Finland is a fascinating part of Europe with a large variety of activities depending on whether it’s summer or winter – because there are certainly seasonal extremes here! It’s a country full of lakes and islands and incredible nature, as well as modern technology (hello, Nokia!) and indigenous culture, too. Here are ten travel tips for things to do in Finland, outside of the capital Helsinki.
My favourite part of Finland outside of Helsinki is Rovaniemi, largely because I had such a wonderful white Christmas experience there. It has a lot of tourist infrastructure (but without feeling over-touristy) and an exceptional museum in the Arktikum.
Snowmobiles in Rovaniemi by Amanda Kendle
Being close to the Russian border has given Lappeenranta quite an interesting history but as far as tourism goes its biggest attraction is actually a sandcastle! Artists build an enormous (and impressively decorated) sandcastle every summer at the harbour and there is family entertainment to go with it.
Sandcastle in Lappeenranta by Antti M
The Arctic Circle crosses Finland and very close to Rovaniemi – a short drive north, in fact. I visited Santa’s Village on the Arctic Circle and got a thrill both from being able to stand right on the Arctic Circle as well as meeting and chatting with Santa (and seeing his impressive post office – letters from all around the world really did make it there!).
Santa’s Village at the Arctic Circle by Amanda Kendle
For similar attractions to Rovaniemi, especially in winter – like tour operators offering snowmobile trips and activities like ice-fishing – then Kemi is a quieter alternative. It’s also part of Lapland and is famous for having a huge snowcastle built there each winter.
Church in Kemi by Amanda Kendle
If you don’t have time to stray too far from Helsinki, then a day trip to Porvoo is a great suggestion from Andy. It’s a picturesque town famed for its wooden houses, as well as some cosy riverboat restaurants.
House in Porvoo by ezioman
Turku was a capital of culture in 2011 and this injection of cash and attention has no doubt made a good city into a great one, at least from a visitor’s point of view! It’s the oldest city of Finland and highlights include Turku Castle, Turku Cathedral, Turku Art Museum and a number of smaller galleries.
Turku by Andrew3000
The Åland Islands are “kind of” Finland – they’re in fact an autonomous region of Finland and as a result have their own postage stamps, airline and even their own police force – and obviously their own unique culture too. They are great for relaxing and enjoying some excellent local foods.
Åland Islands by ezioman
In central Finland, the small stone Kajaani Castle claims the crown as Europe’s northernmost castle – as good a reason as any to visit, I say!
Kajaani Castle by vihannes
If you want to enjoy the lakes and islands of Finland then Savonlinna is a good choice – it’s a town that’s actually spread across several islands in Lake Saimaa. As well as enjoying being by the water, or cruising on it, you can also experience the popular Opera Festival if you time your visit right.
Savonlinna by Aken kuvia
Tampere’s actually the third-largest city in Finland so it’s an urban trip here, and it’s most interesting for music lovers. There are a number of big music festivals held in Tampere, including the Tammerfest with acts spread across 20 stages, the Sauna Open Air heavy metal festival and Blockfest for rappers and hip-hop artists.
Sauna Open Air by Hakan Karaoglu