Planning a trip to Finland but not sure which month would be best? Well here’s a little piece of information: there is something to see and do every month of the year, some just might require a bit more courage and adventurousness than others. Therefore I wanted to put together a brief and compact introduction as to what each month has to offer and what you should prepare for. So go ahead and take your pick.
January is the heart of the nordic winter. It is generally speaking the coldest month with relatively short days as in the south the sun rises at about 10 in the morning and sets at around three o’clock in the afternoon. Lapland of course still has the polar night with even less sunlight.
But winter means winter activities. It is an excellent month to try popular or less familiar forms of outdoor sports. Skiing, ice skating, kicksledding, winter hiking, swimming in frozen lakes, snowshoe trekking, there are plenty of choices to choose from. And if you are going to Lapland, January is a good month for spotting some gorgeous Aurora Borealis.
Besides, if the weather gets too harsh, Finns tend to spend a lot of time at the office and gym in January all eager to fulfill their new year’s resolutions of a healthier life after the holiday season, so there is plenty of room in restaurants and bars. Just take your pick.
February is still definitely a winter month. But the days start to get longer and sun begins to come out. It is a perfect month for skiing. The best ski resorts are in Lapland but for example Himos in Central Finland is also a good choice and only a couple of hours from Helsinki. And cross country you can go almost anywhere you like.
This is also the month of two special days with my very favourite Finnish baked goods. First we have Runeberg’s day. Johan Ludvig Runeberg was our national poet and his birthday 5. February is a flag day in Finland. And that is when we all get to eat his favourite pastry. It’s a small cake with some almond, cinnamon and rum and it has a jam and sugar icing on top.
Then there’s Shrove Tuesday, which apparently has a religious history but is generally considered the day when families go out sledding together. In Finnish the name of the day is “laskiainen” which in fact refers to sledding. But the best part is the pastry: a fluffy sweet bun filled with whipped cream and either jam or almond paste. Personally I prefer jam and don’t understand the almond paste people at all. (This is also an annual debate, which bun is the correct one. Jam or almond.)
March can be either winter or spring, depending on the weather Du Jour or your location. March is high season in Lapland and you should definitely experience the spring sun at a wilderness lean-to when you are sitting by the fire grilling your sausage. For those interested, there are also plenty of good parties every day in Lapland and the after-ski at V’inkkari bar in Levi is something of a legend.
In the south the snow begins to melt and we get sunny days, but the weather does get unpredictable. March is a good month for exploring cafe’s, museums and shops and of course you can take a tour and try all public saunas.
Spring with a capital S. Snow melts and we begin to remember what it’s like to drive a car without spike tyres. We dig our bicycles out from our garages and store all snow shovels there instead. We decorate outdoor ares with daffodils and catkins and celebrate easter.
Finnish children look forward to Easter almost as much as Christmas as on Palm Sunday they get to dress up as little witches or bunnies and go from door to door collecting easter eggs in exchange for some decorated willow branches.
If you thought you are late for winter activities, not to worry. The snow season is still going on in Lapland and you can easily go cross country or downhill skiing.
May begins with a big party and a bank holiday. The first of May, or Vappu as we call it in Finnish, is a massive celebration accross the country. It is originally a worker’s day but is also a big party signifying the arrival of spring. It’s the biggest party of the year for student’s and kids love it for all the balloons, accessories and prank goodies. It is also the only occasion after the actual graduation day that people get to wear their graduation hats. In Helsinki the centre of all celebrations is the big park Kaivopuisto downtown holding a picnic for thousands and thousands of people. On the culinary side on the first of May, you should try a non-alcoholic drink called mead (sima in Finnish) with a freshly baked, sugar covered doughnut.
Another day worth mentioning in May is the Restaurant Day on the 14th. Originally a Finnish invention, it is a day in which the country (and nowadays many cities accross the world) is suddenly filled with pop-up restaurants. They appear in people’s homes, streets, parks, practically anywhere. A brilliant idea and something definitely worth exploring.
As a country fiercely in love with ice hockey, the annual world championship competition is a big thing in May. At least be aware that the event is taking place as our country’s success in the competition may have a notable impact on people’s appearance and behaviour. You should know that as long as we are doing better than the Swedes everything is fine.
May is also the month spring is at it’s best. Nature turns light green and plants begin blooming. There is also a whiff of summer in the air.
