Discover the Best Time to Visit Helsinki

Published December 30, 2023
Autumn colours in Malminkartano Helsinki

The seasons in Helsinki and the whole of Finland exhibit significant variations, and choosing the best time to visit Helsinki is a matter of personal preference. The decision should be based on individual desires, experiences sought, and budget considerations. Determining the best season in Helsinki is subjective, so it is up to the traveller to make the final decision.

To assist in your choice, we provide a comprehensive list of travel seasons along with their respective pros and cons. Armed with this information, you can confidently decide when to embark on your Helsinki adventure.

Winter Season – Live Like a Local

Winter in Helsinki typically arrives late due to the warm Baltic Sea, often starting in late November. However, the true winter weather sets in during January and lasts until March. The weather in Helsinki during this season is unpredictable, ranging from extremely cold with heavy snowfall to milder and wetter conditions. Typically, the temperature lies around 0 degrees Celcius and it is cloudy. The grey is dominating colour. While January and February offer the best chances of experiencing a true winter, it is not guaranteed. If you seek winter activities like skiing, Helsinki is not the right destination.

One advantage of travelling during the winter season is the lower price level. Hotels are more affordable, and there are fewer tourists in Helsinki, allowing you to live like a local without being surrounded by crowds. The city is more authentic but since the winter is dark, it may not be the most beautiful time to experience Helsinki.

On the downside, some typical tourist attractions may be missing during this time. There are fewer tour buses and sightseeing ferries available. However, the winter season provides a great opportunity to explore indoor attractions like museums, try local restaurants, and visit nightclubs. If the weather is pleasant and wintery, spending time outside can also be enjoyable, despite the cold temperatures. You can even walk on the ice of the sea but only when the ice is thick enough. Never go on the ice without consulting a reliable local.

Helsinki Centre winter
In March, there is already more daylight but the Helsinki Centre stays cold and snowy.
Fire and coffee cup
A cup of coffee with live fire is a perfect way to heat yourself.

There is one true winter activity in Helsinki. You should try a few of the many Finnish saunas and if you are brave enough, try swimming outside in the cold water.

Spring Season – See the Nature Awaking

April marks the beginning of spring in Helsinki, although it can still be chilly during this month. One noticeable change is the significant increase in daylight hours. As May arrives, temperatures gradually rise, and warm days become more common. A typical temperature is between 5 and 15 degrees Celcius.

Spring remains still an affordable season to visit Helsinki. Compared to winter, there is more daylight and milder temperatures. However, April may still have snow, and it takes time for nature to awaken fully, making it less suitable for hiking or outdoor activities.

Spring appeals to those seeking affordable travel while avoiding the darkest and coldest seasons. Once clear signs of spring emerge it becomes more enjoyable to walk outside from one attraction to another, as the crowds have yet to arrive. In May, typical tourist attractions slowly open up, and the city prepares for the upcoming summer season.

We recommend visiting in May instead of April to be sure the spring has arrived. Sometimes, spring starts late which makes May a safer choice.

Nuuksio National Park spring
The nature awakens in the late May. A hike in the Nuuksio National Park nearby is a refreshing experience.

Summer Season – the Best Time to Visit Helsinki?

Many consider the summer season in Helsinki to be the finest. With over 18 hours of daylight and temperatures ranging from 15 to 32 degrees Celsius, it offers a delightful experience. Though the weather can be unpredictable in the summer too, there are often sunny days to enjoy.

Summer is the perfect time to embrace outdoor activities. One can visit beaches, swim in the open waters, explore outdoor attractions, take bus tours, or embark on sea excursions. Exploring nearby national parks is a rejuvenating experience as nature flourishes during this time. And the summer is also the season for public saunas.

The downside of summer is the increased tourist crowds and higher prices. If budget is not a concern and you revel in the summer season, experiencing a Nordic summer in Helsinki is a good choice. It offers a unique experience, distinct from other parts of Europe.

The summer is the season to explore outdoor attractions. It is also the season when the popular spots get crowded.
Nuuksio National Park
The lakes get warm up to 24 degrees Celcius. Nuuksio is a place where you can dip yourself into the warm waters.

Midsummer

Midsummer is a unique occasion during the summer season, characterized by the longest day and the opportunity to witness bonfires on the eve of Midsummer. While many locals head to summer cottages, Helsinki remains relatively calm with several activities still available. If you wish to partake in the traditional Midsummer festivities at Seurasaari and explore Helsinki without large crowds, this is the ideal time to visit. Additionally, the city experiences almost 19 hours of daylight, adding to the allure of the season.

Some of the hotels in Helsinki stay closed during the Midsummer so we recommend booking your accommodation early.

Lippajärvi
Local people spend the midsummer often in their summer cottages. However, there are many cosy lakes in the Helsinki area like Lippajärvi 15 kilometres from the Helsinki Centre.

Autumn – More Affordable Season

Autumn in Helsinki commences in September and extends for a few months, making it an ideal season for budget travellers. The city remains vibrant even after the summer, and the price levels decrease, offering great value for money.

Surprisingly, Helsinki experiences mild temperatures during autumn, ranging from 10 to 25 degrees Celsius. September retains its warmth, but as October arrives, the weather gradually cools down. The transformation of green trees into vibrant hues adds to the beauty of nature, making autumn the perfect time for hiking. A visit to Nuuksio National Park in Espoo is a must.

While some summer attractions may close, Helsinki still offers plenty to explore. For the best value, we recommend visiting Helsinki in late September.

Autumn tree Helsinki
In the autumn, trees in Helsinki turn colourful but the air is still surprisingly warm.

Christmas Season

The Christmas season marks the early part of winter in Helsinki. Despite the darkness and rainy weather, Helsinki remains a popular destination for travellers seeking the enchanting Christmas atmosphere. While hotel prices may increase, Helsinki is not yet widely recognized as a Christmas city, resulting in moderate prices.

December is the month for Christmas enthusiasts who appreciate the festive decorations and bright lights. As it is dark and the weather may not be favourable for outdoor activities, exploring nature during this season is not recommended. Instead, we suggest heading north to Lapland. Helsinki boasts a prominent Christmas Market and numerous smaller events, including a beautifully decorated Christmas street adorned with lights. Department stores also host various seasonal events, making it an ideal time to find unique gifts for loved ones.

Helsinki Christmas Market
Helsinki Christmas Market is a many weeks lasting event in the Helsinki Centre.
Helsinki Christmas Market stall
You can buy authentic local products.

For those seeking more Christmas markets, a short ferry trip to Tallinn or a ferry to Stockholm is recommended. The Christmas season in Helsinki is vibrant, making it the highlight of the winter season.

Silja Serenade Helsinki
A ferry to Stockholm departs from the Helsinki Centre.

Bottom Line

The distinct seasons in Helsinki offer a compelling reason to visit the city multiple times, each season having its charm.

While everyone has their personal favourite, we think that the best times to visit Helsinki are summer and autumn. These seasons bring Helsinki to life, with vibrant nature and a bustling atmosphere. Summer, in particular, allows for exploration of the surrounding areas and outdoor swimming. However, some individuals may prefer the colder seasons, as winter also offers the opportunity to swim outside. Spring and autumn are excellent choices for budget travellers.

We are curious to know what kind of weather you prefer and when you would like to visit Helsinki. Kindly share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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