The best things to do in Finland

written by Andy Turner
updated 1/31/2023
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Flying over Finland’s coastline on the way to Helsinki reveals scattered islands, glassy lakes, rushing rivers and pine-green forests. Here small villages, summerhouses and tiny towns dot the vast watery landscape.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

Learn about Sami culture

The Sami people of north Finland have a distinct culture that remains an important part of Nordic Europe. Most academics agree that the Sami descend from a people who, following the retreating edge of the continental ice, reached Finland in the last millennia BC.

The cornerstone of early Sami society was the siida. This is a community of several families and territories in which they cooperatively hunted, trapped and fished. In Finland today there are about 9,000 Finnish Sami. The Sami Parliament is based in Inari.

Woman in traditional Sami dress © V. Belov/Shutterstock

Spend a day at Helsinki's chic Design District

Modern Helsinki is a tranquil but still growing city with some 643,000 inhabitants. If you are in Finland, you will want to sample the shops, cafés and nightlife of this vibrant and trendy area of the capital.

Helsinki's market square or the Helsinki Cathedral are popular tourist attractions. However, for those who want to see the trendy and contemporary parts of Finland will want to visit Helsinki's Design District. This area is known for its vibrant art galleries, fashionable restaurants, and quirky antique stores.

Where to stay in Helsinki:

Or browse hundreds of accommodations in Helsinki

Ullanlinna Huvilakatu, Helsinki, Finland © Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

Take a day trip to the Olavinlinna Castle

Visiting Olavinlinna in Sonlinna is one of the best things to do in Finland. This castle dates back to the middle ages and is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in northern Europe. This structure is one of the most popular destinations but especially in the summer for the Opera festival.

The intact medieval Olavinlinna is possibly the most splendid setting to hear opera in Europe. Opera-goers from all over the continent often come dressed to impress. Most visitors agree that the soft evening light of the summer months gives this castle a memorably romantic feel.

Olavinlinna Castle: one of the best things to do in Finland © Shutterstock

Go above the arctic circle and catch the Midnight Sun

The summer months in this Nordic country are truly unique. Finland offers visitors two full months of uninterrupted sunshine. This phenomenon is truly unreal for those who are not accustomed to it.

We recommend catching the sun late into the night deep in the forested hills of Finnish Lapland during the summer solstice. Try swimming, barbequing or even golfing into the night.

Dreaming of getting out of the city? Our tailor-made trip service allows you to go on the trip of your dreams without the planning or hassle. Our Midnight Sun in Lapland trip will take you through many of the best things to do in Finland. Our trips are completely customisable and are crafted by local craft experts.

The beautiful midnight sun in Finland © Shutterstock

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Try the cuisine of the Finnish Lapland

The Finnish Lapland speciality is poronkäristys (reindeer casserole). It is typically served with mashed potatoes and cranberry (lingonberry). It’s an excellent way to fill oneself up after a week-long trek in Lapland’s wilderness. Another real delicacy is smoked reindeer heart — which has a cedar aroma and a subtle taste.

Fish has always been important in the Finnish diet: bream, burbot, perch and pike are traditional species, and salmon are omnipresent. Salmon soup is a local delicacy. Only a pinch of salt is added to the liquid, but the main taste comes from the fish.

Smoke-dried reindeer meat © BMJ/Shutterstock

Relax in the soot of the Kuopio Sauna

An old Finnish proverb says: ‘First you build the sauna, then you build the house’. Even today, there’s nothing so uniquely Finnish as a sauna.

Our favourite sauna? You'll want to make the trip to experience the world’s biggest smoke sauna, Kuopio Sauna. This massive sauna holds 70 people. Wash off the sweat and soot by leaping into the cool waters of Lake Kallavesi. Learn more in our guide to Finland's sauna culture.

Where to stay near the Kuopio Sauna:

Or browse other accommodations in Kuopio

Lake bathe after sauna session © Shutterstock

Visit Tampere — one of the best things to do in Finland

Residents may call Tampere ‘the Manchester of Finland’, but anything less like a classic industrial city is hard to imagine. It is one of the loveliest places to visit in the country — not least for its waterways and lakes. There are some 200 lakes in and around the city, many easily reachable.

