Sightseeing in Finland: the best tips for the land of lakes

FR FlagDE FlagFR Flag

Dense forests and endless lakes – that’s Finland in a nutshell. The country in Northern Europe is known for its idyllic nature, whether in summer or in the snowy winter. But Finland also has a few other highlights – we present the best tips for your next trip to Finland in this article.

Sightseeing in Helsinki

Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square

The white cathedral, or Helsingin tuomiokirkko, is Helsinki’s most-known landmark and can be seen from a long way off. If you like, you can climb the steps of the building, which was built between 1832 and 1852, and visit it from the inside or watch the hustle and bustle and the statue of Russian Tsar Alexander II from there.

The cathedral is located on the lively Senate Square in the Old Town, which is also home to the government palace of the Prime Minister and the University of Helsinki and its library.

Finland Sights Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral characterises the cityscape of the Finnish metropolis.

Oodi Central Library

The Helsinki Central Library Oodi was opened in 2018 as a modern architectural highlight of the city. Oodi means “ode” and refers to the community, as the library is intended to be everyone’s “living room” that they never want to leave. Both architecture fans and bookworms should definitely stop by here on their city trip.

Helsinki Oodi Central Library
The Oodi Central Library in Helsinki is an architectural highlight.

Design District Helsinki

Finnish design is ever present in the city’s Design District. Whether it’s the famous design classics or a few unusual souvenirs “made in Finland”: here you will find boutiques and small shops with fashion, decoration and art as well as galleries and bars. Then head to the Design Museum in the neighbourhood. International design is also exhibited here.

Archipelago islands and Suomenlinna Fortress Islands

Like many Scandinavian harbour cities, Helsinki is surrounded by an archipelago of around 300 small islands. Many of them can be reached by ferry or alternatively visited on a boat trip.

The highlight is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna. The island fortress is known as “Finneburg” and was built in 1748 for the defence of Helsinki. Today it can be visited by tourists. It is only about 15 minutes by ferry from the market square to the island. There is a museum of military and maritime history with an original submarine as well as walking paths through the fortifications and ramparts. There are also numerous cafés and restaurants on site – the perfect destination for a day trip outside the city.

Helsinki Fortress Island Suomenlinna
The fortress island of Suomenlinna is located in Helsinki’s archipelago.

Finland Sights Nature

Finnish Lakeland

Finland is known as the “land of lakes” – there are said to be over 188,000 lakes of all sizes here. Many of them are located in the Finnish Lakeland in the south-east of the country. In addition to the numerous lakes, there are almost endless forests here where you can spend hours exploring – whether on land or on the water. The largest lake in the lake district and the country is Lake Saimaa, which at around 4,370 square kilometres is also the fourth largest lake in Europe.

Finland Sightseeing Nature Finnish Lake District
The Finnish Lakeland in the south-east of the country is a true natural paradise full of lakes and forests.

Archipelago and Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea

Similar to Sweden, the Finnish coastal area is characterised by numerous archipelagos with thousands of islands. The small and sometimes larger islands are perfect for day trips by boat, and island hopping is also very popular here.

The area around the Åland Islands, the Swedish-speaking autonomous region between Finland and Sweden, is particularly well known. Between the Finnish coast around the city of Turku and the large main islands of Åland lie a large number of smaller islands, most of which are uninhabited – around 6500 in total.

Finland Sightseeing Nature Archipelago
Thousands of islands can be found in the archipelago areas off Finland’s coasts.

National parks: Koli and Oulanka

With so much unspoilt and wild nature to protect and preserve, there are of course many national parks in Finland. Two of the most popular and largest ones are Koli and Oulanka.

Koli National Park is located in the south-east of the country in the Finnish Lakeland and surrounds Lake Plinien. It is a real hiking paradise, with a total of around 90 kilometres of signposted hiking trails. In winter, on the other hand, you can go sledging or snowshoeing through the snow.

The Oulanka National Park also offers these activities. The park is located a little further north, not far from the Ruka winter sports centre and close to the Russian border. In the dense forests of Oulanka, you can explore almost 100 kilometres of the Bear Circuit (Finnish: karhunkierros), one of the most popular hiking trails in the country (the “small Bear Circuit” with 12 kilometres is also recommended). Here you pass the famous Oulanka canyon and the Kiutaköngäs waterfalls.

Finland Sights Nature National Parks Oulanka
Finland’s national parks invite you to hikes and more outdoor tours in unspoilt nature.

