15 must-see places to visit in Finland
Finland is a small country, but you can explore it endlessly. Each trip will be a discovery of this country from a new side. Where to start exploring Finland? We have selected for you the top 15 most interesting cities and regions that you should see first.
Finland. Photo: alltop10.org
It is the largest city of Suomi, where live more than 630 thousand people. The city was founded on June 12, 1550 by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, but only in 1812 he became the capital of Finland. Located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, this city is considered one of the coldest capitals in the world: the average annual temperature here is only about + 5 C. Helsinki is situated on about 300 islands and its main attractions are St. Nicholas Cathedral designed by Carl Ludwig Engel, Assumption Cathedral – the largest orthodox cathedral in Western Europe and Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) Fortress. Helsinki is the only city in Suomi, where there are streetcars and subways. The largest museums of the country are concentrated here – for example, the famous throughout Europe Kiasma, the art museum Ateneum, the Helsinki City Museum, which you can visit for free. Helsinki is famous for its design district and amusement park Linnanmᾃki. Only here you will see a unique church in the rock, an innovative monument to Sibelius made of metal pipes. Countless music and art festivals do not let anyone get bored in the capital.
Daily trips from St. Petersburg to Helsinki
- Comfortable buses or minibuses
- Booking by phone +7 (812) 501-82-10
- Cost from 1600 rubles
Tampere is located in the Pirkanmaa Province in southern Finland. It was founded in 1775 by the Swedish King Gustav III. Tampere is famous for its amusement park Särkänniemi with the highest observation platform in Suomi on the Näsinuella tower, the cathedral of the early 20th century with unique frescos by famous Finnish artists, and also a “collection” of more than 20 amazing and unique. Among the latter are the Espionage Museum, the Lenin Museum, the Mummy Troll Museum, the Police Museum, the Sara Hilden Art Museum and many others. By the way, the Finns themselves consider Tampere the most attractive place in Suomi to live.
Näsinuella Tower at night
Daily trips from St. Petersburg in Tampere
- Comfortable buses or minibuses
- Booking by phone +7 (812) 501-82-10
- Price from 2300 rubles
It is located in the North of Finland and most of it is above the Arctic Circle. It is the largest reindeer breeding region in Europe – there are about 200 thousand reindeer, taken care of by more than 6 thousand reindeer herders. Lapland is a cultural and linguistic autonomy within Suomi, which has its own capital, Rovaniemi. In this northern region live the Lapps (better known in Russia as the Lapps), one of the indigenous peoples of Suomi with its unique language, customs and traditions. The most popular attractions in Lapland are Arctic Rainua Zoo, Santa Claus Village, which is the official residence of Finnish Santa Claus Jolupukki, and of course the Northern Lights. By the way, the latter can be seen in the Lapland sky during 150-200 nights a year.
Northern Lights in Lapland
Tours to Lapland from St. Petersburg
- Comfortable buses and trains
- Santa Claus Village
- Cost from 11 285 rubles
Porvoo is located in the region of Eastern Uusimaa in southern Finland. This is the second oldest and one of the most beautiful cities in Suomi. Founded in 1346, Porvoo has preserved its narrow medieval cobblestone streets and the old barns along the Porvoonjoki River painted red, and the 15th century Lutheran Cathedral with its patterned roof, where in March 1809 the Russian Tsar Alexander I proclaimed Finland an autonomous Grand Duchy within Russia. Porvoo is also famous for the pastry store of the Brunberg chocolate factory, which sells the most delicious chocolates in Finland, the house-museum of the famous Finnish poet Rueneberg, who spent many years in Porvoo, and the well-preserved colorful wooden houses of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The medieval streets of Porvoo
Daily trips from St. Petersburg to Porvoo
- Comfortable buses or minibuses
- Booking by phone +7 (812) 501-82-10/
- Price from 1 600 rubles
A city in the region of South Savo in Eastern Finland, founded by the Swedes in 1475. Savonlinna is often called the Venice of Finland, as more than 40% of the city area is occupied by lakes and rivers. The main attraction of the city – medieval castle Olavinlinna, 15th century, in the walls of which every summer takes place the famous all-European opera festival.
Olavinlinna Medieval Castle
6. Lake Saimaa
Saimaa is the largest lake system in Scandinavia, the fourth largest lake in Europe and the first largest lake in Finland. There are 13,700 islands in Saimaa and the length of its coastline is nearly 15,000 km. It is connected to Finland’s bay by the Saimaa Canal, which was built in 1856. Today it is Finland’s main waterway, and also a popular cruise route. During such a cruise you can admire the work of locks and rocky landscapes. On Saimaa stand cities such as Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Savonlinna, a favorite among tourists. On Saimaa, you can rent a cottage, go fishing, canoeing, bajdarka, boating or yachting. In any of the towns of Saimaa you can rent a board for SUP-surfing. In winter, fishing, ice skating, snowmobiling and floating in ice water (swimming in wetsuits) can also be practiced on Saimaa.
