This is an English version of my article published at the website Brasileiras pelo Mundo. You can read it in Portuguese here.
It is no wonder that in a country where summer lasts only two months, this is one of the most expected seasons of the year. And whoever lives in Finland knows and agrees: there are two “Finlands”: the one in the winter, and the other in the summer.
Finnish summer is the best time to make friends, to get to know the country which is surrounded by music, culture, beauty and art. The landscapes are incredible and the sunset, as it does not become totally dark, lasts almost long enough to connect to the sunrise with its shades of pink, orange and yellow.
Music festivals, boating, hiking in the woods, sunbathing by a beautiful lake (if it´s not raining because it´s a fact that it rains a lot…); sit on the porch of a bar or restaurant with a cold drink and enjoy the cityscape, get to know the countryside; among these and other things, there is a lot to do. The official websites Visit Finland and This is Finland are excellent sources of research for those who want to spend some time in the land of the midnight sun.
For most Finns the psychological feeling of “summer arrival” begins in June with the Juhannus, the Midsummer holiday. When I say psychological feeling, it is because it´s not usually warm at this time – in eight years here, I have spent the holiday at 8° C and lots of rain and at 25 ° C and lots of sun, you never know – The Juhannus takes place between June 21 and 26, the day of the week should always be a Saturday. In the Nordic countries this is the celebration of the summer solstice and it is the longest day of the year when, in fact, the sun does not fully sets.
According to the tradition, if you do not have a mökki (rustic log cabin in the woods, usually by a lake), rent one with your friends or family and throw the party! Enjoy the weekend doing lots of BBQ, swimming, fishing and, of course, do not forget the sauna. Be sure to try the wonderful Finnish rustic sauna, heated with wood and stones. Take your super cold beer (or any other drink) as it is a delight to drink something cold inside the sauna. When you start feeling the heat, hurry up and dive into the lake. There is nothing better, especially if you give yourself the pleasure of doing it without clothes, Finnish style.
For those who enjoy music and culture, there are festivals of all kinds happening all over the country; some of them for free. There are hundreds, from June to August. You can see a detailed program of Finnish Festivals here.
Cities I´ve been to and recommend:
Helsinki – spend at least three days in the beautiful Capital of Finland. My program suggestion:
Senaatintori (Senate Square), Kauppatori and Suomenlinna – this is a program you can do on the same day because places are all near by. Begin in the morning and visit the Senate Square and the Cathedral; then stroll through the Kauppatori, an open-air fair, near the harbor, where in addition to food and fresh fruit you can buy souvenirs; then take a ferry to the Suomenlinna fortress, located in one of the various islands of Helsinki. The boat leaves every 20 minutes and besides a beautiful landscape that will give you some of the best photos, the place is perfect for a picnic. Would not recommend the restaurants; they are expensive and the food is not special. There are many museums in Suomenlinna and you can read more about this UNESCO world heritage site here.
Museums: The National Museum of Finland and the Seurasaari Open Air Museum have to be on your list. If you want more I suggest the Ateneun Art Museum, the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum and the Design Museum.
Walk around the city and use the trams as a cheap city tour option. You can buy a 24 hour pass or a longer one, according to your period of stay, read more about tickets here. In this article you will find suggestions of cheap and free programs to do in the city.
In my opinion Savonlinna is the most beautiful city of Finland I´ve ever been to during the summer. If you have the opportunity to go there, do it in July during the opera season which takes place in the city’s castle called Olavinlinna. Watching a show is not cheap, but it’s definitely worth it because of the fantastic scenery. Try staying in the old town, the architecture and the seaside hotels are lovely and romantic. Taking a guided tour in the castle is also more than recommended. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and get ready to go up and down a lot.
Just 50 km away from Helsinki, Porvoo is a small coastal town and part of its architecture comes from the medieval Finland of the 14th century. It is one of the few Finnish cities where Swedish is still the predominant language. If you have little time to travel, you can take a bus from Helsinki (about 45/60 minutes ride) and you won´t need more than two hours to see everything. But it’s worth it spending a day – if the weather is good – to enjoy the restaurants and other attractions the city offers.
To finish off, visiting Finland you have easy access to three more countries:
Estonia – there are daily Helsinki cruises to the capital, Tallinn. The trip takes about two and a half / three hours and you can go and come back on the same day. The medieval city is beautiful.
Sweden – there are also daily cruises to Stockholm. The trip lasts two nights.
Russia (St. Petersburg). Daily the Allegro train departs from Helsinki Central Station to St. Petersburg. It is a 3 hour trip. Check if you need a visa to go to Russia!
That’s all folks, I hope you enjoy my tips and have a good stay in Finland.