Helsinki, Tampere, Turku are undoubtedly highlights, but visiting the small Finnish villages gives the traveler a more intimate, authentic, and relaxed view of Finland. Dotted around this land of lakes and forests are a number of truly stunning towns. Here are 7 of our favorites:
Porvoo has been loved by some of Finland’s greatest poets and artists. It is the second oldest city in Finland and evidence of its long history can still be seen and felt as you walk its charming streets. The historical old town boasts lots of pretty, colorful traditional wooden houses, which are an amazing sight to see. Porvoo is also famous for its countless interior design shops and always has been a source of inspiration for many local designers.
It may come as a surprise for some people, but Finland has beaches too. Hanko is a summer paradise for anyone who loves sun, sandy beaches and sea combined with the old town’s charming atmosphere, colorful events and enticing restaurants. Hanko is often spoken of as Finland’s Hampton or the Finnish riviera.
Mariehamn is the capital of Åland Island, an autonomous Swedish-speaking territory in Finland. Walking around the small center, you will see streets full of colorful wooden buildings and houses that really bring the town to life, either in summer or in winter. Mariehamn is the perfect antidote to a hectic, big city life style of the Baltic Sea capitals: Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. The town was also once the home for the world’s largest oceanic sailing ships and therefore, there is a large marina to explore and a museum ship anchored in the city’s western harbor.
There are a number of things to see in Raseborg, both man-made and natural. There are historic ironworks of Fiskars and Billnäs, Raseborg castle ruins, the Svartå Manor and Ekenäs with its quaint small wooden houses to cheer you up on a dark day. On the natural side, Raseborg is a good jumping-off point to explore the magnificent archipelago, which contains Ekenäs National Park.
One of the most important Finnish experience is, without any doubt, sauna. Salla is a great place to get an authentic sauna experience by enjoying the relentless sauna heat and afterwards, going swimming in the ice-cold, crystal clear lake. As Salla is in Lapland, there are tons of other great winter activities there, so make sure you stay for a few days to experience them all.
Naantali is the town of a thousand islands. The highlights of sunny Naantali are the idyllic old town and the nearby archipelago. There is a shimmering energy in the heart of the town with its lively cafes, restaurants, terraces and a world of colorful boutiques. The town’s well-known sights are Moominworld, Naantali Spa Hotel and Kultaranta – the summer residence of the President of Finland.
Ever dreamt of sleeping in an igloo? Ever dreamt of sleeping in an igloo with a glass roof, perfectly suited for Aurora Borealis-hunting? Then Saariselkä is your place to go. You can take a sled-dog safari to witness the beauty of what real winter looks like or come in June or July to find out the real meaning of White Nights.
Also, don’t forget to check our Finland’s Bucket List for the best experiences in this magic country.
If you’re planning to study in Finland in the future, then these quick facts about Finland might be interesting for you. Here are 5 quick facts about Finland!
Many countries have an animal or bird as a national animal. So what is it for Finland?
The Finns have seven national nature symbols, which received their status through public polls in the 1980s and ‘90s. The reason that Finland has so many national natural symbols is because the nature is very dear to the Finns. The national nature symbols are interlinked with Finnish mythology, traditions and popular culture. Many have been featured on postage stamps, logos and on pre-euro Finnish banknotes and coins.
Brown bear is the national animal of Finland. They feature noticeably in Finnish mythology, including the national folklore epic Kalevala. The Kalevala is a 19th century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian. The Kalevala played an instrumental role in the development of the Finnish national identity.
There are more saunas than cars in Finland; there are 2 million saunas in Finland for a population of only 5 million. The Finns consider their saunsa as a necessity, right up there with rye bread and vodka. There is this famous Finnish saying that goes “Build the sauna, then the house.” Even a Burger King located in Helsinki has the world’s first in-store sauna and spa, and you can order in food.
The two main official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. Finnish is naturally the language of the majority, 91% of the population speaks Finnish as their first language, while 5.4% has Swedish as their first language.
However, you don’t need to speak Finnish or Swedish to enjoy your expat life in Finland, the only language you’ll need is English. Finland is placed among the top four countries in the world when it comes to the fluency of English, based on the EF English Proficiency Index.
Every country has its own cultural habits; certain things you do at one place and it is totally fine and understood. You do the same thing at another place and it might be totally misunderstood.
For instance, Finns respect the personal space of each other a lot. Someone said that the comfortable personal space between strangers is approximately 1,5 meters. So if you are standing too close to someone while talking you will notice that Finn would try to get a bit further from you. Also touching strangers while talking tot hem might turn into an awkward situation. In more Southern cultures, for example, it is acceptable for someone to tap on someone’s shoulder or hold his/her arm for a second as a sign of sympathy.
Let’s end this facts list with a special one. Finland hosts annual “weird” world championships. Just to mention one, Finland is the host of world championship in air guitar annually. Air guitar is a form of dance and movement in which the performer pretends to play an electric guitar. It usually consists of strumming and picking motions and is often coupled with lip-synching or loud screaming.
“It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it”. Every year, air guitarists from all around the world buy their tickets to Oulu in Finland. However, not every guitarist can just enter his name and attend the world championship competition. They have to be tested first and are national champions.
If you haven’t read our previous blog about TOP5 weird-looking Finnish foods yet, I suggest you to read it right here!
Based on the survey results conducted by InterNations, the world’s largest for people who live and work abroad, Finland now makes it to the top in the Family Life Index, while last year’s number one, Austria, drops down to the fourth rank.
The Family Life index includes the quality of education available to expat families looking to give their children the best start in life. The quality of education in the countries listed below is based on the findings by InterNations.
