• Year-round festive spirit

    Fire artists perform in the Kallio neighbourhood of Helsinki during the annual Night of the Arts. This highlight of the Helsinki Festival gives amateur performers equal status with professionals, as musicians, actors, filmmakers and artists use the capital as a giant stage.

  • Jazz fans have been flocking to Pori Jazz on Finland’s west coast since 1966 and luminaries from Miles Davis to Manhattan Transfer have graced the festival stage over the years. Allen Toussaint performed with Elvis Costello on the main Kirjurinluoto stage in 2007.

  • The Night of the Arts is the popular climax to the Helsinki Festival, with performances and events across the city ranging from the intimate to the spectacular. The giant helium balloons of French troupe Plasticiens Volents were a highlight in 2009.

  • Australian performance group Strange Fruit perform on stilts on the steps of the Finnish Parliament during the Helsinki Festival in 2007. Free events during the festival are attended by over 130,000 visitors, with more than 50,000 showing up for ticketed shows and performances.

  • In addition to varied selection of films the Savonlinna International Nature Film Festival focuses on live music – and there’s also a festival cruise to Saimaa, the biggest lake in Finland.

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Year-round festive spirit

A packed nationwide calendar of cultural events and festivals, many staged in imaginative settings, adds to the attraction of exploring Finland’s smaller towns and cities.

Cultural festivals of every conceivable kind, held right across the country, are the perfect creative supplement to Finland’s prime asset – its expansive, unspoiled natural environment. Many festivals use the lakes, forests and seasonal extremes as an exciting backdrop.

The Savonlinna Opera Festival, for example, is held in the atmospheric courtyard of the medieval Olavinlinna castle overlooking Finland’s biggest lake, the Saimaa.

The Hamina Tattoo is a celebration of military music staged in the town of Hamina and drawing on its military heritage and architecture.

films and jazz under the midnight sun

At the northern end of the country, the Midnight Sun Film Festival, conceived by the director brothers Mika and Aki Kaurismäki, brings the movie world to the town of Sodankylä in Lapland every June.

The Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, directed by Romanian Vladimir Mendelssohn, has used a charming church in eastern Finland as a main venue since 1970.

Jazz fans are catered for with the Pori Jazz Festival in late July, as well as the EU’s northernmost jazz event, Kaamos Jazz, marking the onset of winter in Lapland, and Ruskaswing, also in Lapland and coinciding with the “ruska”, or autumn colours.

Savonlinna International Nature Film Festival is organized every August in a beautiful venue next to Saimaa.  In addition to varied selection of films about nature and the human relationship with nature, the Festival Club focuses on live music and a cruise to Saimaa, taking the nature film experience to another level.

Tango and reindeer races

More summery music events come in the form of Luosto Classic in Lapland’s fell area and the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival in the western region of Ostrobothnia.

The town of Seinäjoki, also in the flatlands of Ostrobothnia, is the venue for the Tango Festival, where the Tango King and Queen are crowned in a mass celebration of one of Finland’s favourite dances.

Smaller, quirkier events add to the variety: there’s the July wood-sculpting exhibition in Kemijärvi, Lapland, for instance, which is also the home of the giant snowball fight known by the Japanese name of Yukigassen in late March.

Being the homeland of Santa, it’s no surprise that Lapland plays host to the Reindeer Cup Championship Drives in Inari in the far north. Santa’s departure on his annual travels is celebrated on December 23rd on the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi.

Cultural Beat

Contrast is the main ingredient in Finnish cultural life, probably because everything looks and sounds different from our northern perspective.

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