarest bottling. Ice water is complimentary, so you can clean your palate and glass in between sampling a drop of the pure.

Like we said last year, a night at Uisge is guaranteed to leave you smiling what with all the socializing, sampling and good-hearted stories — and the whiskey, of course.

 

Sláinte!

Venue & event links

 

ps. From what we know, bottlings, specials and vintage editions,  favorites old & new will be available from at least the following:
Aberlour, Ailsa Bay, Arran, Auchentoshan, Balblair, the Balvenie, Blackadder, Bowmore, Buffalo Trace, Bunnahabhain, Bushmills, Chivas Regal, The Compass Box, Cragganmore, Douglas LaingHunter Laing, Edradour, Four Roses, Glen Moray, Glen Scotia, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glengoyne, Glengyle, the Glenlivet, Hart Brothers, Helsinki Distilling Company, Highland Park, Jameson, Jura, Kilchoman, Knob Creek, Kyrö Distillery, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Loch Lomond, Maker’s Mark, MidletonMortlach, Old Pulteney, Redbreast, Sazerac, Springbank, Talisker, Teerenpeli, Tobermory, Tullamore Dew, Valamo Monastery DistilleryThe Whisky Agency, and more… Some high quality rums will also  be available.

For a more complete and likely more up-to-the-minute list, see the Viskisieppo blog.

Best Helsinki Christmas Market – Tuomaan Markkinat

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Anne wrote some weeks ago about Christmas Bazaars here in Helsinki. I think the best bazaar is Tuomaan Markkinat, which is situated in Senaatintori (along the Aleksanterinkatu). It is very beautiful place – Helsinki Cathedral is just next as well as Helsinki University and other old picturesque buildings. At Tuomaan Markkinat I recommend to stroll around and admire all different handicrafts, Christmas foods and Finnish specialities. Many of them are very reasonably priced so you can also buy great gifts for Christmas. If you have kids, they should try carousel. And when feeling cold, try some warm drinks!

 

Tuomaan Markkinat will be open until 22nd of December so there are still some days left. This time I bought some woolen stockings – very warm and useful for those cold winter days we are still waiting for.

Merry Christmas for everyone!

Anna

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Enjoy Christmas Lights of Helsinki – Christmas in Helsinki Part II

 

As you know, Helsinki is very up in north. That means city is pretty dark during Christmas time. Snow brings some light – but we need of course also some decorations. This year we have very pretty light decorations in Park Esplanad (Esplanadin puisto in Finnish, situated between Etelä- and Pohjoisesplanadi). Above and below pictures are taken there. There is also one picture of Restaurant Kappeli which is lovely old building in Park Esplanad. After admiring Esplanad lights, I recommend to pay a visit for Kappeli and enjoy some glögi, warm drink with some Christmas spices. Anne wrote about mulled wine (meaning glögi) some weeks ago.

After Park Esplanad you have to check our official Christmas Street Aleksanterinkatu which is just a block away. By the way, for British readers it is nice to know that Senaatintori is by the Aleksanterinkatu. And this Senaatintori and lovely Tuomiokirkko (Church) you saw when watching x factor UK this year since Saara Aalto, the Finnish Finalist in show this year, visited Senaatintori in the clip filmed in Finland shown a week ago in British tv.

In the beginning of Aleksanterinkatu (exact address is Aleksanterinkatu 52, the window being in the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Keskuskatu) you can find “Christmas window” of department store Stockmann (read more about Stockmann and shopping in down town Helsinki here). This year Stockmann Christmas window is winter wonderland – a top for all kids but also absolute “must see” for everyone else.

For other Christmas activities you should read what Anne wrote some weeks ago,

Anna

 

 

 

First Snow in Helsinki

This week we have enjoyed first snow here in Helsinki. There isn’t (yet) too much snow but enough to have this great feeling of coming winter. I feel like Christmas is coming – almost singing “White Christmas”… You can’t yet go to cross-country skiing nor ice skating but those hobbies will be available in near future.

These pictures are mainly taken from Esplanadi (next to Stockmann, Esplanadi is a park between Etelä-Esplanadi and Pohjois-Esplanadi) and Ruttopuisto which I’ve written many times before. By the way, for those who are in to Pokemons, Ruttopuisto is still perfect place for Pokémon hunting and now it is snowish Pokémon hunting!

As you can see, we still have some autumn colours around – snow came some weeks before we normally have our city wearing white so autumn is still around. For those who are planning trip to Helsinki in near future I need to tell that it is possible we’ll still lose snow before Christmas. It is interesting to see what kind of winter we’ll have this time.

Last picture you can see Helsinki Cathedral from a bit different angle than often in pictures. You can also see Bank of Finland on right.

Enjoy winter and snow. And remember to wear enough clothes – it is cold out there.

