If you happen to be in Helsinki on 6th December, you might get disappointed since many places shut their doors for this public holiday; Helsinki easily becomes a ghost city if you don't know where and when to go. There are still plenty of things to do and witness, so here is your guide for spending Independence Day in Helsinki.
What are we celebrating?
For a long time, Finland belonged to Sweden and later to Russia. Due to revolutions in Russia, Finland finally became independent on 6 December 1917. This day is the most significant in Finnish history and is celebrated every year. For many people, this celebration happens at home in a cozy atmosphere. It is a tradition to light up two candles in the colors of the Finnish flag: blue and white. This takes place at 6 pm, and you can notice the candles lit in many windows while walking down Finnish streets that evening.
The President holds a celebration at his Palace, and everybody wants to know who is invited this year and what gowns are they wearing. All the screens are turned on to watch the Presidential Reception; it is like the small Oscars of Finland, except that, instead of the statue, you get a handshake from the President and the reason can be a success in whatever field. For many others, 6th December is a day to march the central streets of Helsinki to make a point. You can see all kinds of movements, anarchists, nationalists, people against nationalists, the streets are going to be filled with people marching for hours. So, what is there to do for a traveler on that special day in the Finnish capital?
The day starts with the divine service in the Helsinki Cathedral at 12. I am not religious, but I went there a few times just to hear the choir sing the Finlandia-hymn, you should know that Finnish churches have excellent acoustics!
The traditional student march takes place in the evening and has been held for many years. It starts at 4 pm in a cemetery, where students honor those who died in a war, settling wreaths on the graves in a ceremony. Around 5 pm, they start marching towards the Senate Square, bearing lights and the festive atmosphere through the streets of Helsinki. As they proceed, the President greets them from the balcony of a President Castle. The celebration then continues with a choir and speeches from the student organizations. Everyone is welcome to join the march.
Hietaniemi cemeteryHietaniemenkatu 20, 00100 Helsinki, Suomi
Helsinki Senate SquarePlace du Sénat, 00170 Helsinki, Finlande
Take a festive ride
How about celebrating this great day up in the air? You can hop on a SkyWheel and not only take a ride above the city lights but also do that with a glass of champagne in your hand. The ride takes a few minutes longer than usual and can be enjoyed anytime from 12 to 19. And hey, why not bring some company to clink glasses with?
SkyWheel HelsinkiKatajanokanlaituri 2, 00160 Helsinki
Have a swim party
One more way to celebrate Independence Day is in a pool near to the Presidential Palace. Visit Allas Sea Pool for a unique experience; you can watch President's guests in the beautiful gowns from a big screen and enjoy live music performances. Besides that, the pool's crew always comes up with cool ideas for your swim; for example, on Independence Day in 2019, you can take a swim in a hat, and the crazier, the better, because the best one wins a nice prize. Now, we all know a usual pool, but if you miss some 'extreme in your life,' you can take a swim in the second pool, which is filled with seawater. Of course, a hot sauna is waiting for you after this, so as food, drinks and the best views in town; Allas Sea Pool is situated right on the seashore of the Market Square.
Allas Sea PoolKatajanokanlaituri 2a, 00160 Helsinki
There are also different museums and restaurants open that day, but this list changes every year. Check the internet for up-to-date information before spending your day. In any case, being prepared and knowing where to go will bring a ghost city to life and make your trip exceptional.
Are you ready to experience this story yourself?