Like Finland in general, Helsinki may seem a little withdrawn at first. But it only takes a night out in the city to prove that first impressions couldn’t be more misleading. Helsinki nightlife somehow manages to be both effortlessly cool and incredibly unrestrained.
While bars (and a couple of the bigger clubs) line Kasarmikatu and Mannerheimintie, much of the city’s nightlife is centered out to the west of the city, on and around Uudenmaankatu. Nearby, Eerikinkatu also has some of the hippest places in the city.
Although it may not be as big as that of neighboring Stockholm or Copenhagen, the west of Helsinki also has a rapidly expanding gay scene. Its – by no means exclusively gay – heart is on Annankatu.
To the north of the city, the Kallio district is home to a number of smaller b
ars and clubs on Helsinginkatu and Fleminginkatu where an artsy, bohemian crowd hold sway. Formerly a seedy area, it gets a little cooler and a little less rough with each passing year.
On weekends, particularly, the city really kicks off, but the chances are that, no matter what night it is, you’ll find the party’s getting into full swing somewhere. For something a little less full-on, Helsinki’s very civilized café culture spreads out languorously in Esplanadi Park.
During the winter months, Helsinki entertains itself with a couple of very different sorts of drinking establishments: sauna bars and ice bars. Both can be a pleasant (if a little surreal) way to pass the long, dark nights.
Helsinki in summer is a contrasting – but equally unique – experience. Terraces spring up right across the city and the term ‘nighttime’ becomes, in fact, rather redundant as the Finnish capital resigns itself to around 20 hours of light a day.
The highlight of the summer is undoubtedly the and the Night of the Arts when the city erupts into all manner of activity, cultural and not so cultural. In addition to all the music, arts and theater, the city lets its hair down as only the Finns know how.