With a mixture of city life and countryside charm, Mikkeli has it all. Surrounded by glittering lakes and fairytale forests, the cute and cosy Mikkeli is not only Southern Savonia’s capital city, but also Finland’s thriving cottage capital. From unique design finds and nature hikes to charming manor houses, here are five reasons to visit Mikkeli!
Located on the shores of Europe’s fourth largest lake, Lake Saimaa, Mikkeli is a charming and lively summertime city. Only three hours’ train or car journey away from Helsinki, Mikkeli is a great example of a quintessential Finnish city. With 50,000 inhabitants, Mikkeli has many typically Finnish features, such as the lively market square, cosy market hall with traditional food stalls, harbour with bars and cafés, as well as city centre shopping streets, museums and cafés.
Alongside Kuopio, Mikkeli is also a favourite spot for the Finns’ much-beloved cottages. Cottage life with lakeside saunas is an integral part of Finnish summertime living, and over 10,000 Finns have decided to build their cottage in the Mikkeli region!
The mount Naisvuori (Women’s Mount) with its observation tower is the perfect spot to get a feel of Mikkeli. Climb up to Finland’s oldest surviving water tower from 1912 and from the top you’ll see Mikkeli city spreading around the shores of Lake Saimaa. The city’s architecture is typically Finnish, dominated by straight streets and low blocks of flats in light pastel colours. After taking in the cityscape of an essentially Finnish city, enjoy a steaming cup of filter coffee with amazing waffles at the observation tower’s café!
In the Naisvuori district, there is also one of Mikkeli’s main museums, The Headquarters Museum (Päämajamuseo). This is where the Finnish army’s headquarters was located during the second world war. The exhibits include a lot of information on Finland’s involvement in the World Wars, especially the second one, and also highlight the struggles Finland endured internally when gaining its independence from Russia in 1917.
There is also a good lunch restaurant called Tempo in Naisvuori. The restaurant is located in the recently renovated Peoples House. Tempo also has a luxury sauna for anyone to rent.
Mikkeli Market Square is the town’s homey centre. Here, you will see people gathering from early morning on, sipping their coffees and having a chat, or just quietly watching people passing by – remember that Mikkeli is part of the Savonia region of Finland, where being in a hurry is not the thing to do!
In the summertime, the market square is filled with cafés and people selling berries, vegetables and other seasonal products as well as meats, fish and handicrafts.
The Market Square is surrounded by shops and restaurants, and just next to it, there is also a traditional market hall. Don’t be fooled by its glittering glass exterior: the market hall was recently renovated and is now surrounded by a modern shopping centre called Stella! The mix of old and new works well, and here you will find not only modern Finnish and foreign brands but also nice spots for lunch or coffee.
Mikkeli is also a great spot for a bit of shopping. The city centre is compact and apart from various shops lining the streets, there are also a couple of shopping malls right in the city centre.
But the best part of shopping in Mikkeli is the local design boutiques. Pop over to Design Lab Luomo, where local designs from jewellery and homeware to carpets and clothes are sold. For a unique Mikkeli experience, head to the manor house hotel, restaurant and shop Tertti Manor. The place is famous for its charming boutique hotel, summertime buffet and café with sumptuous cakes – this is a true foodie find in Finland! There is also a shop selling Tertti’s own foodie products, such as marmalades, juices and beer, as well as local design from accessories to clothes.
Another charmingly Finnish destination in Mikkeli is the old vicarage, Kenkävero. The Kenkävero courtyard includes the pink main building with a restaurant and summer terrace, and many charming dining halls or salons as well as a couple of shops selling local design.
As Mikkeli is surrounded by lakes and forests, there is plenty to do in the area. Take a slow boat cruise or rent your own yacht. If motors feel too modern, paddle at your own pace, take part on a guided kayaking tour or simply go fishing!
If the waterways are not for you, there are also many great hiking trails. Try the hilly Neitvuori hike, or head to Urpola Nature Centre. Towards the end of summer, there is also an abundance of berries and mushrooms to be picked in the forrest around Mikkeli.
For more city-oriented travellers, there are walking tours in the city with knowledgeable guides – Visit Mikkeli is always happy to give you more information on any activity!