When summer hits Helsinki, you don’t have to leave the capital to find a good beach. Grab your towel and your sunscreen and get going.
Think of Helsinki, but forget snow and winter hats.
The Finnish capital shows a completely different side of itself during the long, bright days and white nights of summer. The people become more cheerful and talkative; meet for drinks and dinner at outdoor cafés and restaurant terraces; and enjoy lazy days at the city’s beaches, some of which are just a stone’s throw from the city centre.
The Baltic Sea waters invite inhabitants to cool down with a dip and bask in the sun. Here are some of the places not to be missed by beach-lovers:
Location, location, location
Everyone calls Hietaniemi Beach by its nickname, “Hietsu,” and it’s the ultimate beach to visit for many reasons. With a perfect location, nearly downtown, it’s easily accessible by public transport, on foot or by bicycle.
There’s a bar and terrace, and for sports freaks there’s room to play volleyball and football. This is the place to go to show off the body you’ve been cultivating in the gym all through the winter.
Concerts are also held here. Big-name artists drive the crowds wild, and it’s also common to see local bands filming videos in the area. People may go to Hietsu to enjoy evening picnics – the sky remains light well into the night.
No clothes, no problem
Although the Finns are very open-minded when it comes to entering saunas in the nude, it’s not normal to see topless women on beaches, in contrast to common practice at many tourist destinations in southern Europe.
However, those who like to savour sun and water the way nature intended can visit nudist beaches at Seurasaari or Pihlajasaari. Seurasaari, a few kilometres from the city centre, offers separate areas for men and women. Another part of the park contains historical buildings and forest paths that attract numerous tourists. Pihlajasaari, located a short ferry ride away from Helsinki, is unisex. The beach there is quite rocky, so it’s more suitable for sunbathing than swimming.
For all tastes
Helsinki has a total of 29 official beaches, four of them on the banks of the River Vantaa. Many of them are located close to other leisure activities. For example, on the island fortress of Suomenlinna, you can combine tanning with visits to museums, cafés and the fortress walls. Mustikkamaa, close to Helsinki Zoo, is ideal for energetic families.
Rastila boasts a campground and a public sauna in addition to a beach, while other sites like Kallahti or Laajasalo offer lovely views for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the archipelago. You can enjoy a delicious ice cream on the small but charming beach in Marjaniemi, and Vuosaari offers an open-air gym and cafés where you can contemplate views of the port.
Don’t be blue
Especially if the summer is warm and the water is calm, blue-green algae blooms can form in the water. Many places in the world have a similar situation. These algae are sometimes toxic, so swimming should be avoided if they are present. More info is available in English on the City of Helsinki website. Many beaches have bulletin boards where they post water-quality readings.
By Antonio Díaz