A must in Helsinki this summer is the Tall Ships Races, which is held every four years in the Baltic Sea region. It brings together crews of young sailors from all over the globe in a spirit of tolerance and teamwork, with more than 30 nationalities represented. And more than 4 million spectators are estimated to turn out this year, according to Sail Training International, the group that organizes the four-port event.
After starting from Aarhus, Denmark, the gargantuan rigs will grace the Helsinki shoreline from July 17 to 20 at the Hietalahti Harbour. It marks the fourth time Helsinki has hosted the races (it was a port city in 1972, 1988 and 2000). Expect the already vibrant city to be buzzing with things to do, see and savor in celebration of the 114 huge wooden ships’ arrival.
One of the non-nautical attractions will be the food. Our pick: Fill up on unusual hot dogs from Pure Bistro’s pop-up restaurant, Pure Seadog. Wakame, kimchi and avocado come together in the VegeDog, while shrimp, egg and onion make up the ShrimpDog. For a more local flavor, try the SalmonDog, a combination of salmon, cucumber and smoked mayonnaise, or the RawDog, a wild treat of steak tartare, pickles and coffee mayo.
Don’t miss the Tall Ships in Colors, a fireworks show using colored smoke rockets (so you can see them in during the day, which is key since sunlight fills Helsinki for nearly 20 hours each day in the summer) that are fired off in sync with music. The backdrop of the ships creates a dramatic display. Watch out for this on July 19 at 9 p.m.
World-famous Finnish flamenco group Compañia Kaari Martin clap its hands, rolls its castanets and click its heels every day on the main stage at Hietalahti Market Square. Sharing the limelight are the Don Johnson Big Band with its electronic, funky, jazzy rock and the Von Hertzen Brothers with its prog-rock. Sinebrychoff Park is the playground for the kids; there they can enjoy circus acts, music and a jumping castle.
But the main event is, of course, visiting the ships, and it would be a pity not to board one of them. Most A and B class craft will be open for you to take a peek at the beauty and intricacies of their designs. Entrance, like everything else at this nautical extravaganza, is free.
To send the vessels on their way to Riga, Latvia (the next port on this year’s circuit; the final stop is Szczecin, Poland), the Parade of Sail brings a lump to the throat and makes you feel as if you’re part of history. Head to Suomenlinna Island’s southern and southwestern shorelines for the best viewing spot.
Photos courtesy of Jubilee Sailing Trust and Kuva Kari Martiala