Typography
Experiencing an urban Midsummer.

Juhannus, or Finnish Midsummer, is a time when the cities traditionally empty out and Finns flock en masse for bonfire and alcohol-fuelled revelry at cottages in the countryside. Since many of Finland’s roughly half a million part-time leisure residences also go without bourgy mod cons like running water or electric stoves, it’s also generally a time to get back to an older way of life: chopping firewood, pumping well water and, erm, emptying the outhouse. But if you’re one of the many without access to a cottage or, moreover, someone who doesn’t consider backbreaking menial tasks of the Iron Age an ideal way to spend a holiday, all is not lost. Helsinki celebrates Midsummer in its own more urban way nonetheless.

The major event gets going on Midsummer Eve at 18:00 at Seurasaari, the outdoor museum island near the Meilahti district. A full programme of folk music, craft demonstrations, children’s puppet show and flag procession is on offer, as well as dozens of bonfires all over the island, including a special bonfire lighting suitable for children’s participation at 19:30, followed by the main bonfire at 22:00. Dancing to traditional iskelmä hits lasts until 01:00. Tickets are 18 euros for adults and free for kids under 15. Festivities continue the next day, with a free Midsummer Day dance from 14:30. Crowds of up to 13,000 have shown up in past years, so expect lots of company.

You might experience smaller crowds at other bonfire spots around town, such as at Café Ursula in Kaivopuisto, which offers a Midsummer Eve bonfire at 23:00 and music and dancing until 02:00. The restaurant is charity-owned and all proceeds go to support non-profit organizations for education, children, mothers and the elderly. Pihlajasaari, a 10-minute ferry ride from Merisatama in Kaivopuisto, hosts its own bonfire party at 21:00. The 190-seat restaurant in the island’s rambling 19th century villa Hällebo is open until 01:30; the last ferry back to the mainland leaves at 02:00.

Meanwhile, more indoor, citified happenings are taking place at the Kuudes Linja club in Kallio, where the retro-minded DJs of We Love Helsinki organise their popular annual Midsummer Dances on both the 24th and 25th, lasting each night from 21:00 to 04:00. Tickets 12 euros.

Joseph Knowles