High up in the north of Europe hides a blue labyrinth of sparkling lakes, islands, and lush forests, AKA Finland. Finland has a gigantic landmass with only a few cities spread over it. In Finland, you can also discover typical wooden houses or the spectacular northern lights that illuminate white winter wonderland.
When people think of Finland, they think of nothing but shopping and easy Schengen trips. But the country has so much more to offer: the long-awaited meeting with Finnish Santa Claus, a dashing dog race, and even the Northern Lights beyond the Arctic Circle.
Finland is one of those countries that you can never get enough of; it is fabulous in winter, quiet and loud in summer. With a variety of dreamy places, there are always new corners to discover that you might not have had on your radar yet.
From its idyllic towns to its picturesque river landscapes and the tranquility of nature; we gathered the Finish regions that will surely delight you. Come with us on a journey through the top things to see and do in Finland.
1-Suomenlinna Sea Fortress Island
Just a short ferry ride from the country’s capital is the impressive sea fortress Suomenlinna, with its historic walls set on six interconnected islands off Helsinki. Suomenlinna sea fortress island is one of Finland’s most famous sights and has been rightly included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a special fortress architecture in Europe since 1991.
It is an excellent destination for summer and winter days out. It is worth mentioning that it is drafty on the island, so pack an extra layer of clothes even on warm days. This is because the Suomenlinna sea fortress island is located directly in the bay of Helsinki and can only be reached by a small boat.
From the fortress wall, you will have a fantastic view of the capital. Even though the Suomenlinna sea fortress island is small, visitors can easily lose themselves here for several hours, wandering through the narrow streets with bumpy cobblestones.
The best time to take a ferry from Helsinki to the sea fortress Suomenlinna is in summer when all the museums are open. For almost three centuries, the sea fortress Suomenlinna has accumulated a lot of valuable weapons, ammunition, and equipment, which you can see in the museum at the fortress.
The museum also features the history of the sea fortress Suomenlinna and the people who lived there over the years. While waiting for the return ferry, we recommend having a beer with some smoked fish at Suomenlinnan Panimo, the castle brewery; you won’t regret it!
Naantali is one of the most popular summer destinations in Finland, even among the Finns themselves. Naantali is not only one of Finland’s most beautiful places, but it is also officially the sunniest town in Finland. The cute little town has a lot of charm and many unique stories to tell.
Whether it’s an impressive nature experience, a romantic love story, or a relaxing time with the family – everyone writes their own story in the maritime city on Finland’s southwest coast. Stroll through the dreamy alleys of the old town and let yourself be enchanted by the unique small-town flair.
While it is so much fun in the summer, Naantali is also worth a visit in winter. In the winter, you can enjoy the view of the beautifully snow-covered village of Naantali with a cup of warm cocoa in one of the charming cafés and restaurants. Visiting Naantali is one of the fun things to do while in Finland.
Rauma in Western Finland is the third-oldest city in the country and is a real magnet for visitors, mainly because of its colorful wooden houses and the old city hall. This is one of the reasons why the entire old town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
A visit to Rauma feels like a little trip back in time. The old town with its colorfully painted, old wooden houses is reminiscent of a time long forgotten. Here in Rauma, everything is relaxed and serene. Especially in winter, the city is perfect for a relaxing getaway and a backdrop for gorgeous winter photos.
Stroll along the old cobblestone streets and feel the special ambiance of this city, or through the small stores, and get yourself one of the beautiful Finish handicrafts and sit down in between for a break in a lovely café. Just take your time and enjoy a few idyllic hours in one of the most beautiful places in Finland.
4-Finnish Lake District: Largest Lake District in Europe
Water is a significant factor in Finland; there are lakes almost everywhere, tempting you to cool off in the summer and skate in the winter. It is said that there are about 188 000 lakes in Finland, yes you read that right! But why visit just one lake when you can visit several?
The Finnish Lake District or the Finnish Lakeland is a natural beauty located in the southeast of the country, and it is home to more than 30 lakes. Here, travelers have the chance to visit the largest lake area in Europe.
The Finnish Lakeland is also a great place to experience the authentic Finnish trinity of a summer cottage, sauna, and water. In the morning, just step out of the wooden cabin and head into the clear water first. During the day, numerous cycling routes or canoeing offer the opportunity to explore the land of 1000 lakes… What more would we want?!
5-Koli National Park
A breathtaking place in Finland and a true natural paradise is the Koli National Park. You can enjoy a particularly stunning view of the surrounding area and Lake Pielinen, overlooked by the peaks of the national park, from the top of Ukko-Koli hill.
