Whether it’s ice and snow you’re after, or the endless summer sun, the home of February's Gin of the Month, Kalevala, has incredible adventures in store for you. What you’ll experience in this Nordic country depends hugely on what time of year you plan to go – in the winter for warm saunas and underground cocktails, or the summer for long naps under the ever-sunny skies. Here’s how to experience the best of Finland, whatever the weather.
By the Lake
After six months of near total darkness, summer is a time for celebration in Finland and not a second goes to waste. Many Finns have a lake house in their family and take off for the entire month of July to soak up the sun and go swimming in the country’s beautiful lakes. Don’t have a Finnish friend to stay with? You can rent a lake cabin of your own through a platform such as Airbnb, or a number of speciality websites. Try finlandcottagerentals.com.
Under the Northern Lights
The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is famous for its views of the Northern Lights – and you don’t even have to go outside. This incredible hotel offers rooms with glass ceilings, allowing you to see the once-in-a-lifetime sight right from the warmth of your bed. During the day, skiing is on offer until the end of May, or you could go dog sledding – or, if you’re feeling in the Christmas spirit, take a reindeer safari.
The Helsinki Waterfront
The waterfront of Finland’s capital city is a great place to soak up the vibe of this cosmopolitan, design-oriented town. A stroll by the beautiful, clear waters of the Gulf of Finland will take you past the recently refurbished Old Market Hall where greengrocers and fishmongers still sell their wares, and past a number of tasty places to stop for brunch.
Go Reindeer Racing
Head to the winter wonderland of Inari to catch a classic Arctic pastime: reindeer racing! More headstrong than horses and definitely more fun to watch, reindeer are truly incredible animals. These races see people strapped behind their reindeer and pulled on skis; it may look strange to British eyes, but this is serious business for the competitive Finns. The season starts in January, and crowds of more than a thousand gather to watch big fixtures.
Hit the Museums
Helsinki was the proud to be named the World Design Capital in 2012, and that commitment to aesthetics stretches into art. Take a break from the heat of summer to hit one of this beautiful city’s fantastic art museums. The Amos Anderson Art Museum is a must-see (a brand new building will house the collection starting in 2018) as is the smaller, but eminently stylish, Didrichsen Art Museum.
Stay in the Sauna
Going to the sauna is a cornerstone of Finnish culture, so when you’re there you should give it a go. Kulttuurisauna in Helsinki is particularly lauded, with a zen atmosphere and mellow vibe. Have a traditional Finnish snack while you relax in the sauna, bring your own towel and don’t bother with a swimsuit – they aren’t allowed! After your sauna, make like a local and take a dip in the ice cold sea.
Have a Drink
Midsummer on Seurasaari Island
Seurasaari Island in Helsinki plays host to a massive Midsummer party every year, offering a Midsummer pole, spells, Finnish folk music and fabulous bonfires to celebrate the summer solstice. There are also, of course, cold beers under the sunny night sky from 4pm to 1am. Head into the city after closing time to carry on celebrating the longest day of the year in the open air nightclubs that spring up in the summer.
Cosy up at Steam
A trip to Finland isn’t complete without a stop at Steam, Helsinki’s premier gin bar. With carefully crafted cocktails, what claims to be the nation’s biggest gin list and a cosy Victorian-inspired interior, this is a perfect place to have an excellent drink – or dance until four in the morning. To each their own, but the good vibes will impress either way!