Finland Travelogue – (Part 7): Helsinki City and Christmas Market

Much has been said about escaping to the capital of Finland, Helsinki to be soaked in the atmosphere of Christmas. Just before we headed back home, we had the opportunity to explore Helsinki city and the Christmas market.

Come winter season, there are only few hours of daylight and it is not surprising to see most of the pictures taken were dark.

We took the train at the Rautatieasema Railway station from the airport.

The ride to the city took about 30 mins. After being acquainted with snow and forested surroundings, it was a refreshing feeling to be back to urban jungle again.

Helsinki is the capital of Finland. There are lots of attractions to explore and experience for tourists which you can find here. Since we had a few hours before catching the flight, we thought the best option was to head straight to the popular Christmas market and walked in the city, immersing ourselves in the nordic atmosphere.

With a single ticket you can hop aboard trams, busses, the metro and even the ferry to Suomenlinna. Single tickets can be purchased from ticket machines, R-kiosks and other HSL sales points or by using HSL mobile application. Tickets can only be bought from the driver on buses and trams.

Familiar food brands.

We were figuring out how to get to the Christmas market. With the kind help of the locals, we managed to reach there, finally!

Helsinki Christmas Market is the oldest and largest event of its kind in Helsinki. Taking place in the centre of Helsinki in the Senate Square the Christmas Market attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. One of the main draws of was the hugely popular and old-fashioned merry-go-round offering free rides to children and others who are young at heart.

So many Christmas stalls here. There are over a hundred vendors selling traditional handicraft, the latest design and utility products, as well as produce from primary producers and farms.

Trying out some delicious traditional Finnish Karelian pasties to bring into our flight back home.

Helsinki Christmas Market is open from early December until Christmas Eve week. Events such as Finnish Independence Day (6 December) and many other free smaller events during the run-up to Christmas, regulate the everyday life of the market.

Our dinner 🙂

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Finland Travelogue – (Part 6): Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos in Rovaniemi Lapland

Widely regarded as one of the most exotic hotels in the world, it would be a shame not to experience staying at The Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos when visitors are in Finland. Talk about sleeping in Glass Igloos under the shining stars and possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. After a day of snow activities, we finally reached the Arctic SnowHotel in the evening.

The hotel’s reception and restaurant are located under the same roof.

Gifts and souvenirs.

What is Arctic SnowHotel About?

 The Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos are located in Rovaniemi, Finland which is just a short 26 km away from the town centre of Rovaniemi. The hotel lies right on the shore of the scenic Lehtojavi Lake.

The glass igloo is well heat insulated to ensure visitors are not affected by the cold during the coldest of times at night. The roof of the igloo is made from electrically heated glass, which means the glass will not cool the space; rather it maintains evenly distributed warmth while melting all the snow and ice off the roof.

The beds in the igloo are motorised, which makes it possible for visitors to adjust the optimal position or sleeping or viewing the skies.

The hotel’s special Aurora Borealis alarm service guarantees that guests won’t miss an appearance of the Northern Lights. Sadly, we did not catch any Aurora Borealis during the trip. We guess staying at the glass igloo was an unforgettable experience. A night’s stay would set you back by about EUR 799 for a family of 4. So we chose to stay just for a night and a huge disappointment at not being able to catch the aurora.

The glass igloo contained basic facilities like a bathroom (warm water only last for 25 mins before it turns cold), a mini-fridge and water flask. Hey, to our dismay there was no TV available. On top of that, the hotel’s Wi-Fi was down the entire day. Imagine the inconvenience of not being able to connect into internet and no entertainment in the glass igloo 😦

We had our dinner on the bed!

Rise and shine. We woke up early the next morning for breakfast.

The selections were few and not that impressive.

We spent the whole morning playing in the snow – making snowman, skating, exploring the frozen lake and many more before making our way back to Helsinki.

They had so much fun playing in the frozen lake.

The snow was pure and tasty!

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All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Finland Travelogue – (Part 5): SantaPark, The Home Cavern of Santa Claus in Lapland

A visit to SantaPark offers an exciting glimpse into the secret going on of Santa’s elves at the Elf School. How about decorating ginger biscuits made using Mrs Claus’s recipe, romping around in the Angry Birds play area (did I say correctly?) and joining other activities in the cavern?

Entrance of Santa Claus’ grotto SantaPark in Rovaniemi in Lapland
Image Credit: Santa Television
Related image
Image Credit: FamilyWithKids.com

Entrance tickets can be purchased online in this website or/and also at SantaPark ticket booth. Take note that each ticket is valid for two consecutive days. So when planning your itinerary, make sure to include SantaPark before the last day of your trip to maximise your ticket mileage.

A creepy and spooky long tunnel leading to the main entrance greeted us when we stepped into SantaPark, heightening our anticipation of encountering the elves!

What is SantaPark About?

