Top 5 romantic spots in Helsinki

Even though the Finns prefer to celebrate the “Day of Friendship” on February 14th instead of St. Valentine’s Day, they still know how to be romantic. The Finnish newspaper Nyt (the word for “now” in the Finnish language) has published a top-5 list of the most romantic spots in Helsinki.

Since the list is in Finnish we jumped quickly to translate it, in order to tell you the places to steal a kiss in the capital of Finland. The list was gathered for St. Valentine’s, so these recommendations are thought for a moment of cold weather in Finland. Since we are now in the Ruska time and the cold is coming, we thought it is the perfect time to publish it.

But do not worry: most of these places can be enjoyed during the Summer in Finland too.

Romantic places in Helsinki

Has your significant other ever told you that you need to make more romantic gestures? It has happened to all of us, I guess (not to me, but to a friend). If it is true in your case, you can surprise your other half with a trip to Helsinki and visit one of these ideal romantic spots.

1.- Hietaniemi beach. Hietaniemi is a nice neighborhood in Helsinki. It has a park-like cemetery where the state funerals take place and where important Finnish figures such as Alvar Aalto or Mannerheim rest forever. Nonetheless the Hietaniemi beach – the biggest beach of Helsinki – is the real romantic spot.

Lugares románticos de Helsinki: Hietaniemi
The Hietaniemi beach, in summer, and at sunset time. That adds up to romance. Source (CC: by).

The beach is near the cemetery, but not adjacent to it. It lies next to a nice forest. During winter you can see the frozen sea from the beach. To bring romance to the next level, the newspaper suggests doing a picnic on the ice, with good winter clothing and a nice hot beverage. In summer, the picnic will be easier under the sun.

2.- Any place to ice-skate. Like in a movie where you can see people skating on ice in the central square of the city, the second recommended place for romance is an ice rink. There, your partner and you can spend hours skating while holding hands, next to many other couples. The best place for this, as the article recommends, is Kallion kenttä, in Helsinginkatu; and it also suggests to go and have something hot to drink at the shop Villipuutarha, next to the ice rink.

An ice ring in Helsinki
Romance and ice: hand in hand. Source (by-sa-nd).

3.- A coffee shop in the centre where you can get some hot chocolate: a table and some mugs filled with hot chocolate is the next romantic place that Nyt suggests. They give some concrete picks: café The Exhibitionists (Museokatu 28) and the Fazer café (Kluuvikatu 3). You two can also try, of course, authentic Finnish coffee – a beverage some people try to avoid because they say it’s bland.

Café Fazer: one of the most romantic spots in Helsinki
A romantic spot? A special coffee shop always works. Source (cc: by-sa).

4.- The Helsinki Zoo: if you just met, walking around the zoo and asking each other which animal is your favorite could be pretty revealing of the other’s personality. At least that is what the newspaper says. If it is cold outside, you can go to the tropical houses of the zoo.

A Snow Lion
A snow lion? No, it is a lion on the snow. Source (CC: by-sa-nd).

5.- The daring option: the Vermo’r race track. Why don’t you do it like Henry Chinaski and take your other half to the race track? It isn’t the same because here the horses don’t sprint, they trot. The jockey does not sit on the horse, but behind it in a two-wheeled cart called Sulki. A little more Ben-Hur than Barfly, but with the couple.

A trotting horse is clearly a metaphore for love
A trotting horse: metaphor about love from Nyt? Source (by-sa).

Do you know any other romantic spot in Helsinki that you can recommend to us? Have you visited any of the above spots?


A letter to Santa Claus: how to do it and his address

When you want to write a letter to Santa Claus, you have to take into account that he is a busy man.

We all know he lives in Lapland, specifically in Rovaniemi, where you can go and visit him in his office.

Santa Claus and his first lady
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus in their Lapland house. Source (CC: by)

If Lapland is too far away for you this year, but you still want to tell Santa Claus your Christmas wishes and make sure your letter reaches him in the Arctic Circle in Finland, you’ll need to know how to write to him.