The landscape, which could not be more picturesque here, makes the hearts of all nature lovers beat faster. Maybe you already know the landscape because Koli National Park is a very popular motif of many Finnish artists.
No wonder, because nowhere else do you have such a magnificent view of Finland’s amazing nature. On the Ukko-Koli, there is only you and nature; it is the perfect place to take a break.
Koli National Park is also the winter sports hotspot in Finland. There, besides skiing and snowboarding, unique adventures like Icelandic horse riding in the snow or snowshoeing await you.
After a winter day full of new experiences, you can relax in Koli National Park with a sauna session or sit around the campfire with family and friends and taste the famous Finnish salmon.
You can choose a trip in summer with over 90 km of marked hiking trails or a snow adventure in winter with groomed cross-country trails or snowshoeing. Mountains, forest, and water, Koli National Park, named after its highest peak, really has it all!
A trip to Koli National Park is definitely one of the unique things to do in Finland.
6-Lapland: Hunting for Finland Northern Lights
Finnish Lapland is one of the most beautiful places in Finland. The first thing you associate with Lapland is the image of a winter wonderland with snow-white landscapes. In the midst of Finland’s wild nature, Lapland provides a mixture of relaxation and adventure.
Reindeer, a thick blanket of snow, freezing temperatures, and impressive northern lights in the black night sky, welcome to Lapland!
Lapland in the north of Finland is an absolute guarantee for a spectacular nature experience. If you want to hunt for the famous Finland Northern Lights in a traditional way and guarantee a successful sighting, then you have come to the right place!
You can even go on a tour with professional Northern Lights guides here. You can choose, for example, between snowshoe or cross-country skiing hikes or tours by motor or dog sled. For a bit more fluff, we also recommend a visit to a reindeer farm.
Also, in Lapland, you can see the Aurora Borealis in the winter from almost everywhere in the region. The best time to see northern lights in Finland is from February to March and September to October.
The northern lights look even more beautiful in person than on your desktop screen saver. You can watch the dancing lights in the night sky in the Lappish villages of Ivalo, Saariselkä, and Kilpisjärvi.
The farther north and farther away from civilization you go, the better the chances of seeing the lights in cloudless weather. If you have to choose only one thing to see on your trip to Finland, then it is the northern lights for sure, it would be soooo worth it!
In the south of Finland, another little insider tip awaits you: The small town of Hanko, which is a beauty to behold, even in high season, with its pleasantly empty sandy beaches and many hidden bays.
Explore the sweet spa town with its sophisticated architecture during a day trip and enjoy the quiet atmosphere that prevails there. Hanko is a small summer paradise, which enchants every vacationer with a Mediterranean flair.
Spend a nice relaxing day here in summer, discover the secret bays that you will have almost all to yourself, and also explore the red water tower and the church that are the landmarks of the city.
If you’re more of a winter vacation type, you’ll have Hanko all to yourself. Enjoy the small town in the company of the locals and watch how beautifully the frozen water glistens in the sunlight.
Just southwest of Hanko, on the island of Bengtskär, stands the lighthouse of the same name, which at 46 meters is the tallest lighthouse in Finland. A trip to Bengtskär Island is worthwhile both in summer and winter. So, do not miss it!
Kalajoki is yet another paradise and one of the most beautiful places in Finland. Many people don’t really know the city in the north of Finland, so you can benefit from that and enjoy the quiet village and empty sandy beaches.
If you look at the fine sand, miles of beaches, and dunes, you will hardly believe that this is Finland. Forget your everyday worries here and just take a deep breath.
The coastal region on the Gulf of Bothnia also offers you the best conditions for an active vacation. Whether on a bike, by boat on the water, or in nature; in Kalajoki, you decide whether you want to take it easy or sporty.
Did you know that Turku is the oldest city in Finland and also the former capital of the country? Today, Turku, on the southwest coast of Finland, is considered a hip and lively student city and, most importantly, Finland’s number one food city.
The great variety of excellent restaurants and regular food festivals sweep all foodies off their feet. Around Christmas time, the city homes several beautiful Christmas markets, which give it an extraordinary Christmas feeling.
Turku is also the city with the most beautiful wooden house district in the country. The historic old town and the cobblestone streets characterize the image of this city steeped in history. Turku also has a diverse art scene. So, if you’re in the mood for art, culture, good food, and a relaxed lifestyle, Turku is definitely worth a visit.
