Ultimate Guide to Finland | 20+ Things to do Finland

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Finland is known to the world for three things: snow-covered igloos, the Northern Lights, and being recognized as the happiest country on the planet. But, where is Finland? Portions of the country are in the Arctic Circle and in this case, her location is everything, playing a big part in uncovering what to do in Finland. Here are the best things to do in Finland as well as many Finland facts to help you plan your Finnish vacation. 

Where is Finland? Getting the Lay of the Land

Where is Finland in Europe Map
Where is Finland in Europe Map | Image by: VisitFinland

Finland is located on the shores of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. To its east is Russia. To the west is Sweden and Norway. To the north there are the upper reaches of Norway, the Norwegian Sea, and the North Pole.

Finland’s southern and western coastlines stretch from the Gulf of Finland to the far end of the Gulf of Bothnia. This forms the largest archipelago in the world, dotted by over 50,000 islands and skerries (rocky islets). 

Finland’s capital city is Helsinki, which is located on its southern shores. From Helsinki, it’s easy to hop over to the cities of Tallinn in Estonia; Stockholm, Sweden; and St. Petersburg, Russia, via daily ferry service.

When is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Finland? 

Any time is a great time to visit Finland because Finns embrace the gift of all their five seasons. Yes, you read that right. Finns have 2 seasons of winter. Regardless of the time of year, there are exciting things to do in Finland. When you choose to visit just depends on what you want to experience.  

Winter in Lapland-Campfire in a Lappish Tent
Winter in Lapland | Photo by: VisitFinland

Are you looking to see the Northern Lights, visit with Santa during the Christmas season, enjoy snow activities like ice-fishing, or stay in a real ice-igloo? Then you’ll want to visit Finland between December and March. Your daylight hours will be short and be prepared for temperatures to fall as low as -25 °C (-18 °F)

If you’re looking for longer days but still want to enjoy some snow activities, April and May are a good time to visit. There are also fewer crowds. 

Finland_Saimaa_canoeing_boy-VisitFinland-Mikko Nikkinen
Summer in Finland Finland- Saimaa | Photo by: VisitFinland/Mikko Nikkinen

The summer months are June, July, and August. In the Land of the Midnight Sun, the sun never sets. Temperatures, even in the summer, are never hot, hovering around 15-20°C (60-70 °F). This is the time to sample fresh strawberries, go on hikes, and enjoy time kayaking in the sea or lake. 

Finland Lapland -Kakslauttanen in the Autumn
Finland Lapland -Kakslauttanen | Photo by: VisitFinland

The autumn season is September to November. Temperatures are cold, around 5-10°C (40-50°F) during the day, and close to freezing point at night. Up in the Lapland area, the aspens are turning yellow and the maples orange and red. And everywhere, the forest is carpeted with berries and mushrooms.

Flights to Finland: How to get there 

Getting to Helsinki on Finnair
Finnair at Helsinki Airport | Photo by: LiLing Pang

All your adventures in Finland are likely to begin and end in the capital Helsinki. Here’s our comprehensive guide on 20 Fun Things to Do in Helsinki.

Finnair currently operates non-stop direct flights from around the world to Helsinki.

  • From the U.S – New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami. 
  • From Europe – Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Malaga, Milan, Paris, Prague, Stockholm, Vienna, Zurich
  • From Asia – Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore (over the north pole!)
  • From the Middle East – Dubai

Getting Around Finland

Road Trip in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland
Road Trip in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland | Photo by: LiLing Pang

With a total area similar in size to that of California, seeing everything on our list of things to do in Finland will require more than one trip. Fortunately, getting around Finland is easy. Finnair operates domestic air travel. If you are heading to the Finnish Lapland, Finn Air operates flights to the cities of Kittilä, Ivalo, Oulu, and Rovaniemi. 

The roads in Finland are good and so is the public bus and rail service. For families, renting a car may be the most convenient and economical option. In Finland, they drive on the same side of the road as in the U.S.

The streets are in good condition, and street signs easy to read (although the names of the roads are in Finnish). We found it easy enough to follow along with the Google Maps GPS app. Just be sure to download the Google Map to your smartphone before hitting the road if you have limited data service. 

