What should you see In Finland?
Cities - You should definitely visit Helsinki, which is tough to miss anyway, because no matter what mean of transport, plane or boat, Helsinki is most likely the place, where you will cross the border. You will probably need two or three days to see all of the most interesting places in this city and feel its mood. Besides the absolutely required visit in Suomenlinna – a castle fortress located on an island, which you can reach with local cruise ships (more on that in “transport”) – and the incredibly stunning Senate Square cathedral, you can just walk around the city. You can also visit cities like: Turku (the former capital) and Tampere. Some of the larger cities to the north include Oulu and Rovaniemi, which only take 1 or 2 days to explore. In Rovaniemi you can visit Lordi Rocktaurant – obviously established by the Lordi band, which comes from Rovaniemi.
Here’s a fun fact: Turku is an important place for those, who seek for traveling polonians. That’s because in the second half of the 16th century the Turku castle was the home for Catherina Jagiellonka, the wife of the prince of Finland, and later the Swedish king
John the 3rd (Juhana III in Finnish).
Nature is the most precious treasure and probably the main attraction of Finland. Thousand of lakes, forests, and tundra in the north are all still really wild and barely changed by the human hand. Most of the southern forests are private properties and mostly cultivated for the wood industry, but when you go there, you can still feel like in the true wilderness. The nature is a treasure to be shared with everyone, which means that anyone can enter any part of the forest they want, no matter who owns that certain part of the forest. You can also pick forest fruits like blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries and mushrooms.
There are about 30 national parks in Finland, and you can visit them for free. One of the most beautiful ones is certainly the Oulanka park, located not far from Kuusamo with forests, valleys clever rivers, cataracts and small lakes.
Another interesting thing around here is the archipelago in the south-eastern part of the country. The park is located to the north from Lemmenjoki – it’s a paradise for trekking fans and the largest park in Finland. It is also one of the biggest terrains not inhabited by humans and without any road network. But you definitely won’t have any problem with encountering moose.
Another highly recommended national park is the Linnasnsari, located on the Haukivesi waters, a part of the Saimaa lake. You can get to the central island on a cruising motorboat. A return ticket from Oravi costs 17 euros.
The reason why this is park is so unusual is that it includes the waters of the lake and the archipelago with all its islands scattered around the waters. You won’t find any trails of human presence (there are no houses), so the dominating color of the islands in summer is green. If we are missing the mountains in Finland, we can at least have a bit of climbing to see the wonderful landscape of water and islands from the highest point.
Visiting – in Helsinki you should definitely visit Suomenlinna - a fortress castle on an island. You should spend a few hours there, and if the weather is fine, this is the perfect place for a picnic. You can sit down and look at the cruise ships coming into the ferry. You can also visit the interesting local church entirely built in the rocks – Temppeliaukion kirkko, as well as the Senate Square Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko) and the orthodox church. Another interesting attraction is the zoo, located on the island of Korkeasaari, which will celebrate its 120th anniversary. This is definitely not just any typical zoo. If someone is bored, they can go to Linnanmaki – an old-fashioned amusement park from the mid-20th century.
You should also visit Turku – the former capital of Finland. Not far from Turku, in Naantali you can find a funfair called “The Moomin Valley”, which (in case somebody wouldn’t know) originated in Finland. While being in Turku itself, you can go to Rauma – a small harbor town established in the 15th century. In the centre of the town you can find the
so-called “Old Rauma” with wooden buildings, enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When you go a bit to the east, you can find the Savonlinna castle, located on the lake island.
The Savonlinna-Olavinlinna castle is the best preserved medieval castle in Northern Europe. This is one of the several reasons to visit Savonlinna, and when you are in town, you just have to visit it. Especially since this is one of the very few buildings that allow us to go this far into the past, because there are no middle-age buildings here, and there are very few architectural buildings from that time period.
While visiting the Land of the Great Lakes and the surroundings of Savonlinna, you mustn’t miss Kerimaka, if you want to feel like… in Rome. You can spot the world’s largest, most colorfully painted Lutheran church, which is quite a surprising sight in such a small village.
Another interesting Finnish attraction is the fishing museum – even if you don’t exactly understand the Finnish word, meeting the museum’s guide will certainly leave a big impression on you with his unusual, passionate history of fishing in the region of Savo.
We can go from Helsinki to lake Tuusula for one day. Tuusula is a place, which was beloved by the 19th century artists. You will definitely have to visit the home of Sibelius – Ainoli. It is not just a museum designed to feel the presence of the composer, but also a beautiful garden, perfect for long walks. The nearby home of the painter Pekka Halonen is mostly lots of beautiful pictures – a huge gallery in an equally huge home of the artist.