10-Santa Claus Village: Official Home of Santa Claus
Yes, he really exists! All doubters are now running out of arguments because Santa Claus really exists, and he even has an address. In the capital of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi, you will find the amusement park of Santa Claus Village, which will make children’s and adults’ eyes sparkle, especially at Christmas time.
Santa Claus Village is open all year round, so it’s also a great place to spend time in the summer. The park includes Santa’s office, the main post office, Mrs. Claus’s house, and numerous reindeer and elves in red costumes. If you want to stay overnight at Santa’s Village, be sure to make reservations well in advance.
11-Olavinlinna: The Imposing Castle in Savonlinna
Finland undoubtedly has a rich history; numerous important monuments in the country testify to that. Among them is the medieval Olavinlinna Castle in the city of Savonlinna.
The building is considered to be the best-preserved medieval castle in Northern Europe, and in the summer, it also hosts the Opera Festival in a fantastic setting.
Those who wish to visit the interior can take part in daily guided tours in English (or Finnish). A visit to Olavinlinna is one of the best things to do in Finland.
12-Karhunkierros: Bear Round in Oulanka National Park
Even though this hiking trail in the Oulanka National Park is called Bear Round, it can still be done with only two legs. The trail, which has existed since 1955, is about 95 kilometers long and is one of the most popular hiking trails in the country.
On this tour, you will be able to see the most important sights of the area, the Oulanka canyon at Oulankajoki and the Kiutaköngäs waterfalls. You can also try the Little Bear Circuit, which is 12 km long.
In addition to brown bears, which give the tour its name, you can also see eagles and whooper swans, if you are lucky.
13-Dance Finnish Tango Once
Have you ever heard of the Finnish Tango? Well, you should! The Finnish tango is quite easy to learn and fun to do. In Finland, there are many clubs and dance schools that offer dance classes.
Additionally, the typical Finnish music is great for dancing the tango. We highly recommend taking some Finnish tango classes while in the country; you will have so much fun.
14-Do Something Crazy: River Floating
If you want to do something totally crazy and don’t want to jump off a skyscraper, and you are not afraid of water; then we highly recommend river floating!
Dressed in waterproof and thermo-proof clothes, you have almost no control over your limbs, but when the current pulls your body in all possible directions and you give yourself entirely to the river, you can have a lot of fun.
It would be best to learn a few Finnish words or good sign language beforehand, though. This is such an exhilarating experience that you should seriously consider when you are in Finland.
You can register for a river floating around the city of Tampere along with other funny water events. River floating is absolutely one of the best things to do in Finland.
15-Indulge Yourself in the Finnish Cuisine
When it comes to tasty food, the Finns have it all. There are lots of delicious delicacies here that you should definitely try, such as Karelian pierogi (dumplings filled with rice) with a mouthwatering spread and salmon. Or Leipäjuusto, a rather tasteless cheese that tastes really good with lingonberries or in salads.
If you like sweet food, you should try voisilmäpullat; it tastes like a milk roll but is somehow different. If you want to try all these things at once, we recommend going to Vanha Kauppahalli – A market hall in Helsinki.
In the market hall, in addition to the above-mentioned delicacies, you can, of course, also find fruit, cheese, bread, liquorice, and much more than the gourmet heart desires…. So yummy!
16-Visit A Real Finnish Sauna
Okay, we get it; saunas are not exactly your typical touristic attraction, but in Finland, they sure are! The highlight of any vacation in Finland is, without question, the sauna. After all, you are in the motherland of birch!
In a country where some might argue that there are more saunas than inhabitants, it would be a shame not to visit one while there. You can find saunas everywhere, and there are even different types of them too!
Even in the Ferris wheel of Helsinki, there is a sauna cabin, and in every hotel or vacation home, no matter how remote, there is at least one sauna. But you’ll only really be amazed when you bathe in the ice-cold waters of a river or lake.
A nice location at the Hiidenvuolle lake is the beach sauna of the hotel “Vaihmalan Hovi.” You can rent the sauna house also as a non-hotel guest. When it’s over 35 degrees, hardly anyone likes to think about sauna – but honestly, it never gets that hot in Helsinki anyway.
Taking a sauna is a must in Finland, in winter as well as in summer, and if you don’t want to miss out on the authentic sauna experience, we recommend Löyly Sauna.
It is located right on the coast, and it is worth seeing for its remarkable architecture alone. After sweating in the traditional smoke sauna, you can jump directly into the ice-cold sea to cool off and then make yourself comfortable on the spacious terrace. It doesn’t get any better than this!