07 Oct 7 Helsinki Festivals
If you ever needed a reason to visit Europe’s capital of cool, here are seven fab festivals and events that take place in Helsinki from January through December.
The end of April marks a very special time on the Finnish calendar; the beginning of Spring. Ask just about any Finn you care to meet what that means to them and they’ll give you a one-word answer, Vappu!
Vappu is the closest thing you’ll find to Carnival in this part of the world, an unrivalled, two-day Finnish celebration held the length and breadth of the country. It brings out the Finns in droves. To many in the know, it’s Europe’s best kept party secret.
Helsinki’s Vappu celebrations congregate around Esplanadi and the Havis Amanda statue on 30th April (although the whole city is in party mode). On May 1st, celebrations move up the road to a city park, Kaivopuisto where things take on an ever-so-slightly more sedate tone.
For five days each and every August join the beautiful people at Helsinki’s world-class, Flow Festival.
Set at the site of a disused former power plant close to the Helsinki city centre, since 1997, Flow has been providing revellers with an eclectic mix of up-and-comers and big names in rock, pop, hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk and world music sourced from Finland, Europe and beyond.
Flow has achieved that rare mix of size — there’s always someone on a stage — whilst retaining a wonderful sense of intimacy. There’s a great range of food, some creative nooks and crannies where you can re-energise and the bars are plentiful.
If you get a chance to hit Helsinki in August you’ll rarely be disappointed, time that visit with Flow and you’ll leave positively aglow.
It’s all about the light. And if you’ve ever visited Helsinki in the midst of a northern winter, you’ll understand. For five days come January many of the architectural icons of Helsinki become a canvas as a series of breathtaking installations light up a route around the city centre during Lux Helsinki. Rug up and do the rounds, there’s a surreal beauty in experiencing Helsinki when it’s snow-covered and lit up so spectacularly.
World Village Festival
Over a weekend each May the World Village Festival sets up camp in Helsinki’s Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square. There’s a number of stages featuring an eclectic mix of world, pop, reggae, soul, jazz and folk music. It’s a great weekend for all of the family (especially if the late Spring weather’s on song) and best of all, it’s free.
Saint Lucia’s Day
Annually on the 13th December, residents of Helsinki rug up and and take to the streets around the capital’s Senate Square for a procession that venerates Saint Lucia.
The tradition of Saint Lucia’s Day is based on the legend of the virgin-martyr who was killed in Syracuse, Sicily during the persecutions of the Christians in 304 AD. Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated predominantly in Italy and amongst the Scandinavian nations, where it is tied in with raising money for charity.
The Helsinki procession begins when a white-clad figure with a crown of candles, representing Lucia emerges from the Helsinki Cathedral. She then leads a procession including singers and Santa Claus through the streets of the capital.
Art Goes Kapakka
Part of the Helsinki Festival, Art Goes Kapakka takes performance art to the bars, restaurants and cafes of the capital. For ten days and nights each August, expect the unexpected from impromptu choir performances to burlesque shows and everything in between. Grab some mates a plot a route over a night or two after downloading a map of the participating venues from the Art Goes Kapakka website. Kippis!
Helsinki Christmas Markets
By December, the north’s dark canvas of winter has descended upon Helsinki. The distant sun pokes it head above the horizon at about 10am, hangs around for a spell, before dipping again by 4pm. When there’s a sprinkling of snow on the ground and you’re wrapped up in your warm winter gear, it’s a great time to wander the stalls of Helsinki’s Christmas Markets.
Large outdoor candles burn and there’s the smell of cinnamon and wood smoke in the air. Meander through the Christmas stalls in Heslinki’s Senate Square and you’ll come across a wide variety of beautiful handicrafts, delicious baked goods and other uniquely Finnish Christmas gifts and delicacies.
Those more energetic souls can head to the Railway Square and pop on the ice skates for a few laps.
Hungry? Chow down on some hot salmon soup served with crusty bread and finish it off with some freshly baked pulla. But to really warm the insides, try glögi, Finland’s delicious take on warm winter wine, at its best when served with almonds and raisins. Ho ho ho indeed.