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The 10 best things to do in Finland
4 minute read
a woman and a white reindeer kissing

Credits:: Daniel Taipale

Dreaming of a holiday in Finland but not sure where to start?

Winter or summer, north or south, Finland has plenty of great experiences in store. Here are 10 things to put on your bucket list.

a woman cooling off in an ice hole
Communing with nature is extremely important to Finns. In the winter, ice-swimming is a popular activity – some even say it’s the best way to meditate!
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Sleep under the Northern Lights

Finland is a land of stark contrasts. In the summer months, the sun doesn’t set at all in the northernmost parts of the country, hence the nickname The Land of the Midnight Sun.” In the winter, the opposite happens, and the sun disappears for months. This time, called “kaamos,” isn’t completely dark, though. The white snow, bright moon and stars, and – if you’re lucky – the colourful Northern Lights, create a surprisingly light and magical nightscape.

One of the best ways to experience these two extremes is to sleep in a glass hut or cottage, surrounded by nature. If the outdoors isn’t your thing, you’ll stay warm, dry and cosy while gazing at the night sky and hopefully, the Aurora Borealis.

Aurora Borealis above the lake Inarijärvi in Lapland, Finland
Credits: : Pertti Turunen
a tent by the lake and northern lights in the sky
The most active seasons for the Northern Lights are autumn and spring, when Earth’s orientation towards the sun maximises the probability of solar flares interacting with the planet’s magnetic field.
Credits:: Pertti Turunen

Visit a lighthouse island

Finland has the largest archipelago in the world. Where there are islands, there are lighthouses. And what lighthouses these are! While most lighthouses in Finland are now automated, they’re not abandoned, and many make ideal destinations for day trips or weekend escapes.

To see for yourself, head to a secluded island for a day or two – their distant location guarantees peace and quiet, save for the sounds of the sea. Even the trip over is sure to relax you – just hop on a boat or ferry and leave your worries behind.

a massive old lighthouse on the islet in the Finnish archipelago
Bengtskär Lighthouse, located on an island near Hanko, is the tallest lighthouse in the Nordics. In addition to its height, it has a rich history. Bombs and grenades have been hurled at this lighthouse, and battles have even been waged inside it.
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Stroll around an old wooden town

In the past, all of Finland’s houses were built of wood and usually painted red, with a few blue and yellow thrown in. Even today, Finland has many entirely preserved wooden towns that sit just as they did decades or centuries ago, and visiting these picturesque places is like entering a living time capsule.

The Helsinki districts of Käpylä and Vallila are good places to start your explorations into Finland’s wooden towns. Old Porvoo, an hour’s drive from the capital, is another easy stop. Beautiful wooden towns can be also be found in Rauma in the west and Loviisa in the south. All three offer charming little B&B’s should you wish to stay longer – and you will.

old wooden building by a river in the Finnish coast
Porvoo’s river view is one of the most iconic sights in Finland. The red buildings on the shore were once used to store merchandise and exotic delicacies, but nowadays, many of them house lovely restaurants and B&Bs.
Credits: Niko Laurila

Get a taste of Finland

Finland’s cuisine is built around fresh, natural ingredients gathered straight from the water, land and forests. The country’s short growing season means many products are only available for a limited amount of time and are chock-full full of vitamins, flavour and colour.

Try iconic Finnish foods – or the latest versions of them – and you’ll be in for a treat. Whether its traditional salmon soup, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, or mouth-watering bilberry pie, be prepared to clear some space on your list of favourite foods!

a handful of Finnish bilberries
Credits: : Harri Tarvainen
a man is holding a weaved tray full of fresh Finnish vegetables
Finland’s best summer produce includes fresh berries, sweet carrots, red onions and new potatoes. The freshest ingredients are sold in market squares.
Credits:: Harri Tarvainen

Hike a national park

Exploring and enjoying nature is easy in Finland! There are over 40 national parks scattered around the country’s islands, lakes, forests, peat lands and fells offering pristine nature and plenty of recreational activities, including hiking, canoeing, climbing and snowshoeing.