Getting around Helsinki by Tram
Getting around Helsinki by Tram | Photo by: LiLing Pang

VR is the train line that offers a night train to major cities, with additional “Train Bus” service to smaller Lapland cities. Check train routes and time tables for details. In the cities, you can get around quickly and easily without a car. Public transportation is excellent and works on a zone system. It’s economical to purchase a day ticket for specific zones, and you can get on and off the buses as many times as you want. 

A nice perk for traveling with a young child is that a child in a stroller and their accompanying adult get to ride public transportation for free.  

Places to Go and Things to Do in Finland

Finland in the Winter -Ruka Kuusamo
Finland in the Winter -Ruka Kuusamo | Photo by: VisitFinland-Harri Tarvainen

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,”
I was told on more than one occasion by local Finns.

To people living in the Arctic Circle, this isn’t just a casual saying; it’s a mantra to live by. This Finnish attitude frames their relationship with nature.

The Finns have found a way to embrace every season, and in fact, winter is their highest travel season. When trees are massively laden with snow, and the lakes freeze over, Finns go ice-fishing, fat biking, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. 

During the long days of summer, you’ll find locals foraging in the forest, camping, boating, and kayaking. And of course, in all seasons, Finns sauna. 

Finland: Magic of Nuuksio Folklore Hike with Nuuksion Taika
Magic of Nuuksio Folklore Hike with Nuuksion Taika | Photo by: LiLing Pang

For those of us who step into her sacred forests and row across her glassy lakes, we can experience the same spirit of Finland. All we need to do is to stop rushing around like tourists and embrace the simplicity of being, savoring, and observing.

While hiking in Nuuksio National Park, Annu, one of the co-owners of Hawkhill Villas and Cottages made an excellent suggestion, 

“In Finland, we have peace and tranquility. Take a few days, turn off your phone, and watch. Wake up when you feel you’ve slept enough, eat when you feel hungry, let nature guide your day. You’ll feel free!” 

 
Finland Lake Huakalampi Nuuksio
Finland Lake Huakalampi – Nuuksio | Photo by: Shellie Bailey Shah

So before mapping out a packed itinerary, I would encourage you to pick a handful of experiences and not try to squeeze too much in. Fully embrace the most beautiful gift that Finland has to offer – peace, tranquility, and freedom. 

#1 – See the Northern Lights- Preferably from an Igloo Hotel

Season: Autumn and Winter
Where: Lapland

Rovaniemi Northern Lights
Northern Lights in Finland – Rovaniemi | Photo by: LiLing Pang

In Finnish Lapland, you have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights over 200 days in a year. The Aurora Borealis dances across Finland’s night sky from September to April.

During these cold winter nights, temperatures in Lapland can drop to -25 °C (-18 °F). You’ll be grateful to wait inside the comfort of a glass igloo hotel for the Aurora Borealis to show up. Plus, it’s cool staying in one of these glass-domed igloo hotels, which have become quite synonymous with Finland!

Really want to see the Northern Lights in Finland? Here are all the Best Glass Igloo Hotels in Finland

#2 -Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Sea Fortress

Season: Year-round
Where: Helsinki 

Helsinki Suomenlinna Sea Fort
Helsinki Suomenlinna Sea Fort | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Finland has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is the most famous, and is a short ferry ride from Kauppatori (Market Square) in Helsinki.

While under Swedish rule, Soumelinna was the pride of its military, which first built the sea fortress to protect its territory from Russian advances. Suomenlinna continued to serve as an essential defense even under the Grand Duchy of Russia. 

Suomenlinna’s fortress walls span six islands. Kids will love exploring the bastion walls, discovering tunnels, and counting the dozens of canons found about the fortress.

The visitor’s center has a short film on the history of the fortress and offers walking tours. There are also six museums on Suomenlinna. Kids are likely to enjoy the Military Museum, the WWII Submarine Vesikko, and the Toy Museum. The fortress is also a popular place to enjoy a picnic on the beach or dine at one of the restaurants. 

