2023 Finland Visitors Guide
Mainland Scandinavia’s most culturally isolated and least understood country, Finland has been independent only since 1917, having been ruled for hundreds of years by first the Swedes and then the Tsarist Russians.
Much of its history involves a struggle for recognition and survival, and it’s not surprising that modern-day Finns have a well-developed sense of their own culture, manifest in the widely popular Golden Age paintings of Gallen-Kallela and others, the music of Sibelius, the National Romantic style of architecture, and the deeply ingrained values of rural life.
Finland is mostly flat and punctuated by huge forests and lakes, but has wide regional variations. The South contains the least dramatic scenery, but the capital, Helsinki, more than compensates, with its brilliant architecture and superb collections of national history and art. Stretching from the Russian border in the east to the industrial city of Tampere, the vast waters of the Lake Region provide a natural means of transport for the timber industry – indeed, the water here is a more common sight than land.
Towns lie on narrow ridges between lakes, giving even major manufacturing centers green and easily accessible surrounds. North of here, Finland ranges from the flat western coast of Ostrobothnia to the thickly forested heartland of Kainuu and gradually rising fells of Lapland, Finland’s most alluring terrain and home to the Sami, the semi-nomadic reindeer herders found all over northern Scandinavia.
Top 10 Things to Do in Finland
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus, and how many of us still leave a couple of mince pies and a glass of sherry for our most beloved visitor? There is something magical in the air and it is a time for family, friends, and sharing, so why not make your children’s dreams come true and re-discover the magic of Christmas in Rovaniemi, Finland with our list of Top 10 Things to do in Finland this winter.
Visiting Santa Claus at his house in Finland
If you are traveling with young children then your first stop has to be the Santa Claus Village. Learn more about how the elves, who fear Santa’s secret location created a village to protect his whereabouts and to give the people of the world a chance to meet Santa in person. But Santa has a special mission that doesn’t involve presents; he is an ambassador, ensuring the well-being of children and the promotion of kindness in adults as well as spreading the message of peace and goodwill.
But it’s more than just meeting Santa Claus, you have to visit his Post Office where your children can send letters to their friends knowing that it has been processed by elves and stamped with the Post Offices’ very own stamp. Visit Santa’s house and learn more about Finland’s Christmas traditions as well as Christmas traditions from all over the world. And, if that’s not enough a visit to Santa’s park will allow your young ones to mix with elves and other magical creatures as they go about their daily business. The attractions are open all year round, although opening times vary. For more information please visit www.santaclausvillage.info
Who says you cannot fish while you are on holiday? If you are a keen angler then this is the trip for you. Head out on a snowmobile through the forests and stunning countryside as you make your way to the frozen lake Ounasjoki. There you will embark on your traditional fishing adventure.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor as you grill your catch on an open campfire and sit back and chatter to other keen anglers. There are several companies offering this experience and on average trips take approximately 3.5 hours and cost in the region of €130 for adults. For more information please visit www.laplandsafaris.com
Watching the Northern Lights from inside a glass igloo
What better way to see the Northern Lights than from inside a warm and cozy igloo? The igloo village is located away from the main hotel on the shores of the Lehtojärvi Lake so that your view will not be affected by artificial lights, and if you are worried about sleeping through nature’s premier light show, don’t be as the Aurora alarm will wake you and all you have to do is open your eyes and watch the show. Even the beds have been created so that you can change their position for optimum viewing comfort. Want a romantic break? Then this is the place to come. The glass igloos are available from 30th November to the 31st of March and more details can be found at www.articsnowhotel.fi
You cannot visit Lapland without visiting a husky and having a truly interactive experience with them. But it is not just sled riding, although that is an important part of it, but for those who fancy something a little slower there are opportunities to go hiking with huskies. However, for those who want a real thrill; the Jenga and Autumn Thrill rides are fast and exhilarating. Other tours include longer morning, afternoon and overnight wilderness tours. Prices vary depending on the tour and which company you use. Husky Park www.huskypark.fi and Bearhill Husky Tour www.bearhillhusky.com
Reindeer Safari Lapland
Continue with the magic and take a reindeer safari and if you need to unwind and de-stress this is the perfect tonic for you as you are driven through snowy forests and plains. If you’re wondering about feeling a little chilly, don’t be as you get to stop off and partake in either a glass of hot Glögi or Lappish coffee, cookies, and even hot grilled sausages.