Sending a letter to Santa Claus to his correct address

Each year in late November, the Christmas season is inaugurated in Finland. Joulupukki (the Finnish name of Santa Claus) visits every Finnish city or town in person, usually in the main square, to wish everyone a merry Christmas. It is extremely easy to go and meet him because normally the streets near the center have a system of underground heating that melts the snow and makes it easy for people to walk around.

You should know that any letter that says “Santa Claus” will magically reach its destination: post offices all around the world are warned and know how to handle the letters to Santa Claus.

But if you want Santa to know that you were so interested that you researched his address, you can put his correct one on the envelope.

Your letter to Santa Claus will reach him
Some kids meeting Santa Claus in person. Source (CC: by-sa)


Santa Claus and his elfs (called Tonttu in Finland) will appreciate this detail and will know you worked for your presents. This is his address:

Santa Claus
96930 Arctic Circle,

That’s right: the letter to Santa Claus will go all the way North to the Polar Arctic Circle, the imaginary line above which the sun doesn’t rise at least for a day per year, and where it doesn’t set at least for one day a year.

And here comes the best thing: if you add your return address, he will write you back. Isn’t that great?

How to make your letter to Santa Claus better

There is no magic recipe or template to make your letter to Santa Claus right, but there are some tips that will assure that you’ll be in his good graces.

Santa Claus doesn’t want you to sugarcoat the truth. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so lying in your letter will make you look bad. It is better to acknowledge that there are some areas where you can work on to be better next year, and tell him how you became a better person this year. Being good is a constant process.

Thank him for last year’s presents, even if they weren’t 100% what you asked for. He has to handle a global operation each year after all. And don’t ask for too much! If you need something – a bike to ride to school with, something warm to wear for the extreme cold of winter in Finland – make sure to tell him that. He prefers to read that you wish for things you need, not just want.

Joulupukki in Helsinki, allegedly measuring this girl’s back to send her a fitting coat. Source (CC: by).

All those tips were given to me by Joulupukki in person, so if you want to be on good terms with him, tell him that you are friends of Big in Finland and you’ll get the VIP treatment.

Good luck with this year’s Christmas gifts! This is our list of 12 ideas of Finnish Christmas presents, to give you inspiration. May Santa Claus and his Tonttu be generous, and you a good girl or boy.

Do you have some extra advice for the letter to Santa Claus? Some tip that worked for you?


The average Finnish man and woman

We have talked a bit about Finns, like what they appreciate most in life, their most popular names, and even how they look. Today, we introduce you to your average Mr. Finnish Man and Mrs. Finnish Woman.

Average Finns walking in the capital.
Some average Finns walking in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa).

How do we know the average Finnish man and woman?

Some time ago there was a study about the average of different parameters in Finland’s top newspaper, the Helsingin Sanomat. If you want to read it, the article can be found here.

It is a nice interpretation of the data shown in the Statistical Yearbook of Finland, which otherwise might just seem a “boring” collection of things. Nicely played, Helsingin Sanomat.

The data is a bit old – this article was first featured on our Spanish version of Big in Finland, but it still holds relevance as things don’t change that quickly.

Finnish people on the street.

Mr. Finnish Man and Mrs. Finnish Woman

How is a day in the life for them?

The average Finn is 40 years old, and thus is in the middle of his/her lifespan. He/She lives in a residential neighborhood in a house that he/she owns, and that has 3-4 rooms and about 78,4 square feet. He/She is still paying off the mortgage on the house and still owes 22.400€ to the bank. About a quarter of the income that he/she makes is used to cover his/her own personal needs.

Besides the mortgage on the house, the average Finn is also paying off another loan for 9.400€, that they took on to buy some consumer goods. This second credit could theoretically be paid off immediately, since the average Finn has around 11.000€ in savings in the bank. Of course the keyword here is “average”, since the wealth is not equally divided and around 44.580 credit cards are canceled each year because of debts.

Finnish man
Maybe an average Finn. Source (CC: by-sa)

How is an average day of a Finn?

