Finland is perhaps not as well visited as other countries in northern Europe and as a result it still has an ‘other-worldly’ quality to it.
When people think of Finland they imagine majestic forests and stunning natural landscapes all of which you will find here, but if you prefer a little urban sprawl then you can still spend time in charming big cities like Helsinki and Turku.
One of the main reasons that people travel to Finland is take in all its wintery delights, be it visiting Father Christmas at SantaPark or riding with reindeer in Lapland.
If you like skiing then you will love the range of ski resorts dotted around the country, and in the summer months you can enjoy warmer weather that is perfect for hiking and biking.
Of course, the most famous of all Finland’s attractions are the mighty Northern Lights, which most people consider the highlight of a trip to this part of the world.
Lets explore the best things to do in Finland:
1. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus at SantaPark
If you don’t want to go all the way to the North Pole then why not visit Rovaniemi in the north of Finland? Here you will find Christmas delights such as an Elf School and you can even meet Santa and Mrs. Claus who will teach you how to make gingerbread treats.
There is a Calligraphy School where you can pen a letter to Santa and a Post Office where the elves will show you all the mail they receive over the course of the year.
The main highlight here is to cross the Arctic Circle via an underground tunnel.
If you are travelling with children then make sure not to miss this Winter Wonderland experience in Finland.
2. Learn some history at Siida Museum
Located on gorgeous Lake Inari in Inari is the Siida Museum which is said to be one of the best museums in Finland.
The museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Sami, or the Laplanders of Finland who were a semi-nomadic tribe.
At Siida Museum you will find nature exhibits as well as photographic galleries and interactive information sections.
The galleries chart the history of the Sami from ancient times until the modern day and you will also find engaging rotating galleries and a theater that has shows about the aurora, also known as the Northern Lights.
3. Dine at Restaurant Aanaar
Also located in Inari is Restaurant Aanaar which looks out over the breathtaking Juutuanjoki’s Jäniskoski Rapids.
The reason why locals and visitors alike flock here is for the delicious plates that are all made from seasonal local ingredients and have an emphasis on less well known products such as angelica root and reindeer heart which is served with a zingy sauce made from pine needles.
You can also try the trout from Lake Inari as well as smoked beetroot and butter made from nettles.
4. Explore Olavinlinna
Olavinlinna is a castle that sits in Savonlinna and dates from the 15th century.
The castle is famed for its three dominating towers and was constructed on a rock in the center of a glassy lake to afford it more protection from enemies.
To get to the castle you will need to walk across a series of creaking bridges and the inside is a maze of ornate towers and serene chapels.
There are guided tours here which last an hour and will fill you in on all the history of daily life in the castle in the days of old.
5. Have a picnic at Suomenlinna
If you are looking for a day trip from neighboring Helsinki then consider taking the ferry to Suomenlinna Fortress.
The fortress is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and was built in 1748. It was originally erected by the Swedes before being captured by the Russians and then being regained by the Finns when they declared independence after the Russian Revolution.
Suomenlinna is a vast complex of 8 islands surrounded by 6 kilometers of walls and has some 290 different buildings, 100 guns and intact cannons.
It is also the location of 6 museums where you can learn all about Finland’s history.
The grounds are also a popular sport for picnicking and it can get quite busy at the weekends.
6. Go skiing in Levi
Levi is the best loved ski resort in all of Finland and is also the location of the Alpine World Cup Race which is held here every year.
You will find an amazing 43 different slopes here that are perfect for all different abilities as well as 26 ski lifts.
There are 124 miles of trails here and these include cross country ski sections as well as black runs for downhill skiers.
If you like snowboarding then there is also a dedicated snowboard park in the resort.
Anyone that doesn’t ski can also find a range of activities to enjoy here including husky sled rides and a cute reindeer park.
7. Visit the animals at Helsinki Zoo
Helsinki Zoo has a long and illustrious history having first opened its doors in 1889, making it one of the oldest zoos in the world.
It sits on Korkeasaari Island and has an impressive 150 different species of animals as well as 1,000 kinds of plants.
The island spans 52 acres and you will find animals as diverse as camels, bears, wolverines, monkeys, and lions.
The zoo is segregated into sections including Amazonia, Africasia, and Borealia.
