People may not include Finland on their bucket list, but they really should. This country has so much to offer beyond the usual tourist spots. Here are just a few top reasons to visit.
The best way to explore Finland’s fascinating history is through a tour of its cities. One such city, Turku—on the Southwest coast—was the capital city during Swedish rule that lasted from the Middle Ages up until 1809. Visitors can see this history for themselves in its older architecture and relics at Turku Castle and the Aboa Vetus Museum.
Helsinki became the capital city after Russia gained control of the country, and remains the capital to this day. It also houses numerous historical sites including the Suomenlinna Fortress, the National Museum, and the Helsinki Cathedral.
One of the main draws to Finland is its thousands of lakes offering fishing and boating. Another involves the tradition of staying in rustic, lakeside cottages far out in the country. This creates the ultimate holiday destination for isolation, relaxation, as well as easy access to ski resorts. The surrounding Baltic Sea and archipelagos offer the same experience.
A total of 39 national parks offer ideal locations for cyclists, hikers, ramblers, dog walkers, campers, or anyone looking to get back to nature. These parks also offer stunning views, adventure-holiday packages, and chances to spot unique wildlife.
Finland’s architecture ranges from old, wooden structures that have stood since the Swedish era to modern designs such as Kiasma’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Throughout the country, visitors can also see art from periods including art-nouveau, Nordic classicism, gothic revival, and minimalism, and explore the architectural history at the Architecture Museum in Helsinki.
Nordic cuisine has been criticised by some for being bland due to a lack of spices in the region. In truth, there are a wide range of tasty dishes to try, and most of them rely on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Fish is particularly common due to the number of lakes, as are specialty meats, mushrooms, and berries. In recent years, Finland has also begun to embrace international cuisine more and more. Foodies will find a wide range of international restaurants in larger cites that still use these local ingredients in their recipes.
Finland is the 17th safest country in the world, according to World Atlas, and Helsinki is the world’s second safest city. Violent crime is incredibly rare, so the country remains safe even for women travelling alone, especially during the perpetual daylight in the summer months. The only major danger to be wary of involves slipping on ice during the winter.
Finns have somewhat of a reputation for being cold and keeping to themselves, but they are still hospitable to travellers. Older people especially like to strike up conversations with strangers. The majority of Finns are multi-lingual, as English has been part of the school curriculum for several decades. This contributes to the Finns’ ability to help any travellers having trouble with translation. Depending on location, some Finns also speak Swedish, Russian, or Sami.
The landscapes alone are enough reason to visit Finland, and they have been inspiring artists and composers for many years. Ranging from the flat countryside of the south, the mountains of Koli National Park, and the snow-covered tundra in Lapland, there is more than enough to keep visitors stunned and inspired for a long time. For those wishing to take it all in, rent a car or camper van and tour the country to spend some time gazing at the scenery.
Finnish literature isn’t studied much internationally, but there are many examples showcasing all aspects of Finnish culture. Kalevela, the national-epic poem, includes the creation myth of the ancient Finns, among other stories. Aleksis Kivi, the first author to write in Finnish and depict ordinary Finns—particularly in his most-famous story The Seven Brothers—was largely responsible for popularising the written language. More recently, Tove Jansson’s Moomin children’s-book series has gained large international popularity, and her literary fiction has started to gain some attention as well. Väinö Linna’s war novel, The Unknown Soldier, was adapted into a famous war film that is still aired every Independence Day. Literary enthusiasts can find English-language copies of all of these books in most major Finnish bookshops.
Heavy metal is the music genre of choice for many Finns, and the country has the most heavy-metal bands per capita worldwide (around 54 per 100,000 people). Well known for their monster movie-inspired outfits, Lordi remains the only metal act to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Other popular bands include Nightwish, The Rasmus, and Children of Bodom. Both national and international metal bands can be found touring the country throughout the year, particularly at events such as the Ilosaarirock Festival in Joensuu.
Scandinavian design is some of the most highly regarded in the world, and Finland is no exception. Often based around beautiful simplicity and inspiration from nature, these qualities can be seen in the Marimekko and Arabia brands. These brands can be expensive abroad, so Finland is the best place to get them for a good price and to find a wider selection at their flagship stores.
Finland has long been a leader in the electronics field. Around 10 years ago, almost all mobile phones were produced in Finland. After the large companies outsourced their manufacturing elsewhere, the start-up boom launched and has been going strong ever since. The mobile game Angry Birds has been one of the most popular recent tech exports, and people can find Angry Birds-themed merchandise and candy throughout the country. They even have their own theme park in Tampere. This also makes Finland an ideal place to pick up affordable electronics.
This article is part of Culture Trip’s Finland 100 campaign, celebrating everything Finnish on the country’s centenary.