Turku is often considered to be the cultural centre of Finland, as it is one of the country’s oldest cities and still has a strong artistic legacy. There are several museums and galleries, including one for Finland’s most famous sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen, art supply shops, theatres, bookshops, and everything else that a creative could possibly need, all within easy reach. All this is held in a refined city full of Victorian-era buildings, with plenty of cafés to hang out in and a river and surrounding countryside for inspirational walks.
Finland’s capital city has largely taken over from Turku as the country’s cultural hub, so it is the best place to set up base if you are hoping to find employment in the creative industry. It is also an ideal city for independent creatives, with plenty of museums, events, shops, and artistic communities. Being a multilingual city (nearly a quarter of the population speaks a non-native language) also makes it easy to find materials or contacts in your own language, and the nearby airport makes travel abroad quick and simple. The Design District is particularly popular with designers and artists, as are the Kallio district and Suomenlinna island (if you don’t mind getting a little windswept).
Fiskars is unique to Finland and was the country’s first village for creatives. Designers, crafters, artists, sculptors, and many more are flocking to the town to set up their studios and sell their wares to visiting tourists. The rent is cheap, the village is charming, and it is only an hour away from Helsinki. There is a slight catch, however, if you are planning to move there. In order to prevent the village from becoming overrun by ‘starving artists’, applicants must prove that they can earn a sustainable living from their work.
What better place to escape to and get some creative work done than a private island? The archipelago surrounding Finland, particularly to the southwest, contains tens of thousands of tiny islands that you can rent out for the summer, or even buy for a peaceful creative getaway. Finland’s most beloved artist, Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, did just that for much of her career, working primarily in her studio on an island just off the coast of Helsinki where she wouldn’t be disturbed.
If an island doesn’t suit you, a country setting in North Karelia, close to the Russian border, may be more appealing. It is an area of stunning natural beauty in Finland, especially known for its sweeping pine forests, huge lakes, and the amazing views of Koli National Park, which has been inspiring artists and composers for years. There are thousands of lakeside cottages to rent in this area, with shops and other amenities accessible by car or boat. There are plenty of cultural sites and inspiring spots around too, such as Joensuu Art Museum and the stunning Savonlinna Castle, which hosts an annual opera festival.
If you’re looking for full immersion in a unique and stunning wilderness, or a complete escape from outside distraction, you could instead try a remote village in Lapland. This choice isn’t for the faint of heart, however, as the temperature can drop to as low as minus 30°C during winter and it is impossible to get around without snowshoes, or perhaps even a snowmobile. But if you do want to take the risk, you can have unbeatable views of the snowy landscapes and the Northern Lights, and could even wake up to wild reindeer wandering around outside your house.
If you’re worried about being completely cut off from the art world in Lapland, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Native Sami craftsmen have a long history of creating and selling artwork in the region, and there are events such as Arctic Art Week that bring culture to the top of the world.
Porvoo is another village that is popular with Finland’s art community for its delightful old buildings, peaceful atmosphere, and proximity to Helsinki. While there are a lot of tourists during the summer, the medieval buildings and open countryside are still a worthy escape, and the many interior design shops are especially popular with artists and designers.