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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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

Ice skating in Helsinki

IceskatesIce skating is so much fun with friends and kids. With your loved one it feels somehow romantic to skate together. It feels very special when your kid learns how to skate.

If it is freezing, it is easy to find places for ice skating in Helsinki – there are several around downtown as well as in suburbs. However, this winter the situation is not such – it has been very warm. We don’t have any snow and hardly any ice skating places. Luckily there is one in down town called “Jääpuisto” which is almost always open even when it is so warm as now. Jääpuisto is situated next to main Railwaystation (Rautatieasema) and Ateneum (one of the most important museums in Finland).

 

Unlike many other ice skating places, Jääpuisto is not free – it costs 6 euros for adults and 3 for kids. Paying that you can skate as long as you want. It is also possible to hire skates if you don’t have your own. It is even possible to hire a skating teacher if needed.

Jääpuisto

I am writing what locals do in Finland. There are locals in Jääpuisto, for example me and my daughters visit there frequently (if warm weather, if colder, we also use other ice skating places).  At least half of the people are tourists so if you don’t know how to skate, you are not alone. Remember to dress warmly (mittens and a hat,) however not too warmly since ice skating is hard work!

Anna