When do seasons begin and end in Finland?

Last Juhannus (the midsummer in Finland, where bonfires are lit and people enjoy a long weekend in a cottage near the water, drinking spirits and eating grilled goods such as makkara – Finnish sausages) signaled – as every year – the weekend before the official beginning of summer on June 21st. But is it really summer in Finland already? Not if we look at the meteorology: It was cold and rainy, like in many parts of central and northern Europe.

The question, therefore, is clear: when do seasons begin and end in Finland?

A quick overview of the seasons in Finland, and when they begin and end

The Finnish summer

Summer in Finland

The Summer in Finland is special because of the amount of Music Festivals that happen in the country, the midnight sun (or the white nights), the highest temperatures of the year, the affluence of the Finnish beaches at the seas or lakes, the ability to spend time outdoors, or the crazy events and competitions of the Finnish summer such as the wife-carrying race…

… but it has also lots of mosquitoes (Finnish mosquitoes are huge and fierce), ticks, some over-drinking, a lot of rain and low temperatures compared to “summery-summer” places like the south of Europe. Also, the summer season isn’t very long. We can’t have it all. This year, actually, holds the record for the coldest June in Finland ever.

And what do we consider summer in Finland? That the average temperature of each day is above 10 degrees Celsius.

With this criteria, summer in Finland lasts from mid-May to mid-September in the south of the country. In Lapland, the summer starts one month later and ends one month earlier, while in the rest of the country it varies between those dates.

If we talk about the highest temperatures ever recorded in Finland, our beloved city of Joensuu holds the record: 37° C. In Finland, “heat wave” is the name that they assign to days where there are more than 25 degrees Celsius. These “heat waves” last between 10 and 15 days in the south of the country and between 5 and 10 days in the north.

The autumn in Finland

Autumn in Finland: the ruska
The colors. Oh, the nice colors.

Autumn has a word that represents it in Finland: the ruska. All the different bushes and trees change their color, each one at its own pace, from green to different tones of yellow, brown and red. The only bad part? It is a very rainy time in Finland, and the rain only stops when the snow comes. Finland is usually very cloudy, but when the clouds leave and reveal the autumn skies, it is a perfect moment to see the Northern lights since there are more hours of nighttime than in summer.

What do we consider autumn in Finland? It is the moment when the average temperature drops below 10° C. We know that winter is quite near when the average temperature is below 5 degrees, something that happens more or less during the last week of September in Lapland and the last week of October or first week of November on the south-west coast of Finland.

Winter: a blanket of snow over Finland

On Big in Finland, the posts about winter and snow are very well loved.

And is not by chance: I chose Finland because it was, in Europe, the furthest thing from Spain in terms of climate, and where I could have tuition in English. And I think the readers of the blog think the same.

Winter in Finland
Harsh. Beautiful.

The most characteristic thing of the Finnish winter is the length in hours of darkness. In the far north they have the Polar Night: the Kaamos, and I know that there are over 40 words for different stages of snow in Finland. Besides that, of course, you can do lots of skiing, ice hockey, take a dip on a frozen lake after a sauna, drift with your car over the snow like a Finnish rally driver… and let’s not forget the Christmas time in Finland.

This season, winter, is the longest and toughest in Finland. We can say that Winter has officially arrived when the average temperature is below 0 degrees Celsius. Winter usually starts in mid-October in Lapland, and during November in the rest of the country. In the south-west of Finland – i.e. the Aaland islands – winter lasts 100 days. In Lapland it lasts more than 200 days.

The lowest temperatures reached during winter in Finland are between -45° C and -50° C in Lapland, -35° C and -45° C in the rest of the country, and -25° C and -35° C in the archipelago and on the south-west coast. Check it out in this set of photos of Finland in Winter.

The Spring

Spring is the season that everyone living in Finland, but especially the non-Finns, await most eagerly. The darkness is over, the cold is becoming more moderate, and slowly the snow melts away. But is still cold and rainy.

Summer in Finland
Some Spring days are as lovely as this one.

As it happens with the autumn in Finland, the spring season starts when the average temperature per day is between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius.

This usually happens around the beginning of April in the Åland islands, mid-April in the rest of the country and in the beginning of May in Lapland. Thus, spring sets in one month earlier in the South of the country than in the North.

The length of this season is between 45 and 65 days. We have some cool photos of Finland in spring here.

Some closing thoughts

As a final recommendations, take a look check out our posts about what to wear in Finland in winter, so you can be spot-on when you visit the country.

The source of the content of this blog post was a great source of online information: the website of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

What’s your favorite season to be in Finland? Are you surprised by the length of some seasons in Finland, or had you already guessed it?



Beaches in Helsinki and Finland

Summer = beach. That is especially true if you can rely on good weather and sunshine, like in the south of Europe. But the northern countries, including Finland, also have their nice share of sea beaches and beaches by the lake. In this post we tell you about some of the best beaches in Helsinki and Finland.

