Helsinki’s White Night: Night of the Arts

What happens when a city full of art and design has a festival night dedicated to the arts?

Plenty, that’s what.

If you don’t know much about Helsinki – it’s got a lot going for it. This is the Scandinavian design capital, and unofficially it’s also the best place for foodies in northern Europe too.

Things to do visiting Helsinki in summer-24

The lights and curves of Helsinki this summer

The people of Helsinki are ushering in a new era of super-cool. This matches the temperature in winter, but you might be surprised to know that in summer, the days average mid-20 degrees Celsius.

Like Berlin, it’s quite a large city, but you can still explore easily on foot. The tram network and hiring a bike can also come in handy though, especially during Night of the Arts.

Things to do visiting Helsinki in summer-23

Helsinki’s trams are quick and easy

Night of the Arts is to Helsinki, what a White Night is to Paris or Florence. Tourist attractions and businesses open late to welcome a flood of visitors, who in return come to enjoy the festivities and the city. This year, over 200 separate events took place across the city, ranging from art installations and free entry to galleries, to live music and interactive shows.

At around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the first things started happening. Three cardboard buildings were starting to assemble in Senate Square. Then a night market opened in the north of the city, and a smell festival not far from that. (People brought things they thought smelt nice, to be judged by a panel. One lady brought her son.)

Helsinki Night of the Arts 2014-11

Building it up to knock it down!

At 6 and 7pm, live music events were getting under way – plant music in the south, a jazz orchestra by the bay near the train station, and a selection of bands at Korjaamo, a popular cultural venue.

Hang, on what? Plant music? Well, that’s just music made from the sonic aura of plants, obviously.

Helsinki Night of the Arts 2014-14

Outside Korjaamo, enjoying the music with beers

As night continued to creep in, which it does slowly in Helsinki’s summer, events continued to happen all over the city. The cardboard construction continued. People wandered to various installations and museums. Some businesses put on their own shows, and in fact this year, the invite to put on your own show was open to all.

‘Festival city’ was at the centre of this, having a bar, a circus, a pre-booked open mic night, and other things going on.

Helsinki Night of the Arts 2014-6

Visitors to Night of the Arts enjoy the Esplanadi area

And visitors also just enjoyed the city in more usual ways too. Exploring the Design District, finding cool bars and eateries there and in Kallio, another popular area for night life.

See and read more with my photos from Night of the Arts, and I also wrote about what to expect from Helsinki in summer time on Travel Unmasked as well.

Peter Parkorr