SantaPark is a Christmas-themed amusement park that is located just 8km from Rovaniemi and 2km from Santa Claus Village. It is a portion of a 12,000m2 population shelter so it is all underground in a large cave with 40m of rock overhead as you enter. Good to hear that it is the only place in the world that you can undercross the Arctic Circle is at SantaPark.

Image: FamilyWithKids.com

The activities you can expect to discover here:

Santa’s Office

Elves’ Post Office

Toy Factory Shopping Area

Elf School

Elf School Diploma

Elf Trainee Hat

SantaPark Magic Show (3 times a day)

Magic Train

Elf Workshop

Angry Birds Activity Area

Visit to Ice Gallery, Ice Bar and meeting with the Ice Princess

Undercrossing of the Arctic Circle

Mrs. Gingerbread Bakery

… and, you can take as many photos and videos with Santa, Elves, Ice Princess & Mrs. Gingerbread as you like!

Santa’s Post Office was the first stop when we entered in the amusement park.

This is also the place to shop for souvenirs and see how the letters were being sorted before mailing. The souvenirs were mainly Christmas themed which were attractive to browse.

Visitors can purchase greeting cards and send it to their friends/loved ones overseas. As you can see, the Christmas concept is pretty much the same in SantaPark and Santa Claus Village which we blogged here. Since you have flew all the way here, it is still worth to give it a try.

SantaPark Activities

This is the point where you undercrosss the Arctic Circle to be greeted by a beautiful Ice Princess outside the Ice Gallery.

Exploring the ice sculptures.

The making of Santa Claus figurines at the Elf Workshop. The popularity of Arctic Circle has certainly travelled far and wide. We met fellow Singaporeans over here too!

This was the part where we re-visited the Elf Workshop again after the crowds were cleared.

Let’s display our masterpiece here.

Mrs Gingerbread Bakery is the sweet spot for kids to decorate gingerbread cookies.

We visited Santa Claus in his office. SantaPark trip was really valued for money as we can take as many pictures we liked with Santa.

Just with Big and Small M 🙂

SantaPark Café offers lunch in winter and mouthwatering delicacies. A friendly elf volunteered to take pictures with us. Did you notice anything special about her nose?

During our visit to SantaPark, we noticed that they had Chinese-speaking elves on duty. This is definitely a life-saver for those visitors who do not speak English.

Spacious café with plenty of sitting areas.

A slide leads you up to the Angry Birds activity area.

We believed we are not the first to ask. Why is Angry Birds activity introduced in SantaPark? Seems to us that it is out-of-theme…

This part of SantaPark is more suitable for younger children, especially toddlers. More relevant to Big and Small M is the slide.

The Magic Sleigh Ride was the part where we enjoyed the most. It was unfortunate that the magic sleigh was down when we arrived and the staff had a hard time trying to fix the train. Just when SantaPark was nearing to closing time, we received a good news that the magic sleigh was up and running. You can imagine how excited we were, including the visitors there, rushing to queue up for the ride.

The magic sleigh takes around six minutes to complete each circuit of the 150m-long track where excited passengers pass through winter scenes and vistas, meeting elves and reindeer along the way.

Photo Credit: http://www.parkworld-online.com/santas-got-a-brand-new-sleigh/

Special video credit due to Korean Broadcasting System(KBS). They did an excellent job capturing the spirit of SantaPark. Watch the clip of the magic sleigh.

Ticket is valid for two consecutive days.

17.50 €/adult, 15.00 €/child (3-12 yrs), free for children under 3 years old. A trip to SantaPark is definitely worth it!

Winter Season 2017

Opening dates

18th November 2017 to 13th January 2018

Opening Hours

18.11.2017 – 30.11.2017

Daily from 10.00 to 17.00

01.12.2017 – 07.01.2018

Daily from 10.00 to 18.00
*Exception: 24.12.2017 from 10 to 16!

08.01.2018-13.01.2018

Daily from 10.00 to 17.00

Location & Distances

SantaPark, the Christmas theme park is located right on the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi – Finland.

SantaPark – Rovaniemi city center: 8 km (approx. 15 min. journey with bus line number 8 – Santa’s Express)

SantaPark – Rovaniemi Airport: 2 km.

We offer free parking for all guests.

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All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Finland Travelogue – (Part 3): Reindeer and Husky Sleigh Ride in Lapland

Our next itinerary is going to enjoy the company of arctic animals where we will visit local reindeer farms and husky kennels and take on a fascinating ride on a sleigh.

We had no idea where we were after snowmobiling for one hour. But one thing we knew, we were really deep into the forest.

The coldness was unbearable and we were really glad to take a rest inside the log cottage.

Our guide prepared an open fire for us to warm up, and our group got to enjoy warm refreshments and pastries before meeting the reindeer and husky dogs. Our guide also shared about Lapland with us, describing what we should know about arctic animals and their behaviour.