Finland sights in the south

Sights in Turku

The city of Turku is located on the south-west coast of Finland at the mouth of the river Aurajoki. Today’s urban area was already inhabited in the Stone Age, but Turku was officially founded in 1229 – making it the oldest city in Finland. And the city’s long history is evident everywhere, which is why a trip to the city is particularly worthwhile for history buffs. Highlights include Turku Cathedral and the local castle, as well as the harbour area and many interesting museums, for example the maritime museum “Forum Marinum” with various museum ships and exhibitions.

Finland Sights Turku
Turku is a relaxed and historic city on the water.

Places of interest in Tampere

Tampere: Holiday
Tampere offers an exciting industrial backdrop.

The largest inland city in the Nordic region, Tampere, has a charm all of its own: the cityscape of the “cradle of Finnish industrialisation” is characterised by old industrial buildings and former factories.

The old and former industrial facilities of the “Manchester of the North” invite you to take a relaxing stroll and explore – many have been converted into museums, such as the Vaprikki Tampere Museum Centre. One of Tampere’s museum highlights is definitely the Moomin Museum, which immerses visitors in the world of the little trolls.

Tampere is also a very green city, lined with many parks. One park with a difference is the Särkänniemi amusement park, which offers a number of fast-paced rides, a planetarium and the highest observation tower in Northern Europe.

Naantali and the Moominworld

The small coastal town of Naantali is located near Turku and is definitely worth a detour. In addition to charming wooden houses in the old town, maritime flair on the harbour promenade and many hours of sunshine, there is a special highlight here: the Moominworld.

The Muumimmaailma theme park is literally the gateway to another world – just like the Moomin Museum in Tampere, everything here revolves around Tove Jansson’s little trolls. Sights and attractions include the Moomin House, theatre performances and fairytale trails. At the same time, you can always bump into characters from the Moomin world.

Finland sights in winter

Northern Lights in Lapland

The northernmost region of Finnish Lapland is the best place to see the Northern Lights. Here, the 514 metre high Luosto mountain, which is located in the municipality of Sodankylä, is particularly recommended. It is also home to the Northern Lights Research Centre, which produces regional forecasts for auroras.

There is also the third largest lake in Finland, Inarijärvi, to discover. The small village of Nellim with around 200 inhabitants is also located on this lake and is a meeting place and pilgrimage site for travellers.

If you want to get to know the northernmost city in the EU as well as the Northern Lights, you should travel to Oulu. Here, urban and modern life meets the unique Arctic nature – and in the winter months, the city on the Gulf of Bothnia is a hotspot for the Northern Lights.

Finland Sights Northern Lights
The best place to see the Northern Lights in Finland is in the north of the country.

Winter sports in Ruka and Co.

Winter sports, especially cross-country skiing, are an integral part of Finland and the rest of Scandinavia. There are several winter sports centres in Finland, such as Ruka, Kuusamo and Lahti. Here you can not only get active yourself on cross-country ski trails and slopes in perfect conditions, but also watch top-class winter sports when ski jumpers, cross-country skiers and Nordic combined athletes come to compete in their professional competitions – one tip is the traditional Lahti Ski Games, which have been held since 1923 and bring together the Nordic winter sports elite.

Finland Sights Winter sports
Finland invites you to enjoy winter sports in perfect conditions, like here in Ruka.

Santa Claus in Rovaniemi

If you’re ever in Northern Finland, a visit to Santa Claus in Rovaniemi is a must on your to-do list. No matter when you arrive, you can always meet Santa in the Christmas village, even outside the Advent and Christmas season. And it’s not just Santa who sits in his office and waits for guests from all over the world to listen to their wishes and take photos with them – you can also meet his wife Mrs Santa Claus.

The Christmas village is located eight kilometres from the city centre – right on the Arctic Circle – and is open every day. In addition to Santa’s office and post office, there are many other attractions for young and old, such as restaurants, souvenir shops and animal parks – reindeer and sled dogs are the secret stars of the village.

In Rovaniemi, you can visit Santa’s lovingly designed village.

Tours through the wintry north: sled dogs, snowmobiles and co.

One of the most popular activities in wintry Finland are tours of all kinds. Sledging with sled dogs or reindeer and snowmobile tours are particularly popular. This allows you to get to know the idyllic landscape around the Arctic Circle in a completely new way and perhaps discover a herd or two of free-roaming reindeer – it’s up to you whether you prefer a fast or relaxed pace. Such tours are offered by small and large organisers in many cities and towns.

Finland Sightseeing Winter North Tours
Sled dog tours are a special and fast-paced way to get to know the magical nature of Finland in winter.
SCANDICookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner