Finland’s reputation as a quirky Nordic country belies the wonders on offer in this amazing destination. Sure the reindeer population might exceed the number of people in some places; but if anything, that’s a testament to the country’s stewardship of its vast ecological resources. Those contemplating a visit may wonder where those truly spectacular sights are. What are the things you simply can’t miss if you want to say you’ve had a real Finnish adventure? Fortunately we’ve surveyed the lands from Helsinki to Nuorgam to bring you the best Finland has to offer. The itinerary we present here is an introductory guide that can easily be expanded or altered to suit your needs. Come along as we take a look across this remarkable land. This is Finland in 7 Days.
Return to Helsinki (Day 7)
Finland’s capital and largest city plays an outsized role in the national culture. Over one quarter of all Fins live or work in the Greater Helsinki area, which generates upwards of one third of the country’s gross domestic product. This is where you will find Finland’s major civic and cultural institutions in addition to the headquarters of global brands like Nokia. To start, get yourself settled into your accommodations. The main international airport is a bit over 20 kilometers from the city center. Try to book a room in either the Punavuori or Hietalahti neighborhoods. The former is a trendy arts district in Central Helsinki with lots of galleries, restaurants, and cafes. A convenient place to start exploring is Kaivopuisto, a beautiful seaside park filled with lots of open space and greenery. Stop at one of the small cafes or restaurants for a quick snack or relaxing coffee before pressing towards the neighboring embassy district. Wander past the numerous diplomatic missions as you work your way around. The Mannerheim Museum has an interesting exhibition dedicated to the famous Finnish Statesman’s life and career.
Continue exploring past the Helsinki Observatory before making your way to St. John's Church. The lovely Lutheran cathedral features a red brick exterior and twin spires. The Design Museum is also an interesting spot with several eye-catching exhibitions. Heading directly north will take you towards Esplanadi Park and the Swedish Theater. From there make your way to Senate Square and the famous Helsinki Cathedral. Climb the stairs to see this 19th-century landmark. The cathedral’s green domes standout against the often gray skies while the beautiful white exterior shines bright in the sun. From the Cathedral head west towards Helsinki Central Station where you can peek inside at the modern architecture and high vaulted ceilings. Just past the station you’ll find the museum district. Make a stop at either the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Helsinki Music Centre, Finlandia Hall, or the National Museum of Finland. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can link several things together such as a museum visit and an evening concert. At night, return to Punavuori or the city center for some shopping and entertainment. The Forum is a large mall with plenty of brand-named shops and restaurants.
On your next day, take a short ferry ride out to Helsinki Zoo, which sits on an island in the harbor. Or we might recommend a visit to Suomenlinna. This island-sized fortress was once among the largest defensive fortifications in the world. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the perfect spot to spend a summer’s afternoon. Walk the many tree-lined paths and enjoy the scores of Finns picnicking or frolicking about. There is plenty to see here including several museums so you can easily spend the better part of your day on the island. After you’re had your fill return to town and get ready to head out for the next stop on your seven-day adventure!
Tallinn’s proximity to Helsinki make it the perfect day trip. Easily reachable by ferry, you can dart off to explore another great European capital and be back before bedtime. Ferries depart from the Tallinn Ferry terminal on Katajanokka Island in the harbor. Once you disembark it’s only a short walk to central Tallinn. If you ask seasoned European travelers about their favorite memories, many would probably reflect on a time in the 1990s when Prague and Budapest were newly free from the yolk of communism and bubbling with creative energy. The Baltic nations still retain much of that early post-Soviet charm, and it shows. Stop by the Museum of Estonian Architecture just beyond the port. Here you can explore the history of Estonian-inspired designs, which will also help you appreciate things you will later see in town.
Central Tallinn is rather compact and easy to explore on foot. Navigate the narrow streets as you appreciate life here. Look for St. Catherine’s Passage on your way to Town Hall Square. The historic square is dominated by the gothic-inspired Tallinn Town Hall building with its lovely spire. There are several worthwhile museums in the area including the Tallinn City Museum. Make your way to St Nicholas' Church and Museum and the nearby St Mary's Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th-century and features a gothic bell tower. From St Mary’s you can easily explore around the fabled Walls of Tallinn, a series of defensive fortifications that marked the city’s historic boundaries. The iconic towers lining the wall are visible throughout the central city. Visit Stable Tower and the Town Wall Walkway near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Tour the cathedral and see the beautiful Eastern Orthodox decorations. Afterwards wander around a bit and enjoy a delicious meal before returning to the port and departing back to Helsinki.
Roughly 180 kilometers north from Helsinki is Tampere, known for its beautiful lakes and majestic natural scenery. The train from Helsinki will deposit you downtown. Find your accommodations or head straight for some sightseeing. The streets near the railway station are good places to get a quick bite to eat if you’re hungry. Cross the river to Keskustori, the town’s central square. Take note of the fountain, which is lit after dark in a lovely visual display. Visit the Lutheran Church on the square or explore the adjacent old library building and culture house. A bit to the north is the Spy Museum. Here you can see relics from a time when Finland was an important Cold War battleground. You can also test your skills as a secret agent. Several other museums are also in the area including a Finnish history museum and Finnish Labor Museum.