#3 – Hang with Reindeer Herders

Season: Year-round
Where: Lapland

Finnish Lapland Reindeer
Finnish Lapland Reindeer | Photo by: LiLing Pang

The population of Finland is only 5.5 million. Reindeer outnumber people 2:1 in the Finnish Lapland! Although it looks like the reindeer are roaming wild, each is tagged and belongs to a reindeer herding family. Reindeer are the livelihood of the Sami people, who have been native to the area for over 5,000 years.

Rovaniemi: Meeting a Reindeer Herder and Craft Workshop
Rovaniemi: Meeting a Reindeer Herder and Craft Workshop | Photo by: LiLing Pang

There are places in the southern part of Finland such as the Helsinki Zoo or the Reindeer Park in Nuuksio National Park, where you can see reindeer. But to truly understand what the reindeer mean to the Sami people, you’ll want to spend an afternoon at Atelier Kangasniemi. It’s an unforgettable, meet-a-local kind of experience at the home and workshop of Ari and Irene Kangasniemi. 

When you arrive at their home and workshop, Irene and Ari show you the wide variety of items they make using reindeer horns, fur, and leather- shoes, chandeliers, knives, musical instruments, and jewelry. Then you get to make some of your own jewelry using reindeer horns to take home.

After you complete your masterpiece, you’re ushered into their cozy home for a spread of Finnish cinnamon buns and coffee. Irene and Ari are very excited to share their Sami heritage and lives with visitors through their stories and warm hospitality. 

#4 – Meet Santa in Lapland

Season: Year-round, but Best in Winter
Where: Lapland

Finland - Santa's Lapland
Finland – Santa’s Lapland | Photo by: VisitFinland-Riku Pihlanto

Did you know Santa’s home isn’t really in the North Pole? Just think about it, there aren’t reindeer living in the North Pole are there? Santa actually lives in the winter wonderland of the Finnish Lapland! If your kids are at the right age, a visit to Santa’s home turf can be absolutely magical.

Santa has many “homes” in Lapland. Depending on where you meet him, it can be quite a different experience. In Rovaniemi, you’ll find an entire Santa’s Village. It is open year round. 

At Santa’s Village, you can feed reindeer, take sleigh rides, mush huskies, and see Santa’s post office. He actually receives thousands of letters year-round from all around the world. The attraction is highly touristed and has a theme park feel to it. 

If you’re looking for a hand-on experience with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, check out Santa Park instead. Here you can make crafts, bake cookies, and go to “elf school”. Alternatively, you can book a private intimate Santa experience in Santa Claus Secret Forest for a private group. 

#5 – Forage for Mushrooms, Berries, and Drink From a Stream

Season: Summer and Autumn
Where: Nuuksio National Park, Espoo

Foraging for Mushrooms in Nuuksio National Par
Foraging for Mushrooms in Nuuksio National Park | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Finland’s forests are some of the most magical and pure places in the world. Here you can drink unfiltered water from a stream. In the summer and autumn season, the mossy forest floor is covered with lingonberries, bilberries, blueberries, and cloudberries. There are also mushrooms everywhere. 

Anyone is free to forage on public and private land according to the law known as “Every Man’s Right.” We’ve been told that every Finnish child has spent countless hours foraging in the forest for berries.

If you’d like to forage for mushrooms too, be sure to go with a guide. Many mushrooms need a special preparation or are poisonous. Take a short drive from Helsinki is Nuuksio National Park, where there are berries and mushrooms galore for the taking.

#6 – Experience a Finnish Sauna

Season: Year-round
Where: Everywhere in Finland

Things to do in Finland - Sauna
Sauna at Hawkhill Cottages in Finland | Photo by: LiLing Pang

In Finland, it is estimated that there is one sauna for every two people (that’s 2.3 million saunas!). You really can’t come to Finland without experiencing one. There are saunas on boats, by the lake, in a hotel room, on a Ferris wheel, even in Burger King if you can believe it! So whichever way you decide strikes your fancy, when in Finland, you shall sauna. 

