Diverse drinking and nightlife in Helsinki ranges from cosy bars to specialist craft-beer and cocktail venues, and clubs with live music and DJs. In summer early-opening beer terraces sprout all over town. Some club nights have a minimum age of 20 or older; check event details on websites before you arrive.
Beer, Wine & Spirits
Finns drink plenty of olut (beer). Among the major local brews are Karhu, Koff, Olvi and Lapin Kulta. The big brands are all lagers, but there are a number of craft breweries and microbreweries that make excellent light and dark beers. Cider is also popular, as is lonkero, a ready-made mix of gin and fruity soft drink, usually grapefruit. Finns don’t tend to drink in rounds; everybody pays their own.
Beer, wine and spirits are sold by the state network, Alko. The legal age for drinking is 18 for beer and wine, and 20 for spirits. Beer and cider with less than 4.8% alcohol can be bought at supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores. If you buy cans or bottles, you pay a small deposit (about €0.20). This can be reclaimed by returning them to the recycling section at a supermarket.
Wine is widely drunk, but very pricey in restaurants. Sparkling wine is very popular in summer, and keep an eye out for locally made berry wines.
Other uniquely Finnish drinks include salmiakkikossu, which combines dissolved liquorice sweets with the iconic Koskenkorva vodka (an acquired taste); fisu, which does the same but with Fisherman’s Friend pastilles; sahti, a sweet, high-alcohol beer; and cloudberry or cranberry liqueurs.
The Finns lead the world in kahvi (coffee) consumption, downing more than 20 million cups per day – that’s around four each for every man, woman and child. While the distinctive standard Finnish brew can be found everywhere, smarter cafes and restaurants will have espresso machines. Cafes are ubiquitous, ranging from 100-year-old imperial classics to local roasteries and drip-filter specialists.
On Wednesday nights restaurants are busy, music is playing at all the nightspots, and bars are full – Finns are celebrating pikku lauantai: ‘little Saturday’.