The Nordic country of Finland is home to some of the most picturesque places on earth. While most travelers are aware of the mesmerizing beauty of northern lights this European nation is scattered with quaint towns and weather-beaten castles. We have compiled a list of some of the top sights in Finland that every tourist must visit.
The archipelago of Aland falls in between Finland and Sweden and interestingly, it has Swedish-speaking residents despite being part of Finland. While it has a few large islands most of the area is scattered with over 10,000 tiny islands. Aland has belonged to Russia as well as Sweden in the past and these cultures are reflected in its rich history making it a unique Finnish place to visit.
The Arctic and Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is often called the Gateway to Artic as the Arctic circle runs right through it. If you are visiting Finland in the summers, then a visit to this town is a must. Being so close to the arctic circle, the town experiences 24 hours of daylight in summers and is affectionately known as the abode of Santa Claus.
Kauppatori and Esplanade
‘Kauppatori’ literally translates into a market square that is a trademark of every harbor town. What is eye-catching about Helsinki’s harbor market is the plethora of historical architecture that surrounds it. These include the famous Kappeli restaurant, the Havis Amanda statue, and the unique street museum, among others.
As one of the largest sea fortresses in the world, Suomenlinna is a must-visit destination. A short ferry ride from the Helsinki Kauppatori can take you to this UNESCO world heritage site where you can literally be transformed back in time.
The oldest Finish town of Turku is a complete contrast to the bustling Helsinki. It also served as the country’s capital until 1812. This is where Swedish Vikings began their conquest of Finland. Combined with modern buildings are over 8 centuries of historical monuments like orthodox churches, medieval cathedrals, and the quintessential market square or the Kaupatori. You can also tour the Suomen Juotsen (Swan of Finland) which is a large square-rigged ship which is now a museum.
Like Turku, Vaasa too exists since the Swedish invasion of Finland. The current town is located a few kilometers outside the ancient town. The town boasts of extended coastline and plenty of Swedish influence. Apart from national parks and spas, the town of Vaasa is famous for its museums.
The Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral in Helinski is a marvelous piece of architecture. Its tall green-topped spires are adorned with gold cupolas making it one of the central landmarks of this bustling town. Other beautiful churches include the Lutheran Cathedral by the sea and the Temppeliaukio Church. The Temppeliaukio Church is also known as the Rock Church. It is very unusual and very beautiful. It is on a rocky hilltop in Helsinki. Instead of being built on top, they excavated into the rock and put a glass dome over the top. The walls are rough hewn rock with a view of the sky above. It is a very lovely place.
Porvoo’s red wooden housing structures form the landmark of this charming Finnish town. Apart from the hilltop medieval cathedral, the local history museum and the Edelfelt-Vallgren museum are worth a visit.
Unlike other towns listed here, Tampere is an industrial town that was established fairly recently in 1779. This picturesque town is a perfect mix of urbanization, industrialization, as well as religious and art centers.
Savonlinna and Saimaa
While there is no dearth of lakes in Finland, Lake Saimaa is, by far, the most enchanting one. It spans an area of more than 1,300 square kilometers and various islands, including Savonlinna. As the Finland lake region’s main city, it is famous for its spas and medieval structures.
While you are touring these different places, you should try some things that are typically Finnish. The first is a sauna which they invented and pronounce sow-na. The other is the pastry Karjalanpiirakka munavoi. Karjalan means it is from the Karelia region which the Russians captured and never gave up. Piirakka means pie and munavoi is egg butter. It is a flat pastry almost more like pita bread on which you spread the munavoi which is hard boiled eggs and butter blended together. Sounds a bit strange, but it is tasty. Also, carefully choose when you go. The Finns worship the sun during the summer because by fall the days are already very short.