Finland Travel Guides for Backpackers

A guide to visiting Turku, Finland's old capital

For anybody visiting Finland or Scandinavia Turku is an obvious choice. This beautiful city used to be Finland’s capital before Helsinki and between all the busy cities of Scandinavia, it’s a small haven that has it all: history, nature and culture. It’s easy to reach and easy to get around and even though more and more tourists are finding this small get-away, it’s still an ideal choice for those who want to avoid the crowds. What to see in Turku? Turku Cathedral and Turku Castle Most people who come to Turku know about the Turku Cathedral and Turku Castle and those are, undeniably, the biggest attractions. The Turku Cathedral is right in the city center by the Aura river that flows through the city. It is a 700-hundred year old church, which along many other landmarks, was destroyed in the great fire of Turku in 1827 but has since been restored. It serves as a museum and an active church and is a home to gorgeous frescoes and a royal tomb. The Turku castle, a 13th century castle, stands right by the port. It serves as a museum and research center. Visitors can join a guided tour or just wander by themselves. Sometimes, especially during summer, it hosts events such as concerts or cultural events. Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova and Luostarinmäki Among the various museums of Turku there are a few must-sees. Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova is a combination of history and modern art. The museum is a former palace with an underground archaeological ruins that have been preserved for visitors to see. there are also guides and information about how life used to be in Turku. Ars Nova  serves as a modern art museum with varying exhibitions. In addition to Aboa vetus & Ars Nova the place to go to is Luostarinmäki handicrafts museum. This open air museum also gives visitors a peek of old life style in Turku and the visitors can walk among the wooden craftsmen’s dwellings that, unlike many other buildings, were not destroyed in the great fire. Other museums worth checking out are Turku art museum, Pharmacy museum, maritime and naval museum Forum Marinum and Kylämäki village of living history where they still house animals like sheep and arrange special events during holidays, like egg painting in Easter. Moomin World and Ruissalo For some people the absolute must-see is the Moomin world in Naantali, a short bus trip from Turku. This theme park that brings to life Tove Janson’s beloved cartoon characters is fun for children and adults both. The visitors can walk in the Moomin house, meet the characters and watch a theater piece. The park is open only in summer and usually a short time in February. Visitors can easily spend a day visiting Moomin World and then walking around the beautiful city of Naantali, where it’s also possible to visit the presidential summer residence Kultaranta. Another great outdoor destination is Ruissalo, an island with a beach and hiking trails. It’s […]

Åland – the hidden gem of Finland

If you are getting tired of busy urban life, going to Finland is probably a good idea. But instead of visiting the main and well-known destinations like Helsinki or Rovaniemi in beautiful Lapland, you should head for the archipelago in the Baltic Sea, just between Finland and Sweden. It consists of around 6500 islands and skerries but only 60 of them are inhabited. Åland is an autonomous, Swedish speaking part of Finland with its own parliament and even flag. The biggest island is called Fasta Åland, and it is home to 90% of 30,000 inhabitants of Åland. Here, you can embrace some solitude. Åland is ideal for a nature getaway. Take pleasure in a peaceful nature Setting aside its interesting relationship with mainland Finland, Åland is a perfect destination for anyone who is trying to find peace and quiet. The main island is studded with beautiful and crystal clear lakes. They are all very inviting but try to resist the urge to get your tired feet wet. Lakes, or their parts, usually belong to house owners living around on the banks. The safest place to swim is actually in the sea. Just remember, before you decide to jump from one of many red cliffs, Baltic is a cold sea. If you rent a boat or pay for a boat tour, you can see seals bathing in the sun on rock beaches of smaller islands. Meeting a moose is nothing unusual too. Those big mammals are very shy though, so you need to be quite lucky to see one during a short holiday. I saw only one, and that was after spending more than 6 months on Åland. Very common and majestic residents are eagles. Their huge and typical silhouette is unmistakable on the clear summer sky.          No hills but eye-catching views All the islands are pretty much flat. The highest peak of Åland is Orrdalsklint reaching comfortable 129.1 meters above sea level. On the top, you can find a cabin for hikers, an observation tower, a little café opened during summer, and stunning view. Thanks to the lack of high hills, Åland is a great place for bicycling. Roads are red and very well kept, even though some smaller ones are just gravel roads. There are not many possibilities to get lost because honestly, there are not so many roads.    Let’s keep it practical – Where to stay? You can rent one of many cottages on a seaside or lakeside, or you can stay in one of many hotels. If you are thinking about your budget, it is important to remember that Åland is part of Scandinavia (plus, it is an island), and prices are higher. Especially accommodation can be costly. But do not worry, Couchsurfing flourishes here too. Locals will let you in their homes, and often even drive you around on a boat. And if you are keen on spending nights under the open sky (which you should try to do anyway because the light pollution is […]

