There’s something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that’s incredibly vital and exciting. Parts of the country remain gloriously remote; with the trendsetting modern capital of Helsinki counterbalanced by vast forested wildernesses in the north and east, like the Lapland region which is home to the Santa Claus who surprisingly is available round the year and not just at Christmas as we would think! Winter, too, has a special charm here, and the best way of banishing those scary subzero temperatures is to get active. Every type of skiing and adventure activity possible goes on for months, but how about chartering a team of dogs or a snowmobile and heading out on a trek across the snowy wastes, lit by a beautiful, pale, winter sun? Catch the aurora borealis after your wood-fired sauna and you’ll feel blessed by the universe.
Finnish towns, too, have much to offer. Whether cosy wooden churches, avant-garde design, quirky museums or passionate Finnish rock music are your thing, you’ll find them in abundance, as well as cafés warm with the smell of baking cinnamon, and boisterous nightlife – the latter particularly in chic, cultural Helsinki.
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is located in southern Finland, on the Baltic Sea. An overnight or 2 days is best to see this major gateway into the Scandinavian country. Helsinki is a sea-town par excellence and an exciting, dynamic place. Half the city seems to be water, and the tortured geography of the coastline includes any number of bays, inlets and a speckling of islands. The harbour is the heart of the city, and watching the giant ferries glide into port is a defining memory and essential Helsinki experience. The city centre offers you attractions and sights at several locations. The City hall, Helsinki Cathedral, The Market Square, The Old Market Hall and the Presidential Palace are all within a short walk. The best way to see the town is on their local buses or trams. Like all of Finland, Helsinki has a dual nature. In winter you sometimes wonder where all the people are. In spring and summer they are back again, packing green spaces and outdoor tables to get a piece of blessed sun, whirring around on thousands of bicycles and kicking the city’s nightlife into overdrive.
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia, 2 hrs by boat across the Baltic Sea from Helsinki. Like most cities with an eight-hundred-old-past, Tallinn is a patchwork of historic areas. Tallinn, Estonia’s crown jewel, boasts cobbled streets and rejuvenated 14th-century dwellings. Dozens of cafés and restaurants make for an atmospheric retreat after exploring historic churches and scenic ruins, galleries and boutiques. By night, stylish lounges and youthful nightclubs offer a glimpse of the city’s sexier side. Some visitors have a hard time escaping Tallinn’s undeniable allure. Though not part of Finland it is often done as a day or an overnight trip from Helsinki.
A 2 hour flight from Helsinki or an overnight train journey, Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland in North Finland, located at the northern Artic circle. Roveniemi is now a modern town, full of life with its own unique characteristics. Many of Rovaniemi’s visitors come to cross the Arctic Circle, which lies some 8km north of town. This has also become the ‘official’ residence of everyone’s favourite beardie-weirdie Santa Claus, who lives in a tacky complex of tourist shops and ho-ho-hos most cheerfully as the euros roll in! There are eight different seasons this far north, each having its own type of daylight, temperature and natural phenomena. The changing seasons offer excellent setting for a whole variety of activities. During the frosty twilight, you can ride a snowmobile through snowy forests or over a frozen river, the midnight Sun on the other hand, takes you cruising in a boat on the river. Each season offers an opportunity to experience the town in a totally different light. Rovaniemi also offers good opportunities for shopping. Both high-quality Lapp handicraft and well-known Finnish design products are part of the abundant selection. And then this is also known as the home of Santa Claus !
What a different experience it can be when you travel to Rovaniemi in Summer when the temperatures are still in the range of 10 Deg and you have the sun shining at 2 AM and in Winter when the sun never comes out and temperatures are in the range of minus 20 Deg. An excellent place to see the Aurora Borealis also known popularly as the Northern Lights.
Back to the Scandinavia overview