Rovaniemi would be amazing, but it's just too far.
June 22, 2010 11:08 AM   Subscribe

FinlandTravelFilter: Where should I go for a week in Finland?

I had grand plans for a longer Baltic trip which fell through, so new arrangements are for a week in Finland, flying in and out of Helsinki (arriving the evening of 6 July and departing the afternoon of 14 July).

I've spent some time in Helsinki (and Tallinn) before, and would like to see more of Finland this time. I'm looking for suggestions that are cheaper, public-transit accessible and somewhat off the tourist path (difficult in the high season, I know). I'd love something closer to nature, but am not equipped for camping. Someplace that won't require another flight or a 9 hour bus ride is preferable. Someplace that is interesting, and allows for day trips to other cool places would be great.
posted by the luke parker fiasco to Travel & Transportation around Finland (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am a non-Finn but here are somethings I have done there on vacation.

You can use public transportation to access some of the parks around Helsinki. I don't remember their names but they have awesome trail running paths that are broken up every once and a while by outdoor wooden exercise equipment (incline bench, pull up bars, etc) and places to barbeque over an open fire for free. So bring your running shoes, a backpack full of "summer sausage" and a squeeze bottle of mustard and make a day of running around and eating meat.

Contact a sports club and pay a small fee to use their sauna and lake. Ask if you can bring beer. The trick to a real summer sauna is to alternate sauna, swim, beer. If there were a bunch of you, you could rent a cottage. Be warned, they are often very basic.

All the islands around Helsinki make for good tour. Maybe that island that wants to join Sweden would be fun.

Take a cheap booze cruise to Stockholm.

That castle in the middle of the river where they have all the opera during the summer is pretty amazing. It is called Olavinlinna.
posted by FastGorilla at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go see a pesapallo (finnish baseball game). It about as fun/boring as a real baseball game and it is definitely off the tourist path.
posted by FastGorilla at 12:03 PM on June 22, 2010

I just got back from Finland last week and I have to say that I really didn't enjoy it. Helsinki was fine but if you've already seen it, then I'd go over to Sweden or Norway if possible. I took the train from Helsinki to Oulu and then to Rovaniemi for a day which took about 8 hours total. While it was fairly pretty, at least in lapland, the summer still hasn't really started up there and you couldn't even rent a bike in Oulu. There was *nothing* to do and everybody was drunk out of their minds by early evening. If I had to redo it, I'd spend more time in lapland since that was at least beautiful.
posted by Raichle at 12:07 PM on June 22, 2010

Archipelago between Turku and Aland Islands is unlike anything else.
posted by zeikka at 4:09 PM on June 22, 2010


is roughly 600 Miles north from Helsinki, and long distance driving in Europe is on average slower than on the US highways. Thus, either take a cheapest possible flight or take a NIGHT TRAIN. Finnair is expensive but check out their discounts. Other service providers are e.g. Blue1 (during the winter season), Finncomm Airlines (to far up Enontekiö only). Rough price might be 170 Euros or so. VR night trains leave every evening.

Going to Rovaniemi is not the thing. Nature is. Thus, you should go trekking, hiking etc. which means a) you must be willing to go farther away than Rovaniemi, and b) take an organized day hike, or c) rent a car, or use scarce but useful local buses. Thus, a flight all the way to Enontekiö would be the best option.

If you choose to go that way, do not go prepared. This very same applies to whole Lapland in finland, Sweden and Norway. You are in the stick, with little services. Thus you must be prepared, so that you now how to travel and have a sound schedule. For hiking, have at least a basic gear, be aware of mosquitos, and if alone choose a safe day-trip routes alone for your safety. Summer is short in Lapland, and most likely you will face cold or adverse weather at some point.

I personally would rent a car (unless going hiking), and would drive a carefully preplanned route, so that you see what you want to see. For example, you can drive all the way up on the fjäll in Kiilopää, Saariselkä, and there are nice safe trekking routes there.

Lapland is more or less the same in Finland and Sweden, but Finland is farther North. Lapland in Norway is a bit different, the famous things to see are Tromsö, Hammerfest / Nordkapp, lofoten Islands, so if you have time it's worth going.


a) Savonlinna. The difference between touristy and non-touristy areas can be one block in Finland. Savonlinna in Eastern Finland is crowded during the opera festivals (roughly july) but quiet other times of the year. In addition to Olavinlinna castle, there are Old Wooden Church of Kerimäki (50 kilometers away), and Punkaharju area the nature of which is worth seeing. Again, I would rent a car, but you can do it by public somehow, if you are patient. Still, A train to Savonlinna takes 5 hours including a transfer (from Helsinki), and busses are even slower, so it might be out of your range.

b) Tampere. Take an hourly train to Tampere, which is the second largest region after the Helsinki area. Old industrial city center is nice, esp. during the summer. Some nice museums, pyynikinharju has a nice old watch tower, Näsinneula is another 200 meters higher and modern one, and completely different from the Helsinki vibe already. Two hour trip only, so you can plan it as a day trip.

c) Turku. Another attraction 2 hours from Helsinki. Historically important, esp. the cathedral and the castle are worth seeing. Also, Suomen Joutsen old sail ship is gorgeous. Nice summer city.

d) Archipelago: Attractions like Hanko, Bengtskär lighthouse, Circle road in the archipelago (60 mile bike trip or car trip with several ferries) are nice too.

e) Summer festivals. Finland is the country of tons of summer festivals. whatever your interest, they have something for you. Opera (savonlinna), Jazz (pori jazz, Tampere jazz happening during winter), dance (Kuopio tanssii ja soi), Chamber music (Kuhmo chamber music festival), modern classical (Viitasaari: Musiikin Aika) etc. Many internationally important performers. Just google.

