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

Right next to the cathedral is the Art Museum, small place with many paintings, sculptures or even photographs created by various Finnish artists between 1870’s and 1980’s. Most of the art pieces there are moved across Finland and other Scandinavian countries, however, there are also artworks which are there permanently – for example Johannes Haapasalo’s pieces (which I loved a lot, mostly because of a simple depiction of human body). What is more, it regularly organizes concerts of philharmonic which are set up in the whole (!) Europe. The ticket for an adult costs 6 Euros so it’s not that much – especially if it involves music concert.

Mikkeli Headquarters and Infantry Museum

If you aren’t a big fan of art, not far from the cathedral is Headquarters museum, authentic place with its own story. It stores tons of maps and board; rooms are conserved and almost untouched by people; modern screens and devices display plenty of information about Finnish conflicts; all of this located in actual wartime building. During World War II Mikkeli was the military centre so it’s a place to be for any person with just a slight interest in history or army. Although the building doesn’t seem big, visiting it is really time-consuming as every room shows its own story and presents it in very interesting, unusual way. Next attraction is located in authentic military barracks and training fields, so it’s not hard to find conserved weapons, uniforms or unique photos taken by random soldiers. Although it concentrates mostly on the past, there is also a section which presents actual military equipment and has a lot of information about current approach of the Finnish government. Some of the museum’s buildings are also shared with the University of applied sciences, one of the best Scandinavian Educational facilities concerning engineering or sciences. Entrance costs 12 euros but if you are interested in history, it’s definitely worth it, as you can spend here literally the whole day.

Suur-Savon Museum

Although Mikkeli is known for its past military value, history buffs not interested in guns and fighting will also find something for themselves – about 10 minutes by foot from the city centre there is Sur-Savon museum, an old granary. It relates to life in old times, activities which were popular at the beginning of twenty century – the display shows wooden or metal items, equipment which was used to fight fire in old times. It’s also the cheapest of all museums in the city.    

Attractions around Mikkeli

Apart from the attractions I’ve already mentioned, there is still a lot of places and monuments to see but let’s go to the hill where you can get a panoramic view of the woods surrounding the city. That’s our next point.

Photogenic scenery

The views are amazing. 5-minutes walk from the city centre leads us to suburbs where woods are mixed with individual possessions, public roads, and groceries but after next 10 minutes we can find ourselves on marked paths leading us to various routes across the region. Every photographer or nature-lover will be busy for a long time here. The Annilansenka, which is one of the closest lakes to the city, provides the viewer with the essence of the northern countries – in winter everything is covered in snow, the water turned into ice and all the flora asleep, while in the summer the whole place is abundant with green and light. In both scenarios we get to see classic red cabins and wooden boats, both possible for rental. In the South Savo region there is a Kolovesi National Park, a place that offers the views of Saima Ringed Seals, cliffs rising from the water or cave paintings. However, if you are not fancy a longer trip, it isn’t hard to notice animals at large in the city’s suburbs – moose, for instance. It’s really astonishing that one can experience places unspoiled by technologies while being so close to the city.

Recreation in the Finnish environment.

Mikkeli’s neighborhood is full of roads for cars however there are twice as many routes designed for hikers. Many of them lead to the hills or lakes where it is possible to rent a boat or kayak or simply swim and enjoy the beautiful environment. Finland, like other Scandinavian countries, is popular for its green attitude so any reservoir is undoubtedly not contaminated or polluted. Although I left Finland some time ago, I still can’t get over my time in this small, cozy city and its suburbs. It’s definitely a wonderful place for people of any age who do not like crowds of tourists but love to sightsee, learn about the past or enjoy the clean environment. Truly wonderful experience. Can’t wait to come back there, I definitely recommend it to anyone!

Adam Schiller

Budget traveler, volunteer, tutor, reader. My adventure with new cultures started harmlessly, it was a break from living in London city bustle which was meant to last 4 weeks. So far I haven’t come back. And although most of countries I’ve visited are European, I wouldn’t change my life for a thing – well, its not meant to be lived in one place, right?