Culture – Without a doubt, the most important part of Finnish culture is the sauna, and anyone, who really wants to taste the real life of this country, should get really sweat at least once in a week. The best way to do so is in a real sauna with a bake, which can be heated up with wood and birch tree branches for the body. There is also a lake for cooling off right next to the sauna. Almost every person living in Finland has such a sauna right next to a small, traditional woodland house called the mokki. Apart from that, most of the houses in the city, and even some apartments in blocks of flats have a smaller, electric sauna, which is used by the residents at least once in a week – on Saturday. A cold beer and traditional makkara can make a sauna picture just about complete. The sauna can not only clean you physically, but mentally as well, that’s why this is a crucial Christmas Eve tradition.
Another cultural trivia fact that we must mention is… tango. Yes, you’ve read it – TANGO.
Gently speaking, Finnish people are nuts over this traditional dance, and if you want to see them dancing for yourself, you’ll have to go to Seinajoki, where the festival of tango (Tangomarkkinat) is held each year. The program of the festival includes choosing the king and the queen of tango. This dance is such an important part of the culture of Finland, that you could say it’s specific type of tango – the Finnish tango. This type of music is especially the most entertaining for older people of Finland.
But tango is just one side of the musical medal. Finnish people are also known for being fond of heavy music, such as rock and metal. If you like that kind of music too, you should definitely come here in the summer, because this is the time when most of the country’s festivals actually take place. If you come to Helsinki during the Tuska Open Air festival, long, black jackets, heavy boots, metal tones and the strong, black make-up will probably be the most common sight to see on the streets. Another interesting festival is the Provinssirock in Seinajoki (fun fact – it takes place in the exact same city as the Tango Festival), where each year you can see performances from the world’s biggest rock stars. One of the most recent editions included guests like Foo Fighters.
The people of Finland have a special ability of bringing smaller towns to life, which become famous for hosting huge cultural events. In Kuhmo, a town with less than 10000 people living there, the festival of private music, called the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival takes place.
During this festival the number of people in the town doubles.
In July, new life also comes to Savonlinna for the entire month, not only thanks to its attractive location straightly in the middle of the huge lake Saimaa, but also thanks to the fans of opera music, which come here to the Savonlinna Opera Festival and make the cafes and restaurants crowded after the show.
In Sodankyla – a town with 5000 villagers, located in Lapland, there is an international movie festival called the Midnight Sun Festival taking place in June. The guests include worldwide famous movie directors. Some of the former guests of the festival were Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jerzy Kawalerowicz and Agnieszka Holland. For five days and five bright nights the guests can enjoy a worldwide and quite chamber encounter with cinema and other movie fans.
Food – You should definitely try meat from reindeer and moose (which unfortunately are quite expensive). Another delicious treat is the Finnish rye bread called ruisleipa, very different from any common Polish bread.
People who love trying new things should try a special Finnish type of raspberries. Don’t be fooled by the term “raspberry” (The only common polish type is the moroszka raspberry). It might look similar to the Polish raspberry, but a ripe one is orange, and it’s difficult to compare it to anything else. Soome of you might find it not very tasty, but Finnish people just love these fruits. They only grow wild, in the northern part of the country, on a rather wet terrain, which makes it difficult to pick these fruits, and in addition, they don’t have such a short season. Because of this, they are they are very, very expensive – in the full season they might cost as much as 10 euro for 1 kilogram.
On top of that, people , who love tasty adventures, just have to try the Salmiakki candy and a special type alcohol made from these candy – Salmiakkikossu. There are very few abroad tourists, who don’t frown with disgust while trying these black treats, but it’s always worth a try.
Sport and diving – In the winter, Finland become a paradise on earth for skiing fans, especially for ski runners. There are plenty of routes, even in the cities, and they are very well prepared. You can also have some crazy fun with downhill skiing in several villages, with an excellent infrastructure, but ski lifts can be quite expensive.
Aside of that, you can go cycling at any time and any place, as well as swimming. With plenty of lakes around you can also go sailing, although relatively there are not to many sailboats around.
You can also try a Finnish invention – Nordic walking, which is typically hiking with special poles, especially enjoyed by older Finnish people.
If you only want to watch people doing sport rather than do some yourself, you can go to an ice hockey match, or a ski jumping competition – the first contest of the seasonal Worldwide Cup always takes place on a ski jump in Ruka, nearby Kuusamo.
The perfect place for ski running is of course Rovaniemi, Lapland and also Lahti at the south.
Another popular type of sport in Finland is orientation running. If we come to Finland and are not familiar with this sport discipline, it’s no problem at all. We can easily learn it special outdoor places prepared for such sports. If you are a more advanced orientation runner, you can also take part in special races available for anyone, who pays a small price for the map. There are also orientation races on bicycles and skis (for even bigger fans of the sport).
In Finland you can also see roller-ski riders. When you see this shorter type of skis on wheels for the very first time, you can get quite shocked.
