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Top Things to See and Do in Finland

The pretty city of Turku was once the capital of Finland
The pretty city of Turku was once the capital of Finland | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy
Photo of Jessica Wood
12 November 2021
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From unwinding in a sauna to adrenaline-pumping adventure breaks, there is a huge variety of sights and experiences in Finland to suit every taste. These are some of the top things to see and do in Finland which should be included on any visitor’s itinerary.

Helsinki

Church
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St. Nicholas Cathedral and monument of Alexander II on the Senate square Senaatintori in Helsinki, Finland.
© Aliaksandr Mazurkevich / Alamy
Helsinki is a first stop for many visiting Finland. For such a small capital city, it is full of history, cultural sites, shops, restaurants and other activities. Walking around to take in the architecture and atmosphere is an experience in itself. There are also regular guided tours around the city, or a cheaper alternative is to take a tram. Some essential stops include Temppeliaukion Church, the Lutheran Cathedral and Seurasaari Open Air Museum.

Visit Santa and his reindeer

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Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland - February 29, 2020: Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, one of the most turistic place in Lapland.
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Children come from all over the world to see Santa Claus and his reindeer in the Lapland city of Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa. But if you’re an adult, it’s worth making the journey both for the childhood nostalgia and to take in the sights and culture of Lapland. Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi offers sledge rides, husky sledging, snowmobiles and all manner of other Lapland activities.

You can visit Rovaniemi with Culture Trip and do all of the above on a five-day trip on which you’ll stay on your own private island.
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Tour the Turku archipelago

Amusement Park, Park, Ruins
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Naantali, Finland - 28 June, 2019: Moominhouse in park Moominworld at sunny summer day.

Finland has thousands of small islands off its coast, but the Turku archipelago to the southwest, the largest in the world with more than 20,000 islands, is by far the most impressive and offers the most attractive scenery. The Moomin World theme park is situated in Naantali and it is also home to the Kuusisto Castle Ruins. The archipelago is a great place to walk, cycle, or boat too.

Shop at a market hall

Market
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Hitalahden kauppahalli, Hietalahti market hall, Helsinki, Finland, Europe
© peterforsberg / Alamy

Every city in Finland has at least one market hall, or kauppahalli, which can range in size from a few local businesses to a bustling marketplace selling everything from pastries to spices. In many cities, the market hall is the ideal place to pick up souvenirs, find local ingredients or have an affordable lunch. The oldest in the country is the Old Market Hall in Helsinki’s south harbour, which has been operating since 1889. Any visit to a market hall allows for a chance to meet locals and support small, local businesses.

Suomenlinna Fortress

Ruins
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Fortress Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland
© RooM the Agency / Alamy
The island fortress of Suomenlinna off the coast of Helsinki is the most popular tourist destination in the country, and with good reason. It is not only one of the most historically significant sites in Finland, having experienced every major conflict since the 1700s, it also holds numerous museums of everything from toys to war memorabilia. To see everything on the island takes a whole day, and the best way to learn about the history is to take one of the walking tours. Collectively, it makes for one of the most enjoyable days out you can have in Finland.

Take in the views at Koli National Park

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Idyllic landscape with path and primeval forest at summer morning in Koli, Finland
© Jani Riekkinen / Alamy
There are multiple national parks in Finland, all of which offer their own unique sights and landscapes. But some of the best views can be found in Koli National Park in Northern Karelia, in the eastern part of Finland. Climbing the rocky trail to look over the lakes and forests is just as breathtaking as seeing the Grand Canyon. In winter, there are also opportunities for skiing through this stunning landscape.

Turku Castle

Building, Museum
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©VisitTurku / Courtesy of Visit Turku

The city of Turku offers some vastly different historical sites to Helsinki, due to it being the capital city during the time of Swedish rule. The best way to learn about this history is by visiting Turku Castle, near the harbour. The deceptively small exterior hides a huge museum detailing Finland’s medieval history and the role the castle played in it. Its numerous rooms also hold more recent antiques, paintings, and artefacts that give a glimpse into every era of Finland’s fascinating history.

See the Northern Lights

Forest, Natural Feature, Ski Resort
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Spectacular aurora borealis (northern lights) over a snowy winter landscape in Finnish Lapland.
The Northern Lights dance overhead in the snowy winter in Finnish Lapland | © Sara Winter / Alamy

While in Lapland during the winter, it is worth crossing the Northern Lights off your bucket list. The dark Lapland winter nights, largely unspoilt by pollution, make an ideal location to spot the sensation, especially from igloo hotels which allow you to watch the night sky while laying in bed. You’re not guaranteed to see the lights, but waiting for them to appear is all part of the fun.

On our five-day Arctic Adventure to Finnish Lapland trip, you’ll go in search of the lights during a thrilling husky-slide ride.

Relax in a sauna

Health Spa
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Mid adult woman looking out the window of a sauna in Finland
© Folio Images / Alamy

The popularity of saunas may have spread worldwide, but Finland is where they were invented. In the unlikely case the place you are staying doesn’t have a sauna, you can visit a public sauna such as Arlan Public Sauna in Helsinki or take a luxury mini-break in a boutique sauna, such as Herrankukkaro on the Turku archipelago. There are also many unique saunas such as sauna ships or the sauna gondola, the only one of its kind in the world.

Go bear watching

Natural Feature, Park
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One young brown bear hugs and comforts another bear at edge of forest in Eastern Finland on summer evening.
© Mikko Palonkorpi / Alamy

Finns are especially proud of their natural wildlife, but since most of them are only found in remote locations and many hibernate, they can be difficult to spot in the wild. One ideal way to see bears, the national animal, is to go on a bear-watching trip. These excursions run between April and September and offer chances to watch and get photos of bears in their natural habitat without disturbing them or risking an attack. The borders of Eastern Finland are considered the best locations for spotting bears, although they can be found anywhere on the mainland

Stay in a lakeside cottage

Park, Natural Feature
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Lake Inari, Finland
© Alxpin / iStock / Getty Images

The Finnish tradition of escaping to a lakeside or island cottage is becoming increasingly popular with tourists as well. It not only offers a remote location to relax but a chance to enjoy fishing, swimming, nature spotting and hiking. The summer months, and especially midsummer, are the most popular times to visit a lake cottage, but they can be rented out any time of year for anywhere from a few nights to several months at a time. Cottages near ski resorts or in the Arctic Circle are ideal places to stay during winter, and usually make cheaper alternatives to hotels.

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