Finland has a lot of unique places and lots of untouched nature to offer. But which are the most beautiful places you should see, for example, in the context of your very first trip to Finland? Over the years I have roamed my second homeland countless times from North to South and from West to East, discovering so many beautiful spots. It was all the harder for me to put together a kind of "Top 10". Although such a list can never be complete, I would be happy if it serves as an inspiration and a "playmaker" for future Suomi trips.
1. Suomenlinna - the Historic Sea Fortress off Helsinki
The sea fortress Suomenlinna is a must on a Helsinki city trip and is also the start of an unforgettable holiday in Finland. Over six islands stretch the historic walls from the 18th century. What was once built as a naval base is now a popular destination for locals and tourists.
It's especially nice here on a sunny summer's day, when you relax on the rocks and watch the giant ferries fly in and out of Sweden. You can reach Suomenlinna within a few minutes by ferry from the Kauppatori - which in turn is a stone's throw from the white Cathedral of Helsinki, which shines from the water in splendor.
2. Rovaniemi - the Official Hometown of Santa Claus
Rovaniemi is not only the urban center of the Finnish Lapland, but also promotes the slogan "The official hometown of Santa Claus". In fact, Santa Claus or Joulupukki, as he is called in Finnish, is at home here. In the imaginatively designed Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle not only children's eyes shine, but also the adults for a moment feek like being back in their own childhood.
In my opinion, the atmosphere here in the snowy winter is the most beautiful when you venture right next door to a reindeer sleigh ride or with a bit of luck the magical northern lights can see. But also the summery Rovaniemi is worth a trip. Experience the midnight sun, treat yourself to a very special kind of wellness on the sauna raft "Erkin Arkki" and enjoy the shy reindeer.
3. The Saimaa Lake District - a small paradise on earth
Europe's largest lake district welcomes you in the Southeast of the country. Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland, is the heart of the lake district and covers an area of 4370 square kilometers. Countless islands and bays provide space for hidden Mökkis, the typical Finnish summer houses.
Places of interest in the Lake District are the traditional garrison town of Mikkeli, the idyllic Puumala, the picturesque, water-surrounded Punkaharju ridge and the town of Savonlinna with Finland's most beautiful Olavinlinna Castle. In the South you should venture a trip to Lappeenranta and Imatra with its rapids, while Kuopio is the absolute highlight of the Northern lake district. Here you should not only try the regional specialty "Kalakukko", but also enjoy the panoramic view from the lookout tower on the Puijo mountain.
4. Koli - Finland's national landscape on the Lake Pielinen
A very special place in Finland is undoubtedly the Koli National Park. High above the Lake Pielinen are the peaks of Ukko-Koli, Akka-Koli and Paha-Koli, offering breathtaking views of the country's fifth largest inland water and the hinterland. It is no coincidence that the backdrop of the Koli, which looks like a photo wallpaper, is referred to as the Finnish national landscape. And while you're here, just walk around the Lake Pielinen and visit the town of Nurmes with its historic Bomba House and Lieksa with the Pielinen open-air museum.
The capital of North Karelia's, Joensuu, is worth a detour as well as the easternmost municipality in Finland, Ilomantsi, a center of the Rune-Singer tradition and Orthodox Christianity.
5. Hanko - Finland's Southernmost City with a Mediterranean flair
Just 127 kilometers from the capital Helsinki the southernmost city, Hanko, awaits you. Hanko is a real summer city. The numerous villas provide a sophisticated atmosphere, while the even in the high season pleasantly empty sandy beaches spray a Mediterranean flair. Landmarks of Hanko are the red water tower and the church. There is room for about 7 000 boats in Finland's largest marina.
6. Porvoo - Historic Idyll by the River
As the second oldest city in Finland, Porvoo can look back on an eventful history. Already in the 13th century it was a center of commerce. Today it is considered one of the most popular destinations not far from Helsinki. Characteristic of the city is the river Porvoonjoki, on the banks of the red ocher houses represent a great photo opportunity. The Porvoo Cathedral watches over the city and its inhabitants on a hill above the old town which is made up of many colorful wooden houses.
7. Rauma - wooden houses catching your eyes
As you enter the Old Town of Rauma, you feel like you're in the past with a time machine. Counting as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991 the largest wooden house district in the Nordic countries is a landmark in itself. Here you can stroll for hours through the cobbled streets and discover new details again and again. The archipelago before Rauma was not only declared a nature reserve but, in the summer, it is also a true paradise for water rats.
8. Kalajoki - sandy beaches like in the south
Miles of sandy beaches like in the South but less than two hours drive South of the Northern Finland's technology metropolis Oulu? This is Kalajoki. The "Kalajoen Hiekkasärkät" are known to every child in Finland, but still rather unknown abroad - wrongly. Because in addition to relaxing on the beautiful beaches, you can also enjoy numerous other activities such as hiking, mountain biking or golfing.
Accommodations are available in all price ranges from the basic cabin to the luxury villa. The spa invites you to pamper your body and soul in the whirlpool or as part of soothing treatments. By the way, if you do not want to go that far to the North you'll also find beautiful sandy beaches in Yyteri near the city of Pori.
9. Turku - the Former Capital by the Aurajoki River
The history of the oldest city and former capital of Finland goes back to the 13th century - at that time still under Swedish and later Russian rule. The city's landmark is the Turku Cathedral, located directly by the Aurajoki river. From here you can stroll along the picturesque river and admire the sailing ship "Suomen Joutsen" for example. The Turku Castle is located in the middle of the harbor area and unfortunately is rather densely built.
Today Turku is considered a vibrant student city with a diverse nightlife and emerging gastronomy. The archipelago in front of the city is a labyrinth of islets that you can easily explore on a circuit route ("Saariston rengastie"). My tip: Also visit the cute spa town Naantali at the gates of Turku.
10. Tampere - Charming Industrial Culture Surrounded by Lakes
Tampere is the largest inland city in the country and was known for many years mainly for its industry. Not for nothing the city got the nickname "Manchester of the North". Today, the red brick buildings around the Tammerkoski rapids in the city center, which today have long been used for other purposes, bear witness to the legacy of the past.
The Tampere city between the two large lakes Pyhäjärvi and Näsijärvi is today a creative center with a lively art and cultural scene. You can enjoy a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding area from both the Näsinneula lookout tower and the Pyynikki tower in the park of the same name. Here you can also get the most delicious cinnamon rolls ("korvapuusti") of all times.
Text & photos René Schwarz
About the author:
René Schwarz grew up half Finn and bilingual. The self-employed copywriter and author regularly travels to his second home country and loves to share his passion for Suomi with others. He has been doing this on his blog FinnTouch since the beginning of 2016, where you can expect further travel tips from Finland, interviews with Finnish artists and personal stories. Have a look! www.finntouch.de (in German only)