The typical way locals go to a Finnish sauna is in the nude with family or a group of friends of the same gender. In a public sauna, there is typically a sauna for men and a sauna for women. You are free to wear your bathing suit, but be prepared to see others bare.

Finland Lapland Ice Swimming
Finland Lapland Ice Swimming | Photo by: VisitFinland Lauri Rotko

For Finns, sauna time is hangout time. The experience is punctuated by jumping into the snow or plunging into an icy lake or into the frigid ocean to cool off. The idea is to be ready to get right back into the sauna again. We recommend that you at least give it a try.

#7 – Stay in a Lakeside Cottage

Season: Best in Summer and Autumn
Where: Nuuksio National Park, Lakeland Region

Finland Lake Cottage - Hawkhill in Nuuksio
Finland Lake Cottage – Hawkhill in Nuuksio | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Finns value punctuality to a tee, but they are just as good about taking time to get away from everything. With thousands of lakes, there is nothing more quintessentially Finnish than to get away to a lake cottage for a few days. In fact, most families have their own lake cottage, but surprisingly few rent them out on Airbnb or VRBO. 

In Nuuksio National Park, we found Hawkhill Villas and Cottages on the shores of Lake Kaitlampi. Their log cabin cottages have been hand-built by the family. Each is unique and special. If you’re looking to center and connect with your family and yourself, parking yourself at a Lakeside Cottage is quintessential nature therapy.

#8 – Get in a Rowboat and Glide Across a Lake

Season: Summer, Autumn, and Spring
Where: Lakeland Region

Finnish Lake at Nuuksio National Park
Finnish Lake at Nuuksio National Park | Photo by: LiLing Pang

There are 188,000 lakes in Finland. You’ll find lakes in every shape, size, and color in the Lakeland region. I’ve never seen so many perfectly glassy lakes in my entire life.

And where there is a lake, there is a rowboat. You can’t just get into any rowboat. But if you rent a lakeside cottage for a couple of nights, you can bet it comes with a rowboat. Regardless, you’ll certainly find opportunities to rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard just about anywhere. 

#9 – Stay on a Secluded Island in a Lighthouse 

Season: Any Season
Where: In the Finnish Archipelago

Finland Archipelago Söderskär Lighthouse
Finland Archipelago Söderskär Lighthouse | Photo by: VisitFinland

With over 50,000 islands in the Finnish Archipelago, there are many to visit. There are also a plethora of lighthouses. There are even a few lighthouses you can actually spend the night in – Kylmäpihlaja Lighthouse, Bengtskär Lighthouse, Söderskär Lighthouse, and Tankar Lighthouse. 

After the daytrippers leave these secluded islands in the Baltic sea, you’ll discover an exuberant solitude. With few distractions, you’ll hear every lapping wave, smell that savory seaweed, and see each streak across the rocks. When the cold sea breeze blows, take a jaunt to warm up in the sauna. This simplicity, mindfulness, and connection to nature are how locals have lived on islands across the Finnish Archipelago for centuries.  Meet Paula the Lighthouse keeper.

#10 – Sleep in the Trees in a Tentsile Tent

Season: Summer
Where: Nuuksio National Park and other Tentsile locations.

Finland Tentsile Experience at Nuuksio Eco-Camp
Finland Tentsile Experience at Nuuksio Eco-Camp | LiLing Pang

Have you heard of a Tentsile tent? It’s a new zero-footprint hammock tent that can be suspended from three supporting trees over land or water. It’s a delightful way to sleep in the trees for a couple of nights. 

I’m not surprised that Finland has embraced the Tentsile experience more than any country in the world, because Finns love nature and are environmentally conscious. There are currently 11 official Tentsile Experience Camps in Finland, more than in any other country in the world. So, when in Finland, why not give Tentsile camping a try? At Nuuksio National Park, everything you need for the night is provided.

#11 – Spy on Brown Bears

Season: Summer
Where: Eastern Lake Region – Hosaa National Park and the town of Kuhmo

Photo by: Bigstock/Giedriius

Finland has the highest concentration of brown bears in Europe. And you have the best chance of seeing a bear in Hossa National Park where different operators offer tours. You’ll observe the bears and other wildlife, such as wolves and wolverines, from inside log cabin hides in the late afternoon.

