Most of the big-name bars in Helsinki are scattered along Uudenmaankatu and Eerikinkatu, a short walk southwest of the station. Café Bar 9 is a favourite with Helsinki movers and shakers.
Bars and clubs in Helsinki are concentrated southwest of the centre in the districts of Kamppi and Punavuori, particularly along Uudenmaankatu and Eerikinkatu, but there are more bars south of the railway station and north of the centre in the gritty but up-and-coming Kallio district. Locals are huge fans of the restobar concept - many venues start the evening as restaurants and transform into bars and clubs as the night wears on.
Note that nightlife in Helsinki in winter is very different to nightlife in summer. During the long days of summer, most bars set up summer terraces and nightlife spills out into the street, particularly around Mikonkatu. All venues close earlier during the cold, dark winters, but most will stay open as long as there are patrons in need of a beverage. One eccentric Finnish custom is outdoor dancing - open-air dances take place in summer in Vantaa, close to the airport.
Although Helsinki is one of the younger European capitals, it also bubbles with cultural activity. Theatre, classical music, dance and opera are celebrated with just as much enthusiasm as in Moscow or Rome, and Helsinki can draw on a long line of home-grown composers and playwrights dating back to the Russian and Swedish empires, including the famous Sibelius. The main cultural festivals take place in summer and autumn, but there are smaller productions throughout the year.
For the listings of upcoming events, contact the Finnish Theatre Information Centre (tel (09) 2511 2120) or pick up a copy of Helsinki This Week, published by the Helsinki Expert (www.helsinkiexpert.com) and available from the tourist office and tourist-oriented hotels, venues and restaurants. For tickets, contact the Ticket Theatre Information Centre (tel: 0600 11616; www.tiketti.fi) or Lippupalvelu Oy (tel: 0600 10800; www.lippupalvelu.fi), Finland's nationwide ticket retailer.