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Northern lights in Helsinki – any chance?

Northern lights in Helsinki – any chance?

Marveling bright, dancing northern lights in Helsinki? Fat chance, although not completely impossible.

Aurora borealis – nature's magic

Aurora borealis, aka northern lights, aka polar lights, aka revontulet in Finnish.

Let's not get into the science behind them but what they are in practice: nature's magnificent light show consisting of dancing waves of light, usually in green or yellow. The exotic sight that many tourists expect to see when they travel to Nordic countries.

You can see aurora around the Earth's poles. Because the topic of this blog is Helsinki, we'll focus on the aurora visible around the North Pole and the Arctic Circle.

Can you see northern lights in Helsinki?

Yes, but it's very unlikely. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, statistically there could be aurora borealis in the southern coast once a month – if the skies were clear and conditions perfect.

But in my experience, perhaps once or twice a year there's a real chance to see aurora borealis in Helsinki. At least that's when it's in the news.

The conditions have to be just right: sufficient solar activity, clear skies and darkness. And even so it's usually not blazing bright colors like you've seen in oversaturated pictures around the internet.

If you happen to be in Helsinki when there's a chance of northern lights sighting, here's what you want to do:

  1. Find an open place. You don't want anything obstructing your view.
  2. Go at nighttime and find a dark place. It has to be dark but that's sort of a given because the best time to see the lights is around midnight. You want to go somewhere where there's as little light pollution as possible.
  3. Look hard. It might be just a hint of light in the sky – yup, that's the aurora borealis in Helsinki.

Personal note: I've seen some vague northern lights in southern Finland twice in my life, and I've lived here 30+ years. I'm not sure if what I've seen would even qualify as seeing aurora borealis because they've been barely there. So, if you're lucky, you might get a glimpse even in Helsinki but to increase your chances you really need to head up north.

Where can I see northern lights in Finland?

To catch northern lights, you want to go north. The further up north, the better.

Helsinki is located on the southern coast of Finland, and the best area to get a glimpse of aurora borealis in Finland is in Lapland, which is the northern part of Finland, some 1 000+ km away from Helsinki.

If you're visiting Lapland and places like Rovaniemi, Kilpisjärvi or Levi, you have better chances of catching the celestial light show. But it's never granted, so don't be disappointed if you miss them.

When is the best time to spot aurora borealis?

In theory you could see northern lights all year around but the peak seasons are around solstices, in September-October and March. Because you need darkness to see the lights, summer in the north is simply too bright to see aurora borealis.

And the best time of day to stargaze is around midnight.



I'm Ella, your local insider in Helsinki. In this blog I share my best tips to make sure everyone gets to enjoy Helsinki to the fullest.

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Insider's Helsinki