Travel Destination: Finland
Finland isn’t the most common destination in Europe for tourists, but it is one of the most unique. Visiting Scandinavia is beautiful, peaceful, clean, and safe. It makes an excellent destination. There’s a strong argument for visiting in winter as well for the northern lights, winter sports, and more. But the focus of this article will be for a summer trip when the days are long and the weather is warmest. Highlighted here are some of our favorite destinations using Finland as a base.
Helsinki is Finland’s modern capital. Definitely go to the harbor for the market, the Russian cathedral, and Senate Square (the main square). We like the Eira neighborhood for a taste of the urban residential side of things. Restaurants there are good as it’s off the beaten path and caters to the in-the-know urban crowd. Kaivopuisto (Helsinki’s version of central park) is nice too. Lively place on a nice summer day. Also, the mini-excursion to Suomenlinna is cool. It’s a fortress island just outside of the harbor (bring a picnic!). There’s ferries every 20 min or so from the market area. Being the vibant city it is, there’s a lot more to Helsinki than what we’ve mentioned here.
Savonlinna & Lake Saimaa District
Finland’s lake district is a BEAUTIFUL area. It comprises the southeastern area of the country. Renting a car here really is the best way to see the countryside. Driving is EASY in Finland…there’s hardly any other cars. City-wise, Savonlinna is pretty quick to visit. Also, you may want to consider renting one of the MANY cabins in the area. They are clean, cozy and all over the place right on the water (Example). There are lakes everywhere and driving around the countryside and towns you get to know the REAL Finland.
Fiskars and Porvoo
These are super cute towns and fairly quick day trips out of Helsinki. Fiskars is famous for the scissors factory. But it’s also an artsy little village. Porvoo, an old fishing village, is a bit bigger. Its old town is picture perfect with a lively farmer’s market and good bars and restaurants. These are great examples of small town life in Finland.
Hanko is a fun summer town in Finland. There are lots of domestic tourists here with a lively waterfront. It’s a bit more of a hike out of Helsinki though. But still doable. Hanko is famous for its old wooden houses built by the Russians to use as “cabins”. They are actually palaces that Russian czars vacationed in way back when.
Another good day trip out of Helsinki is Hämeenlinna. Fairly standard Finnish town but they have one of the best castles in all of Finland. It’s enormous. Built in the mid-13th century, it’s an excellent example of medieval architecture.
Summer in northern Finland is pretty amazing. It’s light out all night long up there. And you really feel like you’re on the edge of the earth as it is so empty. Beautiful rolling hills, great hiking, national parks, funny reindeer, and Santa Claus lives there. But it is a LONG way up north. Finland is much larger than it seems. Lapland attracts tourists all year round from all over the world.
This is a must do. Tallinn is cool, medieval, affordable, and a good intro to Russia/Eastern Europe. It’s a great day trip from Helsinki or overnight destination if you want to explore more. They have both the regular ferry and a FAST ferry that only takes an hour or so. The top stop is Old Town Tallinn which winds its way up a hill. Wear good walking shoes…cobble streets and HILLS.
This is also must do also. And we would dedicate a bit more time than just an overnight trip, for example. Stockholm is larger than Helsinki and probably the cleanest city that size in all of Europe. Everyone who goes loves it and wants to stay longer. Wandering the city is quintessential Scandinavia. Especially in the summer when it really comes alive. Gamla Stan is the “old town” where you’ll definitely want to pass through. It’s a cute area near the royal palace is. While it’s a touristy neighborhood, it’s a must-see. Overall, Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
This list is by no means comprehensive as here’s so much more to see an do in Finland and its surroundings.