Summer Events in Southern Finland | Part 2: Järvenpää, Hämeenlinna, Turku, Naantali, Uusikaupunki and the Archipelago
Järvenpää: Located just 38km and 30 minutes north of Helsinki, this small garden city of less than 40,000 inhabitants is famous for being home to the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, from 1904 until his death in 1957. His log cabin, Ainola, was built on the shores of Lake Tuusulanjärvi, and today functions as a museum. Soon after Sibelius had moved to Järvenpää a small community of artists developed here, led by the author Juhani Aho and his wife Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, the poets J.H. Erkko and Eino Leino, and the painters Eero Järnefelt and Pekka Halonen. Today, visitors can enjoy a stroll along the Järvenpää Culture Trail, a two kilometre walk around Tuusulanjärvi which takes you past the former homes of the town’s most famous residents as well as the Kallio-Kuninkala College, operated by the Sibelius Academy. In the town centre you’ll find Järvenpää Hall, which houses the Sibelius Hall music venue and the Järnätti Exhibition Centre, and Järvenpää Art Museum which features themed exhibitions of Eero Järnefelt and Venny Soldan-Brofeldt.
Järvenpää hosts the fourth largest musical event held annually in Finland, the Puistoblues Festival, which has attracted some of the legends of blues in previous years, like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. In addition to the paid festival area, there are numerous free concerts on Blues Street in the town, as well as quality events for children. This year the festival takes place from June 29th until July 3rd. The other major event of the summer is Our Festival by Lake Tuusula, a popular series of chamber music concerts that takes place from the 29th of July to the 4th of August. The venues include Erkkola (home to the poet J.H. Erkkola), Halosenniemi (home to the artist Pekka Halonen), Suviranta (home to the artist Eero Järnefelt), Ainola (Sibelius’ home), Kallio-Kuninkala and many others.
Hämeenlinna is one Finland’s most historic towns, famous for the magnificent red-bricked medieval castle from which it takes it’s name, which was built toward the end of the 13th century. The castle is in excellent condition today, and is often the site for much of the town’s celebrations especially around Christmas time. The grounds of Häme Castle also feature three very different museums, the Prison Museum, the Historical Museum and the Artillery Museum. Hämeenlinna also features two of Finland’s best known spas, at Aulanko and Vesihelmi, and the first National Urban Park in Finland, over 6km in length and extending from the centre via Häme Castle to Aulanko. Much of the cultural life of the city takes place in the Verkatehdas Cultural Centre.
The summer in Hämeenlinna kicks off with a surprising event, the Highland Games on the 26th of May. The national champions in the many events will then go on to represent Finland in the international competition held in Scotland later in the year, so if seeing men in skirts lobbing trees about sounds like fun get along to them. On the 30th of June the Ämyrock Festival is held with concerts on the main stage in the city park and with club gigs later in the night. This festival was first held in 1974, and shows no sign of losing it’s appeal. From the 12th to the 15th of July Häme Castle becomes the stage for the annual LinnaJazz festival, with some great music in splendid surroundings. The Hippalot Arts Festival for Children begins on the 16th of July and runs right through to the 29th, taking place in Arx Arts Centre and Verkatehdas Cultural Centre, both situated in the heart of the town. Fredrikan Kesä 2012 is a crafts and cultural event that will be held from the 6th to the 12th of August. Another unusual event is the International Street-Organ Festival, being held for the third time, from the 10th to the 12thof August, featuring daily concerts and performances all around the town.
Although you won’t get a native of Helsinki to agree, Turku is a fine city. The original capital of Finland and the country’s oldest city, it developed along the banks of the river Aura, and became the centre of Finnish medieval life thanks to the beautiful Cathedral of Turku, consecrated in 1300, the Dominican monastery and Turku Castle, the oldest surviving medieval castle in the Nordic countries. Along with the rich cultural heritage that captivates visitors, Turku also gives access to the incredible Finnish archipelago, a network of thousands of islands stretching all along the southern Finnish coast, many of which are interlinked via an uncomplicated network of bridges and roads.
Turku boasts a rather packed summer calendar of events, that begins with the opening of the Vaakahuone Pavilion for it’s Summer Jazz season in May, where you can enjoy traditional Jazz, Swing and Dixieland right until the 2nd of September. On the 9th and 10th of June the city hosts Seikkisrock – a rock festival specifically for children held in Kupittaa’s Adventure Park. Turku’s ancient history can be appreciated from the 28th of June to the 1st of July when it has the annual Medieval Market, a chance to cheer on knights on horseback, buy from the stalls, and see the craftsmen working their arts. From the 6th to the 8th of July Ruissalo National Park becomes the setting for the oldest rock festival in Europe, Ruisrock, which always boasts a great lineup of international and national stars and a mix of rock and pop. Later in July, from the 24th to the 29th, Finland’s oldest city festival Down By The Laituri is centred around the Turku City Theatre on the east bank of the Aurajoki, a multi-culture event that will feature plenty of rock and pop concerts in the giant tent in The Alue. From the 9th to the 18th of August classical music lovers can enjoy the Turku Music Festival, with a programme that will include major orchestral concerts, chamber music, opera, recitals, jazz and concerts for the whole family. The Night of Arts in Turku, a versatile cultural event, takes place on the 16th of August.
One of the oldest towns in Finland, Naantali is referred to as the Sunshine Town by Finns, and is one of the most visited in the country, attracting visitors from around the world every year. The reasons for it’s popularity are not hard to find – despite it’s small size, Naantali is home to Moominworld and the Adventure Island Väski, making it an ideal destination for families with children, as well as Kultaranta, the summer home of the President, the palatial Louhisaari Manor and Nantaali Spa, which is the largest spa resort in the Nordic countries. Visitors to Naantali will find a long promenade with restaurants overlooking the harbours and the archipelago beyond, an Old Town packed with galleries and artisan workshops, and the beautiful Naantali Church that dominates the landscape.