7 Days In Finland? This Is What You Can Do

Hello, This is my guide to Finland, a guide for peoples who come to a vocation in Finland from behind the sea. Here I listed one of the best places and the best things that you can do in Finland. First, let’s get you to know Finland. What is Finland like? What kind of weather there is? What should I wear and when? The city looks a little bit old. But to me, it looks beautiful that way. And if I’m right, Helsinki is the only city with the underground world. There is an underground bus terminal in the Kamppi and subway stations. you can even walk from Kamppi to Forum in the underground. Finland has mostly subarctic climate type but in the south, it is a warm-summer humid continental type of climate, so we have lots of green forests. The weather is quite warm in spring. Let’s say in April the weather gets first time warm, it hits to 15 degrees sometimes. But stays often at the 5 to 10 degrees. Summer starts really after  June when the temperature can be over 30 degrees and the sun almost doesn’t set down at all. At the autumn weather drops below 15 quite fast and lots of water start to rain. Snow starts raining often after the Christmas season and stays around three months. Of course in northern cities like Oulu and Kuopio snow stays longer. Then the temperature in the winter season is -10 to -20 degrees. But in north temperature can be -40 to -50 degrees. places where you can visit suomenlinna Suomenlinna is an old sea Fortress in Finland. It’s a historical monument which construction work began in the year 1748. It is one of the biggest tourist traps in Finland. That island has many restaurants and there are sometimes concerts too. That place is really good for a picnic. an amusement park called linnanmäki Linnanmäki is the only amusement park in Helsinki, and its located in the Pasila. You can get easily in Pasila by taking any train from Helsinki railway station. Linnanmäki is open the whole day so you can spend the entire day there with your family and there are lots of cool rides, fast phased, slow phased rides, mirror rooms, and terrace restaurants. Are you tired of warm weather in winter and you want to experience the cold climate, cold water and snow? Well, this is one of the best countries to do so. Between December and March weather can be -5 to -30 degrees. Helsinki offers you a lot of opportunities in winter to go to ice-water swim and sauna.  If you want to experience cold weather but cold water is not so tempting, you can go and relax in hot tubs too in outside. Hotel Rantapuisto is the one good place where you can have an opportunity to go ice swimming.  The place is not really that expensive from one night. restaurants and bars If you want to experience a sauna in […]

72 hours in and around Rovaniemi, Lapland

Who has never dreamt of visiting Santa’s hometown, petting his adorable fellow reindeers and witnessing his loyal elves at work? Three years ago, as I was working in Helsinki, I seized this opportunity of living in Finland to jump on a plane to the ultimate winter wonderland: Rovaniemi, Lapland. Day 1: Exploring Rovaniemi and Lappish Culture Setting a foot in a city is like the first bite of a new dish: you discover a new taste – so get lost! The Candle Bridge. Rovaniemi is not a big city, but it has a couple of nice architectural landmarks. As I am passionate about architecture the main building I wanted to see was Jätkänkynttilä, also known as the Candle Bridge. It marks the start of my exploration. Surprisingly I wasn’t really attracted by wandering in the city center but rather in the suburbs, so I crossed the bridge towards Ounasvaara Hill. This edge of the river is quieter – less concrete, more green spaces – and offers a really nice walk – plus a view on downtown. When wandering, I always turn off the map on my phone and just go wherever my guts tell me. That is how I got lost in this lovely neighborhood where I found a gem: a pretty tiny Orthodox Church. Going back downtown, I walked on another bridge (Jormaelontie) up to the Protestant Church and then to the Angry Birds Activity Park – which is perfect if travelling with kids. Not everyone knows that Angry Birds was born in Finland. Arktikum. After that nice walk, it is time to immerse yourself in Lappish culture at Arktikum – a museum and science center. Of course do not skip lunch time, or lounas in Finnish, and give Arktikum’s café a shot: the food is delicious. Arktikum is a fantastic place to discover the Arctic region from a cultural, traditional and scientific point of view: admire some of the traditional Lappish outfits, learn more about the Finnish war and how it affected the country, witness the evolution of Lapland from prehistory to nowadays, immerse yourself in the northern lights phenomenon in a stunning replica in a dark room, etc. The visit is very instructive and is also 100% suitable for kids. I personally spent hours in Arktikum and was even tempted to go back a second time before going back to Helsinki. Traditional Lappish Sautéed Reindeer at Monte Rosa. After that eventful day, rest at your hotel and enjoy a traditional Finnish meal! I recommend staying at the Arctic City Hotel, very well situated downtown. This hotel has great perks: comfy rooms, a sauna (the best way to relax at the end of the day), one of the biggest breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen and a nice restaurant attached to it called Monte Rosa (try the traditional Lappish sautéed reindeer, it’s delicious).   Day 2: Meet Santa! D day has arrived; today you’ll meet Santa Claus himself! If you are not staying at Santa Claus Village, I’d advise […]

Finland Lapland : Levi the Winter Wonderland

You always go to the same skiing resorts for your winter holidays and you want to try something new? Lapland has all the winter ingredients you like, plus some magic… Why Levi is the place to be in Lapland? You don’t believe anymore in Santa Claus and you’re not a kid willing to meet him? Good, so let’s forget about the busy, crowded Rovaniemi, and go straight to Levi, the biggest skiing resort in Finland which has so much fun to offer. If seeing northern lights is on your bucket list, Levi is perfectly located for it, 170 km above the polar circle. Another special reason to get there in 2019 is the Game of Thrones snow village. When is the best time to go? The best season starts around mid-January. If you can, try to avoid the Christmas holidays. Apart from being more expensive and busy, it’s also snowing, which means clouds in the sky, fewer chances to see northern lights, while January starts to be more dry, with a clear sky. Moreover, daylight starts to increase in that period and you can expect at least 4 hours of sunlight (between 10 am and 2 pm) whereas it’s darker in December. How cold is it and how to dress for? Temperatures are around -15°C. It can drop lower of course (between -20°C and -25°C), but it will not exceed -5°C. So, yes, it is cold, but not unbearable, as long as you keep moving and dress warmly. You can wear usual skiing clothes, and do the onion style: stack layers of clothes. However some activities include thermal clothes, even some accommodation offers rental. How to get there? Wherever country you are coming from, you will first have to get through Helsinki, Finland’s capital, then take a domestic flight for 1h30, with Finnair, to Kittilä. If you are lucky, you might see northern lights from the plane. From the airport, there is a shuttle waiting outside for every plane landing, it takes you to Levi, 15 min away, and drops you directly to your accommodation. What hostel is the best to stay? Go to “Hullu Poro” which literally means “crazy reindeer”. It is quite a big complex, with a hotel, many restaurants, but they also have a hostel. It has several apartments with kitchen, bathroom, living room with TV and twin bedrooms. And it is very well heated. Located 15min by walk from the town center, it is the perfect accommodation solution for a group of friends for example, even for a family. Where is the best place to eat? Restaurant Jängällä is a lovely place with typical Finnish food. You will love its decoration, with painted walls representing Lapland landscape, wooden furniture, wood bark tealight, dim light, quiet, comfy and well heated. It is a perfect place for lovers. Food is served on a wood board. You can taste reindeer meat with cloud berries sauce. It is a very tender meat, very tasty. What are the top things to do? Chasing Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights Always keep in mind it is a natural phenomenon, which depends mostly on weather conditions. You can book this activity at the Tourism Office of course, but you can […]