As you would imagine the zoo also has an abundance of Nordic animals like wolves, reindeers, elks, and bison.
8. Dig for amethysts at the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine
The amethyst fell located in Lampivaara dates back 200 million years and is the only surviving mine of its kind that still exists in Europe.
To get to the mine you need to either hike or take a snowmobile through the Pyhä-Luosto National Park until you reach the hillside where the mine is situated.
Once there you can learn all about the history of amethysts in Finland as well as dig for them yourself using traditional techniques that have been used for centuries.
Incredibly you can even keep any amethysts you find as long as they are smaller than the size of a fist.
9. Enjoy the Archipelago National Park
Nestled near Turku is the Archipelago National Park which was first inaugurated in 1983. The islands that make up the park offer a mixture of Finnish, Swedish, and Russian heritage and you will be surrounded by limpid sea and seemingly never-ending horizons.
Some ways to explore the abundance of rugged flora and fauna here is to rent a boat such as a sailboat or kayak and island hop at your leisure.
You can also check out the aquatic life like serene seals and babbling sea geese, or enjoy a spot of fishing as the waters here are filled with trout and pike.
10. Explore Seurasaari Open Air Museum
If you are in Helsinki and looking for something to do outside of the city then consider a trip to Seurasaari Island.
Here you will find an enchanting open air museum that will fill you in on everything you need to know about traditional life in Finland in the days of old.
The museum has 87 different buildings that date from the 18th and 19th century which include elaborate manors, traditional folk houses and farm buildings.
Local guides will take you on a tour while dressed in period garb to help you get in the mood, and you can learn about traditional crafts such as embroidery and spinning.
There are even folk dancing shows and traditional foods on sale if you fancy a taste of old fashioned Finland.
11. Shop at Market Square
Market Square in Helsinki is also known as Kauppatori and is the main square in the center of the city.
It is one of the most popular markets in northern Europe and has views over the spectacular Baltic Sea to the east.
Here you will find a wide range of local produce such as flowers, vegetables, fruits and baked goods.
This is also an arts and crafts market so it is the perfect place to pick up a few souvenirs of your trip to Finland.
12. Watch the Imatrankoski Rapids
The Imatrankoski Rapids are one of the most popular attractions in Finland outside of Helsinki.
The rapids date back 5,000 years and would have been the result of gushing waters from nearby lakes.
Now a large dam has been built and the rapids are released several times a day in the summer months so that visitors can enjoy the spectacle of the surging waves.
13. Have fun at Särkänniemi Amusement Park
Särkänniemi Amusement Park in Tampere is known for its fast paced rides and varied attractions that are fun for all the family.
The park has a large aquarium as well as a planetarium and a children’s zoo.
As if that wasn’t enough, you can also take in the views of surrounding Tampere from the observation tower which is called the Näsi Needle.
There are a range of rollercoasters here to enjoy like the Sky Rocket, the Tornado, and the Half Pipe and for younger visitors there are calmer rides like the Whirly Worm.
14. Explore Lake Saimaa
If you are in the east of Finland then don’t miss the chance to check out Lake Saimaa which is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in Finland.
There is a reason that Lake Saimaa actually means ‘Lake of a Thousands Lakes’ and you will find over 1,300 square kilometers of water as well as a number of dainty islands.
The shores of the lake give way to amazing lush forest lands and hiking and biking are both popular pursuits in the area.
15. See the Northern Lights
Many people come to Finland just to see the Northern Lights which is usually a travel highlight of a lifetime.
The Northern Lights can be spotted from different points in Finland but the best place to travel to is Lapland which is where you have the highest chance of success.
If you are coming just for the lights then try to time your trip between September and March when they are at their most visible.
The Northern Lights are actually caused by the glow of particles from the Sun as they enter the atmosphere of the earth and can only be seen around the North and South Poles.
16. Check out Pyhä-Luosto National Park
If you are looking for a picture perfect part of Finland then head for the Pyhä-Luosto National Park where you will find miles of pine forests and dramatic gorges and peaks.
The park is home to the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine but it also has 90 miles of walking trails so if you enjoy hiking then this really is a must-visit attraction.
Some of the main points of interest in the park are the Pyhä Waterfall as well as Isokuru which is famous for being the deepest gorge in the country.
