Finns are known for their sense of humour and hospitality, as well as their love for the outdoors.
Finland is the country that invented and is passionate about, the sauna. For a particularly Finnish experience, the “sauna and swim” event is meant to cleanse and soothe.
The country is perfect for outdoor adventurers, particularly those willing to travel in the colder months. Finland boasts a record amount of lakes, 200 possible days for viewing the Northern Lights, and the home of the one and only Santa Claus.
Finland is family friendly, although it tends to be more expensive than other European destinations, so be sure to plan your adventure well.
Where is Finland?
Finland is bordered by Russia to the east and Norway to the north.
Finland shares the Gulf of Finland with Estonia and Russia. Finland has 46,062 km of coastline along the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Bothnia, including its many islands and archipelagos.
Size: 338,424 km² (130,666 sq mi)
Official Language(s): Finnish and Swedish
Capital City: Helsinki
Time Zone: UTC+2 (EET)
Currency: Euro (€) (EUR)
Electrical Plug Type: Types C (Europlug) and F (Schuko plug)
Drives on the: Right
Food You Must Try: Reindeer tenderloin, grilled and stewed overnight; a meat so tender it feels like soft butter in your mouth; smoke flavoured potatoes and savoury game sauce
Best things to do in Finland
UNESCO Sites in Finland
The Old Town of Rauma located on the Gulf of Bothnia, north-west of Helsinki, is one of only a few remaining medieval towns in the country. Although a fire vastly impacted it in the 17th century, it was restored and remains an authentic reminder of Finnish life millennia ago. This town was originally built on the coast, however land uplift has caused it to shift inland 1.5 kilometres.
At the mouth of Helsinki Harbour stands Suomenlinna (Sveaborg), the sea fortress. Construction of this island complex (7 islands and approximately 200 buildings) began in the mid-18th century and was decommissioned for civilian purposes in the 1970’s. Suomenlinna is a unique example of military architecture, particularly for its time. Although well protected, the fortress is in danger from sea-level rise and healthy tourism interest.
Top Attractions in Finland
Who could pass up an opportunity to meet the real Santa Claus? Although more expensive (and colder) than some destinations, and requiring lots of planning (and packing warm clothes, of course!); Finnish Lapland is worth it for the winter adventurer. Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle, is the administrative capital and commercial center of Finland’s northernmost province, Lapland, and it is brimming with holiday magic (including a wonderful Christmas market, of course!). If Santa’s Village isn’t your thing, there is a diversity of restaurants and bars, an interesting wildlife park, and tours to view the Northern Lights.
Quite simply, go outside! Ski in Levi, with 43 runs and lots of other activities for the whole family; hike in one of 40 national parks that span the entire country; bike on Helsinki’s streets; sled with the Huskies in the north; sauna and swim in the Finnish Lakelands… you get the idea. Finland is for the outdoorsy; immerse yourself in the opportunities to commune with nature.
For outdoors with more comfort, visitors can rent a glass igloo at The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, to sleep warmly under the stars.
Dig for Amethyst in the only operating mine in Europe. Situated in Pyhä-Luosto National Park, amateur miners can only access the mine via hike or snowmobile. You can keep what you find, so long as it’s smaller than a fist. The Park features nearly 100 miles of trails so be sure to bring your hiking gear along.
For a break from the great outdoors, spend at least a day exploring Helsinki; the Finnish National Gallery, the National Museum and Senate Square offer impressive art, architecture, and a comprehensive perspective on Finnish culture. The National Gallery, comprised of Kiasma, the Museum of Modern Art; the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, and the Ateneum feature extensive collections. Helsinki’s famous Senate Square hosts the University of Helsinki’s main building, Helsinki Cathedral, and the Government Palace. The Square often hosts temporary art exhibits or performances, bring a lunch and spend the afternoon taking it in.
Fun Facts about Finland
Finland has “Everyman’s rights,” which means Finns and visitors alike can traverse any terrain they like, so long as they are respectful of the land. These rights include the right to forage and hunt, but there are some restrictions so be sure to read them before your adventure.
Everywhere you go in Finland; you can have a sauna. A Finnish invention, and one of the only Finnish words in universal use, it is estimated there are over 2 million saunas in Finland. Other Finnish inventions include the wireless EKG, the video game Angry Birds, and the Molotov cocktail.
It likely tells you a lot about Finnish culture (particularly the national sense of humour) to know that beginning in 2010, Finland annually celebrates losing. The “Day for Failure” held on October 13th, encourages learning from the past, in a uniquely Finnish way.
Depending on who you ask (Finland or Canada), Finland has the most lakes of any country in the world, a whopping 187, 888. This is the official number of lakes claimed by the government. However, these numbers are difficult to verify. Finland is sometimes referred to as “the Land of a Thousand Lakes,” but clearly there are plenty more.
In the land of Nokia, there are no public landlines. Finland stopped servicing payphones in the mid-2000’s as cell phone use usurped the landline.
Only in Finland can you witness the Air Guitar World Championship. A feature of the Oulu August Festival, if you’re visiting Finland in the summer, you might miss the Northern Lights, but at least you’ll get to watch some shredding.
Some violations of Finnish law are punished according to scale. Traffic violations, such as speeding will see tickets priced according to the offender’s income. This has resulted in tickets priced in the tens of thousands.
Finnish women accomplished universal suffrage (meaning all women could vote and run for office) in 1906, making them the first women in Europe to do so. Although part of Russia at the time, women in Finland retained the right from 1906 on.
Finns drink the most coffee of anyone in the world at approximately 12 kilos per year. It may come as no surprise that they are also among the highest in milk consumption. Cafe au lait, anyone?
The 120 km Päijänne Water Tunnel is the longest tunnel in Europe, and the second longest in the world, bested by the Delaware Aqueduct in New York.
Our thoughts about Finland
Alison says: “Finland was one of the first places we travelled from Belgium to visit by plane. We were pleasantly surprised how warm and friendly Helsinki was; and how much it reminded us of our home in Eastern Canada. It’s a country we hope to return to an explore beyond the capital.”
Adi shares a family-travel adventure to the Arctic Circle with loads of fun things to do in Rovaniemi, in Finnish Lapland. There’s plenty of winter family fun, searching for the Northern Lights, visiting Arctic animals, and a special visit to Santa Claus. My husband and I have always travelled and having kids didn’t stop us. Since my ...