A Winter Wonderland in Finnish Lapland

Just under 240 km into the Arctic Circle lays a peaceful village called Saariselkä and last winter I was lucky enough to spend 2 months in this magical winter wonderland. Saariselkä is a small village to the north of Finnish Lapland, deep in Sámi country and close to the Russian border. It’s surrounded by kilometers of stunning scenery and magnificent wildlife and makes the perfect place to start your winter adventure. From cross country skiing to mushing your own team of huskies, there is something for everyone in this mystical haven. Throughout this article, I will be sharing my top tips and suggestions with you, as well as the best place to stay.  Must do adventures Husky Sledding Husky sledding is by far my favorite activity that you can do from Saariselkä. There are no words that can describe the feeling you get as you glide through the winter silence with a team of dogs guiding your way. I was nervous at first to attempt mushing the dogs but, after a few seconds it felt like second nature and I loved every moment of it. After a 20 minute journey through the frozen landscape you then get the chance to meet over 200 huskies and can you believe it, every single one has a name! Reindeer Safari Reindeer are the traditional animals of the Sámi country and I would highly recommend paying a visit to the local farm. You will learn the history of these beautiful working animals from the owner whilst sitting around a roasting fire and sipping hot berry juice. After learning about the Reindeer and their importance to Lapland you will then participate in a sleigh ride across the frozen lake. Tobogganing If you’re looking for activities that are fun but won’t cost you too much then be sure to check out the toboggan slope that is tucked away near the ski lift. You can easily pick up toboggans from all over the resort or just wait until you arrive at the toboggan run and grab one of the spare ones from the bottom. It’s a long way to the top but it’s worth the walk just for the view let alone the fun of sliding down. Snowshoeing Snowshoeing is pretty much self-explanatory but it’s an activity that most people assume to be boring compared to the other activities available in Finland. I myself loved venturing out to the forest that surrounds Saariselkä in search of the Northern Lights. There are lots of various paths available dependent on your walking ability so this really is an activity for everyone. Plus, you may even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in all their glory. Top places to eat As you can imagine, some of the traditional food in Lapland may be questionable by a lot of people, however, if you have the chance to try some of their delicacies then you never know but it may just be the best thing you’ve ever tried. The resort […]

What you must do when you visit Finland

“Finland is a country with the best education in the world and it is always cold there.. and what else I can do there?” That is a most common phrase and a question I have been asked as a Finn. But believe me, there are plenty of things to see and do and that’s why I made this list for you. I hope you can enjoy your trip to it’s fullest! Tervetuloa, Welcome to this lovely nordic country Finland!   Visit Helsinki Helsinki might seem a pretty small city to be a capital and yes it is, but besides its minor size, Helsinki is full of thing to see and do. Take a walk in the city centre and visit the market hall and a local food market in Kauppatori. But be aware of seagulls, because they are masters in stealing your food and Kauppatori is full of them! Walk through a beautiful Esplanade park and enjoy the architecture of Helsinki. If you love shopping you should visit Aleksanterinkatu, a street in the city centre and stop by department store Stockmann which is full of branded goods. Also, Helsinki has one of the Scandinavian biggest malls called Itis. If you love eating out I have good news for you, Helsinki has various restaurants from Asian kitchen to urban vegan food places! I do recommend to google out the best ones. And what would be Helsinki without museums and art? Two biggest museums in the centre of Helsinki are Kiasma, contemporary art, and Ateneum, the best pieces of Finnish art.     Visit Lapland Saariselkä, Lapland Lapland is an ethnocultural region located in northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. It is a homeland for the only indigenous people of Union Europea: Sámi people. It is highly recommended to visit there for its magnificent Nordic nature. It is quite gold there always even during the summer the average temperature is 10 to 15 °C (50-60°F), and during the winter it’s -16 to 3 °C (3-37°F), so you might wanna pack your warmest jacket for this trip but I assure you, your trip will be worth it! During the summertime, you can experience the magical midnight sun. If you love hiking and nature this is your place to go! Lapland is full of National parks where you can hike and camp in the heart of the wilderness. During the winter Lapland turns out to be a true winter wonderland! Visit Santa Claus village (Yes Santa Claus is from Finland), have a Husky or Reindeer ride, skiing in artic hills and if you are lucky you can see one of the best phenomena of Mother Nature; Aurora Borealis. ‘ Midnight sun in Keuruu town Eat Local food Every Autumn Finland is full of Tasty Apples You should try the sauteed reindeer because it is delicious. If you are not into eating Santas reindeer try out fish, for example, salmon, northern pike, pike-perch. Summertime food markets are the best place to find berries, mushrooms vegetables and tasty traditional […]

Meeting place for history and nature lovers – Mikkeli.

