Welcome to Finland; from Helsinki to the Arctic Circle

Finland is not necessarily the most popular tourist destination in the world. One of the reasons for this is Finland’s geographic location in Northern Europe, which is not close to more popular countries, like France or Italy. However, Finland has a lot to offer, such as seven UNESCO world heritage sites. If you are considering a trip to Finland, here are some places you might want to pay a visit.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has an excellent airport, one that was ranked the 15th best in the world, which is why it is a natural starting point for your trip. The city of 650,000 people has much more to offer than just its great shopping opportunities. Helsinki’s Market Square is hundreds of years old, and its central location makes it a must place to visit.

Right next to the Market Square is Allas Sea Pool. In addition to saunas and swimming pools, you can enjoy a refreshing drink on a hot summer day right in downtown.

Helsinki Cathedral is on a walking distance from the Market Square and Allas Sea Pool. The cathedral, possibly the most well-known building in Finland, was completed in 1852. During the time, Finland was still under Russian rule. That is why you will often see similarities to Russian architecture, especially to Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

If you enjoy modern architecture, you should visit contemporary art museum, Kiesma. Another impressive building is Helsinki’s Central Library, Oodi.

Suomenlinna, a sea fortress right outside of Helsinki, is a popular tourist attraction. While still under the Swedish rule, the castle was built in the mid 1700s and its purpose was to keep the Russians away. However, the Russians still ended up taking over Finland.

Suomenlinna is not the only castle in Finland. Turun linna and Hämeen linna are both from the late 1200s and definitely worth visiting. Olavinlinna is another medieval castle that attracts tourists. Just like Suomenlinna, most of these castles were built by the Swedes.

If you decide to visit Turun linna in Turku, it would be a no-brainer to go see the Archipelago Sea. Bridges and ferries make it easy to navigate, and they are a great way to experience the 20,000 islands of the largest archipelago in the world.

You can even visit the …land Islands, an autonomous Finnish province in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. …land mostly consists of Swedish-speaking Finns, and so do many other cities in the west coast of Finland.

The narrowest part between Sweden and Finland is called Kvarken, or Merenkurkku in Finnish, which means throat of the sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is extremely unique, because the land rises 0.39 inches every year. At this rate, the 49-mile distance between Sweden and Finland should close in 2,000 years.

While in Finland, visiting Lapland is a necessity. However, you should not just drive straight through Finland or take a train without making some pitstops elsewhere.

I would be remiss without mentioning Tampere. Even though it is my hometown, that is not the only reason you should visit Tampere. The third largest city in Finland is located between two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi.

Pyynikinharju, which is the world’s highest gravel ridge, is a great place to get an amazing view of the city and the surrounding areas. If you’re traveling with kids, the amusement park Särkänniemi and its aquarium would be a great time.

Tampere also has some historical significance. Since the industrialism in Finland started from Tampere, the Finlayson area and its old brick buildings are awesome places to spend time if you want to experience something culturally significant. Museum Center Vapriikki, on the other hand, is the place to be for the history geeks. In addition to the Finnish Civil War exhibition that includes the Battle of Tampere. The Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame is also located in Vapriikki.

Even though cities have a lot to offer, Lapland is what Finland is known for. It does require some traveling to get up north, but it is definitely worth it. As you cross the Arctic Circle during the wintertime, you enter the winter wonderland. If you are not into skiing, snowshoe walking, or snowmobile safaris, you still have plenty to do.

Lapland’s igloo hotels are really popular and they are well-known all over the world. The glass ceilings are perfect for seeing the beautiful northern lights. Even though there might be a lack of sunshine during the winter, you can always brighten up your day by visiting the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi.

It is worth mentioning that Lapland will not disappoint in the summertime either. Packing your bags and going for a hike is something I recommend if you get tired of other activities such as gold panning, kayaking, or visiting reindeer farms. The hiking possibilities are endless in Lapland, thanks to its many national parks. From Finland’s 40 national parks, the most popular ones are located in Lapland. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park and Urho Kekkonen National Park offer some of the most amazing views you can experience in Finland.

It is impossible to mention every single tourist attraction in Finland, but I hope this inspired you to visit the land of the thousand lakes. And since tourists should always get the full Finnish experience, tasting traditional Finnish foods such as Karelian pie and bread cheese is a must. So, if you ever happen to be in Finland, stop by in Tampere and I will show you around. The bravest can even taste a local treat, a Finnish blood sausage.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Roni Salmenkangas is a student athlete at Ferris State University, majoring in sports communication. For the most part, Roni’s stories focus on Finnish culture and people. He is completing his internship from Tampere, Finland.


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