Finland is known as the land of a thousand lakes and is arguably one of the most underrated destinations in the world – plus, it actually has over 188,000 lakes in total to explore. The country offers year-round sights and activities, not to mention some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes and phenomena, such as the Northern Lights. Many people with Finland on their bucket list limit themselves to seeing the lights and perhaps seeing Santa Claus, but there are many fascinating towns and cities in Finland to explore.
Helsinki is one of the most modern, forward-thinking and sustainable European cities, while lesser-known areas such as Turku have hundreds of years of history, and small cities like Lappeenranta host a wealth of outdoor activities in all seasons. The country is famous for saunas and outdoor activities. You can also go hiking, ice skating, sledding, swimming, ice-fishing and skiing not far from any city in Finland. Here are the best Finnish cities and towns to tick off your bucket list.
Cities in Finland
- Helsinki Card Free City Tour Transportation Museum Entry
- Tampere 2-hour City Highlights Guided Walking Tour
- Turku 2-Hour Romantic Guided Walking Tour
- Rovaniemi Lapland Northern Lights Tour
- Helsinki Finland Bear Watching Night Trip
20 Finland Cities To Visit In 2023
Naturally, Finland’s capital city tops the list of places to visit.
The city has many things to see and do, including historic sites such as Helsinki Cathedral and Temppeliaukio Church, which is carved into the rock.
Some of Finland’s best saunas are located here, too, including Löyly and the Alas Sea Pools, which unsurprisingly involve the Finnish tradition of entering the freezing cold Baltic Sea after a hot sauna.
At Christmas time, the beautiful main Senate Square is lit up with an extensive Christmas market, while in the summer, you can wander the harbourfront or take a boat out to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.
There is a range of pretty green parks and gardens to visit, and don’t miss stopping at a classic Finnish café to enjoy a strong cup of coffee and a korvapuusti (cinnamon bun).
Recommended tour: Helsinki Card Free City Tour Transportation Museum Entry
Tampere is widely known as the Manchester of Finland; the country’s second-biggest city and has an industrial history.
Tampere has two stunning lakes which border the city on either side, with a river running through the centre, making for a lovely summer’s day walk.
Tampere is also home to Finland’s tallest building, Nasinneula Tower, which isn’t very tall at all at just 168m, however, it provides panoramic views over the lakes and surrounding forest from the top.
Tampere is the sauna capital of Finland, so you’ll find many public and private saunas around town, including smoke and wood saunas.
The city’s old industrial buildings and factories have been turned into quirky art galleries, restaurants and cafes.
You’ll also find some lively nightlife, including Moro Sky Bar, which is ideal for a sundowner in the summer months.
Recommended tour: Tampere 2-hour City Highlights Guided Walking Tour
Turku has a few attributes to its name, including Finland’s oldest city.
Turku used to be the capital city of Finland but is instead now known as the food capital due to its range of excellent cafes, restaurants and market halls.
Turku Market Hall has a variety of authentic Finnish and Scandinavian cuisine to try, including classics such as salmon soup with rye bread.
For history lovers, Turku Cathedral is magnificent and a perfect example of the architecture of many religious buildings in the country, plus Turku Castle remains the last surviving medieval castle in Finland.
Recommended tour: Turku 2-Hour Romantic Guided Walking Tour
After Helsinki, Rovaniemi may be Finland’s most famous city, known as the gateway to Lapland.
This is where almost all winter wonderland tours begin.
From here, you can go and see the Northern Lights, meet Father Christmas, go sledding, husky and reindeer riding and even stay in a glass igloo under the stars.
The city isn’t bursting with activities, although there are museums, some great shopping centres, saunas and Christmas-themed activities.
Many people stay here to travel out for winter trips, so the best time to visit is during the winter when the pine trees are white, and it is known as the land of the midnight sun since the sun only rises for a couple of hours each day.
However, the area remains extremely cold even in summer due to its location near the arctic circle, so Rovaniemi can be a perfect summer getaway if you’re keen to do some skiing, snowboarding or sledging.
Recommended tour: Rovaniemi Lapland Northern Lights Tour
Savonlinna is commonly known as the city of islands because of its unique location close to Lake Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake, with hundreds of islands.
This city in Finland is very close to the Russian border and is extremely historic.
Savonlinna Castle is fascinating to visit, and each year hosts an opera festival.
Savonlinna is the perfect jumping-off point for nature enthusiasts due to its proximity to Lake Saimaa.
In winter, ice-skating, ice-fishing and cross-country skiing are all popular things to try, although in summer, the lakes come into their own.