The city of 50 thousand people where it’s about five minutes from the peaceful city centre to the calming nature of the suburbs might not seem very attractive for international tourists. However, my choice wasn’t based on Trip Advisor or Google findings but on recommendations of Finnish friends I met on Erasmus programme. Etelä-Savo is very popular among Finnish people as it’s not as severe as the north but its weather is not a typical one we might encounter on the south. Clean, peaceful environment with a lot of picturesque lakes and as many hiking paths – that’s how they described it. So the reason for my arrival wasn’t the city itself but everything around it, as it’s located in heart of a huge forest. As it turned out, however, I spent plenty of time in the city where I got the chance to improve my knowledge regarding Finland, the history of this country, its military and the city itself. This place is a goldmine for history freaks, people who would like to rest from city bustle or simply admire the beauty of nature and do some hiking. There are no planes to Mikkeli (at least not affordable ones) and the only way to get here is by train, bus or car – though such options may seem exhausting, we should keep in mind that all the roads go through forests covered with snow in the winter or aesthetically green and colorful in summer. A boring trip is impossible – I spent all my way peering out of the window and breathing heavily as I was experiencing one of the most memorable and beautiful views in my whole life. You feel like you were in Alaska or Lapland, even though you are in the South!   Things to do in Mikkeli Let’s begin our journey as most of the tourists do – in the train station which is at the same time the bus station so most of newcomers will arrive here. Just by going straight from the platform we will arrive at the town’s square when we can see the business card of Mikkeli – the cathedral which you can see while going down most of the city’s streets which combined, make a wonderful effect. What is different from classic buildings of that kind, is the fact that it’s relatively new as it was built at the end of XIX century, so the design and ornaments are quite unusual. Entrance is free of charge so it’s definitely worth a visit. The Museums Despite its small size, the city and region have a rich and surprising history which one can know better by visiting some places. Those might seem a bit expensive but let’s remember that Finland is cheap compared to other northern countries. And Mikkeli is not well known among international tourists, so choosing this destination is definitely more friendly for our wallets than deciding for Helsinki or Rovaniemi, where prices are much higher. South Savo Regional Art Museum […]

A short guide about the Åland-islands

Åland – a weekend on a Scandinavian island Where it is and how to get there: The Åland-islands are more than 6500 mostly small, little tiny  (or better: bits of pieces of land) islands, but also some which are bigger in size. They are located in the Baltic sea and belong to Finland. But being Finnish does not automatically conclude in the residents speaking Finnish since they speak and use Swedish as their main language. Anyway, it is really easy to communicate in English too. The Islands are reachable by ferries which are operating twice a day from both Sweden (Stockholm) and Finland (Turku) stopping at the harbour in Mariehamn, the capital of Åland. Even though Scandinavia is expensive, the prices for the ferry are (depending on the season) as low as a pair of socks. (When I mean the price of a pair of socks, I mean a pair bought in Scandinavia and not in Asia!). Mariehamn is with approximately 12000 people the place with the highest population on the islands. It seems like their motto “Island of Peace” is the right one chosen here. Places to stay: There are, of course, some hotels or guesthouses for different budgets and different standards. But as I already mentioned, Scandinavia is expensive and so are little islands somewhere in the sea, wherefore finding an affordable place as a student made me look further. And as easy as it is, also people on islands offer Couchsurfing! I definitely recommend this to everybody, since nothing makes it easier to meet the locals. They can give you a lot of useful tips and you probably get to know and see some places which you would not even have thought about otherwise. If you like camping it is good to know the islands offer small or bigger places to camp for a variating price range depending on the facilities offered. But of course, this is not an option in the middle of winter. How to get around: Keep in mind that the Åland-islands are not as touristic as some other places and also have an off-season which is mainly between early October and late April. If you like nature and simple villages, this is definitely a place for you to go. Whether you just want to have a weekend off or do some sightseeing, you should better plan a little bit before booking your ferry. You might want to rent a bike to get around, which is easily possible by renting one in Mariehamn and enjoy the flat roads. If you want to go to some places further away you are probably better off taking the bus, but be prepared that there is an odd schedule on weekends (if at all) and it is better to go on weekdays. The schedule varies also depending on the season, which is simple to explain: Not all tourist attractions are open and accessible at every time a year wherefore the demand of busses is limited in the off-season. If you still want to […]

Finland-Valkeakoski, where Extreme Sports are a Lifestyle!

