The pleasant lakeside town of Kuopio is best known for its enormous smoke sauna, the biggest in the world, and makes for a worthwhile pit stop on your way north to Lapland. One of the best times to visit is during the annual Kuopio Dance Festival (www.kuopiodancefestival.fi) in mid-June.
Built on a grid system, the centre is easy to navigate. Just south of the train station is the main square, the kauppatori. From here Kauppakatu leads east to the Kuopio Museum at no. 23 with two floors of natural and cultural history. Further up the road, at no. 35, the Kuopio Art Museum is housed in a converted bank. The thoughtfully curated temporary exhibitions focus mainly on modern Finnish art. Around the corner on Kuninkaankatu, the Victor Barsokevitsch Photographic Centre is a real find – one of the best photography galleries in the country, with changing exhibitions.
Kuoipio’s woodsmoke sauna, set at the Jätkänkämppä Lumberjack Lodge, is the main draw in town, and about as quintessentially Finnish an experience as you’ll find: there are traditional Finnish evenings each night the sauna is open, which often include a Lumberjack Show and great dinner buffet from mid-May to mid-August. The lodge is located 4km south of the centre in the Rauhalahti spa hotel complex.