Helsinki in December looks ominous when your plane touches down. At noon, the world is dim in the fog. Black sky descends to the ground. On the train into town from the airport, all the buildings are the same shade of gunmetal gray. The train station is a landmark designed by famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, but you hurry through it on your way to your hotel. It is very cold, though apparently not cold enough to turn the sleety, stinging rain to snow.
But in ensuing days, you discover that Helsinki in winter offers consolations. Every block has a cozy coffee bar serving world-class espresso. December’s gloom is brightened by Christmas lights. Apartment windows often contain a single Christmas candle. Every Finn you meet welcomes you warmly, in idiomatic English.