Hietaniemi beach
Some Finns taking in the sunlight, on Helsinki’s Hietaniemi beach. Source (CC: by-sa)

Finland: beaches by the sea and beaches by the lake

Finland, as it has been traditionally branded, is the land of the thousand lakes (the Finland brand has grown ever since to include education, design, northern lights). You can go to any of the lakes in Finland and freely take a dip, but if I personally had to choose I’d prefer bathing in salty wather and with no coast on the horizon, with the feeling of immensity that only the sea can provide.

Finnish sea-beaches (and bathing in the nude)

The sea-beaches of Finland that are on the shore of the Baltic sea aren’t all look-alikes. Some of them are sandy, while others are covered in small stones instead of fine sand. They are usually quite long with lots of space to put your towel, and once you decide to go into the water, the floor of the sea will have the same pattern as the beach: it can be a little rocky or deliciously sandy.

We’ll see some famous and highly frequented beaches in Helsinki and Finland in a second.

Beach in the baltic sea, in Helsinki
A beach in Helsinki, on the Baltic sea. Source(CC: by)

Highlight: Hietaniemi beach in Helsinki

When people picture Helsinki, they probably think about anything but a beach. Nonetheless there are several beaches to choose from, and they are a great option for spending the long summer afternoons and evenings and to enjoy the white night.

The Hietaniemi beach, or “Hietsu” as it is known by the locals, is the most popular beach of Helsinki’s capital. It is sandy, so you don’t have to worry about little stones. Its address is Hiekkarannantie 11. It is a supervised beach: It has safeguards during the summer period, in the daytime (from June 2nd to August 10th, between 10 and 21h). There are some publicly available areas and services, such as showers, outdoor gyms, and a children’s area. Hietaniemi was named one of the most romantic spots in the city, so it is a great choice for spending a day at the beach in Helsinki.

On this map we can see the location of Hietaniemi beach, on the left, and the location of the Uunisaari beach – we will talk about it in a second – in the south.

The Uunisaari beach, near Helsinki

This nice beach can only be accessed in summer with a ferry boat. The good thing is that the ferry takes only three minutes from the city. This ferry leaves from Kaivopuisto park, next to the city center.

The island where the beach is at also features a restaurant, a kiosk, and several public saunas. This island is worth a visit to get the sun tan: it is really close to Helsinki and is tiny, which makes it quite lovely. From there you can leave the busy city life and all the buildings behind, and you have a great view: the sea to one side and the city to the other.

Uunisaari beach
Uunisaari beach, before the beginning of the season, and looking towards Helsinki. Source (CC:by)

Regarding the beach per se, this one also has safeguards during daytime – between 10 and 18h – during the period between June 2nd and August 10th. The cost to arrive to this island by ferry is 3,5€.

Other beaches in Helsinki

The website of the city of Helsinki provides us with a list of all the beaches that exist in the city. Some of them are near the river or at a lake, others by the sea. The list contains data like locations, if they are supervised, what kind of installations are around (for example, beach volley nets, an open-air gym, children’s playground, toilets, etc.). You can see this list of beaches in Helsinki here.

The longest beach of Finland: Yyteri

Yyteri has to offer six kilometers of sandy dunes, to sink our feet in with each step. It is the longest beach in Finland and one of the biggest in all the nordic countries.

Yyteri beach, Finland
Yyteri beach on an autumn day. Source (CC: by-sa)

Its location is 250 kilometers from the capital of Finland, therefore being less accessible than the beaches of Helsinki we talked about. This beach is near the city of Pori. Its distance to Helsinki is compensated by its great length, the low waters, and all the things you can do there, such as surfing (it is one of the few places in Finland where you can do this), lots of beach volley and more water sports.

Most of the beach area is for normal bathing, but there is also a part of the beach for people who prefer to sunbath, and bath, in the nude. If this is something you’re keen on doing, besides this beach you can also go to the Pihlajasaari beach in the Finnish city of Yyteri, and also the beaches of Pihlasaari and Seurasaari in Helsinki.

Can you recommend any other sea beach that you like in Finland? Have you been to the ones we mentioned in this post? Be careful, nonetheless, about the very big Finnish mosquitoes, and if you go to some beaches on the south-west of Finland, also beware of ticks.



Finns eat tar: the strangest Finnish ingredient

We already saw on the blog that Finns eat tar thanks to the Bizarre Foods’s video from Andrew Zimmern, Finnish edition. We saw him give his opinion about how tar tastes in food when he went to a marketplace: He actually liked the smokey flavor.

A road made with tar
A Finnish road. Main ingredient: tar.

What exactly is tar?

According to wikipedia, there are several kinds of tar. Some of them aren’t very good for people’s health.

In the North of Europe, Finland included, tar is produced by burning wood in a pile. It was already being used centuries ago in these nordic and scandinavian countries to coat ships… and as medicine.

Finns have a saying: “If sauna, vodka and tar don’t help, the illness is fatal.” The reason behind this expression is that tar is also a microbicide agent.

