Rovaniemi may be best known as the home of Santa Claus and as a family vacation resort, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t also plenty of museums throughout the city. These include quirky specialist museums, cultural and historical museums, as well as educational museums for children after their visit to Santa.
One of the most popular ‘must-visit’ sites in all of Lapland, Arktikum or ‘the Arctic Museum’ is a science centre with lots of exhibits about the nature and culture of Finnish Lapland, which is told through photos, films, and sound installations. Upcoming exhibits include Nature Photographs of the Year, stories of Lapland told through handicrafts, and even a slightly risqué exhibit on the mating habits of Lappish wildlife. The biggest attraction is the Arctic Garden, a glass-domed building that provides some of the best views of the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi, with the added benefit of staying warm while watching them. The garden also contains some stunning ancient rune stones and artwork of famous figures from Rovaniemi.
A combined art museum and cultural centre held in a beautiful, red brick building that was a former bus depot, this is one of the few older buildings in Rovaniemi to survive World War Two. The art museum, also known as the Korundi House of Culture, is the main centre for arts and culture in Northern Finland and holds part of the city art collection. It also features regular rotating art exhibits, concerts, a gift shop, and a library of art books. It is the home of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, one of the northernmost professional orchestras in Europe. With so much going on, any art lover is sure to find something to engage them in this museum.
A small but quirky museum in the Santa Claus Village that pays homage to snowmobiles, one of the most significant forms of transport in Lapland. The exhibit displays snowmobiles from five decades ago and from various parts of the Arctic – including a rare Harley Davidson snowmobile from 1960 – and demonstrates just how important they are to the Lappish way of life. Visitors are even encouraged to add photos of their own snowmobile experiences to the gallery and grow the museum’s collection.
This museum pays tribute to the forestry industry of Lapland, which has aided the survival and livelihood of the area for hundreds of years. Located in a series of reconstructed lumberjack’s cabins, the museum has displays of pre-mechanised logging equipment, a sauna used by the loggers, and the first steam locomotive used for forestry in Finland. During the winter, the museum also hosts a Christmas Fantasy Show run by the Arctic Theatre Company, combining Christmas elves and lumberjacks with song and dance numbers.
One of Finland’s many open-air museums reconstructed from old, wooden buildings where visitors can walk around and see what life was like in pre-industrialised Finland. The Rovaniemi Local History Museum is located on a former farm, which also survived the Second World War, with the main empire-style building dating back to the 1840s. The restored log cabins each contain their own exhibits, including reindeer-farming artefacts, old photos of Rovaniemi, and traditional handicrafts. Regular events are also held at the museum, such as an annual midsummer celebration and a traditional porridge feast just before Christmas.
While this is more of an interactive children’s centre than a museum, the Christmas House in the Santa Claus Village does also include interesting exhibits about the history and traditions of the holiday, and how it is celebrated in different parts of the world. The building contains rooms for taking a picture with Santa and receiving a certificate of ‘Santa’s niceness’. It is best to take young children to this exhibition while the magic of Christmas is still alive inside of them, but it is still highly nostalgic and charming for adults as well.