Music in the Finnish capital: The Flow must go on

Finland loves summer festivals; there’s at least one in almost every city and town. Flow Festival, a massive music event held in Helsinki in early August, is the urban festival.

It hosts more than 150 music performances on nine stages, as well as two dozen food vendors and several art exhibitions. (Slideshow below.)

It’s urban, romantic and modern. The first half of August is the perfect time for a festival in Helsinki; although the white nights of June and July have receded, the days are still long and a lot of summer light remains.

Since 2007, Flow Festival has taken place in Suvilahti (which means “Summer Bay”), a former industrial district next to the new neighbourhood of Kalasatama (“Fish Harbour”), which is still growing.

Suvilahti is only 15 minutes from the city centre, close to the hip Kallio (“Rock” or “Boulder”) neighbourhood. It’s great to be able to get home by public transport or bike after a long day of listening and dancing. An impressively large bike parking area flanks the festival grounds.

Flow Festival organisers have plans to move to a different venue in the Finnish capital after the 2024 edition. At the time of writing, the destination is still a secret, but the event’s unique, atmospheric blend of urbane and down-to-earth is sure to reappear at the new location.

Time flies at Flow Fest

Festivalgoers are talking and dancing in a park-like area with trees and a lawn.

Flow’s Backyard venue hosts DJs and is at its best at dusk when the sun is setting, with various lanterns and lights creating a romantic atmosphere. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

Two people are hugging in the foreground, among a crowd of concertgoers.

The location forms the background, but what really makes Flow Festival flow is the people – old and new friends. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

People sit in a colourfully painted asphalt area, with an enormous tent visible in the background.

During the festival, people chill in an area that is normally a skatepark. It looks as if the hills of the skatescape may have helped inspire the shape of the festival tent. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

People look at artworks that are painted on upright rectangular boxes several metres high.

Behind the artworks, you can see the new Kalasatama district, where residential buildings sprang up in the late 2010s. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

Crowds of concertgoers are smiling and talking, with buildings visible in the background.

New meets old: Behind this concert audience is a low beige building from the early 20th century. Formerly a power plant, it’s now home to cafés, offices and shops. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

Behind a crowd of concertgoers, buildings are covered in decorative lights.

As twilight arrives, the festival area becomes a show of lights as well as music. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

Behind a crowd of concertgoers, buildings are covered in decorative light patterns.

Crowds of concertgoers continue to circulate as light installations play on the surrounding buildings. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

People are milling around on the festival grounds, with three tall buildings visible in the background.

The tallest buildings in Helsinki are located beside Suvilahti in the neighbourhood called Kalasatama. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

People walk past former industrial building on the festival grounds.

The round building in the middle contains an old gasometer and dates to 1910. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

Under strings of decorative lights, people are sitting in groups or strolling along.

There’s plenty of space for hanging out in the Backyard area of Flow Festival. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

The sun is setting and a pair of hands is sticking up from a concert audience crowd.

Hands clap as the sun slowly sets. Photo: Susanna Alatalo

By Anna Ruohonen, July 2023