An average Finn goes to work in the morning. If he is a man, he’ll be working in construction, reparations or manufacturing. If she is a woman, she’ll be working in the service sector or in the commercial or health industries. He will be working in the private sector while she will probably be working for the local authorities. The average Finnish man earns approximately 2.300€ per month and the average Finnish woman earns 2.000€ per month.

Maybe today is one of the two days per week when the average Finn does some sport (this includes going for a walk, riding the bike or doing some cross country skiing). This isn’t enough, though, to keep an average Finn thin and in top shape. He (she not so much) is prone to obesity. His good appetite and his penchant for the liquid element with some percentage of alcohol has something to do with this. Per year, a Finnish man eats an average of 72 kilos of meat, drinks 78 liters of low-alcohol drinks, eats 61 kilos of potatoes and 47 kilos of fruit.

A Finnish woman
A Finnish woman walking the streets of Helsinki. Source (CC: by)

What else happens during an average Finnish day?

There’s the daily lottery draft, which could help someone get out of the average income. But besides that, 161 children are born and 132 people close their eyes forever. 77 couples proclaim “yes, I do”, and for 36 other couples it’s the end of the line for their relationship. 45 new buildings will be constructed, and the average car will add 49 kilometers to their odometer.

Just another Finnish day.

How is your average day in Finland? Do you recognize yourself in some of these statistics, even if you are not a Finn?


No shoes at home in Finland

Not only Japanese people remove their shoes when they walk into a home: Finnish people do so too.

To everyone who isn’t used to remove their shoes at the entrances of the houses – like me – this is quite shocking.

I went to Finland at the end of a summer, and it was then when I learned about this tradition. I must admit that in summer it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, but in winter you truly understand why Finns do what they do.

And not doing it is truly a faux-pas in Finland.

Shoes in a corridor
My shoes in the corridor. Now I am used to do this.

The polite way: leave your shoes at the entrance of a home

Winter is the longest season of the year in Finland, especially in the north of the country.

Everything is covered in snow outside and the snow lasts for months at a time. When you walk around, since you can’t stay indoors for months, snow gets stuck to the soles of your boots. That snow, when you arrive at someone’s home – which will be heated appropriately – will start its melting process. And if if you don’t remove your shoes, soon the whole house will have little puddles everywhere, something extremely annoying for the people who did remove their shoes.

That’s why in Finland, unlike in Japan (as far as I know), there is a very practical reason behind removing the shoes at the entrance – in winter anyways. So when you go to Finland, show your politeness by removing your shoes at the entrance of the houses. The interesting thing, of course, is when many people arrive at a house simultaneously and there are a thousand pairs of shoes by the door. But that’s a small price to pay for respecting the house owner.

Remove your shoes
Pretty please? Source (CC: by)

What about in public places, workplaces and schools?

If you are wondering, kids in Finnish schools also remove their shoes at the entrance before going to class. (By the way, it seems that the Finnish Baby Box is on sale now).

In universities and some public buildings there is a place at the entrance to leave your belongings, where you can leave your outdoor shoes if you want and use some others that you can take with you (this, of course, is more common for university buildings than for public ones).

In the case of office buildings, you can bring some sandal-like shoes for walking around indoors, if you want. Some people do that if their work doesn’t require a very formal attire.

No shoes at the office
Shoes outside an office, for a meeting. Or so it says the caption of the photo. Source (CC: by-sa)

How to effectively remove as much snow as possible from the shoes

Finnish people are prepared for winter like no one I’ve seen before. If you want to know which clothes to wear for a trip to Finland in winter, here is our list of recommendations.

At the entrance of each building you can see a gigantic brush designed to remove the snow from your shoes. You can then be confident that you’ll be behaving as politely as possible when entering any building.

Some pictures of this Finnish invention:

Using the Brush for the snow

The Finnish snow brush

Using the brush

Have you ever forgot to remove your shoes while entering someone’s home? What’s the biggest faux-pas in Finland in your opinion?