Saimaa Lake System
A city and port located in southwestern Finland at the confluence of the Aurajoki River into the Archipelago Sea. It is the fifth most populous and the oldest city in Finland. Founded in the 13th century and the former capital of Finland until 1812, Turku is famous for its Cathedral, the well-preserved 13th-century Abos Castle, and the Luostarinmaki Ethnographic Open-Air Crafts Museum. Turku is also officially regarded as Finland’s Christmas capital, with the annual installation of Finland’s main Christmas tree and the largest and most beautiful winter market.
8. Åland Islands
One of the most fascinating regions of Suomi.They are located on an island archipelago between Sweden and Finland, at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia of the Baltic Sea. Considering all the small skerries and rocks, the composition of Åland has more than 50,000 islets, and 90% of the population here speaks Swedish. Mariehamn, the capital and only city of the archipelago, is named after Russian Empress Maria Alexandrovna. In Åland, live less than 30 thousand people, but every year the islanders come to more than 2 million tourists to visit the Mariehamn Museum of Sailing, ride bicycles and motorcycles along the scenic trails, fishing for their pleasure and just enjoy the unhurried island life.
9. Koli National Park
Located in eastern Finland in the province of North Karelia. Here you can find the most beautiful place of Finland – the highest peak Ukko-Koli 347 meters above the sea level, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the blue surface of Lake Pielinen and the gentle sloping hills covered with pine forest. According to legend, the famous Finnish composer Jan Sibelius ordered his grand piano to the top of Ukko-Koli and composed music there. According to legend, this is where he composed the future anthem of Finland. Also in Koli Park is a 34-meter narrow cave of a strange shape called “Devil’s Church”, old farms Ollila and Mattila, many beautiful hiking trails and places for picnics and fishing.
Free entertainment in Finland
In any trip, it is interesting to visit as many places as possible, but spend as little money as possible. Even though many activities in Finland have become quite expensive since the Euro jump, it is possible to have a great time without paying a cent.
Koli National Park
10. Oulanka National Park
Located in northern Finland, in Lapland and Northern Ostrobothnia. It is famous for its rough river rapids, pine forests, rugged rock canyons, high hills and landscapes that resemble the wilderness of the Yukon, Alaska and Canada. The famous 80 km long Karhunkierros Bear Circle hiking trail runs through Oulanka Park for a 4-6 day trip. Along the trail, you can see some of the most beautiful scenery in Oulanka and, as the name promises, you can also see bears, wolverines and lynxes.
Oulanka National Park
The sixth largest city in Suomi, as well as the capital of Northern Finland and at the same time the oldest city in the region. Founded in 1605, Oulu stands at the confluence of the Ouluijoki River into the Gulf of Bothnia. The city is famous for its seafood restaurants, bohemian atmosphere, unique museum of northern Ostrobothnia, the northernmost Symphony Orchestra in the world and the strict classic Lutheran cathedral, built in 1777. Oulu is the cultural capital of Finland, and is home to dozens of well-known artists, designers and writers, as well as an annual series of art festivals. For example the Music Video Festival, Musixine music film competition, Invisible Guitar World Championships, Qstock Rock Festival, Oulu Winter Music Festival and more.
Fish restaurants in Oulu
12. the Kvarken Archipelago
Located in the Gulf of Bothnia, near the city of Vaasa, is more than 5 thousand islands on an area of nearly 200 thousand hectares. The uniqueness of Kvarken is that it literally keeps growing: every year the ground here rises out of the bay waters by about 1 cm. Next to the natural wonder of the Kvarken archipelago there is a Scandinavian architectural marvel – the longest cable-stayed bridge Replot bridge in Finland, connecting the mainland with the two main islands of the archipelago.
City and municipality on the shores of Lake Vanajavesi, located in Kanta-Häme province in the province of Southern Finland. People lived here in Viking times, but Hämeenlinna received its city status only in 1649. The main attraction of the city is the 13th-century Häme Castle, which gave its name to the city. From the late 19th century to the mid 20th century the castle served as a prison for the city, and today you can visit both the medieval part of the castle and the former prison block where hundreds of prisoners were once serving their sentences. Hämeenlinna is the birthplace of the famous Finnish composer Jan Sibelius, and the author of the Scandinavian epic Kalevala Lennrot spent several years here.
