Nobody does life quite like the Finnish
Saunas, perfect views of the Northern Lights, castles, ancient fortresses and the world’s largest archipelago are all yours when you are in Finland. Take a tour of the country which is sprawling with museums and old towns. If you are adventurous at heart, take a dip in ice water, which is said to be good for the immune system. With your immune system all boosted, you are ready to conquer the land of the Baltic Sea.
Things to do in Finland
- National Museum of Finland: When you arrive in Helsinki, head to the National Museum of Finland to start your cultural experience of this attraction filled country. At the museum you will find artwork from the medieval period to the 19th Take your time as you explore this three-story building. Discover the ‘Treasure Troves’ on the ground floor, which has a coin cabinet, weapons and medals. Also meander around the jewellery room. Make your way to the second floor to look at medieval art, folk costumes, furniture and wood carvings. The Vintti Workshop is a fun interactive space for families to learn about Finland’s history. Guided tours of the museum are available in English, French, Finnish, Russian and German. A visit to this museum is highly recommended.
- Fortress of Suomenlinna: Built in the 18th century on a group of islands near Helsinki’s Harbour, the fortress (formerly known as Sveaborg) will give history buffs a sense of European architecture of that period. The fortress was originally built to defend Sweden and it also served as an army base. The fortress was renamed in 1917 when Finland gained independence. See old bunkers and cannons or if you feel like relaxing, have a picnic on the grass. While you are there check out the small museums and other exhibitions. Remember to visit the World War 2 submarine as well. There are also restaurants and cafés on the island. To reach the fortress there is a ferry that departs throughout the day from town.
- Helsinki Cathedral: Located in the Senate Square, the cathedral is one of the most popular tourist sites in Finland. It’s interesting to note that the building was inspired by the Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg. The current building was completed in 1852. Look up to the church’s roof where you will see the twelve apostles standing guard over the church. The dome of the cathedral stands 80 metres above sea level! Stop in at the cathedral’s crypt which serves as a café and also has art exhibits to admire. The Helsinki Cathedral is visible from almost anywhere in the city, so it’s not hard to miss.
- Olavinlinna Castle: The castle dates back to 1475 and as is a place of history and legends. One of the legends of the castle is of a young woman who was imprisoned at the castle for treason and then executed. A while after she was executed, a Rowan tree grew on the spot where she died. The white flowers on the tree signify her innocence and the red berries represent her blood. The castle’s exhibitions include 3D objects and models. The Little Duke’s Hall is a place for family fun. Here children and parents can dress up in costumes, build a castle out of blocks or play with a doll house. Nowadays the castle hosts various events throughout the year, including the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival.
- Temppeliaukio Kirrko (Rock Church): An awe-inspiring church built underground, the Rock Church was completed in 1969. The church ceiling is lined with copper and skylights light up the interior. The magnificent granite building is oval in shape and is home to many classical concerts – the acoustics is amazing! Make sure you stop at this popular and unique attraction.
- Northern Lights: Have your chance to see a spectacular natural light show also known as the Aurora Borealis. Findland is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights. These lights known the world over are actually electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Your best bet is to go to Northern Lapland, This is an once-in-a-lifetime experience and should be a ‘sure thing’ on your itinerary. The best time to visit is September to March. Just a hint for enthusiasts: If the sky is clear at night, your chances of catching a glimpse at this natural phenomenon are good.
- Ride on a snow sled: Experience the thrill of riding on a traditional sled. There are a number of dog sled tours in Lapland. You will be put to the test when your instructor lets you steer the sled on your own.
- Hakaniemi Market: To see a bit of Finland’s culture, cuisine and tradition, head to this market situated in Helsinki. Here you will get to taste what the locals eat and see how they trade. Find anything from fresh fish, oysters and souvenirs.
World’s largest archipelago at your feet
Island hoping, kayaking, exploring old towns and spending time at fantastic national parks are the order of the day. The Turku archipelago is comprised of over 20,000 islands. A fun and adventurous way to tour this paradise is by doing the Turku Archipelago Trail. You can also do the trail by bicycle, car or motorbike if you wish. Take in beautiful landscapes, parishes and even hike at various locations if you feel like a breather. The trail is about 250 kilometres long and promises to give tourists insight to the world of the Finnish.
For those not so keen cyclists or visitors who just want to relax, there is also plenty to do. Take a trip to Archipelago National Park and discover rock formations, plant life and scenic areas that will be imprinted in your memory forever.
Located South of Pargas on the Baltic Sea, Archipelago National Park is a marine protected area and is great for diving and snorkelling. If you dive at Dalskār Island you will see statues on the seabed! Another option is to explore the park on a canoe, where various routes will acquaint you with Finland’s nature. All aboard! Sail the national park if you wish and if you are not a sailor yourself, there are charters available.
Archipelago National Park is also great for birdwatching, fishing and if you feel you want to stay, set up camp. A visit to one of the most beautiful places in the world is at your feet in Finland.
Take a bite of Finnish favourites
Leipäjuusto: This is a traditional Finnish cheese made from a cow’s milk that has recently calved. In English the cheese is also known as Finnish squeaky cheese.
Mustikkapiirakka: A blueberry pie
Kaalikääryleet: These are cabbage rolls – cooked cabbage leaves filled with various fillings.
Grillimakkara: Grilled sausage that is a very popular snack in Finland.
Rapu: Small freshwater lobster enjoyed during crayfish season.
Poronkäristys: A dish of reindeer served with mashed potatoes. You can enjoy this meal all year round in Finland.
Kalakukko: A fish pie made from rye bread with a fish filling.
Silakat: Pickled Herring