When's the Best Time of Year to Visit Finland?

The attractions and climate across Finland can vary wildly, so most months provide you with diverse things to do
The attractions and climate across Finland can vary wildly, so most months provide you with diverse things to do | © MadPhotos / Alamy Stock Photo
Jessica Wood

When it comes to experiencing the enchanting wonderland of Finland, timing can make all the difference. This northern European gem offers a kaleidoscope of seasonal joys, each with its own unique charm and activities. This guide will tell you all you need to know about visiting this pearl of northeast Europe at any time of year.

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January

This could be the best time of year to travel to Lapland and see the Northern Lights, since Christmas is over and most of the crowds have thinned out with children back at school. The sky is still dark enough for clear and stunning views of the lights, and the snow is deep enough to enjoy other Lappish activities, such as riding in a reindeer sledge or going skiing. Cities aren’t quite as exciting during this time as there aren’t many events on, and the short daylight hours may make things rather bleak.

Rainfall: 9 days

Temperature: 19°F (-7° C)

February

The coldest month of the year in Finland should only be braved by the truly daring. While the winter days aren’t quite as short, the entire country tends to be covered in snow and ice at this time, and getting around is incredibly difficult with an increased risk of accidents. Yet these conditions almost make visiting Finland in February a rite of passage. This time of year is a paradise for you winter sports enthusiasts to take advantage of the prime snow conditions. Try snowmobiling, Nordic skating, cross-country skiing or any of the other winter sports.

Rainfall: 8 days

Temperature: 19°F (-7°C)

March

The daylight hours begin to lengthen in March, but the cold still remains. If Easter falls during this month, then you can expect it to still be covered by snow. The great contrast in weather can cause a lot of frustration for Finns, with the snow close to melting one day and a cold front swooping in on the next and covering everything in a fresh layer all over again. A plus is that the Northern Lights can be very active around the spring equinox on March 21st, and the night skies are still dark enough for a final glimpse before spring.

The further north you travel, the better the chance of spotting the Northern Lights in March to ensure you make the most of this beautiful and culturally rich region.

Rainfall: 8 days

Temperature: 27°F (-3°C)

April

Spring can be highly different in various parts of Finland. While flowers begin to bloom in the south, the north is still in the icy grip of winter. This is probably what makes Easter such a low-key holiday in Finland. More events and tourist sites begin to open up in the cities, such as the April Jazz Festival in Espoo or the Reindeer Racing Championships in Inari. However, the winter activities in Lapland begin to dry up around this time, and the thinning ice makes some of them dangerous. Most of the northern ski resorts will still be open, though, and will have fewer crowds.

Rainfall: 8 days

Temperature: 38°F (3°C)

May

May 1st is Labour Day in Finland; with the weather finally clearing up, most locals use that extra day off to relax, take a walk or have a picnic outside. The end of the long winter is celebrated with fairs, a carbonated fruit drink known as sima, and funnel cake (the chocolate-covered variety is the best). It’s also around this time that university classes end, so expect loud and wild parties in student towns. Overall, it’s a great month to see Finland peppered with lush greenery, and you can take advantage of the improved weather before the tourist season begins in earnest. Rent a summer cottage now, before the demand increases.

Rainfall: 6 days

Temperature: 50°F (10°C)

June

With the sun finally out, most Finns jump at the chance to take their long-awaited summer holidays in June. One of the biggest public holidays is Midsummer, which is usually on the closest weekend to June 25th. Tradition is to spend the holiday at summer cottages and light bonfires on Midsummer’s Eve. Cities become almost deserted during the holiday weekend and the sun doesn’t set at all in Lapland. The chilly weather can persist in the far north, but this is still a good time of year to visit Finland and take part in an ancient tradition. However, again, you’ll have to book your accommodation far in advance.

Rainfall: 8 days

Temperature: 59°F (15°C)

July

This is when summer truly begins in Finland. The entire country comes alive for a month to take advantage of the brief window of warmth and sunshine; concerts and events are held up and down the country, from the Ilosaari Rock heavy metal festival to Animecon. The Finnish countryside is at its most beautiful at this time: perfect for cruises, fishing or berry-picking, as long as you use plenty of bug repellent. You can generally expect a heatwave during this month as well, but the effects of climate change can cause sudden and unexpected heavy rain showers. Another downside is that the midnight sun can make sleep almost impossible without blackout curtains or an eye mask.

Rainfall: 10 days

Temperature: 63°F (17°C)

August

August is typically when children go back to school and summer holidays end in Finland. Plus, the temperature begins to drop more rapidly than the rest of Europe, meaning a lot of the tourist attractions close. The weather is still generally fine, however, especially in the south, so it ‘ a more quiet and relaxing time for a late summer break. Fewer tourists also means that hotels and holiday chalets are typically cheaper. August is a good time to go for a shopping spree, since most stores have massive clearance sales to make room for their Christmas stock.

Rainfall: 11 days

Temperature: 59°F (15°C)

September

The Finnish autumn is short but highly underrated. The weather may be cold and wet, but it’s not to the point of making accessibility difficult. You can still practice your photography in the cities, watch the birds migrating, or enjoy some indoor activities; since the tourist season is over, they’ll be less crowded and much cheaper. The Northern Lights begin again in Lapland, particularly around the autumn equinox on September 21st, although the increased cloud cover makes them difficult to spot.

Rainfall: 11 days

Temperature: 50°F (10°C)

October

October is a highly divisive time in Finland. The south still has autumn leaves and mild temperatures while, in the north, the temperature drops below zero and snow is returning. The days also become significantly shorter, and there are fewer open tourist sites and special events. Halloween isn’t that popular in Finland, since All Saints Day is practised instead, during which Finns place candles on the graves of deceased loved ones. However, some do still observe Halloween by attending costume parties or watching scary movies, which is perfect on a dark night in.

Rainfall: 11 days

Temperature: 41°F (5°C)

November

The Finnish winter really kicks in around this time, becoming cold, dark and icy with a greater chance of slipping some renegade ice. This even prompted the Helsinki tourism board to put up a sign in the city centre, saying, “Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome.” Alternatively, head to Lapland for your first glimpse of the Northern Lights and shopping at the Christmas markets before the winter tourism season starts and the prices shoot up.

Rainfall: 13 days

Temperature: 32°C (0°C)

December

Visiting Finland, and especially Lapland, during the Christmas season is a dream come true for many, and it is truly magical. The decorations, markets, snow and Northern Lights all create a winter wonderland. The only downside is that, with so many other people having the same idea, hotels and resorts become incredibly crowded and more expensive. Visiting in early December before the school holidays begin is one way to beat the crowds, and you can also join in the celebrations for Independence Day on December 6th.

Rainfall: 12 days

Temperature: 25°F (-4°C)

When not to go to Finland

Easily, the period between September and November is the worst time to visit the Finnish cities due to the amount of ice and slush on the ground. There are also reduced hours of daylight and fewer things to do. Summer in Lapland does have some charm, but there are far fewer attractions open and swarms of mosquitoes, which are best avoided.

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