Christmas Markets in Finland – Traditional Arts & Crafts in a seasonal setting.

Sunday the 27th of November marks the beginning of Christmas, being the first Sunday of Advent, although some towns and cities have already launched their festive season with parades. In Finland the Christmas season is very festive indeed, as befits the land Joulupukki, or Santa Claus, calls home, and numerous towns provide excellent Christmas Markets where locals and tourists alike can find all manner of seasonal gifts and decorations while enjoying displays, performances and, of course, Christmassy food and drink.

This is especially true of the larger cities, like Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Rovaniemi, but these markets can be found just about everywhere. Usually the focus is on Finnish handicrafts and design wares, with traditional entertainments for all the family to enjoy. Even the cuisine on offer is traditional, with home-made delicacies like the delicious pastries in the shapes of stars filled with plum jam, gingerbread in all shapes, and hot pancakes with toppings being the favourites. Festive drinks include dark beers specially brewed for the winter, hot coffee and hot chocolate flavoured with rum, and of course the ubiquitous glögi, a spicy mulled wine into which there might be some vodka added for an extra kick.

The following section lists the biggest of these Christmas Markets, and includes some of the odder markets like the dog-friendly one in Pasila (Helsinki) and the TTT flea market in Tampere.

The first, and oldest, is the Women’s Christmas Market held annually in the delightful old premises of Wanha Satama in Katajanokka, which was first held in 1922. All the products on sale have been made by women, and include handicrafts, clothes, textiles, jewellery, toys, Christmas decorations and lots of different baked goods. The profits go to support the work of the Finnish women’s cultural association. This year the market is open from the 2nd until the 6th of December.

The day after the Women’s Christmas Market ends, on the 7th of December, there follows the traditional St. Thomas Christmas Market in Esplanade Park. This market runs right up until the 22nd, and features over 120 stalls of Finnish festive gifts, handicrafts and decorations.

From the 11th until the 22nd of December the Old Student’s Hall, Vanha Ylioppilastalo or simply Vanha, hosts the annual Indoor Christmas Market. On sale are an abundance of handicrafts, candles, knitwear, ceramics, cards and clothes. This is one of the most traditional markets in Finland, and one of  the largest.

Away from the city centre, though not too far, the Koiraystävälliset Joulumyyjäiset or Dog-friendly Christmas Bazaar, is held in Pasila. This market is open from the 2nd to the 6th and from the 9th to 11th of December, and sells all manner of crafts and dog supplies and welcomes dogs! All profits are used in Spain to help homeless dogs.

Christmas_Market |  © MEK Finnish Tourist Board
Christmas_Market | © MEK Finnish Tourist Board

The ultra modern architectural gem that is the WeeGee Exhibition Centre in Tapiola hosts its fourth Christmas Market on the 26th and 27th of November. Along with the crafts and gifts on sale there are festive musical performances to enjoy, and there is a wholly organic Christmas brunch available as well.

There are two Christmas Markets being held in Vantaa this year. The first is located in Myyrmäki centre on the 3rd and 4th of December, and the second in Tikkurila Square on the 10th of December.

Known in Finland as the ‘Christmas City‘, Turku provides some of the best Christmas experiences in the country. The season begins with the opening of the Christmas Fair in the medieval Old Square on the 26th of November, with all manner of entertainments, including a giant elf searching for gifts, fire displays, and lots of Christmas music. There will be a procession, led by the giant elf, to Turku Cathedral where the elf will aid Turku Energia and the Cathedral parish to light up Finland’s number one Christmas Tree. The market will be open on all of the Advent weekends leading up to Christmas, in other words on the 26th and 27th of November and on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th of December, from 11am to 5pm.

The outdoor Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum hosts a Christmas Market on the 10th and 11th, with lots of goodies handmade by the artisans that work there, plus refreshments and a guided tour of the museum properties.

The Turku Fair and Congress Centre hosts a far more modern and commercial market, in fact the Christmas Bazaar is one of the largest in the country and attracts between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors. Now in its twentieth year, it will be held on December 4th.

While Turku may be known as the Christmas City, the capital of Finnish Lapland is Rovaniemi and it can claim to be home to Santa Claus himself! Just 8km from the city centre lies the magical Santa Claus Village, which can loosely be described as a Christmas market. There are numerous shops, selling gifts and seasonal goods, as well as locally fashioned handicrafts, reindeer rugs and furs, jewellery and much more. Of course, Santa Claus lives here so it’s always possible to visit him, and you can send postcards from his Post Office so they arrive with his special postmark on them.

The highly distinctive Arktikum, which houses the Provincial Museum of Lapland and the Arctic Centre, hosts Arctic Market Days on the 16th, 17th and 18th of December. This will be the fourth time this Christmas market will be held here, and once again it will specialise in Sámi crafts and gifts, with additional demonstrations and exhibitions.