Weather permitting you can enjoy the Northern lights and feed the reindeer. There are several companies offering reindeer safaris and prices typically start at €146 for adults and €98 for children. For further information contact Santa Claus Reindeer at www.reindeersafari.fi, Lapland Safari www.laplandsafari.com and Safartica at www.safartica.com
Fancy horsepower over hoof or paw power, then snowmobiling is for you. With a wealth of tours available, you are spoilt for choice and there is literally something for everyone. Why not combine your snowmobile tour to take in a reindeer farm or husky park, ice fishing or simply be enthralled at the unconquerable beauty of the surrounding countryside? If you are feeling really adventurous why not choose a moonlit ride while searching for the Northern Lights? Both Lapland Safaris www.laplandsafaris.com and Snowmobile Park www.snowmobilepark.com offer an interesting program of events.
Crossing the Arctic Circle
This is a must; no matter how old you are. You can hop, skip, jump, step, cartwheel, and even cross the clearly marked Arctic Circle line underground. And yes, you can even request a certificate to prove that you’ve done it! Rumor has it, that your worries and cares simply melt away the further north you go.
You may not want to put it to the test but simply laughing and having fun as you cross will make you feel young again. If you’re feeling really fit why not take advantage of the Arctic Hiking area and explore this magical area either by ski or snowshoe?
Ranua Wildlife Park
You cannot visit the Arctic Circle without learning a bit more about the animals that inhabit it. The Ranua Wildlife Park is one of the most northern zoos in the world and where you will get the opportunity to see 50 arctic animal species including Arctic Fox, Dhole, Eagle Owls, Grey Wolves, Lemmings, Moose, Wolverine, and many more.
Nursing, rehabilitation, and protection are key principles to the zoo and through their education program, hope to heighten the awareness of arctic species and their struggle for survival. The zoo is open daily but prices and times vary depending on the season. For further information please go to www.ranuazoo.com
Arktikum Science Museum
Is a must for all those interested in Rovaniemi and Upper Lapland from prehistoric times. The exhibition covers stories about the old houses of Rovaniemi and popular beliefs and superstitions about the brown bear and the Eurasian elk. Climate change and its effect on the area are covered in depth, The exhibition also includes a cold room which is lined with blue ice, and the Aurora Borealis theatre where you can lay back and watch an animation of the northern lights on the ceiling.
Other exhibitions detail man’s interrelation and survival in the north and include dioramas, photos, cultural artifacts, costumes, and examples of local flora and fauna and is great fun for all the family. As with most attractions, opening times depend on the time of year and tickets cost €12.00 for adults, €5.00 for children aged between 7-15 years of age, €8.00 for senior citizens, and €28.00 for a family ticket. Further details about the exhibitions can be found on www.arttikum.fi. And if your children have enjoyed this they will love the interactive Pilke Science Centre.
Much of Rovaniemi was destroyed during 1944 including the original church. The new Church is beautifully designed and decorated and well worth a visit, as its stunning 14-metre fresco Elämän lähde (The fount of Life) and the 4000 pipe organ are simply majestic. In fact, if you have a day spare you should explore Rovaniemi, its architecture and just soak up the local atmosphere.
Time permitting and if you are visiting between April and September, you should make time to visit the haunting and aesthetically beautiful German Soldier Cemetery, although situated 18km from the city, it is a must for all those interested in Finland’s history, especially through the war years.
So why not make Christmas extra special, all year round? You have time till March to plan your trip to Finland and extend your Christmas celebrations.
Best Destinations in Finland
From its stunning lakes to its vibrant nightlife, Finland has something to offer every traveler. Here are the top destinations you won’t want to miss while visiting this beautiful country:
The capital of Finland, Helsinki is a modern city that still boasts architectural marvels from its Neoclassical past. Explore a variety of museums and galleries, or take in some excellent live music at the iconic Tavastia Club. And be sure to experience the bustling nightlife!
