Finland combines wilderness, design heritage, and strong epicurean traditions into one Scandinavian package. Although the climate varies throughout the year, all seasons in this mystical country have something to offer visitors. Still, the best times to visit Finland are the months of May through September, as these offer the mildest weather and the greatest number of tourist attractions.
While temperatures in the winter months rarely climb over 30 degrees, the chance to see the Northern Lights also makes this a great time to visit Finland. However, the fairly warm summers provide great opportunities to explore the culture and wilderness of the country, and late spring, especially May and June, are the most pleasant months in Finland. Finns take their summer vacations in July, which means higher prices, some business closures, and the need for advance reservations. Meanwhile, August and September have more annual rainfall than the prime spring and summer months yet visitors still enjoy mild temperatures.
The Varying Weather in Finland
Contrary to what many travelers believe, Finland's climate is quite diverse and varied throughout the year. Not surprisingly, July is the country's warmest month and February is the coldest, and those two months are also the wettest and driest months, respectively.
The overall climate is not as cold as many visitors think. Even though it's at the same latitude as southern Greenland, the country receives warm airflows from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea. Still, the weather is variable and can change quickly, especially in the winter. Winters are long and cold and the country's northern reaches might have snow on the ground for nearly half of the year. Average temperatures from November through March rarely exceed 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Warmer temperatures can be found in southwestern Finland, especially the country's islands situated in the Baltic Sea. In the summer, the weather is mild and warm, like other parts of Scandinavia. From June through August, temperatures typically range from the mid-60s to low-70s degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that beyond the Arctic Circle in the north of Finland, you can experience the Midnight Sun each summer, when the sun never goes down.
Key Events and Festivals
During May or June, the weather in Finland is typically warm and relatively dry, meaning that outdoor activities and events are plentiful. Just a few of the many spring and summer events in Finland include the Organ Night and Aria Festival from June through August; the Naantali Music Festival, the Black and White Theatre Festival, and the Midnight Sun Film Festival in June; and Sirkus Finlandia and the Pori Jazz Festival in July.
The Juhannusvalkeat (Midsummer) Festival is a major celebration throughout Finland, complete with bonfires, dancing, and another revelry. The celebration of Juhannus, as the Midsummer festival is called in Finnish, originates from John the Baptist whose commemoration and birthday are celebrated in Midsummer. Before 1316, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla, after the Finnish god Ukko.
The High Tourist Seasons
Both winter and summer are the high tourist seasons in Finland, partly due to the special attractions, weather, and events you'll find in the country these times of the year and partly due to school and government holidays in Finland. While residents of Finland only get one week off from school in the winter—called the skiing holiday—kids and adults alike have more than four weeks of vacation to enjoy. As a result, you'll find larger crowds at popular destinations across the country from June to August and over the last week of December and the first week of January.
Fortunately, this doesn't mean that hotels will be fully booked or popular attractions will be overrun—you can typically still find good deals on accommodations and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sights and events of Finland any time of year.
Spring in Finland is short and often overlooked as so many travelers flock to the country during the summer months. In some parts of the country, there still might be snow on the ground—it's even possible to ski through late spring—but the season is quite versatile depending on where in Finland you visit and when. While March can be chilly with temperatures hovering around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, by May, temperatures are regularly in the mid-50s.
Events to check out:
- Vappu, Finland's version of International Worker's Day, is held on May 1. It's one of the country's largest holidays and brings residents to the street for days of partying. The celebration is also sometimes called Walpurgis Night.
- The Helsinki City Marathon is an annual road running event held each year in May. Formerly held in August, the marathon draws more than 6,000 runners each year.
In Finland's north, the Midnight Sun is best seen in June and July. While Finns are used to dark Arctic winters, Midnight Sun is the complete opposite, as this natural phenomenon results in the sun remaining visible for almost 24 hours a day during peak summer months. Finns embrace the contrast between the two seasons, and in summer, public places come alive and everyone stays out late. It's a festive, happy atmosphere. It's also an ideal time to go hiking and camping. Finland has 40 national parks, scattered around the country’s archipelago, lakes, forests, and fells.
Finland’s “Everyman’s rights” mean that you can venture just about anywhere in the parks as long as you respect nature and clean up after yourself.
Events to check out:
- In Helsinki during August, a must-do is the city's annual Flow Festival, an urban music festival which is held in an abandoned power station on Helsinki's outskirts. The festival features some of the world's most popular flow performance acts and offers an impressive food menu with extensive vegan, organic, and farm-to-table selections.
- Organ Night and Aria Festival is a unique series of late evening classical music concerts held throughout the summer in Espoo that include recitals as well as grand performances of major works.
- The long-running Naantali Music Festival is held in the sunny, coastal town for which it is named. Concerts are held in a medieval abbey and other venues along the archipelago.
September and October are good times to visit Finland if you're on a budget and want to avoid the high tourist season. However, with the diminished crowds, many attractions will be closed. Still, photographers may relish the New England-style fall foliage display in September and October. If you don't mind missing out on the festivals and concerts but enjoy the thought of quiet and pleasant walks, beautiful landscapes, and relatively mild weather, then early fall may be the best time for you to visit Finland.
Events to check out:
- The annual Sibelius Festival takes place each year in September and serves to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius. The festival includes performances by Sinfonia Lahti, the city's famous symphony orchestra.
- Helsinki Design Week spans two weeks in early September and features fashion designers, furniture designers, architects, and other creatives displaying their collections for the coming season.
If you consider yourself a winter-loving traveler, then the colder season may be the best time for your trip to Finland. It's a pricey time of year, but Christmas in Finland, packed with snow and local events, is a great experience. You can visit Santa in Lapland and cross the magical Arctic Circle at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, where you'll find Santa's reindeer and can even go for a reindeer sleigh ride.
Winter is also a time to visit the town of Kemi where unique ice creations and snow castles attract visitors. The town, located by the Bothnian Bay, is known for the huge snow castle known as Lumilinna that has been erected there every year since 1996. Inside the monolithic ice sculpture, guests will discover a chapel, restaurant, and hotel, complete with ice tables, rooms, a bar, beds, and reindeer fur seat covers. Kemi also has a gemstone gallery that displays a model of the crown of Finland and other pieces like the imperial state crown of Britain and Sceptre of Czar from Russia.
Events to check out:
- If you want to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis), aim for December. The aurora effect is a result of charged particles from the sun striking atoms in Earth's atmosphere, causing electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. When the electrons drop back to a lower energy state, light is released. This process creates a beautiful light effect.
- The biggest events of the winter revolved around celebrating Christmas in Finland, which includes a number of unique traditions, starting with First Advent on the first Sunday in December.