I never thought that I would actually end up in Finland one day, but here I am having an exchange semester and having the time of my life. At first, Valkeakoski might seem as not that much fun, it is a rather small town with no actual mall and covered in snow for about half of the year. However, the activities that you could engage in are those of a lifetime, and the beauty is that you can do them every day while you are here, and never get tired of them. 1. The frozen lake Valkeakoski has two lakes, Vanajevsi and Mallasvesi, where the first one freezes entirely as soon as the temperatures are -10 ?C. This temperature seems a little extreme when you think of it at first, that’s what I believed. But, as far as you wear proper clothes that cover you entirely, you will be fine. If you come from a sunny place, such as me for example, do not forget to take Vitamins D daily, because your body is not used to the absence of sun. Now let’s get back Figure 1: Looking at the sunset over the Frozen Lake in Valkeakoski to the lake. As soon as the signs are put on it you can walk in the lake, and do other activities that you would normally do during a White week during Winter Break. I was terrified when I first walked in the lake because I had never walked on ice before. I could not stop thinking that the ice might break and I would find myself drowning in a lake. However, that is not the case at all. It is possible to ski, slide, ride your bike, or even drive in certain parts of the lake. Of course, only after the signs are up. The ultimate experience is to visit the little Island in the middle of the lake. Even if you do not know Finnish, like me, is easy to understand when you can walk on the lake- the place will be more crowded. If you are lucky you can meet Fins ice-fishing and join them. I have come to realize that Finnish people are very friendly if you approach them first, and most of the citizens of Valkeakoski speak basic English. 2. Jump in the Cold Water One of the main activities in Valkeakoski is going to the sauna. There are many different options, you can choose to go to the sauna at the swimming pool- separated for men and women-, or to different public saunas that can be separated or shared, also ask your landlord or rental office whether your building has one that you could use on your own privacy or with friends. There is one rule though- in most of the saunas you are obliged to get in naked. Not in the best sauna in town though. The sauna that I will describe is very close to the city center, it has a […]

Helsinki's Open Air Musem

Helsinki’s Islands If you ever are lucky enough to spend a day in Helsinki, all the guidebooks will recommend you go to Suomenlinna Island, known for hosting a huge fortress and monumental complex which was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1991 for its military interest. You won’t have a hard time finding information about it; it is one of the most beloved sites by the Finnish and it serves as a background for many wedding pictures. However, I dare your adventurous self to take a leap to the opposite side of the city, to the Northern island of Seurasaari. If you are following a low-budget, time-tight sort of plan as I was, this is the best option for you, since you do not have to pay for an overrated ferry transfer and it is only about 20 minutes bus ride from the city centre. I’d say that, while the Finnish enjoy taking pride on Suomenlinna, they maintain Seurasaari as their best-kept secret, which I only discovered by chance on the reverse of an exhibition leaflet. Make your way to Seurasaari If you take the bus 24 at any point in the city, it’s as easy as to step off at its last stop (“Seurasaari”, pronounced sew-ra-sah-ree). The ticket for the bus can be bought straight from the driver or at any Kiosk; it costs around 2.30€ and it’s valid for 2 hours. I genuinely thought I’d make it to the bus back in time to use the same ticket, but the island absorbed me in such a way that I had to pay for a new one – and I’d do it again. The bus line runs across many popular points across the capital, which you can visit on your way to the island or on your way back to the center. I’m talking about the Hietaniami historical cemetery, which hosts victims of all religions from the II World War; the Hietaranta beach in front of it is used as a (very chilly) waterfront area by locals, and a bit further South you’ll find the famous monument raised in honor of beloved composer Jean Sibelius’ (1865-1957), also worth a visit. Make sure you tell the bus driver where you’re going, since the bus won’t stop unless someone pushes the button and the car park in front of the island is not easy to identify. The Museum White bridge at the entrance of the Museum The first thing you’ll see beyond the entrance ticket booth (adult fee is 9€, subject to reductions), is a white wooden bridge taken straight from a fairytale. It is for pedestrians only and it has a couple of gazebos from which to admire the birds and grassland that grows on the shores of the Baltic Sea. On the other side of the bridge, the splendorous Seurasaari Open Air Museum welcomes the visitor with an impressive exhibition of the Finnish architecture over three centuries of history. I know, the idea of spending […]

The Unconventional Winter Walk to the Islands of Helsinki

Helsinki The capital of Finland and its islands at winter time Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is one of the best cities in the world. Feeling a fresh breeze and hearing the cries of seagulls, you realize that this is a city on the sea. It is beautiful at any time of the year, but in winter it has a special gloomy northern charm that you can feel wandering through its streets. You can spend quite a bit of time from the big city to go straight into the wild or to be on an island surrounded by the Baltic Sea. Many of the islands of the archipelago are open to you. Reaching on foot or for a small fee, sitting on the ferry, you may find yourself on the rocky shore, or in the forest wilderness. Many islands of the archipelago are well-known and visited by tourists and locals, some less frequently visited. I'll tell you how to make an atypical walk around the islands, which you can walk on only in cold time of the year. A period when the islands can be reached by foot using a pontoon bridge. For these islands is the period from mid-November to mid-April. It's great that so by clicking on the wooden bridges from the big city you can get to a place where there is no one around. The perfect place for a morning walk alone or for a couple. This is a great place if you are in the winter arrived very early to Helsinki, you do not mind the cold and gloomy weather, you want to see something unusual. This is true winter walk, it is only on the island in the winter do not need to travel via boat and you do not spend a cent strolling here. It will be northern and southern Uunisaari, Liuskasaari and Seapoint Liuskaluoto. Uinisaari islands in Helsinki Get up early to meet the dawn on them. The islands located in the southern part of Helsinki, south of the Kaivopuisto park. In summer, they can reach using boat services, but in winter you can walk through the pontoon bridge. Among themselves, the islands are also connected by bridges. After passing the pontoon bridge, you get to the first island of Uunisaari. Uunisaari from words Uuni which means Oven and Saari are Island, Pohjoinen means North and Eteläinen means Southern. Once upon a time, there was an oil and paint factory on the island. The island divided into two parts, but you can walk everywhere. Pohjoinen Uunisaari island Here we see the wooden structure, and the first house lit sign with the name of the island. These buildings are a sauna and a restaurant. All heard about the love of the Finns to the sauna. And even now, when the sun has not yet risen, I noticed a man walking from one building to another with a towel in his hand. Price sauna €15, or 10 if you have taken a towel with you. Passing by […]

