The best of summer in Helsinki

3 minute read

Credits: Mariia Kauppi

Helsinki comes to life during summer

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, boasts a rich culture and an honest, relaxed vibe. With a population of less than 1.5 million residents, it’s also very approachable. Visit the city during summer to get a taste of the lifestyle, and enjoy its lovely nearby beaches and islands.

Helsinki is full of little summer cafés and kiosques called ‘lippakioski.’ The oldest ones date back to the 1920s.
Credits: Mikko Huotari

Party at Flow Festival in Helsinki

Every year in August, the Suvilahti area of Helsinki erupts into a party that lasts three days and nights. It’s called the Flow Festival, and it’s a weekend music event that’s full of headliners, up-and-coming local talent, and an abundance of character. Set in the industrial area near Sörnäinen and the Kallio district, Flow Festival welcomes over 80,000 visitors each year with interesting lighting, design and technology. Do what the Finns do and arrive on two wheels: Bikes can be rented from the city of Helsinki for a mere 5€ per day fee and can be returned to any station in the city. Don’t forget about the event’s afterparties, which include huge get-togethers at clubs like Post Bar and many more.

Flow Festival takes place in the historic power plant area of Suvilahti. You can use city bikes or the metro (Kalasatama station) to get there.
Credits: Jussi Hellstén

Twirl away into midsummer on Seurasaari Island

For Finns, Midsummer isn’t just about getting together with family and friends; it’s also about folklore and magic. One way of joining the fun is to head to Seurasaari’s Midsummer’s Eve festivities. Held in an outdoor museum-like setting, Midsummer night in Seurasaari is an experience that’s a mix of fresh perspectives and traditional fun. It kicks off with the raising of the Midsummer pole and traditional folk dances. Then, bonfires are set all over the island, including a huge one that’s lit each year by the bridal couple of Midsummer. We recommend adding this magical side trip onto any summer journey to Helsinki.

Spend a night overlooking the city on Pihlajasaari Island

Pihlajasaari is a beautiful island in the Finnish archipelago that’s only a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland and can be accessed by ferry from Ruoholahti or the Merisatama piers in Ullanlinna. This destination is the perfect spot to escape the hustle, bustle and heat of a Helsinki summer and offers long, sandy beaches equipped with fully-functioning camp grounds featuring kitchenettes, outdoor toilets and playgrounds. There’s also a two-kilometre marked nature trail circling the island, as well as two saunas which can be reserved. One of them, Rantasauna, is often completely booked by locals, but the other, Aalto sauna, offers day-of bookings. You can also overnight on the island on the weekends for a small fee, so bring your tent or hammock.

Colourful changing rooms adorn the beach at Pihlajasaari. On the eastern part of the island, there’s also a naturist beach!
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Attend an architectural walk in Helsinki

One of the most photographed streets in Helsinki is Huvilakatu, located in the Ullanlinna district.
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Helsinki’s architecture is a unique blend of historic and hyper-modern. The best way of getting acquainted with it is to take part in a tour. Walking tours operate throughout the city, but some of the most interesting are offered by Ataman Tours and the City Museum. Arrange for one and prepare to explore a wide range of architectural styles, from Neoclassical to Gothic Revival, Renaissance and Functionalism to Modernism. Helsinki was also named the World Design Capital in 2012 and was awarded with City of Design status by UNESCO in 2014, so it’s a major destination for architecture and design fans.

Helsinki Cathedral is a must-see attraction for history and architecture fans.
Credits : Harri Tarvainen
The newest addition to Helsinki’s iconic architecture scene is the Oodi Library.
Credits: Mikko Törmänen

Bike along the Vantaa River

The Vantaa River runs a little more than 100 kilometres, from Lake Erkylänjärvi in Hausjärvi all the way to the Gulf of Finland at Vanhankaupunginselkä in Helsinki. While this waterway has, at times, been overlooked by visitors and locals alike, it offers a plethora of activities – and a nice ride back to town. Start by toting your bike on the train to Helsinki’s northern suburbs (like Puistola or Tikkurila), then enjoy a leisurely cycle back to the city. Bringing snacks is recommended, but there are pit stops available along the way. Try a coffee from Stay Friendly Coffee near Malmi, then sample scrumptious Chinese-fusion at China Boss in Tapanila, and finish up with a delicious treat or a meal at Annan Kartano in Tuomarinkylä Manor. Finally, continue toward Pikkukoski, the local beach adjacent to Vanhankoskenlahti, which offers the perfect resting place to enjoy the gentle waters of the Vantaa.

Credits: Tern Bicycles