Anna

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Cross-country skiing in Helsinki

Having travelled far to see palmtrees leaning over a whitesand beach by turquoise water I must say that snow-covered trees leaning over you when cross-country skiing underneath in pure whiteness of a Northern forest is more to my liking. This you can experience in Helsinki, right now. You only need to take the tram 2 or 7 to a stop called Auroran sairaala (Aurora hospital), or, following my example, go by bike with skis on your back, and from there enter the forest we call Central park. Skiing tracks start right next to the hospital.

 

This is not just any forest, but a real one, better than most Finnish forests, which tend to be sort of economical forests with planted skinny trees of similar size in symmetrical lines. In contrast, this Central park of ours has a variety of different trees, even very old, thick and high ones. Wild one this forest however isn’t, nor empty, which would be quite impossible due to its borders reaching very near to the center of Helsinki.  Numerous paths criss-cross the woods and there’ll be plenty of people enjoying the outdoor life so easily accessible for us lucky enough to live hereabouts. But plenty of space there for everybody, the forest’s huge, meaning that momentarily you’ll definitely feel the solitude of wilderness. You could say that Central park is the start of the green forest belt said to continue all the way up to the very Northern Finland.

 

Come snow and the paths turn to multifunction routes where people run or walk, with dogs often, while people like me ski. This works just fine unless you’re too used to extremely well maintained skiing routes to be found for instance upper North in Lapland. The kind of skiing I’m describing here and lovingly manifesting always when there’s snow, is a very urban kind of skiing, where uneven tracks and dog-walkers belong to the picture. However, after a few kilometers from the start you’ll reach routes designated only for skiers. These are of course in better condition. The one nearest from the center is in Maunula, where you should anyway plan to stop at some point of your journey because of the very cosy café in an idyllic red lodge offering oven-fresh buns and hot drinks.

 

From Maunula it is easy enough to head for Pirkkola, where another well maintained route is to be found as well as other options for breaks, which I never take as I opt to skate-ski fast a couple of rounds there before heading back. Of course, this kind of skiing is very good exercise, which is not what everybody’s looking for. Many tend to take it much easier and concentrate on enjoying the winter scenery and snow, which at its best it’s pure white and covering the trees’ branches thickly causing the leaning-over effect I so much love. I understand this very well but nevertheless always find myself enjoying the speed and muscular exercise. The only downside is that the route options for skaters are more limited than for those favoring classical style, who can easily continue from Pirkkola to Paloheinä. A wealth of very well maintained tracks are to be found there, some of which fulfilling any professionality standards you might have. I never go that far because the connecting route does not have the required width for skating. But no complaints, there’s definitely enough routes for me and anyway I’m just so impressed and happy that such possibilities are to be found so near to my home. Thanks, Helsinki, for making this possible!

 

To wrap this up I’ll share my habit of listening to something interesting whilst skiing.  A few year back, when I spent every possible evening and weekend morning skiing the mentioned routes, I listened to an audio book version of Casanova’s memoirs. Easily enough for a whole winter of skiing, this fascinating book series, which gave a fun contrast to the winter forest scenery I was at the same time of course fully enjoying. Lately it’s been Kerouac and other Beatniks, whose poetry hits the spot big time these days. A true feast for senses this kind of experience of combining exercise to art.

Of course, there are times and places for the palmtree scenery as well. It’s all got to do with something like the spirit of place, which I always seek to meet wherever I might be. Right now in Helsinki cross-country skiing and skating, as described in my previous post, truly feels right. Seize the moment, it might not last long!

Eero

Ice-skating in Helsinki part 2

Inspired by an earlier post by Anna about skating in Helsinki, I thought I should share my extensive experiences on the subject.

Let’s start from one early January morning when the weather was perfectly wintery with some -20 degrees celsius and plenty of snow. This was a few years ago when we got to enjoy a couple of true fairytale winters in Helsinki with exceptionally plentiful snow and trees disguising in glimmering white ice. That morning I hastily grabbed the 1950s skates my father used to use back in the day and headed for Eläintarhan kenttä. This is the old nostalgic track & field stadium, where the 400 meters running track is frozen in winters for skaters to enjoy. A very fitting place for some speed-skating exercise, especially in early mornings when you get to be the first to mark the newly frozen ice!

 

This is one way to enjoy skating in Helsinki, a very good one but not the most typical one. Different, more common and somewhat more idyllic but much less exercise-oriented possibilities are the many small skating rinks in parks next to playing grounds. Helsinki municipal workers very kindly prepare these for kids and whoever wishes to slide a while on wonderful albeit often a bit bumpy ices. Very idyllic indeed, doing so in the middle of Helsinki. Especially good it is with small kids whom you get to teach how to skate. I so love these places!