During the winter, bears hibernate and give birth to cubs, but from June to August, they emerge from their slumber with their little ones. June is the start of the mating season. The following operators offer bear safari experiences: Boreal Wildlife Center, Arola Bear, Martinselkosen Wilds Centre, and Hossan Karhut

#12 – Be a Husky Musher for a Day

Season: Any Season
Where: Rovaniemi, Lapland

Husky Dog Sledding at Bearhill Huskies
Husky Dog Sledding at Bearhill Huskies | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Although sled dog racing isn’t traditional to Finland, it’s become a favorite among winter visitors. It’s even possible to experience riding in a dog sled near Helsinki during the winter, but the place to go is Lapland. 

At Bearhill Husky in Rovaniemi, you can enjoy the thrill of being a husky musher even in the summertime, when the huskies stay fit by pulling four-wheeled carts. It’s something kids who are mature enough can do as well. Teens can mush in the snow if they are 16 and up and heavy enough to engage the brake. 

If you’ve never been pulled by a team of huskies, you are in for a treat. They are bounding with energy and eager to interact with their mushers. It’s a thrill to ride the forest trails with your team of huskies. 

#13 – Snowmobile over a Frozen Lake and go Ice-Fishing

Season: Winter
Where: Lapland

Lapland Snowmobiling Saariselka_moottorikelkat
Lapland Snowmobiling Saariselka_moottorikelkat | Photo by: VisitFinland/Rob Smith

During the winter months, most of Finland’s 188,000 lakes freeze over. This means there are lovely wide open fields of snow to race snowmobiles across. In the northern Lapland region, fishing happens year-round too. When the fish are under a sheet of ice, you drill a hole with special tools, sink a line, and pull up your fish. 

In the Arctic Circle, winter temperatures are well below freezing. But to experience Finland like a local, put on a fur coat, jump on a snowmobile, and go catch some dinner. Our friends at Kidtripster have some essential tips for families who are interested in an ice-fishing snowmobile safari.

#14 – Appreciate Finnish Design and Architecture

Season: Any Season
Where: Helsinki

Skylights at Academic Bookstore by Alvar Alto | Photo by: LiLing Pang
Helsinki – Academic Bookstore by Alvar Alto | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Finnish architecture of the 19th century has made a mark in the world for its influence on Jugendstil (Art Nouveau), Nordic Classicism, and Functionalism. The two most notable Finnish modern architects are Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen. Wood construction has been the staple of Finnish buildings since its most primitive structures. But in recent times, Finnish architecture has pushed the boundaries of wood construction in technique and elevated its elegance.

Helsinki Oodi Central Library
Helsinki Oodi Central Library | Photo by: Reid Fuller

If you’re a fan of modern architecture, here are a few outstandingly beautiful buildings to visit. The capital city of Helsinki is the largest city in Finland and naturally is a prime spot to find examples of beautiful Finnish architecture. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki Oodi Library, Helsinki Music Hall, Kamppi Chapel of Silence, and The Rock Church are all must-sees.

#15 – Visit a Church Built Inside a Rock

Season: Any Season
Where: Helsinki

Rock Church Helsinki
Rock Church | Photo by Bigstock

The Finns seem to have an appreciation for the unusual. Temppeliaukio Church, nicknamed, The Rock Church, is one magnificent example. It took 60 years for the design to be accepted for this Lutheran Church in Helsinki. Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen proposed turning the idea of a church building completed upside down and inside out. 

The resulting building is a cavernous place of worship built inside the large granite rock instead of on top of it. It’s located in the Töölö neighborhood of Helsinki. It’s unlike any church you’ve ever seen and must not be missed while you are visiting the capital of Finland.

#16 – Sleep in a Snowcastle (Lumilinna – Snowcastle Kami)

Season: Winter
Where: Lapland

Finnish Lapland-Kami Snow Castle
Finnish Lapland-Kami Snow Castle | Photo by: VisitFinland

Every winter, architects and the world’s best ice-sculptors congregate to design and build a brand new Snowcastle in the Finnish Lapland. Located on the northernmost shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, the Snowcastle Kami is erected from scratch each year. It features a SnowHotel which you can spend the night in, SnowRestaurant and SnowChapel. 