Most importantly, Finnish “Everyman’s rights” enable anyone to venture just about anywhere as long as they respect the environment and clean up after themselves. All Finnish national parks have marked hiking routes, nature trails, information boards and picnic sites, many of them with a campfire site. In most parks, there are also tent sites, rentable cabins and unlocked huts where anyone can stay, so pack your bags and go!

a hiker standing on a hill admiring mesmerizing Finnish forestry landscapes
The view from Lapland’s Salla fell – Sallatunturi – is quintessentially Finnish. No high mountains and dramatic views but tranquil landscapes of forest, lakes, and rivers as far as the eye can see.
Credits: Daniel Taipale

See iconic architecture and designs

From Helsinki to Lapland, Finland is a magnet for architecture lovers who want to explore everything from old wooden churches to works by famous architect Alvar Aalto and beyond. Helsinki’s newest design icons, like the Oodi Library, Amos Rex Museum and Löyly Sauna, have been featured in publications the world over. In Finland, even visiting a small-town library can give a design aficionado a thrill (like the new Fyyri library in Kirkkonummi!). Most of these places are best experienced in person, as many Finnish architects showcase the interplay between ever-changing light and nature.

Along with architecture, Finnish modern art and design also derive inspiration from nature. A design lovers must-see list should include iconic Finnish stores like Artek, Iittala and Marimekko, but the capital is also a perfect place to discover future design classics.

an aerial view of an architecturally significant design sauna in Helsinki
Löyly is one of Helsinki’s most famous public saunas and has become an iconic example of wooden architecture.
Credits: : Joel Pallaskorpi / Royal Restaurants
handmade glass design from Finland
Celebrated Finnish designer and architect Alvar Aalto designed the Aalto vase in 1936. This Iittala-produced vase is still a staple of modern Nordic design.
Finnish high end design on display
You’ll find classic Artek furniture – from shelves to tables – in many Finnish homes, public spaces, and offices.
Credits:: Artek

Meet the real Santa

Many people know Santa comes from Finland. What some don’t know, however, is that it’s possible to meet him in person all year. Yes, Santa’s official office, which is located in Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle, is open every day! There, both children and adults can enjoy a private chat with Father Christmas and revel in the enchanted atmosphere. Grab the kids – or your inner child – and have the experience of a lifetime.

Breathe the world’s cleanest air

One of the best things in all of Finland is invisible, abundant and totally free. Just take a deep breath! In all seriousness, the air quality in Finland is the best in the world according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Go for a walk by a lake or through the forest or simply rest on a smooth rock by the sea. Take in Finland’s gorgeous surroundings and breathe.

two people in a Finnish forest foraging
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Celebrate under the Midnight Sun

Perhaps the most Finnish celebration of all is Midsummer, which takes place at the end of June. Originally a celebration of the summer solstice, it’s typically spent with friends and family at a summer cottage away from the city. Lighting bonfires and bathing in saunas are two of the most common traditions, but some choose to spend Midsummer in the city, where young people have recently revived the open-air Midsummer dance tradition.

Even outside of Midsummer, the white nights of a Finnish summer are perfect for celebrations, parties and festivals – and Finns tend to make the most out of their short summer season.

a woman wearing a summer dress walking in the park under the Midnight Sun
Credits: Mikko Huotari

Visit a public sauna

Finland’s national pastime is going to the sauna – some people go every day. The reason for the Finnish love of sauna? Relaxing in darkness, often in silence, cleanses the mind and body. And with more than three million saunas in Finland, visitors and residents both have many to choose from. One easy option is to head to one of the great public saunas located in all of Finland’s major cities. You’ll find there’s a sauna for every style – from modern design meccas to old rustic classics – and they’re all authentically Finnish. Choose your favourite, then sit back, relax and rejuvenate!

a woman folds birch twigs
A ‘vasta,’ or ‘vihta,’ is a bundle of birch twigs that you gently strike yourself with in the sauna for smoother skin. You can even buy one in the supermarket!
Credits: Kari Ylitalo

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