October 4, 2023

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Review: Flow Festival 2023 is a nice city trip but oh my god, it’s so expensive

Review: Flow Festival 2023 is a nice city trip but oh my god, it’s so expensive

This past weekend, Festileaks was at Flow Festival 2023 in Helsinki, Finland. Lured by the unique headlines, we found ourselves in seventh heaven for festival-goers who love quality and a bit of luxury, and don’t mind paying the price for it. Flow is recommended for fans of indie, hip-hop, and city trips, but start saving right away.

Flow Festival 2023 is Finland’s premier alternative festival. Just like Primavera Sound in Barcelona and All Points East in London, for example, it’s a real city festival, and a showcase for Helsinki’s cultural and culinary scene. On a visit to the Finnish capital, we experienced three evenings full of unique shows, incredibly delicious food, a very sophisticated but somewhat tame crowd, and unprecedented drink prices.

Photo: Flow Festival/Sami Heiskanen

Unique reservations

From a Benelux perspective, the Flow Festival is particularly unique because Lined up. Every year the Finns offer a delicious alternative program that is somewhere between Best Kept Secret and Down The Rabbit Hole. Led by three international bigwigs and filled with high-quality indie, pop and hip hop music labels. Moreover, the festival always books a number of artists that you can’t see in the Low Countries.

In 2023, Blur, lorde, and wizkid appear at the top of the poster. The latter two are doing quite a few shows in Europe this summer – and not in the Benelux -, so Flow is instantly putting itself in the spotlight there. Other unique bookings include Canadian producer Kaytranada (also seen as support act for The Weeknd), new wave band DEVO (eight European shows only) and Swedish singer Seinabo Sey (one of two festivals in 2023). Add Suede, Caroline Polachek, Tove Lo, Nu Genea, and Moderat to that, and you end up with a great poster you could easily travel to Finland for.

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Photo: Flow Festival / Samuli Vienola

Helsinki: a wonderful city

The first drawback to the Flow Festival is that almost all of the international performances are not on the program until later in the evening. In the afternoon, there are mainly local talents, which is not very attractive to foreign visitors. Of course it’s very cool to see the crowd go crazy at ALMA, but the pop singer is actually the only Finnish artist in the lineup who has also broken through beyond national borders.

On the other hand: Flow is located in the center of Helsinki, and of course there is plenty to do in the rest of the city during the day. The Finnish capital isn’t a very touristy area, but it has a good number of good museums, plenty of shops, and a surprising number of restaurants and bars. Start the day with brunch in a trendy café, alternative vintage shops with wine bars in the afternoon, and make your way to the cool old factory grounds around 6pm for your favorite artists. The Flow Festival is really perfect to combine with a good city trip.

Photo: Flow Festival/Andrew Taylor

Champagne and sushi

Next drawback: It’s a very expensive city trip. A festival ticket costs €225 for three days, but that includes a mediocre afternoon and no nightly programme. But completely strange is the price of the wine. The cost of beer is more than one and a half times more than the average Benelux festival, because a 0.33 liter can of Lapin Kulta beer costs 7.90 euros. And you can also set aside 5 euros for soft drinks. For the Finns themselves, it doesn’t seem to matter much; They avidly stock up on bottles of wine and champagne that can be bought in multiples of dozens.

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A small exception to this is the food, which costs about the same as the Benelux festivals. And Flow really wins from that, because no other festival in the Netherlands or Belgium has food of this high quality. The ‘menu’ consists of popular Finnish restaurants indulging in sustainable vegetarian and fish dishes for the festival. Helsinki is clearly the place for the best tacos, falafel, and sushi (yes, really).

Photo: Flow Festival/Samuli Pentti

Young, modern Finns

Who are the visitors who will come to the Flow Festival? Especially young Finns. The people look nice and feel like a party and they are also there to watch. It’s clear that the crowd has paid a lot of attention to the festival’s attire and the industrial area has many places where it can be well photographed. In performances – with the exception of dance acts like Kaytranada and Nu Genea – unfortunately there is a lot of talk.

All in all, the atmosphere is good, but the crowd is not very prolific. The older Ranger has suddenly appeared with artists like Suede, DEVO and of course Blur, but overall he also seems hesitant. There are many festival-goers, and few foreigners (although everything is signposted in English). This is not entirely surprising: Flow is a well-organized city event for the people of Helsinki, but not too special in the world of international festivals.

Is it not advisable at all? Yes, for the adventurous festival fan with some cash left to see unique artists, the ‘menu’ is almost as important as the music, and he’s always wanted to take a trip to Helsinki. He will have an unprecedented time at Flow Festival.

What do you think of Flow Festival 2023?

Have your say on the Flow Festival 2023 report! Festileaks asks visitors at dozens of festivals across Europe for their opinions on six fixed categories of the festival experience as well as a score.

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In September, the festivals with the best marks will win the Festileaks, the festivals’ public awards.

come through

surround program

Festival grounds

eat drink

Price quality

Flow Festival logo

Flow Festival 2023



Helsinki, Finland

August 11-13, 2023

no longer available.