At some point make your way lakeside where you can really enjoy Tampere’s beautiful scenery. The Sara Hilden Art Museum showcases contemporary art works in its lovely lakeside gallery. Make a stop here before taking a lake tour or enjoying the view from the Näsinneula Observation Tower. Part of a theme park that includes numerous rides, a planetarium, and an aquarium, this is a fun place to spend some time. In the evenings, light from the park and tower give the entire area a pleasant glow. For dinner enjoy some good food in the vicinity of the railway station. Take a relaxing walk around town before getting some rest and an early start to the next day.
Further north still and deep in the Finnish countryside is Kuopio, a quintessential summer lake town. When Northern Europe is bathed in long hours of summer daylight, there are few things better than the relative isolation and majestic pine forests found in this part of Finland. Set on what is essentially a large peninsula, Kuopio is literally surrounded by nature. The town itself is laid out on a rectangular street grid centered on Kuopio Cathedral. The neoclassical architectural design befits the surroundings and gives the cathedral a hearty appearance, as if it’s able to withstand punishing winters this far north. The streets around the cathedral offer a diverse range of restaurants and eateries perfect for some afternoon snacking. Swing past Kuopio Market and City Hall, which often feature community events or other interesting gatherings.
In the afternoon, make your way towards Puijo Tower, an observation tower located on Puijo Hill just north of Central Kuopio. Opened in 1963, it was the first observation tower in a Nordic country to feature a revolving restaurant. The 100-seat establishment is still operating and it’s not at all a bad place for a meal. The nearby ski jumping hills are popular during winter. Watch daring athletes seem to defy gravity as they gracefully soar high above spectators below. While no doubt a highlight, we confess Kuopio really shines in the summer. Allow yourself some time to explore the myriad surrounding small towns. Find a quiet lakeside retreat or enjoy a hike through the countryside. With forest and wilderness areas all around you won’t have trouble locating a pristine patch. Return to Central Kuopio to stay overnight and so you can depart for the far north in the morning.
Picture yourself standing in a quiet field. Snow crunches underfoot as you shift your weight, gazing towards the heavens. Your breath forms a frosty mist in the air. In the distance, a dogsled pulls its passenger over the frozen fields. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the skies above begin to glow. Great rivers of color swirl high overhead and soon the entire sky appears on fire. An eerie greenish light casts shadows far below. The Northern Lights are visible on around 150 nights a year in Finnish Lapland. In Rovaniemi, the spellbinding astral show can be witnessed from mid-August to April. According to Sámi folklore, auroras are caused by a fox running over the fells of Lapland, whipping up snow with its tail and sending sparks up in the northern sky. The Finnish name for the Northern Lights translates as “fox fire” and derives from this myth.
Rovaniemi is located in Finnish Lapland, the largest of the country’s 19 regions. Despite its northern latitude, Rovaniemi is well-connected to the outside world. A network of road, rail, and air transport links make getting here simple. Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus. You can visit Santa Claus Village right on the Arctic Circle every day of the year. It’s an attraction drawing more than 500,000 annual visitors from all around the world. There is also a series of snowmobile trails at the neighboring Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park. This can be an exciting way to see some of the amazing countryside in this part of Finland. In the evening spend some time in central Rovaniemi where you will find the warmth from the local people more than enough to ward off any Arctic chill.
Return to Helsinki (Day 7)
Departing midmorning from Rovaniemi should allow you ample time to reach Helsinki and enjoy a final jaunt through the city before making your way to the airport. If you want to tack on one additional day in Helsinki, there is undoubtedly plenty left to see. You might, for example, take the Helsinki metro over to Aurinkolahti. Known for its lovely beach and small marina, this is a popular place when summer temperatures climb high. Do a little shopping or go for a walk in the nearby forest park. Of course, given all the traveling you’ve done, it’s perfectly fine to just stay in Central Helsinki and enjoy everything at a leisurely pace.
Finland is an eminently beautiful country. Whether you come for the endless summer days or brave the Artic winds to visit Santa in winter, you will find yourself falling in love with the people and culture in this quirky Nordic paradise. Somewhat removed geographically and culturally from Scandinavia, Finland has a distinct identity and a wealth of proud traditions. The countless lakes, fjords, and wilderness areas will take your breath away. The smiles and openness of the people will put you at ease. Be sure that no matter how you craft your Finnish adventure you make sure to take in a range of diverse experiences. Our seven-day itinerary is just a suggestion and there are plenty other towns with wonderful things to offer. Basically it’s hard to go wrong in Finland. Come discover why this is consistently ranked one of the most developed countries on Earth. Come enjoy a worthy weeklong adventure in Finland!