Visit Santa Claus in Lapland

Christmas is coming and If you are fan of traveling during this lovely season, do not forget to visit Santa in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland. Close to the cute little airport you’ll find a magical place called Santa's Village. Though you might not believe in Santa Claus (Joulupukki in Finnish) anymore, especially as you’re that one that spends heaps of money at the end of every year on gifts, you'll find it hard not to enjoy all activities this place has to offer. And talk about that white haired and bearded man wearing a red costume for the next few months. It’s a place where dreams do come true! Meet and speak with Santa Claus in Lapland. This summer my fiancé took me to Lapland, in the northern part of Finland, and I was fortunate enough that I met Santa in the flesh. He’s very charming, huge, I mean tall (like all lumberjacks living here in Finland) and speaks several languages (French, English, Finnish, Swedish, German…). I was so amazed by his presence, that I talked about him more than our kids. He seemed to be very clever, friendly and approachable. Nothing quite like I was expecting. I guess this is why people queue for a while to have a chat with him and of course take a unique picture for the family album. Every time we pass our Santa family picture, that’s hanging in kid’s room, it brings back memories that makes us smile. Santa Claus is very busy but there are several activities how to spend time: You can send a postcard –  either immediately or get one from Santa himself, sent home for Christmas. I sent a few of them to ours and my sister’s kids. It will definitely be the best gift for them this year. Or you can get many forms of ‘Rudolph’ the reindeer toys and another promotional items (Christmas themed of course).   My daughter, who was only a few month old when we were there, got a cuddly little Petteri (Finnish for Rudolph) the reindeer toy and she loves him so much that sleeps with him every night. Let your toddler to leave their dummy here for Santa's elves and baby reindeers!   Find out how many people daily writes a letter to the real Santa! There are outdoor activities for whole family, too. Spend some time in a Finnish Kota (similar to the American tipi) and find out where and how Finns spend their free time in winter when they want to be outside with friends. My favourite one, aside from shopping, was feeding Santa's reindeers. Isn't it cool to feed Rudolph 🙂 …who cares that it costs 5 Euros.   Of course the kids also enjoyed feeding and petting the furry little friends.   A Selfie with Santa, just like I have? Don't expect it to be easy to take a similar selfie with Santa. Actually it is almost impossible. If you want a family photo with Santa, an Elf is there to take a picture of all of you. Basically you have to pay for everything here: entry, meeting Santa Claus, photo with Santa or feeding reindeers… but to visit […]

Helsinki Hietalahti Market Hall: Sundry of Flavours

There's something special about this age-old Market/ Food Hall Over a century old, Hietalahti Market Hall has gone through a lot of changes. Starting as a central trading hall for merchants in the early 1900's until the 1970's, to becoming an all organic market hall for a while and to now as to what most locals and tourists knows, a food hall. Hietalahti Market Hall yields diverse flavours of food cultures all under one roof, to be exact! Our apartment is about 5 minutes away from this market hall and me and my boyfriend would pass by here as often as we could. We both have also a couple of stalls that we'd hang out for hours together. The Market Hall's main entrance during the evening. Around November 2015, a Saturday Music and Food Tasting event, Musaa&Maistelua came into existence. Food stalls and food merchants showcasing their tasting portions for the public every Saturday evening from 5pm-10pm with a DJ playing local and world music. From Bossa Nova, to old French Riviera, and to even old Finnish Folk Country music. We have been visiting a couple of times to support the event, and of course, to eat and dine with good friends. Meeting new people here is one good thing also as you can go around with your food and wine, or sit at the communal table located in front of the main entrance. Now that the autumn season is here, more people are dining indoors. Gone are the summer days of terrace wine&dine scene, and the outdoor picnics by the beaches and the parks where you get a good amount of that happy sunshine and nature boost in to your system. Now, it's time for us here in Helsinki to start getting cozy and wrapped up for the long dark nights and for the cold short days (yes, 3 hours of sunshine at the shortest is not counted as a day for me). But that doesn't mean we cannot have a good time! We are ecstatic (not with the upcoming -25°C winter season) to have to see and experience again our local market hall filled with eager diners wandering around hallways sipping through their honey-graham milkshakes or relishing their glass of red vinos, the lingering smell of simmering curries , wafts of sweet-gingery teriyaki from the Japanese hot plate, the pleasantly stinky smell of cheeses and aged charcuteries from the cheese stall, and this wine braised mussels from the French bistro all coming through your senses as you go around the high-ceiling wooden hallways. It's heaven, it is! On a typically gloomy autumn afternoon, the market hall's façade may seem deserted. The empty spaces from the square from summer time's flea market makes it even more unsought for. The empty square of Hietalahden Market Hall during Autumn But as you go closer to the entrance, you get a whiff of something pleasantly inviting.. The scent of roasted coffee dripping from the […]

How to Catch Icebreaker or Swimming in Icebreaker Path – Kemi,Finland.

