Official language: Finnish and Swedish with Engligh widely spoken
Currency: The official currency is the Euro (€)
Welcome to Finland!
Nestled between Sweden, Norway, and Russia, is the perplexing country of Finland. Known for its incredible scenery, lakes, and islands, it is one of the world's most northern countries with 25% of the land above the Arctic Circle. However, don't let that detour you, Finland boasts over 180,000 lakes and 179,000 islands to experience. The summers can be surprisingly warm and temperate and the winters icy and cold. Both offer opportunities to see much of what the country has to offer depending on what you enjoy when you travel. Finland is famous for the invention of many of the activities you will probably enjoy while in the country. Having invented ice skates, sauna, and arguably, skiing. They mix rather well. Go for a rousing day of skiing in the mountainside, or perhaps go for a romantic round of ice skating and then warm back up luxuriating in one of Finland's 3.3 million saunas. The country is also particularly well known for its numerous lakes and its green coniferous taiga forests.
Must see places in Finland
As Finland's capital city Helsinki is a hip city perfect for couples looking to have a relaxed getaway. The city is surrounded on three sides by water which provides ample opportunity for enjoying a leisurely meal and watching the sunset go down over the ocean. Helsinki has a modern feel and features many markets and outdoor festivals.
Espoo has a long and varied history that can be traced back to the 13th century. The first true evidence of Espoo itself begins in 1431 with the construction of the Espoo Cathedral. In 1557 King Gustaf Wasa build a royal mansion in the area bringing with him many new inhabitants however Espoo was not granted full city rights until much later in 1972. Due to its history the town is a hotbed of rich cultural and historical sites.
Originally known as Helsinge, the city gained market town rights in 1972 and took on the new name of Vantaa. Helsinge, the first towns name came from the rapids on the river Vantaa, known as Helsingfors. Later, Helsingfors became the official name of Helsinki. Vantaa did not receive its own full city rights until 1974 but has grown into a bustling suburb of the nation's capital.
Located on the southwestern coast at the mouth of the Aura River lies Turku. The town was founded in the 13th century and is considered the oldest city in Finland. Today, the city is still a regional capital and is an important and thriving business and cultural center. In 2011 the city was even given the designated title as European Capital of Culture. The town is also a busy seaport with over three million passengers passing through yearly on their way to Stockholm and Mariehamn.
Tampere is the second largest city next to Helsinki and is the largest inland city in all of the Nordic countries. Located between the two lakes of Nasjijarvi and Pyhajarvi the city has been known as an important location for generating electricity. Tampere was also a strategic stronghold during the civil war. Since the cities time as a prominent vantage point for opposing forces it has grown into a cultural hot bed with a lot of interesting sights and great places to visit for couples or families.
Kuopio takes the title as the cultural center for eastern Finland. There is a broad range of musical and dance education and a very active musical scene. There are so many festivals throughout the year that there is bound to be one during your trip here. Kuopio is a very popular city for outdoor recreation and can be a great hub for winter sports.
Lahti was first mentioned as a town in documents dating as far back as 1445 and was located on the medieval trade route of Ylinen Viipurintie. In 1877 nearly the entire village burnt however this provided the needed chance to rebuild a better thriving city. The city then grew rapidly, even through the recession but after the surrender of the Soviet Union the population seized to continue growing.
The city of Savonlinna was founded in 1639 around the location of the Olavinlinna castle. The castle was built in 1475 to protect the then town of Savonia and to help control the unstable border between Sweden and Russia. During the Russo-Swedish war between 1741 and 1743, the castle was captured by the Field-Marshal Peter Lacy. It was controlled by Russia until 1812 when it was granted back to Finland.
Jyvaskyla is in central Finland on the Finnish Lakeland and lies on the northern shores of Lake Paijanne. The town is known as an educational center of Finland and one of the famous writers from the area, Elias Lonnrot, gave the town the nickname "Athens of Finland." Many of the buildings in the city were designed by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and all anyone has to do is take a stroll to see examples of his work.
Must do Activities in Finland
Finland is full of fun and exciting activities for couples and families. These are a few that can't be missed.
