What to do in Finland?

Back to blogging after a busy summer full of travelling! Let’s start with Finland, a country that should definitely be on your bucket list of Nordic countries to visit. Here is why.

Visit Suomenlinna

This sea fortress located on an island 15 minutes away from central Helsinki by boat was built in the 1700s to protect the city from sea attacks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Go on a sunny summer day or (even better) on a crisp winter’s day when the sea is frozen and the whole island tourist-free. Allow yourself a few hours to circle the island, its big walls and old cannons. Don’t forget to stop at the hidden Samovarbar next to the little toy museum, and have a piece of their delicious apple pie.

Suomenlinna Finland
Suomenlinna

Coffee at Samovarbar in Suomenlinna Finland
Coffee time at Samovarbar

 

Suomenlinna in winter Finland
Suomenlinna in winter

Climb up Mount Koli

Head east to witness Finland’s most Finnish landscape from the top of Mount Koli. The drive is long but the walk up from the parking lot is short. You can spend long hours just contemplating this magical scenery of lakes, islands and forests in different shades of light. Sokos Hotel Koli is very convenient to spend the night close by.

Koli Finland
Koli

Go berry-picking

During late summer and early fall, Finnish forests literally fill up with all kinds of berries and mushrooms. Most of them are not only edible, but very tasty and healthy super food! In Finland, anyone has the right to wander through unfenced lands no matter whose property they are, and pick the gifts of nature growing on them.

Huckleberries Finland
Huckleberries

 

Beautiful chanterelle Finland
Beautiful chanterelle

 

Bilberries Finland
Bilberries

Discover New Nordic Cuisine

Book a table at one of Helsinki’s high-end restaurants to get a taste of the trendy New Nordic Cuisine, refined and very down-to-earth at the same time. It isn’t cheap, but to try at least once. Find out more about Michelin-starred restaurants in Helsinki here.

Restaurant Olo Finland
Restaurant Olo

Visit old Porvoo

Just a half an hour freeway-ride away from Helsinki, old Porvoo and its colourful wooden houses is a charming place. Especially in wintertime. Get lost in the narrow streets dating back from the Middle Age. The oldest preserved houses are from the 18th century (due to multiple fires).

Porvoo in winter Finland
Porvoo in winter

 

Porvoo close-up Finland
Porvoo close-up

…or old Rauma

Further away in Western Finland is old Rauma, the other one of Finland’s only two preserved old towns. Old Rauma is UNESCO-listed and bigger than old Porvoo, but old Porvoo is a bit more scenic due to its hilly setting (and a lot easier to reach from Helsinki).

In the streets of Old Rauma Finland
Old Rauma

Go ice-skating on the frozen Baltic sea

Sounds great? Doing it is even greater. But don’t go alone, unless you are very experienced. Ice conditions on the sea are very tricky and dangerous regardless of how cold it has been, so going with a guide and/or a group is more than wise.

Ice-skating on the Baltic Sea Finland
Ice-skating on the Baltic Sea

Take a big ferry from Helsinki or Turku

The Finnish Archipelago counts more than 40 000 islands and islets. The best way to experience it is to take a big ferry-boat from Helsinki or Turku towards the Åland islands. It’s quite something to witness the big ship make its way through hundreds of narrow straits (especially when departing from Turku), before reaching the permanently inhabited Åland islands where people speak Swedish though the islands are part of Finland. Here you can spend a few days or a few weeks, just enjoying the cool island life. Make sure to taste the pizza Åland, rich in sour cream, onion and big chunks of fresh salmon.

Ferry-boats in Helsinki Finland
Ferry-boats in Helsinki’s South Harbour

 

Arriving the Åland Islands Finland
Arriving Åland Islands

 

Life in the Åland islands Finland
Life in the Åland islands

Another way to enjoy the Archipelago is to drive (or bike) the Archipelago Ring Road, hopping from island to island with smaller ferries. This route doesn’t reach the Åland islands though.

The Archipelago Ring Road Finland
The Archipelago Ring Road

 

The Finnish Archipelago from above Finland
Finnish Archipelago from above

See some glass-blowing in Iittala

You can witness the fascinating process of glass-blowing for free at Iittala glassware factory, near the city of Tampere (about one and a half hour from Helsinki via freeway). Check the opening times before you go as they usually have a summer closure in July.