When visiting Helsinki, a must-see attraction is the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. Built in 1748, this is one of the largest sea fortresses in the world and contains several historic sites, including six museums dedicated to Finland’s maritime heritage. Visitors to Suomenlinna can explore the fortress walls and discover fascinating stories about its long history.
The waterfront area of Kaivopuisto Park is another highlight. This 3 km stretch of beach has a wonderful promenade lined with cafes and restaurants, making it great for people-watching or just taking a stroll along the coastline. Tourists can also take boat rides to get a better view of the stunning harbor skyline.
For art lovers, Helsinki also has plenty to offer. The National Museum of Finland houses an impressive collection of artwork from the Middle Ages to the modern day, while the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art displays work from some of the country’s most talented creators. If you’re looking for even more culture, then don’t miss a visit to the Design Museum, which showcases iconic Finnish design from the past and present.
Located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is best known as the home of Santa Claus himself! Visit his village just outside of town to meet him all year round. During midsummer, you can expect a treat – don’t forget to stay up late for an unforgettable view of the Midnight Sun.
The city is home to a variety of activities such as husky sledding, reindeer rides, and even a Santa Claus Village where visitors can meet Santa himself! Popular attractions include the Arktikum Science Museum, Ranua Zoo, and the Ounasvaara Ski Resort. There are also plenty of places to eat, shop, and relax in Rovaniemi’s bustling city center.
For those looking to get away from it all, Rovaniemi is the perfect place to escape and experience nature. From hiking trails and campgrounds near the city center to pristine lakes and national parks just a short drive away, there is something for everyone here. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adventurer at heart, Rovaniemi is sure to have something that will capture your imagination.
Famed as Finland’s “Manchester,” Tampere combines industrial heritage with a vibrant student population. Enjoy the city’s unique art scene – factory owners used to provide culture to their employees during its heyday, and now those same works are kept alive by the energetic students.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Tampere offers stunning views of the nearby lake district and rugged landscape. From leisurely walks along the waterfront to more adventurous hikes in the region, there are plenty of ways to appreciate the beauty of nature here. The city also has numerous parks and sports facilities for those seeking more active pursuits.
Those looking to experience local culture should head to Tampere’s many museums and galleries. Here, visitors can explore the works of renowned Finnish artists, view historical artifacts dating back centuries, and even take part in interactive exhibits. Visitors can also sample the flavors of Finland with traditional restaurants serving up authentic dishes from all corners of the country.
The nightlife scene in Tampere is also lively, with pubs, bars, and nightclubs on nearly every corner. With everything from live music venues to chic cocktail lounges, travelers can find plenty of spots to let loose after exploring the city during the day.
Savonlinna’s Opera Festival
Opera aficionados shouldn’t miss the famous opera festival held in Savonlinna every July! With tickets selling out quickly, make sure to reserve yours as soon as possible. And don’t forget to bring extra cash – tickets may be pricey but that’s because they include some amazing shows. When the festival is over, relax and enjoy the quiet town draped across multiple islands.
Throughout the Opera Festival, guests can enjoy both modern and classical operas by acclaimed international artists as well as traditional Finnish folk performances. In addition to spectacular live music, visitors can take part in workshops and masterclasses with vocal coaches, composers, conductors and other professionals in the field. Guests will also find plenty of opportunities to explore the area beyond the festival grounds. From lakeside hikes and unique cafes to historical museums and art galleries, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Lake Region
Finland’s serene lake region offers natural wonders aplenty, with 187,888 lakes making it truly a paradise. Check out Punkaharju Ridge for breathtaking views and the freshest air in the world. A great place for fishing, swimming, and exploring Finland’s lake region will make your vacation truly special.
From enjoying delightful fishing opportunities to hikes around some of the finest natural landmarks, there is something to experience in the Lake Region for everyone. Lovers of history and culture should make sure to visit Rautalampi, a stunning lake town featuring traditional houses and museums full of local artifacts. If you’re looking for adventure, head over to Sipoonkorpi National Park, where you can find gravel roads perfect for biking or off-road driving.
The region also offers exquisite cuisine options such as lake perch and whitefish dishes, salmon soup, and delicious smoked reindeer pies. For those who are interested in Finnish art and literature, nearby Kuopio is the birthplace of beloved guest author J. L. Runeberg and hosts a spectacular array of galleries and street murals.