Before arriving in Lapland to live and work there for 5 months, I did a tour of the Scandinavian capital cities with my friend Morgane. We visited Copenhagen, Stockholm (find my article about this trip here) and Helsinki in late November. I thought that now that the festive period is in full swing and that Christmas is coming very soon I would share with you a particular day of this 4-days trip in Helsinki, a day we spent exploring the island of Seurasaari under some magical snow.

Seurasaari is a small island and district of the capital city of Finland, Helsinki. It’s typically the kind of places that I absolutely love about the Nordic countries : you’re right in the middle of the city, some 20-something minutes walk from the city centre, yet it’s like you were right in the middle of nowhere, only surrounded by nature and wilderness.

In fact, Seurasaari is an open-air museum. Old traditional buildings such as cottages, farmsteads and ancient manors have been relocated here from all over Finland. Most of these buildings date back from the 17th, 18th or 19th century, so some of them are more than 4 centuries old! They all have been saved from destruction in the begining of the 20th century, when national authorities were trying to modernise the housing system of Finland. And there definitely was a trend in building open-air museums in the Nordic countries at that same period. One of the most famous examples is Skansen in Stockholm.

The purpose of this open-air museum is to show the traditional way of living of Finland, and how it has been influenced by the two countries which settled Finland throughout history: Sweden and then later, Russia. At the time we visited, in late November, the houses were not open but if you go in summertime, you can visit the inside as well as enjoying some cultural animations from the people who work there, dressed in traditional costumes and outfits. It’s a great place to have some insight about the ancient way of life in the Nordic countries, about people’s handicraft and customs.

It truly was the most magical little walk, winding around some centuries-old wooden cottages, snow-capped log houses surrounded by evegreens sprinkled with tiny fluffy snowflakes. My favourite part was of course the old red barns and houses. Speaking of that, do you know why Nordic countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway have so many of these red wooden houses? Scroll down to have the explaination! 🏡

Some traditional deep red-painted wooden houses with white frameworks. This colour is called “Falu” red in Sweden (from the mining city of Falun in the province of Dalarna, central Sweden) and “punalmulta” (“red earth”) in Finnish. This particular pigment was extracted from various copper mines in Sweden. It has been used to paint houses and barns as early as the 16th century. It has been the most popular colour onwards until the 19th century, then lighter colours like white and yellow have begun to appear for well-off social classes. The reason why it was so popular is that it could be used by everyone, including poorer people, because the paint was cheap and easy to make. It also protects woods from the elements and helps it living longer. Today it is still very popular and widely used especially in the countryside. Take a ride in Sweden or Finland and you’ll see red houses everywhere, whether they’re cottages, homes, boathouses on the coast, even little garden sheds are usually red. Today, it’s a bit like the trademark of those countries! It’s part of their heritage and has become iconic.

I love how the snow makes the red pop out. 💕

The ancient church of the open-air musueum, “Karuna kirko”, which dates back to 1685 and was moved to Seurasaari in 1910!

The white wooden bridge to cross to reach Seurasaari. You’ll find some very friendly ducks, swans, geese and squirrels all around this island!

I hope you enjoyed this little trip through time. I love these places, so steeped in history, where you can have an insight about how people used to live in the old days. And as a tour guide and someone who is fond of Scandinavian culture, this is the kind of places I would die to work into! (if someone hears me… 👋) Now I need at least to go back in Summertime to see how it looks like when everything is open.

I hope you also liked going through those photos from last winter with me! Everytime I see them I’m feeling festive and Christmassy again (yes, even if we’re in the middle of July…) So I thought it was the right time of year to share them on here.

Happy Christmas everybody! God Jul! Hyvää Joulua!



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