An activity-filled vacation in Finland, renowned for its pure nature, sets the perfect scene for a healthy break for every member of the family.
Are you looking for an activity-packed holiday full of outdoor adventures? Or perhaps a quieter time spent together exploring museums or browsing books? Finland, voted the world’s happiest country three years on a row in the annual United Nations World Happiness Report, offers endless options for the perfect child-friendly family vacation year-round.
We listed the top family-friendly places in Finland full of adventure, outdoor activities and fairytale vibes – all the things that children love.
Article published in April 2020.
Full of interesting contrasts, such as the four seasons, the Midnight Sun and winter darkness, urban and rural, East and West.
The Moomins, those loveable fairytale characters created by the famous Finnish artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001), are just about everywhere in Finland. You can find them emblazoned on coffee mugs and home textiles, or as the stars of the show in dedicated theme parks and museums. Originally a popular children’s book series, the Moomins then became a popular comic strip commissioned by the Associated Press in 1948. The adventures of these beloved characters have since been adapted into cartoons, movies, and TV series, including the new Moominvalley TV series which features Hollywood-stars from Taron Egerton and Rosamund Pike to Kate Winslet as the English-speaking voice actors.
The popular Moominworld theme park is located on the island of Kailo in the charming seaside town of Naantali, 2 hours west of Helsinki. Here, visitors experience what it would be like to live in the magical land of the Moomins, complete with an authentic five-story blue house right out of the pages of a Moomin tale.
The world’s first – and only! – Moomin museum in the city of Tampere offers visitors the opportunity to explore the endearing stories of the Moomins from the Great Flood to the Puzzle of the Lighthouse.
As one of the world’s most literate countries, Finland showcases a range of spectacular public libraries worth travelling for. Among the newest, the Oodi Central Library in Helsinki doubles as the city’s unofficial living room, as there are much more than just books in this architecturally stunning building. It also houses a large play area for kids, a recording studio, movie theater, a café, and a restaurant.
Oodi hosts numerous activities for children, including an open meeting space for families with young kids. Here, the sharing economy is on display with a range of tools and equipment for public loan, including work spaces with onsite sewing machines for repairing or creating clothing and other items, such as 3D printers. The building’s spruce façade is a nod to the important role that trees and nature play in daily life in Finland.
Amusement parks are guaranteed fun with children of all ages. Two of Finland’s most iconic amusement parks are Linnanmäki in Helsinki, and Särkänniemi in Tampere. Linnanmäki, known to many as “Lintsi,” features 40 rides, including popular classics such as a wooden rollercoaster built in 1951. Located on top of a hill like a fortress, Linnanmäki is a superb summer experience for the whole family. Linnanmäki also offers concerts, theater, and other performances on the outdoor stage during the summer season. The onsite Sea Life Centre Aquarium, which is open year round, offers views into the alluring underwater worlds of tropical fish.
Särkänniemi in Tampere features an aquarium, planetarium, a children’s zoo, and five rollercoasters in addition to dozens of smaller rides. The Näsinneula Observation Tower (Näsi Needle) is a symbol of Tampere and boasts stunning views over this famous Lakeland city.
Located on an island, Helsinki’s Korkeasaari Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, as it was founded back in 1889. Home to 150 animal species and almost 1,000 plant species, the zoo houses a range of interesting residents from Amur tigers and snow leopards to unique Finnish species, such as forest reindeer. Korkeasaari, open year round, can be reach easily by public transport or alternatively by a short boat ride from the city center.
Further up north, at Ähtäri Zoo in Southern Ostrobothnia, the snow pandas are one of the most popular attractions on the 150-acre grounds. Even further up north, Ranua Wildlife Park in Lapland introduces visitors to more than 50 Arctic and other animals, including Finland’s only polar bears. Ranua also focuses strongly on animal protection, as well as nursing and taking care of lost and hurt animals.
Finland has lots of castles to explore. On the bucket list of ‘must-see’ castles is the fortress of Turku, in the city that once served as the capital of Finland. The Turku Castle introduces visitors of all ages to its rich treasures and history, which dates back to the 1280’s. In addition to exploring the halls and chambers, it is possible for kids to dress up as a princess or a knight and step into a medieval court as well as visit a medieval market that recreates trading in former times. Between Helsinki and Turku is the town of Raasepori, the home of the Raseborg Castle Ruins. This medieval castle is one of the most grand castle ruins in Finland.
Another great destination for a medieval adventure is the Olavinlinna Castle, also known for hosting the famous Savonlinna Opera Festival every summer. Built in 1475, the castle stands spectacularly on an island on the shores of the iconic Lake Saimaa. There are guided tours around this magnificent building that will entertain all members of the family. Hämeenlinna, a short train ride north of Helsinki, is another great day trip destination for families. It is the home of the historic Häme Castle and the Aulanko Nature Reserve. Within the reserve is an English-style park, which was built between 1883-1938, with a scenic lookout tower of Aulangonvuori Hill that offers views over the national landscape.
At the Åland Islands in the Finnish Archipelago, the medieval Kastelholm Castle is popular with kids for its pirate tour, which recreates bygone times.
Every child dreams of visiting the real Father Christmas, who lives in Finland, of course. The exact location is in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland just above the Arctic Circle. At Santa Claus Village, which is open every day of the year, you can tour Santa Claus’s workshop, where Mrs. Claus and the elves work year-round, and meet Santa himself. During the winter months, it’s possible to go for reindeer rides, marvel at ice castles, or stay in an ice hotel. One of the most popular activities 365 days a year is sending a postcard from the Santa Claus Main Post Office to anywhere in the world.