It doesn't matter where you are at in Finland. There are many trip companies and hotels that cater to seeing the northern lights.
Sled Dog Safari
Sled Dog Safari - Perfect for those that want some adventure in the outdoors.
Inaari Reindeer Farm
Inaari Reindeer Farm - Get a chance to meet and spend time with reindeer. A one of a kind experience.
Kemi - The largest snow castle in the world. Is open in the day to the public and offers hotel rooms at night.
Santa Claus - Finland boasts what they call the actual Santa Claus. He lives on Korvatunturi and even has his own post office.
Linnanmäki Amusement Park
Korkeasaari Zoo - One of the most northern zoos in the world. Some of its features include arctic and endangered animals.
Pick the time right!
Tourists travel to Finland from May to October
The best time of the year to travel depends on what you would like to do while in Finland. The summers can be surprisingly temperate and a perfect time to lounge and enjoy the countries abundance of lake and summer festivals. However, the winter is an ideal time for adventure. Skiing, ice breaker boat trips, and dog sledding all make winter an exciting time to visit.
Did you know?
Did you know that Finland takes the cake for the most heavy metal bands per capita? In Finland there are 54 heavy metal bands per 100,000 people. Imagine a city like Helsinki with over 1 million residents. That is 540 heavy metal bands in one city.
Finland is known for its surprising number of festivals and outdoor events. These are just a few that shouldn't be missed.
- Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä - This film festival is held every June and features films from well-known directors and new artists breaking into the medium.
- Kuopio Dance Festival in Kuopio - Featured as Scandinavia's oldest drama festival. It is held each year in mid to late June and draws performers from all over the world. Each year has a different focus theme.
- Savolinna Opera Festival in Savonlinna - While opera may not be everyone's cup of tea this is an opportune time to check out some of the finest. In addition to having four of its own productions, many companies from all over the world come to the festival that is held from July to August.
- Helsinki Festival - Held in the capital city of Finland this festival beginning in mid-August hosts’ international artist to come to Helsinki. Included are chamber music, visual art exhibits, dance programs, film screenings, theater, and much more. There is something for everyone.
Finnish food often relies on staples such as potato, cabbage, turnips, and food items that are available locally such as mushrooms and various berries. The meals are known for being nutritious and healthy, and are surprisingly delicious. Below are a few of the must try dishes:
- Kalakukko is a bread loaf filled with fish, bacon, and pork. It sounds like meat overload but during the baking the bread absorbs the flavors of the meat and becomes a delicious portable meal.
- Mustikkapiirakka - A delicious gluten free blueberry pie.
- Lohikeitto - The Finn's know how to do fish. This is a salmon soup with leeks and potato and is usually garnished with flavorful dill.
- Sultsina - Every country has a bread staple that is incredible. Finland is no exception. Sultsina is a rye flat bread that is usually served with cream, cinnamon, and sugar.
- Lanttulaatikko - Speaking of turnips. This is exactly like mashed potatoes but with turnips instead.
Whether you are visiting Finland in the summer or winter there are a few tips to keep in mind. Finland is a land of extremes. While the summers can be warm and sunny, the winters can be incredibly cold and harsh. Both offer exciting sites and tours but it is important to make sure you dress accordingly. Make sure to check the weather and current temperatures in the country before you pack and bring appropriate clothes. No one wants to be frozen for their entire trip.
Keep in mind that Finland is rather small and is highly accessible so don't be afraid to hop on a bus, train, or even a boat as Finland has so many waterways. Most will get you anywhere you would like to go.
- It is always helpful to be prepared in case of an emergency. Whatever your local emergency number is, it is not going to be the same as Finland. Commit to memory, dial 112. Chances are you will never need it but it is nice to have it in case you do.
Finns are not known for outwards appreciation so while it may feel common place for you to say "thank you" or "you're welcome", don't be offended when you don't hear them say it.
Be on time. Finn's are extremely punctual and if you arrive more than 10 minutes late there better be a very good excuse. While it may not be any big deal to you, culturally it is a big no-no in Finland to be late.