If you have a little Frozen fan in your family, this snow castle is the largest in the world, and it’s sure to wow your kids. Pay special attention to all the detailed carving. The ice-castle is kept at -5°C (23°F), so dress warmly. If you are interested in the construction process, take a tour. 

#17 – Catch Moomin Fever

Season: Any Season
Where: Everywhere, but Especially in Helsinki and Turku

Finland: Moomin World | Photo by: Bigstock/ElenaNoeva

It’s easy to catch a little bit of Moomin fever in Finland. As soon as you step off the plane, you’ll see Moomin characters everywhere. To the Finns, Moomins are the equivalent of what Dr. Seuss means to American families. 

Do yourself and your children a favor and watch a few Moomin videos on youtube before arriving in Finland so you can fully embrace these adorable characters during your visit. There is a Moomin cafe in Helsinki and even a Moomin World amusement park near Turku, which is open in the summer and during Christmas. The official Moomin Museum can be found in Tampere.

#18 -Visit Charming Old Town Porvoo 

Season: Year-round
Where: 40 minutes East of Helsinki

Finland Red Porvoo Storehouses
Finland Red Porvoo Storehouses | Photo by: VisitFinland/Jussi Hellsten

Porvoo is the second oldest town in Finland and one of Finland’s most photographed. The old town area is famous for its bright red wooden warehouses and cobblestone streets along the riverfront. The town looks like a page out of a fairy tale. 

There are about 800 residents that live and work in Porvoo. The town is also known for having some of the best restaurants and cafes in the country, while home decor stores make for excellent window shopping. If you’re looking for old-world rural charm, Porvoo is a winner.

#19 – Sleep in a Prison Cell

Season: Any Season
Where: Helsinki

Hotel Katajankokka (Helsinki Prison Hotel)
Hotel Katajankokka (Helsinki Prison Hotel) | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Like a little dose of quirky? In Helsinki, Hotel Katajanokka welcomes guests to spend a few nights in the most comfortable prison cell in the world. This old red brick building was home to thieves and murderers serving out their sentences in Helsinki County Prison from 1837 to 2002. 

It has been renovated with stylish and luxurious nordic touches, but the hotel still maintains a touch of austerity. Instead of six to a cell, each room now sleeps two, even if you book a room in the solitary confinement cell. 

Although rumors fly that the hotel is haunted, the hotel historian there has not seen reports of real hauntings. So, go ahead and book a room, and you shall see. More likely than not, you’ll sleep like a baby because the rooms behind those thick prison walls are eerily quiet.

#20 – Fat Bike Over Dirt and Snow

Season: Any Season, but Best in Summer and Autumn

Where: Nuuksio National Park

Fat Biking in Finland
Fat Biking in Finland | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Have you ever ridden a bike through the forest in the snow? Most bikes can’t handle that kind of terrain, but fat bikes have extra-wide tires and deep tread that can carve through dirt and snow like butter. It’s a uniquely Finnish experience to hit the trails on a saddle. Enjoy the quiet tranquility of a snow-covered forest, lake, or the Finnish taiga. 

In the summer, you can still experience fat biking in many national parks and reserves, including Nuuksio National Park, just 45 minutes from Helsinki. The folks at Natura Viva offer guided fat bike tours, or you can rent a bike for an hour and explore the trails on your own. It’s not an activity we suggest with young children, but active teens will definitely enjoy this unique way to experience the outdoors in Finland.  

#21 – Scale a Frozen Waterfall in Korouama Nature Reserve

Season: Winter to Late Spring
Where: Korouama Nature Reserve, Lapland Region

Finland Ice Falls
Photo by: Bigstock/kavram

Located an hour southeast of Rovaniemi is the beautiful Korouma Nature Reserve. Visitors are drawn to the gorges of this fracture valley. The steep cliffs are dramatic all year round, but in the winter, the small streams that flow over the cliffs become frozen waterfalls. 

