December is the first official month of winter in Finland, but much of the country will have been feeling pretty wintery for a couple of months already by December. It might not be the coldest month of the year (that honor goes to January and February), but it is the darkest. The average temperature throughout the country is 25°F (-4°C), but it's usually much colder in the north. In northern Lapland, the sun doesn't rise in midwinter, while Helsinki and other parts of the south only get about six hours of daylight. These conditions limit what you can reasonably do in Finland in winter, especially outdoors.
Crowds & Costs
Despite the cold weather and short days, December is actually a busy time for travel in Finland. Both local and international travelers head north to Lapland later in December to visit the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. Hotels can get booked up in advance, and Finland isn't a low-budget destination even during quieter periods. To avoid the biggest crowds and highest prices, head to Lapland earlier in December, before local schools break for the winter vacation.
Where to Go
If you can only visit one place in Finland in December, make it Lapland. Not only is it home to Santa Claus (the Santa Claus Village is an amusement park in Rovaniemi), but you can also enjoy a huge range of snow sports throughout the region. Just remember that with such long nights in northern areas of the country, there's only so much you'll be able to fit into a day.
To enjoy the festive spirit without braving the icy north, check out a Christmas market or two in Finland's cities. Helsinki, Porvoo, Turku, Tampere, Jyväskylä, and Oulu all put on great Christmas markets, which run for a few weeks before Christmas.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Active travelers will enjoy winter sports in Finland in December: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoe hiking, ice skating, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides, dog-sledding, and ice swimming. Warm up after with Finnish glögi (mulled wine) and a sauna session.
As well as visiting Christmas markets in Finland's cities, you can enjoy other indoor cultural activities when the weather's cold. Helsinki, in particular, is home to a range of museums that celebrate Finnish history, design, and innovation.
Events in December
Independence Day, nationwide. December 6 is a public holiday commemorating Finland's independence from Russia in 1917. You'll see the colors of the Finnish flag, blue and white, in shop windows and decorating cakes. A special service is held in Helsinki Cathedral.
Christmas Day, nationwide. Most Finns spend December 25 with their families and eat special food. In the weeks before Christmas, Christmas markets appear in Finland's cities.
Traveling to Finland in December? Check out these great itineraries
Magical Lapland: Santa's Village, Dogsledding & the Northern Lights - 5 Days. Explore the Lapland town of Rovaniemi, dogsled through snowy forests, meet Santa's reindeer, and set out searching for the spectacular Northern Lights.
Lapland Winter Activities - 5 Days. Spend five days on snowshoes and skis, making your way across a winter wonderland that spans both Finland and Norway.
Northern Lights Road Trip from Rovaniemi to Tromsø - 9 Days. From dog sledding to snowshoeing, this adventure above the Arctic Circle covers all the winter activities the region has to offer. It ends with a couple of days in northern Norway.