Facebook cruelly reminds me once a year that yet another year has passed by since my Erasmus exchange year in Tampere, Finland. From -30 degrees, 6 months of snow, hanging a bag outside my window as my accommodation didn’t have a freezer… It was the best year of my life, and the beautiful place of Tampere had a lot to do with that.
I was lucky enough to spend a full winter in Tampere and have since visited during this time too. The great thing about Tampere is that no matter how harsh the season, life still goes on and there is plenty to still do. It’s going to take much more than sub zero temperatures and 1m high of snow to stop you, this isn’t the UK ;).
Tampere is north of Helsinki, only around a 2 hour journey away so it’s perfect for combining with a trip to the capital. Whether you’re travelling or studying, here are 7 things you’ve got to do in Tampere this winter.
1. Walking on Lake Näsijärvi
I was beyond confused when I first saw people and DOGS walking on this frozen lake when I lived in Finland. So much so that I was walking home from uni one day, saw people on it and literally went and did it too. Lol.
Lake Näsijärvi is one of the most popular lakes in Tampere which can be accessed easily by road or about a 20 minute walk from the town centre. It is pretty insane to think that a lake of this magnitude could literally just freeze, it felt SO ice road truckers. Anyway, once there have been sub zero temperatures for a while the ice reaches acceptable levels, it is perfectly safe to do so but only walk when other people are on the ice. As temperatures rise this also gives you an idea of when you can’t. I was able to walk on the lake between January-April, but it varies every year on the weather.
If you wanted to you could walk across the entirety of the lake to the other side. During weekends, there was also a little cafe hut thing that setup on the ice where you could get warm drinks and munkkis, literally the dream. I was walking across here once when a sleigh and huskies road past me, like is this real life?
I would 100% recommend adding this to your Tampere bucket list, make sure you wear proper sturdy snow boots and wrap up warm. Me on the middle of the lake on a -30 degree day, too cold for life, but those skies!
2. The Ultimate Finnish Experience – Sauna & Lake Dip
Finland is the sauna capital of world. There is MORE saunas than cars, and it just makes me love Finland a little bit more. I mean, even our halls of residence had a sauna. It is considered a necessity, not a luxury. A sauna and lake session is more than just a leisurely thing to do on a weekend, it is a way of life.
Much research has shown the benefits of cold water immersion and perhaps it’s why Finland is among one of the healthiest and happiest countries in the world? There is plenty of places to have a sauna in Tampere, but perhaps one of the best is the Rauhaniemen kansankylpylä sauna. This is a great place to visit throughout the seasons, no sub zero temp or amount of snow shuts this place down.
During the winter when the lake freezes over a hole is cut into the ice where sauna goers can jump in after sitting in the sauna. One rule – no wetsuits allowed, don’t be surprised if you also visit a sauna in Finland and have to strip off before you go in…
This is one of the finest ways to immerse yourself into Finnish culture. You won’t be disappointed, but you might be v cold.
3. Munkkis At Pynikki Tower
Pyynikki is only a 15 minute walk from the centre, or you catch a bus, and the views are definitely worth it.
The Pyynikki observation tower is amazing and after walking up lots of stairs you can admire the amazing views across the whole of Tampere. Afterwards it’s almost obligatory to go inside to the Kahvila (cafe) and sample one of Tampere’s specialties which is the munkki. They are an integral part of Finnish baking and are just bloody delicious! On Sundays you will spot many locals popping in for their Kahvi (coffee) and Munkki.
Afterwards you can walk further down to a beautiful beach and appreciate the serenity of the surrounding lakes, in the winter you can even walk across the frozen lake, if you dare 😉
4. Visit Tampereen Kauppahalli
No matter the season, there is nothing like visiting the food halls of Kauppahalli. Such a good place to tuck in from the cold and spend a morning browsing and eating your way around. They have everything from meat to baked goods, and there is a lot of baked goods! Finland is one of the best places for cakes, pastries and chocolate and it’s such a wholesome, fun thing to do when in Tampere.
Kauppahalli is conveniently situated in the town centre, it truly is the heart of the city. You can even book a guided tour in advance to learn more about the local history and stories of Tampere.
5. Ice Skating
Ice skating on the frozen lakes is just another winter sport that is loved by the Finns. Unless you’re local to the area and have your own skates, you can rent a pair of tour skates also from Hiking Travel’s rental shop at Bikini Bar on the tour skating track of Näsijärvi lake.
Ice skating on natural ice is certainly more challenging than a rink. As I found out. lol. But like cross country ski-ing it’s definitely one to check out when you’re visiting. (These were the skates that I picked up from a the Keskustori flea market, that’s also a must visit in the summer!).
6. Watch An Ice Hockey Game
Tappara is one of the most successful ice hockey teams in the world and it’s just something not to be missed when you’re in Tampere. It is a truly, Tampere and local thing you must do. Even if you don’t understand the sport, just go!
Check out their schedule beforehand, tickets can be purchased from ticketmaster or on game days, the box office at Hakametsä Ice Stadium opens 1.5 hours before the game begins.
7. Visit The Stable Yards
The area of Tallipiha in Tampere, used to be the stable yards, where horses and horse-caretakers lived. What remains is cute, colourful, old wooden houses which are now a mix of boutiques, craft shops and cute coffee shops.
It really is like walking round a winter wonderland when it’s snowing, and cold. The snow topped trees, and soft white ground is Tampere’s own little Narnia. The huts are lit up by fairy lights and the coffee shops so inviting. It’s like taking a step back 10 years or so, if you have a free afternoon you won’t regret bumbling around the yards for the afternoon and stepping inside for a kahvi and delicious cake.
Tampere is just one of the most wonderful places to visit in Finland, and there is so much to do. Winter becomes a truly magical, winter wonderland where there is so much to explore. I promise you’ll struggle to visit and not fall in love with this pretty place. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like reading Revisiting Tampere, Finland.