City and municipality in western Finland on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia of the Baltic Sea. It was founded in 1606 and was named after the ancient dynasty of Swedish kings Vaasa (Vasa). The city is only 80 km from the Swedish border, so a quarter of the population here speaks Swedish. The most popular attractions are the Kvarken moraine archipelago, the open-air museum Brage, where you can see the ancient stone maze called the “Witch Circle”. Fun festivals such as the Cow Festival, the Water Carnival or the Kvarken Strait Sea Days are often held in this town.
An inconspicuous settlement near the Russian-Finnish border. However, the extraordinary sculpture park of the self-taught Veijo Rönkönen attracts thousands of tourists here. Perhaps this is one of the strangest and most mystical places in Finland. The 500 human-sized concrete figures in various poses in the middle of the forest evoke mixed feelings. It can be both curiosity and admiration, and fear.
The sculpture park by self-taught sculptor Weiyo Ryonkyonen
The sculptures grin and smile, showing visitors to the park real human teeth, with which Ryonkyoungen was supplied by his dentist friends.
The sculptor built his collection over the course of 50 years and put all of his childhood complexes, fears, and thoughts into it. He admired the human body, was passionate about yoga, and this was reflected in the theme of his collection.
Of course, this is an incomplete list of interesting places in Finland. But after visiting these cities and regions, you will learn a lot about Suomi and, undoubtedly, love this country.
Where to go for a weekend in Finland
Annually, Finland is visited by over 6 million people, of whom the Russians along with the Germans and Swedes are the largest group of foreigners. The country is known as a popular winter destination and home of Santa Claus, Joelupukki (Christmas Eve) in Finnish. Also its visiting card is excellent ecology and numerous lakes, attracting eco-tourists and fishermen in the summer.
Where to go for a weekend in Finland from St. Petersburg: interesting places near the border
Among residents of the Leningrad region and St. Petersburg, the most popular weekend tours are a visit to the capital Helsinki and recreation on Lake Saimaa. The latter is known for picturesque town Savonlinna with an island fortress of St. Olaf built in 1475 and Imatra balneological resort. River cruises on Saimaa water system is also popular among Russian tourists.
Imatra has a network of health resorts which use local mineral waters for recovery of patients. The surroundings of the resort have beautiful nature and all conditions for water sports are created on the banks of Saimaa. Interesting sights are the pedestrian street Koskenparas with historical hotels of 19th and 20th centuries, the oldest spa hotel Imatran Kulpula, the Imatrankoski dam water slide on the Vuoksa River which attracts many gawkers during the water discharge, water parks and squares.
If we talk about winter holidays, the nearest to St. Petersburg ski resorts in Finland – Hollola and Messiln laskettelukeskus near the city of Lahti, Myllymki and Ruokolahti (Ruokolahden Freeski Ky) near Imatra. Many domestic tourists come to sports events, especially the Biathlon World Cup in Kontiolahti. In Lahti are major competitions in cross-country skiing and ski jumping.
Slightly further in the central part of the country are the major ski centers of Jämsä on Lake Päijänne, Kauniainen near Helsinki and Hyvink in the province of Uusimaa, Hartola 15 km from Joutsa, Vihti northwest of Espoo, Jyvskyla, Varkaus, Klaukkala near Nurmijärvi. They are all within a 3-6 hour drive from St. Petersburg.
Kuopio and its environs are called the Christmas center of winter holidays. It is not as cold as Lapland, with snow for 5-6 months. Russians are frequent visitors, especially during the big New Year’s weekends. The local microclimate is favorable for skiing, dog and reindeer sledding. The hilly terrain allows for versatile ski slopes from 400 to 1200 meters long, suitable for both experienced athletes and families with children. Within the municipality are located major resorts such as Kasurila, Tahko and Maanrinvara (very new).
Of course, there is an excellent infrastructure for summer holidays. The region has a wide network of hiking trails and biking trails. There is a water transport system on Lake Kallavesi. Local rivers and lakes are a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. Water parks with water slides, swimming pools, saunas, summer beaches, golf, horseback riding, bowling, indoor ice rinks complete the picture.
By the way, such a wide range of opportunities is typical for most Finnish resorts. In addition to those already mentioned, Kuopio for Russians can be replaced by such tourist centers as Tampere, Jyväskylä, Mikkeli, Lappeenranta, Kouvola, agglomeration of Kotka-Hamina, Joensuu and Lake Pielinen, Porvoo.
Lapland is a recognized world center for winter holidays. By car it takes a long time to get here. The best option – by air. Weekend tours here Russians organize not so often, except for a visit to the Village of Joelupukki (Kanta Claus) during the winter vacations for children.