How to Catch Icebreaker or Swimming in Icebreaker Path – Kemi,Finland. One of my favorite way and place at this Earth is calm north or Finnish Lapland – home of Aurora Borealis (Northern Light). Now when I traveled through a lot of countries in different way and crossed a few oceans, I still think with warm in my heart about north trips. First trips when I was student and enjoyed any possibility to see something new around. In my next stories will be a lot of information about North, Finland, Antarctica (live from trip in January 2017), Iceland, North cruises etc. But sure other destinations too. When one day I decided to back to Finland at Winter time, I decided back also to North – catch Northern Light and.. get this awesome experience by catching only one available in the world icebreaker for tourists – Sampo. The greatest thing I’ve heard – is possibility to swim/ floating in icebreaker path in special costume. You will never forget this feeling. Icebreaker path swimming- Sampo Nothing there to be scared about: as you will be warm and safety in special costume provided. You will not be able to go down in water or under the ice, as also you will not get cold. Costumes are specially prepared for this. Just one rule: you need to be 145 cm or higher to fit it. Arrival to icebreaker Sampo. I spend new year Eve in Helsinki – capital of Finland and was excited about next day trip to North to meet While Walkers or at least some locals , white bears, owls and swim in Gulf of Bothnia between ice. Get the was pretty easy , flight, train or cheap bus from Onnibus. I arrived to Kemi and meet with local travelers from Couchsurfing who helped me next day to get to Icebreaker Sampo. I prepared to be there 30 minutes before. My choice from schedule was day tour which anyway ends in darkness.We were divided on groups, and each group had a guide. Our guide showed us most needed thing and left for some 30 minutes to look around before guided tour.Icebreaker is very warm and comfortable inside, you can find there a bar and bags storage if needed. Comfortable chairs and sofa, a lot of souvenirs and postcards. Icebreaker Sampo Kemi Guided Tour and Free time. First of all guide assigned  you to the group ,will come to warm room and will tell history of icebreaker .Then you will go to all levels, will be provided to the rooms with special swimsuits, will hear all details about height and sizes and also you will visit the cabin crew. After that you will have free time to explore icebreaker, make photos  and so on, until Sampo will not stop for best winter experience in Lapland. I should mention that during the tour some people were started to worry about swimming opportunity, it looked liked we […]

Helsinki: A Stylish City of Finland

DISCOVER A STYLISH CAPITAL CITY OF FINLAND     Helsinki is the capital city of Finland, home to about one in every five Fins. Small, compact and full of style, this waterfront city opens up to the Baltic Sea and bridges Scandinavia to the west and Russia to the east. In fact, forgetting independence a hundred years ago, Finland was caught between the empires of Sweden and Russia. And Helsinki is a product of the push and pull of empire growing up around the floating fortress of Soumenlinna, fifteen minutes by ferry from downtown Helsinki. SO-ONE-MILENA!   “So-one-milena” as it's pronounced is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built by the Swedish, captured by the Russians and finally taken back by the Fins who opened it up to the public. But we didn't come here just to float around on an Island; We came here to visit Helsinki one of the most stylish cities in Europe.           STREET STYLE OF HELSINKI Fins are known for their design legacy, which is rooted in simplicity and puts function over form. It's something you see just walking down the street: from the renovated historical buildings of the Tori Quarter, to the modernist buildings from nineteen thirties, and more recent additions like the Chapel of Silence. These days Finnish design translates into sustainable street style: something that Visit Helsinki showed us right when we arrived by hooking us up with a grab-bag of local apparel, including Costo backpacks made from recycled denim and wooden sunglasses from Pollot. So we headed over to Tori Quarters in Helsinki's design strict to meet with Hannes Bengs [Hello] founder of Costo who spoke to us about Helsinki's style in general and his project in particular. Hannes Bengs says: “Growing up in Finland, it's always been a big thing actually, ecological environment nature and everything about it, so it's a normal thing for me. But you can't be too hip, too trendy because otherwise it won't last. The trend goes, you know, it lasts for half a year. You have to have the classic design too. We produce all of our caps and other accessories, all of our industrial and raw materials, like the fabrics is from sofa factories, small pieces that they can't use in the industry.” That emphasis of quality over quantity is also shaping another aspect of Helsinki's culture: Cuisine! where a new generation of young chefs is shaking up Finnish food by focusing on local, organic produce, the best of which is found in the recently renovated Old Market Hall where we shopped around for some cured salmon and spoke with some of the local fish mongers. I love that word.   They say: “The traditional cured salmon is just a fresh salmon fillet, and on top you've got sugar, sea salt and dill. And then you leave it. The next day it will be ready to be sliced and eaten.”   Before leaving the market we stopped for a […]

Helsinki: the city of moomins

In Finland I had the time of my life. After a 5-hour flight from Romania, this wonderful country proceeded to show me every side of a Nordic region. What puzzled me at first, were the people. Tattooed from head-to-toe, with state-of-the-art hairstyles and with their expensive clothes, they were really impressive works of art. Then, the general wellbeing, the complex yet classy architecture, the apparently national sport-skateboarding. These first impressions created a whole that made me want to explore more, and to find out every detail of this bizarre country. Of course, wandering through the streets of Helnsinki with the aim of enlarging my culture was no easy-job, since I had to search for information and places to see, but I am going to ease your trip by making a short and condensed list of these places, as well as a brief description of each. Here are the most important and most beautiful touristic points to consider: • Uspenski Cathedral • Helsinki Cathedral • Temppeliaukio Church • Market Square • Finnair Skywheel • Natural History Museum • The ice breakers • Keskuspuisto/ Central Park • Design Museum Arabia • Stockmann and Kamppi Shopping Centre • Suomenlinna Island Uspenski Cathedral It’s a huge Christian church built by Russians on the top of a hill, in order to show their power over the Finnish. It is visible from everywhere in Helsinki, and it provides a great diversity to this beautiful city, since its design is far more different than the other’s buildings. The golden detailing and the brick-red color of this building make a perfect match, so the general impression is a powerful one. It is sure you will remember this Cathedral for a long time, especially if you get to see the interior, which offers the visitors an unforgettable experience with its huge height. Helsinki Cathedral This church is obviously less impressive than Uspenski Cathedral; however, it still remains the symbol of Helsinki, making it a must-visit attraction. It differs from the previous one mainly with its colors-which are white and blue, the colors of the Finnish flag, and with the interior design, that is specific for Catholic churches. Temppeliaukio Church I promise this is the last Church I will talk about, but it surely is not the least beautiful. It is a recent construction, being built in 1969, quarried out of the natural bedrock. Its designers are Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, who made an ingenious place for prayer, and, surprisingly, for concerts. It is so unique because of its rooftop. Not only does it allow the sun to lighten the interior, reducing, this way, the need for electricity, but it is decorated with a huge hand-made spiral made out of copper. They must have spent decades working on that design! Market Square and the Finnair Skywheel I have discovered these places simply by chance. They are very close to Uspenski Cathedral, and I was extremely hungry when I finished photographing the church. I decided to try something new, such as […]