The word for tar in Finnish language is “Terva“. So if you see this word in the supermarket and you are not afraid to deal with the dark element, you know what to go for. For instance, this shampoo:

Shampoo made with tar
Shampoo with “chimney effect”. Just kidding: Tar is supposed to help with dandruff. Source (CC: by-sa)

This ingredient is also used as a scent for places such as the sauna. The Finns like the familiarity of the smell.

Eating tar

Tar is used as an additive and as a flavoring ingredient. It gives a smoky flavor to the dish you add it to, such as ice creams, beers, liquorice and sweets. In the Andrew Zimmern video we saw tar added to a herring sauce, and as a spray to add a bit of tar to any dish that you wish.

And what does tar have that is liked in Finland? Besides the smoky flavor we talked about, it might have something to do with Finns fondness (love!) for food items that are seen as strange everywhere else and that have unique – acquired taste – flavors, such as salmiakki or mämmi. The tar flavor is the closest thing you have to chewing smoke.

In this photos we can see some people eating tar ice-cream and also some Finnish candy that features the same flavor and that you can get at in many supermarkets and convenience stores. You can check out this Finnish delicacy by yourself and then decide if tar is for you. After all, all the cool Finnish kids are doing it.

tar ice cream
These people are eating tar ice-cream, or so it says the Source (CC: by-sa) of the photo.

Leijona candy
This candy brand is tar-flavored. Source (CC: by-sa)

What do you think of this curious gastronomical variant of Finland? Would you be up for trying it?



Finnish Cuisine: a thorough overview on video

Some time ago we saw how star chef Gordon Ramsay tasted traditional Finnish food. He didn’t like what he tasted but, unlike him, the readers of Big in Finland did like these parts of the Finnish cuisine. Ramsay, as always, brought in the polemic: Some people said that he has no manners, or that he barely put the food in his mouth before criticizing it and spitting it out. the common opinion was that you don’t judge Finnish cuisine like that.

I like Ramsay, though. I see a perfectionist that demands the same of others, or at least no fluff. He can also be a good mentor, as you can see in Master Chef. In any case, I understand that he’s a person not liked by everyone.

When I put his video on our Facebook page, a reader pointed me to another one that also deals with Finnish cuisine: an episode of Bizarre Foods about Finland and its most bizarre foods, with Andrew Zimmern.

Recording an episode of Bizarre Foods
Andrew Zimmern recording an episode of his show. Source (CC: by-nd)

I started to watch it and, indeed, it is a great overview of the whole spectrum of Finnish gastronomy. From family recipes of almost uninhabited islands to a visit to Finland’s top chef Hans Valamaki, from Chef Dominique. His restaurant used to be the only one in Helsinki with two Michelin Stars, but it was closed due to the chef’s lost love with the business side of having a restaurant.

All Finnish cuisine in a single video

The following videos of the Bizarre Foods chapter deal with Finland and its food. The episode is cut into three smaller videos and, above each video, I tell you what’s in it. In almost all the segments and dishes we can see an ever-present ingredient in Finnish food: potatoes.

The first segment about the Finnish cuisine, Andrew Zimmern tastes…

  • Blood pie (he really enjoys showing us how it is prepared)
  • Salmiakki
  • Lamprey
  • Herring on tar sauce
  • Bear

In the second segment, we see:

  • How to feed bears
  • Seal
  • Herring and salmon leftovers (head, tail, bones) soup
  • Reindeer milk (around 120 Euros/litre, he says, and with a fatty and sweet flavor that stays in the mouth)
  • Reindeer meat (liver, tongue, top round, medallions of the reindeer’s leg)

In the last segment chef Hans Valamaki, the former owner of the only Finnish restaurant with two Michelín Stars, Chef Dominique, prepares:

  • Reindeer tartar
  • Reindeer with the moss that it eats (mixing different ingredients that relate to each other in nature – as in here with the reindeer and the moss that it eats – it is one of the novelties of the new Nordic Cuisine and thus of the Finnish Cuisine)
  • Reindeer with poisonous wild mushrooms (cooked twice until all the toxins are gone)
  • Crayfish, served at a crayfish party

After this, Andrew Zimmern vistis Jarmo Pitkanen, from the Tundra restaurant in Ruka Kuusamo (in Lapland, the north of Finland) who serves him:

  • White fish with a sauté of zucchini, chanterelle mushrooms, new potatoes and sauce hollandaise

Finally, in the forest with other locals, he tries:

  • Birch tree bark (and they take some birch branches to hit each other in the sauna)
  • Cloudberry
  • Leippajusto (“cheese bread”)
  • A just-fished perch, that they proceed to smoke

What is missing for me in this video about the Finnish Cuisine? Maybe he should have traveled to Karelia as well, and tried the most Finnish dish of them all: the Karjalanpasti (Karelian stew), and of course the Karelian pie.

Did these videos about the Finnish cuisine make you hungry? What did you like the most from the videos, and what else should he have shown?



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