Nature’s ice sculptures are shaped by variations in precipitation, wind, and temperatures. Some visitors come to admire the frozen waterfalls’ beauty, while others swing ice axes and pull on crampons for some epic ice-climbing. Can kids go ice-climbing? Yes, they can, but they need to be 12 and up.

#22 – Explore an Ice Breaker 

Season: May through September
Where: 2 Hours East of Helsinki

Finland Kami Sampo Ice-breaker
Finland Kami Sampo Ice-breaker | Photo by: VisitFinland

If you have a boat enthusiast in the family, do not miss the Maritime Museum of Finland. Finland is a country with a long and rich maritime history. During the winter, the Baltic Sea is plowed by powerful ships called ice-breakers that keeps the sea from becoming unnavigable.

The whole family can climb aboard the decommissioned ice-breaker Tarmo at this museum. You can also see an ice-breaker in the Lapland Region in Kami.

More Things to Know About Finland

What do they eat in Finland?

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Fish

Fish and potatoes are staples in Finnish cuisine. Lohikeitto is a famous salmon and potato soup in a light creamy broth. Smoked salmon and grilled salmon are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nothing too unusual about the preparation except that it’s delicious. So, eat up if you like salmon. 

Pike perch and Baltic herring are also popular fish on any menu. Deep-fried vendace (whitebait or smelt) is served like french fries by street vendors, usually with a side of grilled potatoes and vegetables.

Meat

It is also traditional to eat reindeer. I know, I know…how can you even think about eating Rudolph, but reindeer meat is tasty and lean. You’ll see reindeer on menus in burgers and meatballs. But the most traditional way to enjoy reindeer is salted and dried as Kuivaliha, or sauteed as Poronkaristys

There is nothing more Finnish than to enjoy a meal cooked over an open campfire. It is common to find a Laavu shelter in any park in Finland. It is stocked with firewood. A local picnic consists of roasting some Makkara (sausage) over the fire and sipping on berry juice. 

If you’ve ever had a meal at Ikea, you’ll find Lihapullat (meatballs) very familiar. It’s served on mashed potatoes with Lingonberry sauce. Sound familiar? This is a food tradition that the Finns and Swedish share. 

Karjalanpiirakat (Karelian pastries) and Lihapiirakka (Finnish meat pies) are also traditional foods you’re likely to find at breakfast, cafes, or bakeries. They are easy to appreciate. Karjalanpiirakat is a rye pastry topped with savory rice. Lihapiirakka is a wheat-based bread filled with ground meat and rice.

Fruits and Veggies

In the summer and autumn, there is an abundance of berries. Local families spend countless hours foraging in the forest to stock up on jams and compotes and enjoy berry desserts. Lingonberry, Bilberry, Cloudberry juices are common as well. 

Sea Buckthorn is a bright yellow berry that contains as much vitamin C as an orange in a single tablespoon. Mix it with some pineapple juice and enjoy a shot for your daily dose of vitamin C. A true Finn can’t live without Ruisleipa (Rye bread). It can be rather dense and dry, which might be an adjustment if you’re used to fluffy white bread. But we discovered it is very tasty in salads.

Coffee and Treats

Finns love their coffee as much as Italians and Americans. As a matter of fact, Finland consumes more coffee per capita than anywhere else in the world!

It is often enjoyed with Korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls), which are similar to the American variety without the gooey frosting. A hint of cardamom gives the Finnish variety a distinct flavor.

What to Pack for a Trip to Finland?

Here are a few things you might not think to pack for a trip to Finland that would be really useful. 