3) In / from Helsinki

a) Ferries. Take a ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and see the Hermitage museum and the beautiful old city center. Absolutely beautiful, and you can see the difference betw. Western world and Russia :) Depending on your citicenship, you might need a visa. A day trip option is to go to Tallinn, Estonia. Inexpensive, and the old city is beautiful, although not as inexpensive as it used to be. The ferry prices are ridiculously low, Eckerö Line being the cheapest. You can also choose one of those faster ferries to save time, if in a hurry. One more option is to to take a ferry from Helsinki (or cheaper from Turku) to Stockholm. If you choose Viking Line, it arrives in the city center. The city center, Modeerna museet, the gamla stan and the royal palace, are worth seeing. One night cruise to Stockholm allows you to see the most essential sights. Many people go to ferry for partying, so especially the night hours can be lively :) Btw. Buffet dinner is a good option, and if you choose to have a breakfast you will survive much of your day in Stockholm... By staying awake when you leave Finland and arrive Stockholm, you will have a good look on the archipelago. It's cool.

b) Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. Take a ferry, and walk around. Have a picnic. Also nice brewery nest to the main harbor. Some museums.

c) Smoke sauna in Kuusijärvi.

d) Porvoo. Old, small town near Helsinki. If you like tiny little cute places, this is your choice. (Rauma is another one, on the west coast if you are traveling in that direction)

e) Restaurants and clubs in Helsinki. Have a LUNCH in one of the Michelin star restaurants in Helsinki. You could never afford it in the US, but in Finland some of those have a lunch special (roughly 30 Euros). Inexpensive considering the quality! There are hip local places in Kallio for your to check out the bar scene. Try Botta for good food (finnish delicacies e.g. reindeer, great but inexpensive pizzas), but make sure you have a table reservation made well in advance, as this is the place where local people go. If not able to get a reservation, go to Urho's pub in the middle of the day, and you can order from the same Menu, and without coat check, and with excellent beer selection. Those guys really know their beers. also, Real Ale in tap!! Urho's pub is crowded in the evenings, so if you want to eat, go early (meaning afternoon)...


The nicest things to see in Norway (excluding Lapland mentioned above) are Geiranger Fjord and Trollstigen, City of Bergen, and roads 51 and 55. YOU MUST DRIVE!!!, as you don't see anything in Norway by using public transportation. Also, driving is painfully slow otherwise, so plan carefully. Personally, Oslo is not that much to see, go to Stockholm instead.

In Sweden, Stockholm is truly beautiful. There is actually a bus that goes from Copenhagen, DEN to Malmö, SWE to Gothenburg, to Oslo, NOR, if you are interested in Scania and Southern Sweden. Malmö is ugly, but there is a cute and age old little University town called Lund, worth seeing nearby. Gothenburg is beautiful, esp. during the summer. Tons of nice castles in Sweden, but might need a car for more remote ones.


By driving or taking busses and trains aimlessly in Scandinavia, is a good way not to see anything. Thus, plan ahead, and figure out what you want to see. Public transportation is good esp. in the cities, but nature related sights may be more accessible by car... Don't assume these attractions to be Disney worlds. There may be little or no services available. There are nice things to see, you just have to find them :)
posted by Doggiebreath at 1:21 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

A few typos:

- Don't go UNprepared to Lapland
- citiZenship
- TWO-night cruise to Stockholm: I meant, one night to Stockholm, the day in Stockholm, and one night back to Helsinki
- neXt to the main harbor

Sorry :)
posted by Doggiebreath at 1:33 AM on June 23, 2010

Doggie did a pretty decent job of highlighting what to do in Finland, so no need to elaborate that part. However i will mention a few things.

If you are staying in Helsinki, one of the parks that FastGorilla is referring to, is Central Park (Keskuspuisto), but not sure I'd highlight it as a tourist destination. I would rather recommend you take a bus ride out to Nuuksio park where you can see some nice forest/hiking trails, swim in the lakes and enjoy nature.

The summer has arrived here in Helsinki, it was a beautiful 22deg C today. Low 70s F. And it's predicted to stay in this area for the immediate future. Helsinki and Finland is a wonderful place, but it is not easy to be a solo traveler here. I would recommend joining some travel sites and find locals to hang out with, and possibly travel with. It really makes all the difference in the world.

Take a look at Couchsurfing and in the group section do a search for Helsinki. You'll find a bunch of ppl that would be willing to give you idea and possibly invite you to join along. If you have any questions, look for me with the same username on there. However I'll be away on business during your trip, so I cannot show you anything myself.

Good luck and enjoy Finland. As a non-Finn living there, I love the summers and cannot think of anywhere else I would want to spend July in.
posted by wile e at 8:28 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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