While here, visit the Museum Centre Vapriikki. This museum exhibits focusing on Finnish ice hockey, dolls, shoes and natural history. Or the Tampere Art Museum which exhibits Finnish paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures.

Where to stay in Tampere:

Or browse for other accommodations in Tampere.

Aerial view of Tampere city © Shutterstock

Mine for amethyst at Pyhä-Luosto National Park

The Pyhä-Luosto National Park is known for its unique composition. The forests here are ancient, and their geology is truly unique. A well-known travel destination is the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine. Here one can see take a fascinating tour of the inside of a mountain, where amethyst is mined.

Where to stay near Pyhä-Luosto National Park:

Or find your dream accommodation near Pyhä-Luosto National Park.

View of The Pyha-Luosto National Park, Finland © Shutterstock

Experience the Northern Lights

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is one of the most magical phenomena one can ever see. Finland is probably the best place to see the Northern Lights. The Aurora borealis can be seen in Lapland more than 200 nights a year.

This phenomenon occurs all year round but autumn and winter are best. It is a magical experience — a flicker of fire will shine across the sky, for a few minutes at the longest. These iridescent ribbons of orange and green are created by solar particles crashing against the earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field.

Planning a winter trip away? See our list of the most beautiful places to travel in winter — as see why Finland made the list.

Northern lights Aurora Borealis activity in winter Finland, Lapland © Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock

Meet the real Santa at Santa Claus Village

Visitors eager to give their present requests directly to Santa Claus should head for Rovaniemi, Santa's home. Santa Claus Village, which opened in 1998, is located in Northern Finland and is a real-life north pole.

Santa Claus Village contains a collection of souvenir shops, a puppet theatre, an elf school, a few reindeer and, of course, the real Father Christmas. The attraction brings half a million visitors annually, and there may be 30 nationalities represented on any day. Fortunately, Santa speaks several European languages – and also the essential phrases in Chinese and Japanese.

Rovaniemi Santa Claus Village © Shutterstock

See the Museum Ship Pommern in The Aland Islands

Aland is an autonomous region of Finland, comprised of a collection of islands between Finland and Sweden. Mariehamn is the capital, and where most of the population lives. This city is known for its ties to Maritime culture — the islands once maintained the largest number of wooden ships in the world.

While here don't miss the opportunity to visit the Maritime Quarter. The Maritime Museum is a famous stop. Located outside is the Museum Ship Pommern, a real ship that has been converted into an exhibit.

Planning a solo trip? Don't miss our guide to the best places to travel alone.

Sailing vessel Pommern, Finland © Shutterstock

Explore the hiking trails of Lake Saimaa

Lake Saimaa is a massive lake surrounded by lush pine forests, matches the image most people have of the country, and a tour of the waterways will not disappoint. Visiting here is one of the best things to do in Finland. The largest lake in Finland, and the fourth largest in Europe, is a great place for outdoor activities.

You'll find here hiking trails and plenty of excellent birdwatching. Not to mention, plenty of great places to canoe or kayak.

Ready to immerse yourself in the nature of Finland? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our Wild Finnish Lapland Experience trip takes you from the Artic Circle and beyond. Our trips are crafted by local travel experts and are completely customisable.

City Savonlinna bird's eye view, Saimaa Lake © Shutterstock

See Turku Castle: one of the best things to do in Finland

Turku Castle is one of the most impressive in all the Nordic countries. This structure, over 700 years old, stands as a testament to the historical importance of the city. With beautifully preserved halls, rooms, alleyways and corridors a visit here is one of the best things to do in Finland.

Where to stay in Turku

Or see what other great accommodations are available in Turku

Turku Castle in Turku, Finland © Shutterstock

This list could truly go on. There are countless fantastic things to do in Finland. Ready to start planning your trip? Check our Rough Guides guidebooks — your guide to travelling the world. Also read more about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Finland without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Travel advice for Finland

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written by Andy Turner
updated 1/31/2023
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