#10 Australia – “Education is deemed easy to afford by 64% of expats, compared to 45% globally. The quality of education is also appreciated by an impressive 84% of respondents.”
#9 The Netherlands – Finding the right school is a big decision for expat families, but there are various public and private options, and expats don’t need to be concerned when it comes to the standard of education in the Netherlands.
#8 Taiwan – The Quality of Education comes in a respectable eighth. “Life in Taiwan seems to be rather inexpensive as well, as it ranks third in the Cost of Living Index.”
#7 Belgium – This year, a third of expat parents find the quality of education in Belgium very good. Last year, it was just about one-sixth.
#6 Israel – The quality of education is considered favourably by the majority of expat parents in Israel (84%)
#5 Hong Kong – The quality of education is top notch, but Hong Kong is in the bottom three for both the availability of education and cost.
#4 South Korea – “47% of expat parents in South Korea rate the quality of education as excellent this year compared to just 22% last year.”
#3 Switzerland – According to expat families, the quality of education is among the best in the world.
#2 Singapore – The living and education cost of Singapore are extremely high, but “53% of expat parents also rate the quality of education as excellent.”
#1 Finland – The top country for expat education, 70% say the quality of education to be excellent in Finland, compared to the global average of just 21%.
Have you heard about Vappu? It is a Finnish name for the event that is celebrated as International Labour Day around the world. In Finland, there is a strong and unique traditions for the happening.
Vappu is a traditional spring festival that is celebrated annually and it marks the end of winter in Finland. The festival is named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, as Walpurga’s feast was held on 1st of May, she became associated with Vappu.
Vappu is something you really want to be a part of as a student. It is the biggest party of the year for students. Some students start the celebrations already few weeks before “pääpäivä”, the main celebration day. The celebrations can consist of different type of cheerful events depending on the University. For the Labour day itself, the traditional program is similar everywhere.
Vappu Eve is kind of a Finnish version of carnival. You can expect to see students wearing colourful student overalls – every University Faculty has their own colour. People are also wearing a white cap with black visor. All Finnish students get these caps upon graduation from high school to remind them of their accomplishment and good student days. Older people usually wear their caps only once a year, in Vappu.
The main festivities start on 30th of April, also known as the Walpurgis Night or Vappu Eve. In Helsinki, at 6 o’clock in the evening, students will gather at the Market Square to wash the statue of a nude female called Havis Amanda, before putting a huge white cap, on her. People toast with champagne and wish each other ‘Hauskaa Vappua’. The celebration goes on all night until next morning. On 1st of May, everyone heads to the parks where they have picnic and drink “skumppa”, sparkling wine. The best way to get rid of any tiredness from the previous night!
Now it is time to talk about what to eat and drink during Vappu. If you are visiting Finland be sure to order the following traditional foods in restaurants or at food stalls when you see them.
Sima, the Finnish mead
Sima is a sweet, low percentage alcoholic drink that is mainly consumed on Vappu, and is most of the time homemade. It is orange of colour and some raisins floating on top of it. A nice refreshing drink for Vappu!
Tippaleipä is a type of funnel cake. The batter is poured into hot cooking oil and deep-fried, then it is sprinkled with powdered sugar, Nutella works too.
Last but not least, munkki, a type of Finnish donut. It’s almost like a traditional donut, but different. Munkki is made of different dough and is usually round shaped.
If you are planning a trip to Finland during spring or you are currently studying there I can recommend participating Vappu with the Finns for the weekend. It is great way to experience a typical Finnish festivity with lots of parties and good food.
Follow us on Social Media and we will keep you informed of all the other fun events happening in Finland as well!
If I needed to choose only one season to visit Finland, the answer would be summer. During the summer months, the normally quiet country will be in full bloom. Here are few things that make Finnish summer simply amazing.
In June, the sun does not go down in Lapland at all and all other parts of Finland only get few hours of darkness a day, which creates an unique feeling of a nightless night. You can stay out late and enjoy the beautiful green nature around you. Hence, you can clearly see a change in Finns: people are smiling, being outdoors and enjoying their life. Cities can be described as vibrant. That’s something that is not happening in November. In addition, long hours of light will give you an energy boost – you’ll have more energy to explore the wonders of the summer for sure.
After few hours of night, you’ll wake up to a typical summer morning. The air is fresh even in the city centers and you can experience the morning dew every day. The scent of summer is unique and will wake you up even after a night of bad sleep. You’ll be ready for the day the moment you step out and feel the mild breeze touching your face.
Even though the air quality is good and nature is strongly present in Finnish cities, it is common to escape citylife to remote summer cottages and enjoy the silence. Almost every family has a summer cottage – there is over half a million of them in Finland. That’s quite a good number for a country with only 5 million citizens.
You cannot separate sauna from summer cottages. There is one in almost every summer cottage. The best part is to run from burning hot sauna directly to refreshing lake or sea. Finns can spend hours going to sauna, swimming, sauna, swimming… Ice cold beer is part of the experience. And even though Finnish people are known to be shy, in sauna that characteristic is not present. Usually, people enjoy sauna and dip to the water naked.
After sauna, it’s time for dinner. Finnish delicacies are one the best part in the summer. Meals are healthy and fresh. Grilled meat is usually served with potatoes, salads, and bread. Eating is a social event and people are enjoying the dinner until the late evening since the sun doesn’t go down. Nightless nights also make Finnish strawberries extremely sweet. A delicious combination of strawberries and ice cream melts everyone’s heart. In fact, Finns love ice cream and an average Finnish person eats around 12 liters of ice cream a year. That’s quite a lot!
Finnish summer is unique in a way that cannot be explained in words – you need to experience it yourself.
Check Visit Finland’s video to get inspired.