At the islands, near the border of Turku, the cycling routes begin. These routes create a loop, and you can also get yourself and the bicycle from one island to another on a ferry. The main island on the Alan Islands is big enough to become a destination of a 1-week cycling trip.
Trekking – Finland is possibly one of the best places for this type of active spending of free time. The beautiful nature that wasn’t touched yet by humans, large terrains, few tourists and most importantly – brilliantly prepared tracks make walking with a backpack a true pleasure. The tracks have a lot of signs at prepared in a way to let us avoid walking in the mud on rainy days.
Besides, there are small, wooden houses located on the tracks, where you can spend the night for free. There is always plenty wood to warm up the house or make a bonfire outside. From time to time you can also find a shed on the tracks, as well as special places for a bonfire, where you can get some rest. You can use all of these things freely. Of course as long, as you clean up before you leave (Including cut wood prepared for the next guests).
There are plenty trekking tracks in Finland (more on that in “Nature”) One of those that you can’t miss is the “Bear Loop” (Karhunkierros) in the Oulanka National Park – it’s an 80 kilometer track going through one of the most beautiful terrains in Finland. Another good thing about this track is that you don’t need to go through the entire 80-kilometer track. You can also go through the “Small Bear Loop”, which shouldn’t be a problem for those who want to go through it in one day.
Freak show – Finland is famous for wacky tournaments, so you can go to the Worldwide Airguitar playing contest – an imaginary guitar (in Oulu) or the wife-carrying championship, or even a swamp soccer match. As soon as you get good in using the sauna, you can also try yourself in the Worldwide sauna-visiting Championship.
Adventure – There are several fantastic places in Finland , where you can have some wild fun on the white river waters. Especially in the northern part of the country, in such places as the already mentioned Oulanka park. The difficulty level is mostly between 1 and 4, with the vertical fall up to 80 meters.
Fine condition and self-abnegation are also required to get through the 80 kilometer Karhumkierros track, but it definitely involves huge satisfaction.
Besides, if the sauna is too hot for you, you can try swimming in the waterhole called the avantouinti. Each year there is a Worldwide championship hosted in Oulu. Just remember not to dip your head in the water.
Beaches and islands – Finland has a very long coast, with thousands of islands and beaches, especially on the south-east. But the Baltic, as you might know, is not exactly the warmest sea that exists, especially in these latitudes. That’s why swimming and sun-bathing on the beach is not a good idea for this place. But the Finnish coast is great for canoes and sailboats. If someone wants to stay on land, he can just ride a bicycle or go on walking trips. The bigger islands are connected with a line of ferries.
Another interesting and highly recommended place is the Hailuto island – the biggest island in the northern part of the Botnicka Bay, about 40 kilometers to the south of Oulu, enhabited by about a thousand of people. Fun fact – this island keeps growing all the time, coming out of the sea for about 4 milimeters in one year. On this island there is a beautiful, long sandy beach, unique forests, swamps and wonderful spots for bird-watching. (Special towers)
The interesting and weird fact about it is that the weather on the island is generally better than on land, there are more sunny days here, even if it’s raining anywhere else. You can usually see it in August every year. The best way to get to the island is aboard a free ferry, which are cruising all day long, and in the winter – as long as it’s a frosty winter – there is a special road on the ice, so you can ride your car across the Baltic.
Clubs and parties – If you want to have a ball, you should stay in Helsinki, where anyone can find their perfect bar or club. The best place for sport fans is the “Sports Academy” – directly in front of the railway station. There is no chance for missing a goal in a football match, because the TVs can be found even in the toilet (Although it’s a little weird that they are only in the men’s toilet)
Relaxing – If you’re looking for some true Finnish relaxation, you’ll need to spend at least a few days in a house located in the forest or by a lake, away from the civilization and other people. Nature, lakes, fish, mushrooms, berries, sauna, beer and sausages – it’s all the true essence of the Finnish type of relaxing. You can rent such a house, but just like anything else in Finland, it’s not cheap, so it’s probably best to make friends with a Finnish man or woman, and they will surely invite you on a weekend in mokki.
Shopping – Finland might be expensive, but when you compare it with the growing prices in Poland, it seems to be getting cheaper. If you really want to do some shopping, the best place is the market square – every town has such a small market, at least in summer that is. The main line of department is Stockmann, but it’s usually much more expensive than in other shops.
Who will enjoy this country? – Finland is definitely not suitable for anyone If you like strong thrills, big crowds, huge parties and lots of events, this is not the best place for you. But those, who love the nature and a peaceful, quiet atmosphere will feel perfect here, because even if you live in the city, you can still feel like in the country or the forest. And Lapland one of the few remaining places in Europe that will make you feel like all alone in the world. It’s just you, the endless natural landscape and reindeer eating grass and relaxing – if you can imagine yourself in such an atmosphere, Finland is the perfect country for you.
This place is also a dream come true for sport lovers. Thanks to the local, natural conditions, you can be active at any time of the year.