Fire, the precious commodity during winter season.

Reindeer Farm

Okay, we have read about reindeer in storybooks and seen them on TVs. Our impression of reindeer is that they are very much a part of Santa Claus’ life, transporting him from one place to another.

Reindeer don’t fly, but they do sometimes have red noses. These animals are part of the deer family, which includes deer, elk, moose and wapiti. Like others in their family, reindeers have long legs, hooves and antlers. An interesting fact to know is that male reindeer lose their antlers in November, but females keep theirs much longer. This means that Santa Claus’ reindeer must have all been female, since they are depicted as having horns on December 24.

Reindeer are built for the cold. Their noses warm up air before it gets to their lungs and their entire bodies, including their hooves, are covered with fur. These animals can run very fast and some of them up to 80km/h!

Let us pose for a picture before the ride.

How far was the reindeer sleigh ride? Just a mere 500m. Our reindeer was pretty lazy as he stopped halfway and sauntered back to the starting point. However the best part was getting to ‘drive’ the reindeer by ourselves!

The reindeer ride was not impressive. However, the memorable part was getting up close and personal to meet the reindeer, finally.

Husky Safari

We visited the husky safari which was one of our anticipated itinerary. We loved dogs! The energy and joy of the husky dogs, who are born to run, is difficult to describe and petting the animals is also possible.

At the husky safari, we learnt about how the huskies were trained from a young age and the role each of them played in pulling the sleigh.

As you can see, husky bears a close resemblance to the wolf but they are pretty friendly and playful.

After touring the husky farm, we were led to the husky sleigh ride. The huskies were raring to go and greeted us with enthusiatic chorus of barking when we approached them.

The 500m husky ride was delightful as they leapt up and down the air in extreme excitement, pulling us across the snow. While some may see this as animal slavery, we tend to differ. The huskies really looked happy and excited in carrying out their duties.

Posing for a family photo before we bid these friendly animals goodbye!

Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park Oy is located in Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Address:
Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park
Santa Claus Village
Joulumaantie 5
96930 Arctic Circle
Finland

Email:
Bookings and safari information
: info@snowmobilepark.com

Instagram: Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park
Facebook page: Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park
TripAdvisor: Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park

Interested to visit Finland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Finland Travelogue – (Part 2): Airbnb Stay and Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park in Lapland

Travel like a tourist and live like a local. They need not be mutually exclusive and Airbnb has made it possible for us to enjoy a meaningful holiday with authentic, local experiences.

We were really blessed to meet a wonderful host who readily fetched us from Santa Claus Village to his Airbnb abode at no extra cost.

Our host stayed near to Rovaniemi city. Along the way, he gave us a mini-tour of the city and stopped by a supermarket for us to do some grocery shopping.

Our Airbnb Stay

Here we are, at our Airbnb and it was freezing cold. An interesting sight was the entrance to the house; in fact, there were 2 doors to access. We were curious why it was so but guess probably could be due to the freezing weather that it needed 2 doors to insulate the house from coldness.

Some might thought the lighting looked spooky but we felt it was a nice touch.

It was snowing all day and the cars were covered with snow!

The size of the house was typical of a 3 room HDB flat and more than sufficient for us.

The living room with sofa bed.

Our host prepared coffee powder and cookies for us.

Mini-kitchen.

The bedroom with connecting bathroom.

We were blessed to have a wonderful host. Not forgetting to pen down our appreciation for his great hosting!

 Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park

Pure snow white provides for many opportunities to have fun. The Arctic Circle has no lack of snow activities to engage in. For the very first time, we got the opportunity to explore snowmobile ride in the snowy forest.

We booked the day activity program from the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park.

The group sizes are small and the speed and the length of the safari depend on each group. This is why this safari suits for families as well as for those who are looking for a real adrenaline boost.

Our guide first gave us a brief introduction to snowmobiling after which he lead us to the wilderness.

Getting ready to move out…

And off we go! The kids really enjoyed the ride which lasted about 15 mins.

The Lapland is an amazing place to take on a fascinating ride through the winter forest.

That was not the end. Come second part, we joined a bigger group and snowmobiled for about an hour into the wilderness. This excursion is available for everybody, but a driving license is required to ride a snowmobile for longer distances.

This time round, Big and Small M had to sit under the blankets on a sledge behind the snowmobile.

For a moment, we almost couldn’t recognise who she is! That was how freezing cold the Lapland is. Small M’s hair froze and became spider web. Snowmobiling in the wilderness and playing with the snow were already an experience in itself, but this safari would be taking us to meet reindeer and husky dogs in our next blog. Stay tune for more 🙂

Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park Oy is located in Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Address:
Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park
Santa Claus Village
Joulumaantie 5
96930 Arctic Circle
Finland

Email:
Bookings and safari information
: info@snowmobilepark.com

Interested to visit Finland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.