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Then there are of course many more professionally maintained bigger rinks, where you might have to pay a few euros to enter. Ice’s going to be perfect, and if you’re into ice-hockey, bring your hockey stick, as you’re bound to find good games there. Just ask and the guys will let you in the game, where the rules are very simple: scoring only straight from a pass, no contact, no rising the puck. Not much protection on anybody and quite a crowd around you, so care is needed but somehow it all works smoothly and everybody’s extremely happy. I for one find it very, very enjoyable to sense momentary hints of my very much bygone days of junior hockey stardom. (Nice hockey gloves turned to vintage remain to witness those days.) The prime place for these games, for me at least, is Kallio ice rink, which is neatly located in the area where the nicest public saunas are to be found. Needless to say, it is absolutely blissful to go to one of these after a couple of hours of hockey. The most traditional Finnish sauna, and hence the most exotic for foreigners perhaps, is called Kotiharjun sauna, while the more hip persons should perhaps head for Kulttuurisauna, which even has a possibility for dipping into the sea. Not to be missed, that experience! Wherever you choose to take your sauna, why not hit the bars after that? Plenty of those in the area.

 


Another option is the most natural one: sea ice. This is very easy if you have a pair of those skates with long blades designed for natural ices, with which you can go whenever and wherever conditions allow. But beware! You should find out beforehand if the ice is thick enough and know what kind of places are to be avoided. Going under a bridge for instance might be risky and currents might mean thin ice in surprising places. Always carry proper safety equipment. Naturally this kind of skating means more preparation and special equipment, but it is said to be very enjoyable. Not my cup of tea, though, this kind of skating, but having said that I do enjoy going once in a while to one of the well maintained routes prepared on sea ice in certain place in winters cold enough. These should be skateable even with normal skates. The one most accessible from city center is in Laajalahti in the Munkkiniemi district.

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What else… I should perhaps mention the place Anna already wrote about, the Icepark in the very heart of Helsinki, where many tourists choose to give their very first try to ice skating. It’s a nice and well-maintained rink with a good cafe and background music. Not a bad place this one actually for early winter skating when there’s no snow or subzero temperatures but you already feel the itch to start the winter season. Kids seem to love this place, too.

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So many options for skating in Helsinki. What’s best depends on the occasion and company, I think. That brisk January morning it was solitude at Eläintarhan kenttä while last Saturday it was hockey with friends in Kallio with the full after-skating program. Anyway, give skating a try while in Helsinki in wintertime, it’s tremendously fun!

Eero

Lux Helsinki Light festival, Part II

Lux Helsinki 2016 light festival at Senate square, Helsinki Cathedral in lights

As Anna wrote last time, we had a light festival Lux Helsinki in the city center last week. This wasn’t the first time we had Lux Helsinki, but this year the light festival was a huge success, over 600 000 visitors walked through the parks and streets and saw the light installations.

I walked the route yesterday evening and made a short video with time lapse from it (bare with me, I’m still learning how to use my Polaroid Cube+).

If you’re planning on coming to Helsinki next year especially during winter I would most definitely recommend checking out Lux Helsinki’s time table for next January and if it will suit your travelling plans! At least I was surprised how good it was this year and how well all the light installations worked in snowy Helsinki.

Marjo

Lux Helsinki 2016 light festival senate square installation

Lux Helsinki – Festival of Light

Lux Helsinki 2015

I have to admit it has been very dark and cold during the last days here in Helsinki. So, you can believe how happy I was yesterday when wondering along Annankatu (street in downtown Helsinki, Kamppi district) and noticing that preparation for yearly Lux Helsinki Festival had started. The actual festival is 6-10.1.2016 and it featrures works of 500 artists.

Annankatu will turn out to be pedestrian area during the festival and there will be some street food sold. Also nearby cafes will have some special refreshments for Lux Helsinki visitors. And believe me, you really want to have glass of something warm in the middle of admiring artwork, it has been terribly cold! Yesterday I also walked by the Ruttopuisto (or old Kirkkopuisto, how is the official name of this lovely park situated between Annankatu, Yrjönkatu, Bulevardi and Lönnrotinkatu) and there was some very lovely lights and installations as well.

Lux Helsinki Annankatu

Artwork was ready to be taken up yesterday in Annankatu (or I guess it was going up, we’ll see tomorrow…)

 

Annankatu and Ruttopuisto are not the only festival arenas – there are also artwork in Senaatintori and other corners in downtown. I recommend you to visit www.luxhelsinki.fi –webpages (also English version available), there is better information about this happening, also map. As you can see, I took some pics yesterday – in reality it will be much more beautiful. Ruttopuisto looked like wonderland with all the different lights and some snow!

Light for all of us,

Anna