Naantali is very much a harbour town, so it’s hardly surprising that the first two major events of the summer are related to seafaring – the Naantali Boat Show in the guest harbour from the 25th to the 27th of May, and the Naantali Boat Fair held from the 30th of May to the 3rd of June. From the 5th to the 16th of June the town hosts the Naantali Music Festival, with a programme that consists of more than 20 top class concerts, held in the old Convent Church and in a number of smaller churches in the neighbouring region. This annual festival of chamber music features night concerts, cruises, concerts with a dinner in Naantalin Kaivohuone, concerts in the park, and a concert in Theatre Emma on the Moominworld island. Throughout the summer, from the 1st of June until August 31st, visitors will enjoy seeing the ancient Drummer and Vesper tradition. At 7.55 every evening, Trumputtuja, the Drummer, arrives by the corner of Kaivohuone and starts drumming the old score that back to the 19th century. At 8pm, the vesper is played 3 times, to 3 different directions, from the Church tower. The nearby area of Merimasku hosts it’s annual Traditional Summer Festival on the 1st of July, and holds a day of traditional jazz with a 1930s vibe at Rantamakasiini on the 11th of July. The same area also hosts the annual Archipelago Culture Week from the 19th to the 28th of August.
The coastal town of Uusikaupunki has a proud maritime tradition that can be explored in the many museums and excellent harbours here. During the 19th century it was home to the second largest sailing fleet in Finland, and today visitors can still enjoy a flavour of those times on the Gaff Schooner Joanna Saturna or the majestic Brigantine Mary Ann. Uusikaupunki has managed to preserve it’s old town centre, a wooden housing district that dates to the 19th century. Visitors who take a stroll along the 4km Promenade of Cultural History will get to know the town’s past as it takes them by most of the historically important sites. For families with children a visit to the Myllymäki Windmill Park is recommended, where four historic windmills sit atop a hill with delightful gardens and an arboretum to relax in while the kids enjoy the well equipped playground.
The summer begins with the colourful and fragrant Kukkamessut, a flower fair that takes place on the 19th and 20th of May. From the 8th to the 10th of June, Uusikaupunki hosts the annual Merefesti, a fair by the sea with a weekend of festivities for all the family to enjoy. The following weekend, on the 16th and 17th, the town hosts it’s annual Boat Race, an exciting two days of speedboat racing in the sea. On July 11th the town hosts it’s Strawberry Carnival, and on the 15th and 16th visitors will throng the market place for the Antique Market. The first of the town’s two music festivals is the KarjuRock Festival, held from the 20th to the 22nd of July. This is followed by the Crusell Music Festival from the 21st to the 28th of July, an internationally acclaimed music festival dedicated to woodwind music which is combined with advanced master classes held by leading international artists. Uusikaupunki says goodbye to the summer on August 25th with Venetsialaiset, an end of summer festival replete with fireworks displays.
Pargas and the Archipelago: This region of Finland includes the eastern area of Kimito and Särkisalo, the western area of Pargas where the islands of Pargas, Nagu, Korpo, Houtskär and Iniö have been united into a single municipality, and the northern region which includes Taivassalo, Kustavi, Velkua and Rymättylä. The archipelago is extensive and diverse, the largest archipelago in the Baltic, with considerably more islands and rocky islets than people. Extending into the Baltic for 100 km south-west of Turku, it also includes the Archipelago National Park, with numerous natural and cultural treasures. The immense lighthouses of Bengtskär, Isokari and Utö in the outer archipelago are popular with tourists visiting on day trips, with plenty of ferry services connecting to the main islands.
The first big event of the summer in the region is the Pargas Organ Festival from the 27th of June to the 1st of July, which is held in a number of venues including Parainen Church, Kuitia Mansion Castle, Naantali Convent Church and Parainen Parish House. From the 5th to the 8th of July the town of Dahlsbruk at the southern end of Kimito island hosts it’s annual Baltic Jazz Festival, three days of traditional jazz concerts in the historical ironworks milieu. This is followed by the Kimito Island Music Festival from the 10th to the 15th of July, which boasts a top class programme of chamber music, ranging from familiar classics to more contemporary compositions, with concerts held in the charming churches and atmospheric manor houses of Kimito Island and its outlying districts.
The Röylitti Open Air festival in Pargas on the 14th of July will feature a line up of Finnish rock and pop; originally set up as a filler day in 2010, the festival has become so popular that it is now a feature of the summer calendar in Pargas. The Sibelius in Korpo festival takes place from the 22nd to the 24th of July, with it’s opening concert being held in Korpo Mansion. This is followed with an anniversary cruise on the schooner Linden, and the festival ends with a full symphony orchestra playing in Korpo church. No sooner has the classical music festival come to an end than the Korpo Sea Jazz festival begins, from the 25th to the 28th of July. This festival has been held since 1990, and this year concerts will take place in Nagu harbor, Korpo market square and Utö. Houtskär becomes the centre of festivities from the 10th to the 12th of August when it hosts Wiinit Pelimannit, a folk music festival packed with concerts and dances and with over 50 musicians taking part. Nauvo hosts it’s annual September Festival on the 15th – last year it entered the Guinness Book of Records® for having the longest table in the world. Finally, the summer season is brought to an end on the weekend of the 16th and 17th of August, when the West Blues Festival takes place in Pargas, Nagu and Korpo.