Although many of the most popular festivals in Finland take place in and around Helsinki, there are many other often quite idiosyncratic, or even downright bizarre, summer celebrations, that perfectly capture the essence of this remarkable country.
Finnish festivals of the more unlikely kind include the World Air Guitar Championships in Oulu each September; the World Mobile Phone Throwing Championships in August in Punkaharju, eastern Finland; and, last but not least, the Wife-Carrying Championships in Sonkajärvi each July – with the prize being the wife’s weight in beer!
Fortunately, Finland also has its share of far more conventional festivals to choose from. Opera lovers will love the opportunity of visiting the Savonlinna Opera Festival during July and August; it takes place in the atmospheric Olavinlinna Castle in the city.
The Midsummer Festival on the island of Seurasaari has some spectacular bonfires and rowing events and the International Folklore Festival in Rovaniemi, also held during June, attracts many artists from around the world as well as local Finnish performers. Right in the very north of the country, the Lapland city of Sodankyla regularly hosts the Midnight Sun Film Festival which also brings in some well-known names.
Aside from the capital Helsinki, Finland’s third largest city, Tampere, also hosts more than its share of interesting festivals. In addition to a Film Festival during March and July’s Tammerfest Rock Festival, there is a Midsummer Festival in June, a fabulous Floral festival during July and August and also Salsa and Flamenco Festivals. Tampere has the advantage for air travellers of being the Finnish hub for Ryanair, so is generally easily accessible.
However, there is no avoiding the fact that most visitors to the country want to spend time in the delightfully pretty and friendly city of Helsinki, which also boasts some of the finest night life in Europe. The Helsinki Festival, held annually during the final two weeks in August, attracts upwards of a quarter of a million visitors to a visual arts festival that is totally jam-packed with exciting events. Whether your interest is in rock, folk, jazz, indie or classical music – as well as art, dance, theatre, sculpture and film – you will find an abundance of quality at the Helsinki Festival.
Helsinki is host to a very different kind of extravaganza on May 1st each year, when the Vappu festivities take place. This is undoubtedly the city’s biggest party of the year and the fabulously anarchic rituals provide for an unforgettable experience.
Travelling up to the Finnish Lapland region has become easier during the past few years and many families now take the opportunity of visiting Santa Claus at his home near the town of Rovaniemi. With an international airport only a couple of miles away from Santa’s village, a Christmas trip is easy to arrange. At this time of the year as well, Helsinki is a wonderfully festive city. The famous Christmas markets start at the beginning of December and they, together with the main shopping area around Aleksanterinkatu, provide a cheery Christmas atmosphere and give visitors the opportunity of not only buying some really unusual presents but also trying out the local seasonal food and drink.
Travelling north to one of the many exciting festivals in Finland will give you the opportunity of visiting this endearing Nordic country which has actually been ranked at the top of the recent International Prosperity rating – based on its quality of life as well as economic performance.