Glass-blowing in Iittala Finland
Glass-blowing in Iittala

Have a drink at Ateljee Bar

To get a beautiful overview of Helsinki, head to Hotel Torni in the very center of the city. Once there, take the elevator to the top floor and climb a small spiral staircase to reach Ateljee Bar with its two open-air terraces (one facing north and the other facing south). The tiny bar is often crowded but the views are incredible. Try to go during sunset, when the city bathes in golden light.

South view from Torni's Ateljee Bar Finland
South view from Torni’s Ateljee Bar

Drive to EU’s easternmost point

Want to see Russia without crossing the border? Well, you can actually do that from EU’s easternmost point which is located in Finland and reachable by car. Ok, you won’t see much else than Russian forest across the lake but the symbolic meaning of this point is quite something. Here you stand about 70 km easter than St Petersburg, on the world’s most clashing border between East and West.

EU's easternmost point on the border between Finland and Russia
EU’s easternmost point on the border between Finland and Russia

Visit Lapland

No trip to Finland is complete without seeing its northernmost region: Lapland. Read my post dedicated to this exotic part of the world here. Experience the northern lights in winter or hike in untouched nature during summer and fall. In Lapland there is always something beautiful to see.

Mesmerizing northern lights Finland
Mesmerizing northern lights

 

Frozen trees in Lapland Finland
Frozen trees in Lapland

 

On top of Mount Saana in summertime Finland
On top of Mount Saana in summertime

Have a cheap kahvimunkki in a kiosk somewhere

Just yummy.

Kahvimunkki Finland
Kahvimunkki

Spend a clear summer night in a mökki

With over 180 000 Finnish lakes, there is plenty to choose from for a lake cottage. The real ones are rustic, without modern commodities. You don’t go there for a posh vacation, but to enjoy nature, wood-heated sauna, tranquility and to get back to basics.

Endless summer night Finland
Clear summer night

 

Midnight sunset Finland
Midnight sunset

Go to Savonlinna during the Opera Festival

Every summer a special kind of Opera Festival takes place in Savonlinna (Central Finland). Not in a modern state-of-the-art opera house, but inside a fortress from the 1400s (Olavinlinna). Pretty cool, huh! So break your piggy bank (yes, tickets are expensive), book well in advance and enjoy this very unique experience.

Olavinlinna Finland
Olavinlinna

Spend a hot summer day at Yyteri beach

While in Western Finland, don’t miss the country’s most beautiful sand beach of Yyteri near Pori. If you are lucky, air temperature can be of 25C degrees (with approximately 20C degrees for the water). Yyteri beach streches on many kilometers of sand, backed up by beautiful dunes, and the clear water is shallow for a good distance. Plus, no crowds here.

Yyteri beach Finland
Yyteri beach

Have a long stroll in a siirtolapuutarha

These hideaways were originally built near urban centers to give the working class a chance to experience the feeling of owning a cottage in the woods. And it was a success. Now owning a siirtolapuutarha lot is maybe even more popular than owning an actual cabin far away from the city. Ok, you don’t get the lake or the complete solitude the traditional mökki provides. But these places are still quite amazing. Go for a walk in one of them (there are many different ones in Helsinki, for example) and enjoy the tiny cabins surrounded by well-groomed gardens. Note they are open for public only during summer.

Siirtolapuutarha Finland
Siirtolapuutarha

Spend a day in Turku

Finland’s ancient capital city (until 1820) has a very European vibe and a lot of nice cafés and casual restaurants. Having a drink or a bite along the Aurajoki river on a warm afternoon surely is of great pleasure. Turku also has one of Finland’s oldest castles.

Dessert in Turku Finland
Dessert in Turku

Visit Helsinki’s special churches

First there is the Rock Church, or Temppeliaukion kirkko. Carved directly into the granite and stunningly beautiful from inside, this surely is one of the city’s highlights. Not far from there is another curiosity, on the busy Narinkkatori place: the all-wooden Silence Chapel. Step inside and spend a moment with yourself.

Rock Church in Helsinki Finland
Rock Church in Helsinki

 

Silence Chapel in Helsinki Finland
Silence Chapel in Helsinki

Admire nature’s own ice sculptures

Nature is never far away in Finland, no matter where you are. And when it gets very cold, nature transforms into a collection of wonderful ice sculptures. It’s every photographer’s paradise.

Frozen tree Finland
Frozen tree

 

Ice sculptures Finland
Ice sculptures on the freezing sea

 

Winter photography Finland
Winter photography

…and swim in the frozen sea before heading home

If you dare. So refreshing.

A dip in the frozen Baltic Sea Finland
A dip in the frozen Baltic Sea

 

 

 

 

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