The second most northern capital city in the world is action packed throughout the year. Over 3000 events are held in Helsinki each year, making it easy to find your own favourites. Community oriented urban culture is also thriving in Helsinki. Restaurant Day, Cleaning Day, street markets, We Love Helsinki and block parties are just a few examples of the active local culture.
In January, during the darkest time of the year, the city is lit up by brilliant light installations during Lux Helsinki. In February the locals grab their sleds and head for Kaivopuisto and other parks during the Shrovetide holidays. Winter is naturally the ice hockey season, with popular league matches held at Hartwall Arena and Helsinki Ice Hall.
Winter is also the peak season for cultural events. Finnish opera enjoys a global reputation, and the modern opera house also hosts performances by the Finnish National Ballet. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra is the oldest professional symphony orchestra in the Nordic countries and performs at Helsinki Music Centre. The Musica nova Helsinki festival in February presents first-class classical music.
The spring season begins with Easter and the Via Crucis – Stages of the Cross procession through the city centre. The highlight of spring is Walpurgis Night (Vappu), the annual May Day celebrations create a carnival-like atmosphere on 30 April and 1 May.
Helsinki Week is a compilation of festivals and events that takes place around the city’s birthday on 12 June, Helsinki Day. Helsinki Samba Carneval momentarily transforms the city into Rio de Janeiro. The traditional elements of the Finnish midsummer (Juhannus) celebrations are bonfires and water, music and dance, swings and games, and Finnish flags and birch trees. The magic of Midsummer Eve can be experienced with the family at Seurasaari.
One of the most popular summer festivals is Flow, which is held at the former power plant in Suvilahti. The featured artists include the most interesting Finnish and international musicians in the field of contemporary music, from indie rock to jazz and world music to the freshest club sounds. Fans of heavy metal are also welcome at Suvilahti at the annual Tuska Open Air Metal festival.
The Helsinki Festival marks the impending arrival of autumn in August and September. The festival presents a wide range of culture, from classical and world music to circus, dance, theatre, art, film and urban events.
Art Goes Kapakka is another great urban event in which the city’s pubs and bars are taken over by a vast range of art and culture, all of which is free of charge: art, theatre, poetry, dance and music – not to mention culinary delights.
A highlight of the autumn in September is Helsinki Design Week, the biggest design event in Northern Europe. This international festival explores the role of design in our lives through workshops, exhibitions, fashion shows, seminars and studio visits. Also in September, the Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy presents a wide range of new films from around the world.
In October the autumn is lit up during the annual Carnival of Light at Linnanmäki Amusement Park. The Market Square in turn hosts the traditional Herring market, the oldest traditional event in Helsinki having been held since 1743. The range of fish products continues to grow bigger with each year, and the vendors from the archipelago also sell woollen textiles and delicious archipelago bread.
The Christmas season in Helsinki is particularly warm and festive. The traditional St. Thomas Christmas Market is held in Senate Square, while the stalls at Christmas World (Joulumaailma) take over the city centre in front of Stockmann’s department store. The markets sell a wide range of seasonal treats and handicrafts. Numerous Christmas concerts and bazaars are also held throughout the city.
The year culminates in the national New Year’s Eve celebrations in Senate Square with music and fireworks.