In summer the sun and warmth draw the people of Helsinki out of their homes. In autumn, it is the explosion of yellow, orange and red autumn colours. Many even refer to autumn as the ruska season, ruska is the local term for the autumn leaf colours. You might think that you will have to journey to a national park to observe this spectacular natural phenomenon, but Helsinki offers plenty of great opportunities to enjoy the season.
The parks in the Finnish capital are the best places to see autumn's golden foliage in the city. If you hop-off the bus at stop eighteen, near the Botanic Garden, you can easily make your way around Töölönlahti bay, especially the road Linnunlauluntie has many maple trees, which are dependable when it comes to showing off their impressive colours.
Sibelius Park over at stop ten on the sightseeing city tour, offers a birch grove as well as sculptures, a pond, fountain and plenty of benches to take a rest on and enjoy your surroundings. Kaivopuisto Park on the Baltic Sea waterfront also offers an abundance of trees which make the park shine with colour. Here you can also find restaurants, cafés and beautiful views out to see to the nearby islands.
Many Finns believe that you cannot understand the country or its culture without bathing in a sauna. These birch-lined steam houses have been central to the national identity for two thousand years. No matter the season, a sauna is always a good thing according to the Finns. It is a place to relax and clear your mind.
Real Finnish saunas are dimly lit, there's no music or smells except for fresh birch and natural tar. The heat in the sauna comes from the steam created by pouring water on hot rocks. There are no rules for how often you should throw more water on the stove. Just check with the others sharing the sauna with you, when you feel like another wave of steam if they agree, and go for it.
In Finland, autumn is the time to enjoy fresh local food found both above and below the ground. A typical Finnish autumn dining table offers an indulgence of delicious seasonal tastes that utilise the abundance of fresh ingredients on hand. In Finland almost everything is in season in autumn. There are fresh, good-quality vegetables, hunting season for different kinds of game starts and there is plenty to forage for.
During summer many spent time plucking strawberries and blueberries, these will even still be available at the food markets in early autumn but it doesn't take long for them to be outnumbered by black currants and lingonberries. Throughout the fall season, the forest floors are rich with mushrooms. The available varieties actually increase during autumn and the last mushrooms often come from beneath the first layer of snow.
Not every day during autumn in Helsinki is a great day to be outside and watch the foliage. Some days can be wet and even a little dreary. Luckily the city is home to around 80 museums, covering everything from art and design, to architecture and culture. Many of the museums have cafés or restaurants where you can get off your feet for a bit and absorb all you’ve seen on your visit to Helsinki.
Some of the Helsinki's best museums include Kiasma, Helsinki's museum of contemporary art; the National Museum of Finland, where you can learn more about Finland's history; Designmuseo, where you can find anything from old Nokia mobile phones to the Angry Birds game; and the Ateneum Art Museum, which is the home of Finnish art.
The start of autumn in Helsinki is usually celebrated with massive firework displays, including one at Linnanmäki Amusement Park. These are just the start though as in September and October the Northern Lights reach all the way to the country's capital, Helsinki. On clear nights you can try to view the natural phenomenon between 9 in the evening and 1 in the morning.
Observatory Hill or the numerous parks in the city are the best places to try, as there is a smaller chance of light pollution. Keep in mind that no one can control or predict the Auroras, and that in Helsinki they are usually only visible on one in every 20 days. Catching the Northern Lights can require patience and perseverance, though seeing the phenomenon is most definitely worth it.