Pint-sized Helsinki has quite the reputation as a quirky city. This 16th-century metropolis is Finland’s capital and biggest city. It comes with an abundance of lakes, a tortured coastline of bays and inlets, an archipelago of 330 islands, splendid “human modernism” architecture created by designer Alvar Aalto and the general ability to excel in the world of no-fuss design.
Why visit Helsinki in the Spring
There’s only a very short Spring window in Helsinki and it is heralded by clear skies just about long enough for the city to replenish its large stretches of grassy green parks and trees to finally shoot out their leaves. Its expansive Central Park just outside the city center is particularly beautiful at this time. Temperatures begin to reach 10°C (50°F) or even more.
On May 1st the Vappu festival takes place – not just in Helsinki but throughout the country. It’s the Memorial Day of Saint Labor and students and ex-students don their white student hats and make a lot of noise with whistles, wear baubles while drinking the traditional Sima (Mead) and nibble Finnish fritters traditionally eaten on May Day.
Get there in early June and you may think you are in Rio. The city has its own Carnaval with a samba parade, dancers and music akin to the Carnaval in Brazil.
Why visit Helsinki in the Summer
Summer in Helsinki (July and August) is peak time for holiday-makers. Temperatures can reach a comfortable 20 °C (68 °F) and café culture is at its height and the beaches and parks are dotted with humanity. Generally lasting two months, at this time the sun sets very late, and even as the day turns into dusk and then into dawn, the hues don’t change that much.
Why visit Helsinki in the Winter
Helsinki is located in the northern reaches of the world and it’s seriously cold at this time of year. In January and February temperatures can dip minus 6 °C (22 °F) but as the Helsinki peninsular just out into the sea, it feels colder – sometimes −20 °C (−4 °F) because of the wind chill and humidity.
There’s often a drizzle of snow which turns into slush particularly in November and December, less so in January and February where it’s still cold but at least the sun breaks out from time to time. Still the days are short.
But it’s not all grey and gloom. January sees the cheery light installations of Lux Helsinki that brighten up the city from 5 pm to 10 pm for several nights. The stage for the event will be in the district of Kaartinkaupunki.
Then in February, there is the Helsinki Burlesque Festival. Many turn up in a fancy dress to watch both men and women and their saucy stage entertainment.
Ice skating is particularly popular at this time. The ice rink is in the middle of the city right by the Central Railway Station but there’s also one on the Tuusulanjärvi lake and another on the sea off Vuosaari.