Virtual Helsinki platform powers gaming-inspired virtual May Day concert, as city looks to the future of online events

Finnish rap stars JVG to perform in first-ever virtual May Day concert, as Helsinki remains in lockdown

Inspired by the success of gigs in gaming platform Fortnite, the city has partnered with local VR specialists Zoan to bring citizens together as avatars in the city square on the capital’s most popular holiday

Virtual Helsinki, the Nordic capital’s digital twin, has been in development for two years, and is already in use in sustainable travel initiatives

As COVID-19 crisis lengthens, the May Day celebration is just the first innovation in Helsinki’s digital offer for visitors, arts and business

On Thursday 30th April, The City of Helsinki is celebrating its annual May Day holiday by inviting citizens to participate in a virtual celebration with one of the country’s popular artists. Powered by the city’s Virtual Helsinki digital twin, Fullsteam Agency and developer Zoan’s Burst Live technology platform, citizens of the Nordic capital can tune in with a smartphone or computer, choose an avatar and see JVG – the most streamed band in Finland – perform from the iconic Senate Square, interacting with the sports rap stars with gestures, applause and emojis that the band will see in real time.

Taking inspiration from a gig in Fortnite by DJ Marshmello, the experience is the most ambitious use of the Virtual Helsinki platform to date. The partnership is designed to make the experience as accessible as possible – VR headsets are not required – and keep citizens safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

“May Day is one of the largest public holidays of the calendar year, normally bringing together many of Helsinki’s 650,000 residents to celebrate. This year will be a very different May Day as we are forced to celebrate apart. However, even though we won’t be physically together, we can still enjoy May Day as a community, together in spirit,” said Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.

The result of two years of development and investment in a digital twin, paired with the city’s open-data policies and an ongoing partnership with Zoan, Virtual Helsinki demonstrates the possibility of VR for citizen and visitor experience, and how they can bolster a city’s resilience to global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is actively developing the platform to host a number of events: from art, music, city landmarks and attractions, business to business events and international conferences.

“The world will be a very different place post-COVID-19 and cities needs to be innovative when it comes to creating new ways to provide experiences. Helsinki wants to be the city that pioneers this digital innovation to create solutions. Virtual Helsinki demonstrates the opportunities for this kind of technology to change how we experience cities and destinations in the future,” said Jan Vapaavuori.

In addition to May Day, the Virtual Helsinki initiative has recreated experiences of the city’s most famous landmarks through virtual reality to provide an opportunity for Helsinki to be experienced without the dependence on carbon intensive travel.

While VR and 360-degree videos are used as a marketing tool by many destinations, Virtual Helsinki goes a step further, allowing visitors to move about freely in the digital simulation of Helsinki to explore at their own pace and create their own experiences in past, present and future time.

Through this virtual city, users can experience different parts of Helsinki, as well as participate in activities such as concert, exhibitions, meetings, and events. Virtual travellers can visit the historical centre of Senate Square, the home of famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and archipelago island Lonna Island. Destinations and landmarks will be added to the experience over the coming months including Vallisaari Island.

Virtual Helsinki is a major initiative forming one part of the City of Helsinki’s overarching digital strategy, which sets ambitions for the city to become the virtual capital of the world. The initiative is the culmination of a longstanding partnership with Helsinki-based studio Zoan. A digital twin of Helsinki has been built in Unreal Engine using 3D modelling from open data provided by the city, Zoan merged this with a series of drawings, hand-crafted modelling and imagery to create one of the world’s most realistic VR experiences. Zoan was awarded second prize at the 2019 Unreal Awards: Experience Design for the design of Virtual Helsinki.

Helsinki, which was crowned as the most innovative region in the EU by the European Commission in 2019 and awarded the European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019, is at the forefront of utilising digital innovation to create democratic and sustainable solutions for people to experience all Helsinki has to offer.

Helsinki has ambitious goals in the pioneering and promoting of sustainable tourism, aiming to become a carbon neutral city by 2035. In developing Virtual Helsinki, Helsinki recognises the unique role that cities play in creating solutions to enable changes in lifestyles to address the global climate crisis.

In the future, Virtual Helsinki will also serve as a digital platform that will enable service providers to run their businesses through the platform.

The May Day concert can be experienced online on the below websites on Thursday 30th April from 5:00pm GMT +1 / 7:00pm EEST (global) (opportunity to create an avatar in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, UK and USA)

Virtual Helsinki, Sound of Seasons can be experienced on YouTube:

For more information, please contact:

Jukka Jänönen
Communications Manager, City of Helsinki
+358 400 127147

Ruby Kingsmill
Senior Account Manager
ING Media (London)
+44 7834 789 431
Helsinki Marketing is a company owned by the City of Helsinki. It is responsible for operative city marketing and business partnerships for Helsinki. Helsinki Marketing interacts with local residents, visitors, decision-makers and experts.

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City of Helsinki launches local sustainability programme in response to citizen concern about climate change


The Think Sustainably service empowers residents and visitors to make informed daily choices, rating the Finnish capital’s restaurants, attractions, shops and accommodation against bespoke sustainability criteria.