Where to go from Helsinki for 1 day
The capital of Finland is located in the southern part of the country. This is the most developed region with an excellent infrastructure. In addition to Helsinki, here are major tourist centers such as Turku, Tampere, Lahti, Espoo, Porvoo. Forests, lakes, rivers and the coast of the Gulf of Finland are also popular destinations for short holidays.
Haltia Nature Center is integrated into Nuuksio National Park. It is located near the metropolitan area, west of the city of Espoo. Opened in 2013, it has become a popular destination for citizens and tourists visiting Helsinki. More than 200,000 people visit it every year. The centerpiece is an exhibition about Finland’s national parks, ecosystems, the changing seasons in the form of installations and an interactive map.
Mummy Troll Land is located on a tiny island on the outskirts of the port city of Naantali in south-west Finland. From Helsinki here is 2-3 hours by car. This theme park is incredibly popular among kids and adults who grew up on books by Tove Jansson and Soviet cartoons about Mumidol. The attraction is rightfully among the must-see attractions.
Angry Birds Land is a modern amusement park on the shores of Lake Näsijärvi in Tampere. The theme in the style of an extremely popular video game above all attracts children and young people. There is a playground, rides, a food court and souvenir shops. Nearby is also an amusement park Särkänniemi, which has been in operation since 1975 and features a dolphinarium, an aquarium and a planetarium.
Spa, water park and ski center Serena is located just 5 km from the ring road north-west of Helsinki, in the resort area Korpilampi. It is surrounded by forests, lakes, a network of hotels and eateries.
Tukkimäki – one of the largest amusement parks in Finland with modern attractions and a water park. Located on the eastern outskirts of the city of Kouvola. The distance between Helsinki and Helsinki is 140 km, or 2 hours drive.
Sibelius hall is a unique example of transformation of an old factory into a popular among music lovers concert hall, cultural and entertainment center. Sibelius hall in the center of Lahti city demonstrates how much the Finns care about their history.
Old town in Porvoo is primarily interesting for the lovers of the past and the extraordinary atmosphere. One can walk for hours and discover something new in the historic quarters that have been preserved since the 18th and 19th centuries. A similar atmosphere can be felt in the seaside town of Rauma, whose Old Town is a World Heritage Site.
Where to go from Helsinki to Europe
Helsinki is connected with the whole world by air and sea. Popular among residents and visitors are ferry and cruise ships on the Baltic Sea. There are regular connections to the ports of Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia), St. Petersburg (Russia), Travemunde – Kübeck (Germany).
There is an international highway E18 between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The construction of an underwater tunnel between the capitals of Finland and Estonia is under consideration.
Where you can go from Helsinki by train
Rail transport does not have such an extensive network as road transport. But still it connects the capital with major cities in the country. The train can visit tourist centers such as Tampere, Turku, Vaasa, Lahti, Imatra, Pori, and further north – Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Iisalmi, Vuokatti (Kajaani), Oulu, as far as Kemi, Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi in Lapland.
By the way, since 1862 there is a railway line Helsinki – Riihimäki – St. Petersburg. On it daily runs high-speed trains project Allegro, and train Leo Tolstoy connects two capitals – Russian and Finnish.
Which city in Finland is better to visit for the first time
Of course, Helsinki is the most obvious option for the first introduction to Finland. But in practice, it is not always the starting point for tourists. The metropolis has worthy competitors within the country – the cities of Turku, Vaasa, Savonlinna and Rovaniemi.
Helsinki – the political, industrial and cultural center of Suomi. People come here to walk around the historic center, to shop, see the grand St. Nicholas Cathedral and the architectural ensemble of the Senate Square, visit the Christmas Fair, theaters and museums, the zoo and botanical gardens with greenhouses, fortifications of the Swedish-Russian War, and modern Finnish architecture. In the capital of the widest selection of hotels, you can easily rent private housing.
Turku and Vaasa are the sea gates of Finland. Ferries from Sweden and other Baltic countries come here. Picturesque bays, beaches and numerous coastal islands attract ecotourists, yacht owners, kayakers and fishermen. Turku has the oldest castle in Finland, and Vaasa is a university town with 16,000 students from all over the world.
Savonlinna is perhaps the most picturesque city in rural Finland. It is scattered on the shores, capes and islands of the largest water system in the country – Lake Saimaa. Many Russians take the route Imatra – Savonlinna for their first trip to Suomi. Here are plenty of opportunities for relaxing in nature, and in the shadow of the majestic Olavinlinna Fortress from March to August takes place a major opera festival.
Thanks to an international airport, fans of winter sports can visit the capital of Lapland Rovaniemi directly, without Helsinki. Built after the war, it is interesting in itself. For example, a unique museum and cultural center “Arcticum”. But the main drivers of tourist traffic are Santa Claus Village, the northern lights, major ski resorts, numerous national and regional parks.