Just a brief advance warning for anyone who is unaware of it, but this coming weekend signals the Midsummer celebrations in Finland, and will bring with it certain restrictions on shop opening-hours and transport schedules, as well as marking the start of the summer vacation season for many.
On Friday, the eve of the festival, shops will close their doors at 12:00, and even those in the tunnel under Helsinki's Central Railway Station will be closed from 19:00 onwards.
On Saturday they will be open, but precious little else will be as the country more or less shuts down and the capital is deserted as people take off for the summer cottage.
The Alko liquor stores will also only be open in the morning on Friday, but by then the queues of people buying something for the weekend are likely to be lengthy, so it might be wiser to get the job done on Thursday at the latest.
Banks are open as normal on Thursday but closed on Friday.
Anyone wishing to change foreign currency can do so at the Sampo outlet at the West Harbour each day from 6:45-20:00, or at Forex in the railway station on Friday, Saturday and sunday from 9:00-19:00. Currency exchange points at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport will be open as normally.
Post offices will be open until 18.00 on Thursday but closed on Friday and Saturday. The Main Post Office in Helsinki will be open until 12.00 on Friday and will also serve customers on Sunday from 10.00-18:00.
In internal traffic within Helsinki, Friday will see Saturday schedules in force, but there will be exceptional timetables for the No.24 bus to Seurasaari, where there will be the traditional public celebration of Midsummer, complete with bonfires. On Saturday, Sunday schedules will be followed.
Details of the Seurasaari bus and other bus, tram, and Metro schedules from the HSL link below.
Greater Helsinki Region buses will follow normal timetables on Thursday, Saturday schedules on Friday, and Sunday schedules on Saturday.
Once again, there are some exceptions, so it is worth consulting the same HSL link below.
Long-distance buses and coaches are as normal on Thursday, with Saturday schedules in force on Midsummer Eve, but only until 13:00, after which the number of departures will fall away.
The Matkahuolto site gives details.
For Finnish Railways (VR), the pattern is much the same for local commuter trains, with Saturday schedules on Midsummer Eve and Sunday schedules on Saturday. Their website provides the details for this and for their long-distance traffic.
In all other respects, for instance health and emergency services, we urge you to get a Finnish-speaking friend to help you out from the complete list as published in the print-paper's online edition (linked below). Certain dispensing chemists, for instance, will be open over the weekend, and local health centre A& E services are also listed here.
The International Edition will be shutting down from Thursday onwards and will be offline until the end of July. We shall return on Monday August 2nd with dailies, and weeklies will follow immediately thereafter.
P.S. Just in case anyone is wondering why the Summer Solstice is being celebrated a bit late, the concept of Midsummer in Finland is associated with the saint's day of St. John the Baptist (hence Juhannus, the Finnish name for it), and since 1955 the holiday has always been celebrated on a Saturday falling between June 20th and June 26th.
Earlier it was held on June 24th, or St. John's Day.
Midsummer Eve is quite as important as the day itself, and given the long distances often involved in travelling to the summer cottage a good many people choose to take Thursday off as well. Traffic volumes on Thursday and Friday reach an annual peak, and long lines are to be expected at traditional bottlenecks.
The return on Sunday is not usually so congested on the roads, as many people take this weekend as the starting-signal for their summer holidays and stay in the countryside for the duration.
Sadly, Midsummer also involves a good deal of drinking, and given the amount of water in this country, it also often sees a spike in the number of accidental drownings, either through people falling out of boats or overestimating their swimming prowess in waters that can still be quite chilly at this time of year. Please take care.
Juhannusmuistio (in Finnish)
Juhannus, or Midsummer in Finland (Wikipedia)
HSL, Helsinki Regional Transport
Finnish Meteorological Institute (see what the weather is going to be like)
VR, Finnish Railways
City of Helsinki Tourist Information Office (also Espoo & Vantaa)