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.
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.
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.
Finland has produced some of the best ice hockey players of all time. The best way to enjoy a game is to watch one at an arena. Even if you aren’t there as a fan of the local team, it is still fun to join in with the cheers and songs.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.