Winter time always seems to make our thoughts turn to Lapland, Lapland in turn channels in thoughts of Finland and before long, we’re looking through all the deals out there to visit on of our favourites parts of the world.
Our experiences in Finland have been positively shaped by having Finnish friends who we visit and who know the very best places to see and the best activities to get up and so, while Finland is typically associated (in our minds, at least) to winter, snow and the capital city of Helsinki, there are so many other amazing cities and towns you have to see when you’re in Finland.
The capital of Lapland (and the home of Santa Claus) is the perfect base to organize your trip into the wilder realms of Finland’s most remote province (and to tell Santa what you really want). Rovaniemi is located on the Arctic Circle, a fact that is exciting in itself and more than enough reason in itself to visit.
This ancient town is the cultural and historical center of one of Finland’s most beautiful regions – Savo. Located at Lake Saimaa, there are tons of things to do. This city is also a perfect place to explore the seemingly infinite waterways of Eastern Finland.
The medieval town of Porvoo is actually quite close Helsinki (approximately 30 miles) and definitely worth visiting if you’re popping into Helsinki. The historical old town boasts lots of pretty, colourful traditional houses which are an amazing sight to see. Porvoo is also famous for its countless interior design shops and always has been a favourite among many Finnish artists.
Mariehamn, capital of the autonomous province of Aland, is the perfect base for exploring the thousands of skerries, islands and their unspoilt nature.
One of the most famous Finnish pastime is, without doubt, spending quality time in the sauna. Time spent in Salla is a great way to get an authentic sauna experience by enjoy the relentless sauna heat and afterwards, going swimming in the ice-cold, crystal clear lake – naked. As Salla is actually in Lapland, there are tons of other great winter activities here, so make sure you stay for a few days to experience them all.
Vaasa used to be located 6 km further South before it completely burned down in 1852. Today, its old ruins are part of a National Park and open for exploration. Random fact: Vaasa is actually a bilingual town with almost a quarter of the population speaking Swedish. Close by there is the impressive Söderfjärden crater, created by a meteor millions of years ago, that is worth visiting.
Oulu is one of the most Northern cities in the world and a Finnish treat to visit in the midst of winter. It’s also a great base to have if you want to see the Northern Lights properly though you’d have to drive out of the city (to avoid the inevitable light pollution that comes with every city).
Lappeenranta lies at the southern end of Lake Saimaa and was originally founded by Queen Christina of Sweden. It’s famous for being a great place to visit during summer due to the nearby Lake Saimaa. The presence of this lakes of course comes with a whole host of fun activities to get up to in summer time. Lappeenranta is also a great place to be located for a day trip to the Russian town of Vyborg.
Turku is the oldest city in Finland and arguably one of the most important in Finnish history. A visit to this city would be the perfect way to immerse yourself in knowledge of Finnish culture, history and traditions.
Our first experience of Tampere was actually when we visited friends and we had such an amazing time we had to go back. It’s got a lovely city feel in that you have access to quite a lot of things with the charm and feel of a small town. The best time to visit in our experience are deep in winter (to make the most of that snow) and in the middle of summer where it gets quite hot, the sun’s out for ages and you can make use of the nearby lakes.
Of course no list of Finnish cities would be complete without the capital now, would it? As with Tampere, we’ve visited Helsinki in winter and in summer and summertime in Helsinki is definitely the best time to visit. The city is colourful, there’s so much to do and you’re never to far from nature either.