Lapland also offers other fun Santa-themes activities – take a look at our Lapland page for more information.
In addition to endless pristine nature and Santa Claus, Lapland offers a range of family-friendly ski slopes at popular ski resorts such as Levi, Ylläs, Ruka, and Pyhä-Luosto. Levi and nearby Ylläs are known for their winter slopes and the magical Northern Lights, nature’s fantastic light show, which makes an appearance up to 200 nights a year in Lapland. Along with Levi and Ylläs, Ruka is one of the country’s most famous ski resorts with a range of activities for all members of the family from downhill skiing and snowboarding to cross-country skiing. There are also plenty of summer activities to try. Pyhä-Luosto offers authentic Lappish ski slopes nestled next to a mesmerizing national park with an amethyst mine.
The skiing season in Lapland is long: it starts from late autumn and usually continues all the way till late spring. There are also other family-friendly ski resorts, big and small, further down south – even in the Helsinki capital region.
For city folk who are not keen on venturing far out into the countryside, visiting the Haltiala Farm in Vantaa, just north of Helsinki, is like taking a trip to the real countryside. The lively farm introduces urbanites to domestic farm animals such as chickens, sheep, and cows. Children are even allowed to feed some of the animals. Haltiala’s pea and flower fields bloom during July and August and city residents are allowed to pick sunflowers for free during those months. There is also a grill that can be used free of charge so you can easily spend several enjoyable hours on the farm. The forests and fields of Haltiala are part of the large recreational belt of green that’s linked to Helsinki’s Central Park.
Further up north, the Lakeland area also offers many places for farm and animal lovers alike – you can even go spotting for wildlife, like the Saimaa ringed seal.
To the surprise of many who know Finland only as a winter destination, the country boasts a wide range of beaches and shores lining the sea and its thousands of lakes. Throughout Finland, there are numerous public swimming beaches, but one of the most exotic strips of sand lies in Yyteri on the outskirts of the Finnish town of Pori, which is renowned for its annual international jazz festival. The six-kilometer Yyteri Beach, with its unique dunes, borders the Baltic Sea and provides the setting for a perfect seaside summer adventure. In fact, Yyteri Beach has been named one of the best beaches in Europe for families. Nearby cabins and villas are available for rent, and a beach-side sauna offers the quintessential Finnish bathing experience, which is best enjoyed by a post-sauna dip in the sea.
Another famous beach location on the Finnish coast is located in Kalajoki, 5 hours north of Yyteri, where you’ll find a sandy beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. The water temperature in Finland is usually on the cooler side but it will undoubtedly leave you feeling refreshed.
Many people know Finland as the land of a thousands lakes. But did you know that Finland also boasts an extensive network of well-maintained national parks throughout the country from Helsinki to Lapland? With its diverse plant and wildlife, one of the greatest sources of wellbeing for Finnish families is the great outdoors.
You can start exploring the quintessential Finnish forest scenery at the popular Nuuksio National Park in Espoo or Sipoonkorpi National Park in Sipoo, both located about 30 minutes from the Helsinki city center. Both parks offer many nature trails of varying lengths that are perfect for a family day-trip. Several campfire spots along the way provide the quintessentially Nordic experience of grilling sausages over an open fire. On a hot summer’s day, swimming in Nuuksio’s lakes and ponds is highly recommended and will surely please the young ones. Continue further up north in Finland where you’ll find 38 other national parks to explore.
Helsinki is one of the few European capitals surrounded by sea, with 100 kilometres of shoreline and 330 islands dotting the waterfront. Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular places to visit in Finland, is comprised of eight linked islands that are open year-round. In addition to six kilometres of fortress wall, 100 cannons, and six museums including the submarine Vesikko, there are numerous cafés and restaurants. Though some of the island’s cafés and museums only operate during the summer months, the fortress’s main gallery Suomenlinna Museum is open throughout the year, with a permanent exhibition that showcases the island’s rich history. As the linked islands are car-free, children love being able to run and explore freely.
Not far from Suomenlinna, Vallisaari island boasts some of the capital region’s most diverse nature; along with unique vegetation, the island is home to more than 1,000 butterfly species. Nearby, charming little Lonnaisland is open during the summer months with a sweet onsite café and restaurant that serves locally sourced, organic delicacies, and a sauna with a spectacular view of the Baltic Sea. Ferries departing from Helsinki harbor serve all three islands in the summer.
If you venture west of Helsinki, you’ll find an archipelago like no other – in fact, Finland’s archipelago in one of the largest in the world with thousands and thousands of islands. Part of the archipelago are the Åland islands, an autonomous province of Finland known especially for its idyllic landscapes for cycling. As biking holidays grow in popularity, the Åland archipelago, comprised of 6,500 islands of which only about 60 are inhabited, is an excellent cycling destination with short distances and relatively flat terrain.
For accommodation, you can choose a camping spot or stay in cozy hotels or B&B’s. In addition to cycling, there is a range of other activities such as boating, fishing and picnicking that will keep every member of the family happy during your visit. Island hopping is no problem as there are many bridges and ferries linking the islands. And there is a range of bicycle rental places catering to travelers, so you don’t need to bring your own cycling equipment.
There are around 75 ski resorts in Finland. That’s quite a high number for a country that has no mountains. Instead of mountains, there are a great deal of hills, which are covered with snow for about 200 days a year.