Summering in Helsinki

Finland and especially Helsinki is becoming quite the tourist attraction to people visiting Northern Europe. Here are some things that may or may not be useful if you’re planning a trip during the summer.

1. The locals go crazy

While Finns are often thought of – quite rightly, if you ask me – as untalkative, dour people who don’t talk at all if they can help it, during the height of the summer we become sociable and outgoing and generally completely different people. Roughly half of the young men will not put a shirt on unless forced to between the months of May and August. People will flock to the beer patios of any restaurant they can find room in (the most popular ones are located right next to the main railway station).

2. Bars and other nightlife

There aren’t many more decadent feelings than going into a bar with the sun still bright on the sky and walking out, hours later (possibly totally hammered) with the sun still burning bright on the sky.

3. Suomenlinna

A favourite summer hotspot is the island system of Suomenlinna. During the Swedish reign of Finland it used to be a coastal fortress and there are still cannons and a lot of ruins from that time. It’s a very popular picnic spot but there is a shop as well as some cafes and restaurants on the islands. There is a public transportation ferry that runs to the island from early in the morning until late in the night and any Helsinki public transportation ticket is eligible to enter.

4. Midsummer night or Juhannus

The bigger cities in Finland will basically shut down for Juhannus which is celebrated on the Saturday between June 20th and June 26th. Which is to say the time of the summer solstice There is lots of countryside activity going on during this time as most Finns escape the city to celebrate the days with no night. As a local, I really love spending Juhannus in the city because the city is so quiet. It’s freaky cool for me to walk in downtown Helsinki and not see almost anyone. But as a tourist I would recommend to either avoid being in Finland during Juhannus or to make plans to spend that time in the countryside. There are always barn dances, bonfires and all sorts of Juhannus celebrations especially on the shores of Saimaa (Finland’s biggest lake)

5. Esplanadi Park

In downtown Helsinki there are two streets; Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi. Between these streets there is a small park which is a very popular hangout spot for locals during the summer (at times during the winter too). At both ends of the park there are restaurants and all along the park there are small kiosks that sell ice cream and sweets and probably cigarettes and such. Next to the park on either side there are more cafes and restaurants as well as shops selling mostly Finnish design items. The streets are oriented east to west sunshine in the park is almost constant on sunny days.

6. Public transportation

Public transportation in Helsinki is pretty cheap. You can get a Helsinki internal 7-day ticket for 28€ for which you can use any Helsinki internal transportation, meaning trams, busses, subway and the Suomenlinna ferry. Most sights in the greater Helsinki area are located inside Helsinki, there are a couple in the Espoo and Vantaa area for which you will need either a regional ticket or you need to buy a separate ticket. Last I checked the HSL public transportation tickets are available from the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as well as the Helsinki and Pasila train stations which pretty much covers most of the landing points for foreigners.

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