The best nightlife in Helsinki, from karaoke bars to clubs with a view

Advice

Please note our writer visited Helsinki prior to the coronavirus pandemic

Lively, varied and ever-changing, central Helsinki’s nightlife offers plenty of options, whether you’re looking for an early evening aperitif, a relaxed chat with friends, a full-on karaoke session or some high-octane, late-night action on the dance floor. There’s only one caveat: prices are on the high side. 

Jazz Club Storyville

Numbered in one survey among the world’s best jazz clubs and open at weekends until early morning, Storyville is a favourite for night owls. The street-level music bar is convivial, extending to a terrace in the small park across the street in summer. Late night music is served up in the basement and mainly features high-quality traditional fare, and the place gets bouncing from around 11 pm. On two Saturdays a month, a disco theme takes over, with Seventies and Eighties music enjoyed by an energetic middle-aged crowd. 

Contact: 00 358 50 363 2664; storyville.fi 
Nearest Metro: Kamppi
Prices: ££
Getting in: Coat check fee for basement club.

Jazz, Helsinki, Finland

Late night music is served up in the basement and mainly features high-quality traditional fare

Credit:
Vershinin

Ravintola Juttutupa

Occupying a handsome granite block on the shoreline of a Baltic inlet in the traditionally working-class Hakaniemi district, this is one of Helsinki’s longest-established and most history-rich watering holes. For example, during his period in exile, Lenin could be spotted at the ‘Revolution Table’ plotting his return to Russia in 1917. There is a good pub menu with a selection of reasonably priced pizzas, salads and other dishes, and a good choice of local and imported beers. Wednesday and Saturday nights are free-entrance live-music nights, featuring jazz and blues and attracting a friendly left-field clientele with a wide age range.

Contact: 00 358 20 7424 240; juttutupa.fi 
Nearest Metro: Hakaniemi
Prices: ££
Getting in: Optional coat check, free entrance.

Juttatupa, Helsinki, Finland

You could find yourself sitting in the spot where Lenin planned his return to Russia at Juttutupa

Oluthuone Kaisla

A beer-lovers’ dream popular with students from the nearby University and after-work drinkers, accessed by two separate doors on different sides of the same block, Kaisla serves up hundreds of varieties of beers and ciders from Finland and beyond, as well as snacks, from its two bars. The piped music, when you can hear it above the buzz of conversation, tends towards popular rock. Board games are available for customers and it’s a spacious and handy venue for a post-cinema one-for-the-road, with tram stops on the doorstep and a metro station directly underneath. 

Contact: 00 358 10 76 63850; raflaamo.fi 
Nearest Metro: University of Helsinki
Prices: ££
Getting in: Free entrance, no coat check.

Sivukirjasto

Kallio, Helsinki’s ‘east end’, has a reputation for being a hipster magnet, but it’s more than that. You don’t need a long, well-trimmed beard to drink at Sivukirjasto in the heart of the district. A changing menu features local and imported brews and ciders. It’s not the biggest bar in town so in fine weather the punters spill out around the pavement tables. On brisker winter evenings, its intimate alcoves are a popular choice for small group gatherings, dog walkers, Trivial Pursuits enthusiasts and chess players. Board games, books and newspapers are available for customers to use and peruse.

Contact: 00 358 40 372 3603; sivukirjasto.fi
Nearest Metro: Hakaniemi
Prices: ££
Getting in: Free entrance, no coat check.

Winter Garden at Hotel St George

Focused on a homely fireplace and illuminated through a skylight, the Winter Garden describes itself as ‘your local living room’. Although not many homes would compete in terms of its elegant and restful design furniture, the bar, serving guests at the luxury Hotel St George as well as welcoming walk-in customers, has a wonderful air of accessible sophistication. In addition to the imaginative cocktail range, there is a full food menu and afternoon tea is on offer. It’s a relaxing venue for pre-dinner liaisons and post-dinner digestifs and – if you’re not actually staying here – an indulgent taste of Helsinki’s most luxurious hotel.

Contact: 00 358 9 4246 00 11; stgeorgehelsinki.com
Nearest Metro: Central Railway Station
Prices: £££
Getting in: Smart casual; free entrance.

Winter Garden at Hotel St George, Helsinki, Finland

The skylight and the fireplace at Winter Garden St George make for a relaxing pre- or post-dinner drink

Kaarle XII

Finns love to refer to established fixtures, whether a hotel, bar or restaurant, as ‘legendary’ by mere virtue of their longevity, but if any bar in town deserves the label, it’s Kaarle XII – or ‘Kalle’, in local shorthand. Especially popular with generally affluent late-night party people in their late 20s and 30s on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the length of the queue to get in will give you an idea of its popularity. Kalle is a labyrinth of bars culminating in two expansive upper-level halls for live acts and dancing. Be sure to admire the Jugendstil art nouveau details before you head to the bar.

Contact: kaarle.fi 
Nearest Metro: Central Railway Station
Prices: ££
Getting in: Coat check. Age limit 24 on Thurs-Sat. Be prepared to wait in line from 10 pm!

Maxine

With sparkling night-time urban rooftop views from its outdoor terrace atop the Kamppi Centre mall, the Maxine night club is party-central and the place to see and be seen at weekends for the younger set. It’s divided into three spaces: a relaxing lounge where conversation is possible, and two dance rooms, Sali and Kirjasto, where it’s more of a challenge. Music, fast and furious on the expansive dance floor, varies from Eighties and Nineties tunes to the trendiest contemporary and Latin rhythms. Uptown Friday’s playlist mixes Reggaeton, Afrobeats, rap and R&B, while Afro Sunday will distract you from the outdoor chill in winter. 

Contact: maxine.fi
Nearest Metro: Kamppi
Prices: £££
Getting in: Smart casual; coat check; see website for entry fees.

Helsinki, Finland

Don’t miss the rooftop views at Maxine

Harju8

Tucked darkly away in a crescent on one of Kallio’s seedier corners, Harju 8 itself (the name refers to the address) is anything but seedy. It’s a friendly bar and restaurant with simple wooden tables, staffed by an enthusiastic young crew, where you can happily dine for lunch or dinner (try the crispy pork, kale pasta or seafood) or perch at a bar stool to drink, or both. There’s even a flower shop on the premises, a nice and novel extra for birthday celebrations. One of Helsinki’s oldest public saunas is just around the corner.
 
Contact: 00 358 44 7258 248; harju8.fi
Nearest Metro: Sörnäinen
Prices: ££
Getting in: Casual; no reservations.

Harju8

Harju8 is a friendly, trendy bar and restaurant in Kallio

Woodshed Helsinki

Run by cheerful Aussies, this gastropub sits conveniently adjacent to a platform for trains to the airport and opposite Oodi, the showpiece central library. The Aussie theme is reflected in the faux rustic timbered décor, but its main attraction is as one of Helsinki’s best sports bars. There are plenty of big TVs, a big screen for major events, and a fair range of channels, although it’s best to check ahead if you have a particular match in mind. Steaks and burgers are served in ample portions, there’s a good range of drinks, and the website has details of happy hours and offers.

Contact: 00 358 44 7604 086; woolshed.eu
Nearest Metro: Central Railway Station
Prices: ££
Getting in: Casual; reservations possible for groups.

Woodshed

Woodshed is one of Helsinki’s best sports bars

Credit:
Paulo Pannuzzo

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