According to a survey1 carried out by the City of Helsinki in 2018, two thirds of residents identified the climate crisis as their major concern when thinking about the future of the city. In response, Helsinki has launched Think Sustainably, the world’s first online service that enables making sustainable choices as easy as using an app.

Think Sustainably provides residents, visitors and business owners with practical tools to rethink their daily behaviour and make more sustainable lifestyle and business decisions.

Services filtered through the online programme include restaurants, shops, events, experiences and accommodation, each benchmarked against tailor-made criteria developed by the City of Helsinki in collaboration with the independent think tank Demos Helsinki, local interest groups and sustainability experts. The service also includes a route planner feature that enables choosing emission-free transportation options to the wide variety of experiences on offer in the city. The route planner provides CO2 emissions in grams per person per trip. Currently gathering feedback from users, the Think Sustainably service is publicly available with plans to roll the programme out further and review its impact in 2020.

Cities house more than half of the world’s population and are responsible for over 70 per cent of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions (C40). The City of Helsinki recognises that cities are at the forefront of combating climate change and implementing innovative policies. The City is aware of the need of systemic change in habits and the programme is the latest initiative to support its 2035 carbon neutral target. In developing Think Sustainably, The City has recognised the unique role that cities play in creating solutions to enable change in everyday lifestyles to address the global climate crisis.

Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, the Director of the City of Helsinki’s Carbon Neutral Helsinki Initiative said:
“The shift towards carbon neutrality requires both major structural changes and everyday actions. Individual choices matter: According to recent studies, in order to stop further climate warming, every Finn should reduce their carbon footprint from 10.3 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes by the year 2030. If one person in each of the 2.6 million households existing in Finland would reduce their carbon footprint by 20 per cent, we would reach 38 per cent of the goals set for Finland in the Paris climate agreement for reducing emissions.”

*Survey source:

The process of developing the Think Sustainably service included researching the most significant factors of ecological sustainability related to different service categories. These dealt mostly with greenhouse emissions caused by energy production, the impacts of mobility and food, waste management, factors related to circular economy, protecting biodiversity, accessibility, and employment and preventing discrimination. The criteria encourage all the service providers to improve their action towards a sustainable way of operating and has already resulted in several service providers making changes such as switching energy and heating contracts to more environmentally friendly options. The aim of the criteria was also to be accessible to many different types of service providers because the City of Helsinki believes that everyone should have the opportunity to be part of a bigger wave of change.

Tia Hallanoro, Director of Brand Communications & Digital Development at Helsinki Marketing said:
“Locals in Helsinki are very concerned about climate crisis, over two thirds of us think it’s the most worrying thing affecting our future. Many feel frustrated that there’s nothing they can do to stop it. There’s a great demand for the frustration to be channelled into something productive that allows us to rethink our lifestyle and consumer patterns. As a service, Think Sustainably gives you concrete tools for that. We certainly need everybody on board.”

In June 2019, Helsinki was crowned as the most innovative region in the EU by the European Commission, and is a European Capital of Smart Tourism 2019. The City is the first European city and, the second globally (after New York) to report voluntarily to the UN on its implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and leads the way in experimenting with sustainable policies and initiatives. In addition to offering emission-free public transport options throughout the centre of the city, Helsinki is home to Flow Festival, one of the world’s leading carbon neutral music festivals; the Nordic region’s first zero waste restaurant Nolla, and non-profit foundation Compensate which was established to fight climate change by using compensation payments to donate towards international carbon sink projects.

Laura Aalto, CEO at Helsinki Marketing, said:
“Helsinki is the perfect test-bed for solutions that can later be scaled-up for the world’s megacities. Operating like a city-scale laboratory, Helsinki is eager to experiment with policies and initiatives that would not be possible elsewhere. The City is able to effect change in this way because of its compact size, well-functioning infrastructure and well-developed knowledge-economy cluster. Helsinki is not finished developing its sustainable policies but is ready to make systematic efforts, both big and small, which work towards achieving a more sustainable world, we hope that others can also learn from our experiments.”

The version of Think Sustainably launched in June 2019 is a pilot service and for now includes 81 participating service providers. The programme will be further developed to include a larger range of sustainable choices from restaurants to mobility.

You can find out more about Think Sustainably here:

Think Sustainably – Your Local Guide for Sustainable Helsinki

The Think Sustainably criteria – A Toolbox for a more Sustainable Lifestyle

For more information, please contact:

Laura Aalto
Helsinki Marketing (Helsinki)
+358 40 507 9660

Tia Hallanoro
Director Brand Communications & Digital Development
Helsinki Marketing (Helsinki)
+358 40 826 3130

Satu Lähteenoja
Senior Expert
Demos Helsinki (Helsinki)
+358 44 500 2993

Helsinki Marketing is a company owned by the City of Helsinki. It is responsible for operative city marketing and business partnerships for Helsinki. Helsinki Marketing interacts with local residents, visitors, decision-makers and experts.

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