One of Finland’s oldest towns, and without doubt one of it’s prettiest, Porvoo holds a number of different Christmas markets, and attracts countless visitors every year from within Finland and from abroad thanks to the very traditional themes. The first, and most traditional, Christmas market is held on the 10th and 11th of December, and is known as the Old-Time Market. Held at Palokunntalo in Porvoo Old Town, stall holders appear in traditional costumes and offer a veritable bounty of handicrafts and gifts, Christmas decorations and delicacies, in an atmosphere that is utterly unique.

The Brankkis Christmas Bazaar will be held on the 17th and 18th of December in the same location as above, and is organised by the Finnish crafts and design industry and local producers. In addition to the many stalls of Christmas related goods there will also be a sushi bar and a cafeteria.

The same weekend, the 17th and 18th of December, sees the official Porvoo Christmas Market held at the Old Town Hall Square, with numerous stalls selling all manner of handicrafts, decorations, gifts, and delicacies.

Finally, on the 18th of December, there is the Pellinki Christmas Market, which is held in two locations, Skärgårdshemmet & Pellinki marketplace, where the focus is on the archipelago near Porvoo, with many locally produced fish delicacies and handicrafts from the islands. Visitors can catch a bus from Porvoo at 9.30am.

On the 17th of December in the gorgeous surroundings of the medieval Häme Castle, the St. Thomas Christmas Market will be held, and should attract at least 3,000 visitors to enjoy the festivities. Between 50 and 60 stalls will be positioned within the castle, selling locally produced handicrafts, and the baked goods for which the region is famed. The adjacent chapel will host a Christmas service and guided tours of the castle will also be available.

There are two markets being held in Tampere, the main one being the traditional Christmas Market in the town centre’s square, Finland’s oldest Middle-European market. Following on from the success of last year’s event when vendors arrived from Tampere’s twin-town of Essien in Germany, this year’s market once again will feature vendors from that town, as well as from Chemnitz, also in Germany. In all, there will be over 50 vendors selling their wares from the 9th of until the 23rd of December.

Tampere’s other Christmas Market is anything but traditional. Organised by TTT, the Tampere Worker’s Theatre, this amazing flea market will be held on the 10th of December and will have lots of theatrical costumes and associated goodies for sale as well as more traditional pastries and delicacies.

The weekend of the 10th and 11th of December you’ll find the Artisan’s Christmas Market in the Craft Museum of Finland. Around 30 craft and design professionals will be selling Finnish high quality arts and crafts products: designed jewelry, wooden products, textiles, clothes, bags, black smith design, heavy metal products and lots more. There is also a Christmas Café, free entry to the museum’s exhibitions and festive performances by the Ruamjai Singers on both days at 4pm and 5pm.

Located some 40km west of Espoo, Lohja will hold it’s annual traditional Christmas Market in the fields by the old church on the 10th and 11th of December. Alongside the multitude of stalls (around 230!) selling handicrafts and farm products, there are demonstrations of the old crafts, and of course plenty of traditional Christmas food and drinks.

Held in the grounds of the town’s impressive old fortress, St. Catherine’s Market is another very traditional one, and will be held on the 10th and 11th of December. The nearby lakeside town of Joetseno will hold it’s Christmas Market on the 8th.

The Mikkeli Christmas Market will be held on the 17th of December in the town’s market square, in a big Christmas tent, and will feature lots of Christmas carols.

Kenkävero has a long history, going back 550 years, and is Finland’s biggest, and one of it’s most beautiful, vicarages, which is now the site of a handicrafts and design centre with it’s own shop and café-restaurant. On the 17th and 18th of December it will host a Christmas Market specialising in Finnish handicrafts. There’s also a delicious Christmas buffet featuring traditional Finnish treats made from local ingredients.

The Taitokortteli handicraft and culture quarter in the center of Joensuu will convert into a traditional Christmas village for the Advent weekends in December. There will also be a more modern Christmas Expo held in the Joensuu Areena on the 17th and 18th of December.

Olavinlinna is Finland’s most impressive medieval castle, famous for it’s annual Opera Festival. On the 17th of December it will host a medieval-feel St. Thomas Christmas Market where there will be a visit from Santa Claus on his reindeer-pulled sleigh, Christmas devotionals, and of course plenty of stalls selling gifts, decorations and other seasonal fare. The stalls are to be located within the halls of the castle, while the courtyard will be where all the grills and warm drinks will be sold.

Vaasa’s Christmas Market will be held on the 26th and 27th of November in Vaasan Halli. This market has been a notable success over the years, last year alone it attracted over 20,000 visitors!

Other notable markets include:

Kuopion Joulumarkkinat held in Kuopio-Halli on the 10th and 11th of December.

Seinäjoen perinteiset Joulumarkkinat in Seinäjoki Areena on the 17th and 18th of December.

Rauman joulumarkkinat in Rauman keskusta on the 17th and 18th of December.

Tuomaanmarkkinat in Kauppatori, kävelykatu and Promenadi on the 20th and 21st of December.

Vanhanajan joulumarkkinat in Raatihuoneentori on the 10th and 11th of December.

Agricultural Museum Christmas Fair at Loimaa on the 4th of December, and Forssan joulumarkkinat at Kauppatori on December 16th.

Mary’s Christmas Market held at Hollolan liikuntahalli on December 3rd.