Lahti: the ski jump city.

Home to one of the tallest ski jumps in Finland, Lahti is a small town where everyday Finnish life can be really enjoyed. The city has about 103,200 inhabitants and the downtown city area is quite small. Ski jump in the summer. [single_map_place][/single_map_place] Most of the people who inhabit this town live on the outer rim of the city, which is called Hollola. Public transportation is very effective, making Hollola and Lahti well communicated cities. I spent a beautiful year as a Rotary International exchange student in Lahti, I managed to learn Finnish and made many great friends from all over the world while being there. The lake area: Lahti is a difficult city to write about, mainly because it lacks mayor touristic attractions as other cities in the world do. The first and to me the most attractive place in the city is Vesijärvi, which is the lake located right next to the city downtow area. This is a great place to spend not only summer days cruising around the harbor, but also relaxing winter days. In summer there are many food trucks and restaurants located around and in the lake. Depending on your budget you can either have a snack in one of the lovely cafes at the bay or a fancy dinner on a boat, anyway you choose, the view is amazing. Chilling at the harbour On the other hand, in winter the lake freezes and there are plenty of activities that can be done. Having a snack at the bay is still an option, but freezing on the terrace of a cafe is not very lovely. Find a pair of skates and have some fun skating on the lake. If you are into fishing, Finland is a great place to do it. When the lakes freeze, many people organize fishing excursions, where you carve a hole into the ice, place a chair next to it and spend the day talking and enjoying a beer or two while waiting for the fish to bite. Frozen Lahti Harbour Right next to Vesijärvi Lake, the magnificent Sibelius Hall or Sibeliustalo as it is called by the locals, holds a great variety of musical shows during the year and was named after the most famous Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. If you are visiting Finland I would recommend seeing a famous Finnish artist, only for the sake of discovering new music and to experience a concert in a different country than your own. The Hall is pretty impressive by itself, so if you want to focus on the architecture you can always just admire it from the outside. By night, the facade of the concert hall gets illuminated, and having the lake right behind, it provides a very romantic view. Sibelius Hall   Museums: Moving on from the lake area, there are two museums that are very nice to visit. Lahti’s Art and Poster Museums […]

Kuopio – northern city with warm-hearted people

Why Kuopio? Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo – huge, capital cities attracting many tourists to visit the very south of the Nordic countries. However, if one would like to feel the real Nordic experience, to get the insight into the lives of the people from smaller cities, somewhat lower temperatures should be withstood, but many beautiful places are waiting to be visited. One of those places is Kuopio, a Finish city concealed with forests and surrounded by thousands of lakes (The Official Travel Guide of Finland). If you are looking for a wonderful place where you don`t want to be a part of the huge tourists crowds, but feel the spirit of a smaller Finish city, then you want to visit this place. It will fulfil your expectations, and give you even more! Kuopio is not one of those places which you visit when you want to explore different styles of architecture and visit many museums, galleries etc. (although there are few worth visiting, like Kuopio Museum, Kuopio St. Nikolas` Cathedral, Kuopio Automobile Museum…), but where you want to enjoy the nature. You will surely become aware of that on the plane already, while being above the Finish landscape, with just a single look through the window, when only the blue and green will be caught by your eyes! This is the place where you want entirely enjoy the nature and lifestyle which you can have if cooperating with it. The fresh air which you breathe in as soon as you exit the airplane is simply amazing; you could swear that it feels like you have just got a new pair of lungs! Unfortunately, you might get quite shocked when you come back to the place where you came from. So, while in Kuopio, breathe, breathe, and breathe! All those forests aren`t there for nothing! Although being quite far from Helsinki and surrounded by many lakes which might make it not as easy to access, you can fly from Helsinki to Kuopio, or use either car or train. Several great Universities make sure that the city is fulfilled with young people, keeping it alive even in the darkest and coldest winter days. And don`t think that low temperatures make it hard for spending time outside – there is nothing more popular than “warm sauna – cold lake – warm sauna” cycles! You can ask around and you will hardly find a family which doesn`t own a small island house with sauna in it. If you are not afraid of cold water, you can try it and see if there are some Finish roots in you! What to do in Kuopio to experience real Finland? If you would like to spend a day trying several different real Finish things, make sure to go to the Jätkänkämppä lodge and smoke sauna (the reservation is definitely recommended). Placed on the very lake shore, it offers great Finish food, possibly live music, sauna, and of course, jumping into the lake experience. You can even show off there […]
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