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  • A jacket in all seasons – Summer lows are in the 50-55°F and highs in the 68°F to 70°F. It is a good idea to always have a light jacket with you even in the summertime especially if you plan to take a ride on a ferry out to an island. A windbreaker like this is perfect.
  • Extreme winter wear – during the long winter (Mid Nov to March) Finland is very cold. We’re talking about lows of -25 to -50°C (-18 to -58°F) in the northern Lapland regions. Yikes! You’ll need layers of winter wear to protect you from the cold especially since many of the activities you’ll be doing in the Finnish Lapland will take you into the great outdoors. Here are some of our favorite winter tech clothing.
  • A scarf is also a good thing to have in all seasons. The Bioscarf air filter scarf has the added benefit of having an N95 filter built into it. Although the air in Finland is some of the purest in the world, they use woodfires for outdoor cooking and heating inside the home widely. If you are sensitive to smoke, having a scarf with a filter is awesome! 
  • Hat, gloves, and ear warmers – in the Autumn, a regular hat and gloves are fine. But in the Winter and Spring, be sure to bring a couple pairs of heavyweight waterproof snow mittens (so that one can dry while you use the other). A warm hat or a balaclava that covers your ears and face is also essential.
  • DSLR camera, appropriate lenses, and tripod – in the autumn and winter, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights even as far south as the Finnish Archipelago when you’re away from light pollution. But to take a photo of the northern lights, you need a camera that can set to long exposure with a wide aperture setting on a tripod. A lens that allows you to manually control the focus will allow you to turn off auto-focus which requires sufficient light to tune correctly. 
  • Eye masks – summer in the land of the midnight sun means that you’ll likely be sleeping when it’s still light out.  Having an eye mask can be really helpful. 

Do they speak English in Finland?

Nuuksion Taika Whistling with Locals
Nuuksion Taika Whistling with Locals | Photo by: LiLing Pang

Yes! Almost every Finn we met was fluent in English and well versed with American and British pop culture. The official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. The Finnish language is really hard to learn, so we are thankful the Finns are so good at communicating in English. 

In any case, we found most signs are in all three languages. At tourist attractions, there are also materials and signs in Chinese and Japanese. Streets signs are mostly in Finnish. And grocery store labels are almost all in Finnish. No problem, just download the Google Translate app and hold it up against the packaging, and you’ll know what you’re buying.

Is Finland a safe country?

Helsinki Senate Square
Helsinki Senate Square | Photo by: LiLing Pang

According to Travel-safe Abroad, Finland is one of the safest countries to visit. It’s ranked #9 in terms of safety. There are also not many natural disasters affecting Finland. Just be cautious about driving during winter in the less populated Lapland area. These snow-covered roads are best left to locals.

Is Finland an expensive country to visit?

Finland Igloo Hotel - Arctic Fox Igloo in Rauna
Finland Igloo Hotel – Arctic Fox Igloo | LiLing Pang

Finland is on the Euro, so depending on exchange rates, you might find it more or less expensive. Generally speaking, accommodations in Finland are expensive. A night in an igloo hotel can set you back 500-1000 Euros a night, depending on the season. A mid-range hotel room is around 150-250 Euros a night. We were delighted to find that most hotels include a fantastic breakfast buffet in their nightly rate. 

Finland - Nuuksio National Park - Tikkankolo Wilderness Hut
Tikkankolo Wilderness Hut in Nuuksio | Photo by: LiLing Pang

A budget option for travelers is to camp while in Finland. Camping in Finland is free, and the national forest service offers lots of great amenities that make it entirely possible for families who want to enjoy the great outdoors. The forest service even maintains wilderness huts that have fully stocked kitchens and beds. Most are free, and a few can be reserved for a fee. 

Museum tickets were reasonably priced, and most of the time, kids under the age of 18 were free. Activities and tours are comparable in price to the U.S.

Tipping in Finland

While service is gracious and kind in Finland, tipping is not expected anywhere unless you’ve experienced exceptional service. This is a considerable saving for a traveler.

Mobile phone and Wifi coverage in Finland

Mobile phone coverage is excellent all over Finland. Helsinki has free public wifi, but the connection can be spotty. The most affordable way to get cell phone service is to purchase a SIM card when you arrive. R-Kiosk is Finland’s convenience store that you can find just about everywhere. Pick up a SIM card for a little as 5 Euros a week.  

 

About the author

LiLing Pang is Co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo . She is a mom to two boys and a girl and recently traveled through Central America. Together with her husband, Brennan Pang, they hatched the idea of Trekaroo one summer day along the California coast while searching for the best kid-friendly tide pool near La Jolla with their curious 2 and a half year old.

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