Now June is gorgeous! It is the first month of summer. The temperature can still be pretty much anything between 0 and 30 centigrade but it is still summer. And it is light. So prepare for some insomnia unless you have proper blinds in your accommodation. The definite plus side of the polar sun is that you get practically 24 hours of time to explore the outdoors. You don’t need to rush back from anywhere before it gets dark. The polar sun is most apparent in Lapland so loads of tourists go hiking there in June. Just be prepared for the invasion of mosquitoes.
Midsummer is almost a sacred celebration in Finland, usually taking place around the 20th. It is considered the time of year with the most sunlight and is a massive party for the arrival of summer. Where the 1st of May is celebrated downtown, be prepared to find Finnish cities absolutely deserted during Midsummer. Most people escape to lakeside summerhouses with families and friends for sauna, swimming, bonfire and barbeque wearing all summer gear and crocs. So if you decide to visit Finland at midsummer, the most authentic experience would be with some locals at a cottage.
Most Finns take their summer holiday in July. You have the best odds for some gorgeous weather and the nights are still light. There is a massive amount of festivals and events accross the country, varying from rock and jazz to opera and from international rally to the world-renowned wife carrying competition. You may also want to catch a game of our national sport, Finnish baseball.
My personal favourite of all the events is Pori Jazz (organised on the 8th through to the 16th this year), an over 50-year-old jazz festival on the west coast of Finland with always some high-end international performers such as Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Elton John and Stevie Wonder.
Of course July is the perfect month for experiencing our gorgeous nature with all the national parks and lakes. Remember to pick some wild strawberries and blueberries!
August is still very much a summer month even though people slowly begin to get organised for life after all the holidays. Schools begin usually on the second week of August bringing people back home. The days are still warm but nights begin to get darker.
Helsinki hosts a big festival, simply called Helsinki Festival, on the last two weeks of the month with loads of concerts, exhibitions and other events accross the city every day.
Also take note that Flow Festival, one of the most current and popular music festivals in our country (and probably all nordic countries), is organised in Helsinki on the weekend of 11th-13th Aug. They also tend to get some big names to the city.
September is the time when summer starts slowly turning into fall. People have returned to their daily routines and we often get some gorgeous and sunny days to enjoy outdoors in the nature. This is a happy month for all mushroom lovers since those nature’s own delicacies start popping up.
This is a perfect month for hiking in Lapland and catching some gorgeous autumn colours out in the wild. This is still on my bucket list, I’ve only been to Lapland in the winter. But autumn is also a must.
Autumn foliage spreads from the north to the south in October and we get some gorgeous colours as well. Rainy days are usually also inevitable but when the autumn days get good, they really are good.
An event you may want to experience in Helsinki in October is called the Helsinki baltic herring market. Yes, it is about herring. And other fish. It is one of the oldest ongoing event traditions in Finland as it has been held since 1743. Talk about an authentic Finnish culinary experience!
Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome. This is how the massive international business forum Slush welcomed visitors to Helsinki last year. And yes, if I had to pick a month I would not recommend to tourists planning a trip to Finland, it would definitely be November. Unless you want to go to Lapland, they usually get first snow by the end of the month so then you’ll be fine. (The high season for British tourists in Lapland begins in November and ends at the end of December.)
But if you are heading to anywhere else in the country, you should definitely prepare a list of all the restaurants and other indoor activities you want to explore as the weather may not be all that welcoming. Dark, rainy and cold is what it often is. However, it is perfect for trying out Allas Sea Pool, the heated outdoor swimming pool and sauna with gorgeous view right next to the Helsinki Market Square.
Now you did know Santa Claus comes from Finland, right? Contrary to common belief, he doesn’t reside in the North Pole, no-one does. He is from Korvatunturi, a fell in the Finnish Lapland. To be fair, he does have a workshop for the elves also in the city of Rovaniemi, in the arctic circle. Who wouldn’t want to visit that place in December and see how the elves work their magic?
Henkilön Santa Claus Finland (@finnishsanta) jakama julkaisu
Lapland in general is a magical place in December. The sky is pastel with the looming sun in the horizon, snow is white and clear and aurora borealis are a frequent visitor. You could even admire them from the warmth of your own luxury glass igloo. This is as far away as you can get from the shopping spree generally stressing people out in December. Highly recommended.
Which would be your favourite month to travel to Finland? Any other hot tips for a specific month? Comments are welcome and appreciated!