There are also 75 miles of ski trails here and you can go snowmobiling or enjoy a reindeer sleigh ride.
17. Explore Turun Linna
Turun Linna is also known as Turku Castle and if you are in the city of Turku in the southwest of Finland then this is not to be missed.
The castle is famous for several of its signature features such as two dominating dungeons as well as ornate banquet halls.
It is also the place to come if you want to know more about the history of Turku and there are galleries that will tell you how the castle morphed from a medieval fortress to a Renaissance masterpiece.
There are guided tours held here over the summer months from June to August which are perfect for anyone who wants to know more about the former residents of Turun Linna.
18. Marvel at Lumilinna
Lumilinna is actually better known as Lumilinna Snow Castle of Kemi and if you are in the area then you should definitely make the trip here.
The castle has everything you would expect, such as towers, walls, and a drawbridge but the twist is that it is all made out of compacted snow and ice.
It is rebuilt every year after it melts during the spring months and the interior is as exquisite as the exterior.
Here you will find thrones, four poster beds, and ice sculptures and you can even stay here overnight or eat in the snow restaurant.
19. Visit the Aland Islands
The Aland Islands sit between Sweden and Finland and are technically their own autonomous region while also being a province of Finland.
Aland is comprised of over 10,000 small islands and has a population of around 27,500 people.
The main town is called Mariehamn and as this used to be a prime trading port you can learn all about nautical history at the Maritime Museum.
Other highlights are the Museum Ship Pommern and you can stroll around the Maritime Quarter which still stands proud in the town.
The easiest way to get to Mariehamn is to take a ferry across from either Turku in Finland or Stockholm in neighboring Sweden.
20. Meet the animals at Salla Reindeer Park
Salla is one of the last parts of Finland which still has a wild reindeer population that are looked after by traditional herders who have worked with these amazing animals for generations.
At the park you can not only enjoy the snow covered scenery but also go on a range of tours such as sleigh rides and canoe outings.
The park also offers ice fishing and if you are feeling brave you can even try ice swimming here.
For something a little less adventurous there are a number of gentle hikes all over the park that take you through scenic marshlands and enchanting forests.
21. Marvel at Kummakivi Balancing Rock
Kummakivi means ‘Strange Rock’ in Finnish and if you are traveling to Ruokolathi then it is not to be missed.
The rock sits in a section of forest and balances atop a smaller rock, almost as if by magic.
Legend has it that that the rock was placed here by giants in the days of old although it is more plausible that it was carried here by a glacier which then melted leaving the rock perched in its precarious position.
The rock is thought to be around 8,000 years old so if you like geology then this one of the most amazing feats of nature in Finland.
22. Go to the beach at Hietaniemi
On the outskirts of Helsinki is the area known as Hietaniemi which nestles on the coast of Finland.
Here you will find an unexpected golden sandy beach and also a number of shops where you can rent kayaks and canoes to take to the water.
There are also some parks that sit close by so that you can enjoy the coastal breezes as well as a range of local eateries.
If it’s too cold to enjoy the beach then there is also a sauna here where you can heat up in style.
23. Venture inside Högberget Cave
Located close to Helsinki is Högberget Cave which is also known as the ‘Womb of Mother Earth’. The area around the cave is famous for its hiking trails that cut through the beautiful Finnish countryside and adventurous trekkers can walk to the cave which opens out of the side of a rugged granite cliff.
The cave is said to date from the Ice Age and you can venture inside the gaping hole in the side of the mountain and take in all the majesty of this stunning relic from a bygone era.
24. Sleep under the stars at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Tucked away in the wilderness for which Finland is so well known is Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort which is a great pace for intrepid travelers looking to get away from the main tourist spots of Sweden.
The resort has the claim to fame of having glass igloos that let you look up directly at the Northern Lights and you can book one of these to sleep in overnight.
The resort dates from 1973 which is impressive as it looks like something out of a science fiction film.
25. Enjoy Linnanmäki Amusement Park
If you are looking for a little fun in Helsinki then consider a visit to the Linnanmäki Amusement Park which also happens to be the most popular amusement park in Finland.
Signature features of the park include its iconic water tower as well as a pretty Ferris wheel that gives you views across the city skyline.
The park first opened its doors in 1950 and has a range of both classic and modern rides that all age groups can enjoy.