Travel: May Day in Helsinki

This festival celebrating spring's arrival offers a taste of Finland and a truly epic amount of champagne.

Finland may not be the first place you think of to celebrate the arrival of spring, but Helsinki makes a convincing case thanks to its “Vappu” celebration, also known as May Day. The city is renowned for its enthusiastic merrymaking, with fun activities for everyone from boozy students to bouncing babies. The party starts the evening of April 30, known as Walpurgis Night, a traditional spring festival named for Saint Walburga. That’s when thousands of revellers douse the city’s 100-year-old Havis Amanda statue with champagne to kick off an all-night street party along the Esplanade. There may be no better way to experience this Nordic gem.

This fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in 1748 to protect Helsinki from sea attack. It stands on five interconnected islands that are accessible by ferry from the South Harbour.

National Museum of Finland
Take a crash course in Finnish history and culture with the help of the museum’s wide range of exhibits. Mannerheimintie 34 City Centre

Yrjonkadun Uimahali
The Finns love their sauna. This popular public option features a blue-tiled art deco indoor pool. Yrjönkatu 21 City Centre

Cafe Engel
This brunch spot is much-lauded for its great views of Senate Square and Helsinki Cathedral. Aleksanterinkatu 26 City Centre

Design Museum
See why the World Design Council has named Helsinki its World Design Capital for 2012, via the museum’s look at design throughout Finnish history. Korkeavuorenkatu 23

Olympic stadium
Home to the 1952 Summer Olympics, the stadium is near the City Winter Gardens and features a 72-metre-high tower for great views of the city.

The city’s most famous park is touted as the best place to enjoy May Day celebrations, as thousands gather to spend the day eating, drinking and enjoying music.