Many Finns own cute wooden lake houses, which can often be rented, allowing visitors to kayak, swim, fish, SUP and more on warm summer days.
Not far from Helsinki, Porvoo is Finland’s most picturesque city, filled with hundreds of traditional, brightly coloured wooden houses.
The medieval city is over two hundred years old and one of the best ways to see it is to stroll down the cobbled streets and visit the many local galleries, shops and cafes along the way.
Other popular activities include visiting Porvoo’s 800-year-old cathedral or taking a short walk out to Soderskar Lighthouse, which has beautiful views across the water.
Like Tampere, or Helsinki’s design district, Porvoo is very popular with designers and artists, so many restaurants, cafés and hotels here feature cool art and interiors you can admire.
Recommended tour: From Helsinki: Porvoo half-day Sightseeing Tour
Mariehamn is the capital city of the autonomous region of Åland.
It is the gateway to the Åland Islands, a huge archipelago of small islands, outcrops, lakes and villages.
There are more than 6,700 islands in total, so you’ll be hard-pressed to see them all, but Mariehamn makes a good starting point which can be reached by ferry from Helsinki.
The city welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors each year, many of whom are Finnish, as it has abundant outdoor activities, shops, nightlife, restaurants and activities, particularly during the summer.
To learn more about the city’s history and connection to the sea, don’t miss the Åland Maritime Museum.
Some of Finland’s biggest outdoor festivals, including jazz, rock and pop events, take place in the summer.
Recommended tour: Mariehamn Walking Tour
Vaasa is just a stone’s throw from Sweden, which is why you’ll find many Swedes in the city with some of the country’s most historic sights.
Vaasa was originally located further south before it, unfortunately, burnt down.
You can now visit the fascinating ruins of the original city.
Another cool place to spend a few hours is Meteoriihi, the actual site of a meteor impact over 500 million years ago.
If you climb the tower, you can see the crater where it fell and learn about how the city came to be.
Vaasa is especially popular with young Finns, as three of Finland’s biggest universities are located here, meaning you can enjoy some of the best nightlife, bars, clubs and restaurants.
Oulu is in the middle of Finland, so many people bypass it in a rush to get to Lapland.
However, the city is extremely pretty, and with its many lakes and waterways, may remind you a little of the Netherlands.
The city is spread across multiple islands connected by bridges, so almost everything is on the water.
While this can be less than ideal in winter, in summer, you’ll find the city square, cafes and restaurants packed with locals and tourists enjoying a drink or food in the sunshine.
If the weather isn’t on your side, you can still try tasty Finnish cuisine at Oulu Market Hall, which dates back to 1901 and has stalls serving everything from freshly caught salmon to pastries, coffee and even reindeer meat.
Lappeenranta is another city on the edge of Lake Saimaa.
Although the city may be small, it is mainly popular for the extensive outdoor activities you can experience here.
Aside from the sweet cafes and eateries in town, Lappeenranta’s location in the south of the lake means it is home to geothermal hot springs and has become popular as a spa town.
You’ll find a few hot springs in the area, all of which have multiple pools, saunas and steam rooms perfect for warming up in the winter.
While it may be covered in snow in winter and the lakes will be solid, in the warmer months, the sheer size of Lake Saimaa means that Lappeenranta has swathes of sandy beaches where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and fishing boats, go swimming or have a lakeside barbecue.
Kemi is one of the most unique places in Finland, as it is famous for two things – the Ice Breaker and the Snow Castle.
The Ice Breaker is a ginormous ship used for breaking ice on the Gulf of Bothnia, which you can take a cruise on, which includes hot drinks and the chance to swim in the ice.
The Snow Castle of Kemi is the biggest snow fort in the world, which is rebuilt by hand every winter and features incredible ice and snow sculptures, rooms and architecture.
Some years the castle has up to three floors, including a restaurant, bedrooms and even a huge snow chapel where you can get married.
Recommended tour: From Kemi Icebreaker Cruise day trip with lunch and swim
Vantaa is a city within a city, as it is one of a few areas that make up the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
However, Vantaa itself has more than enough activities and sights to warrant its own visit, despite most people skipping it on their way to the country’s main airport, which is located here.
There are museums galore in Vantaa for all interests, including the Vantaa City Art Museum, dedicated to modern street art and graffiti, and the Vantaa City Museum, where you can learn about the area’s history.
The most popular museum is the Heureka Science Centre, which houses a planetarium and over 200 scientific exhibits.
The city also has a range of restaurants and cafes, one of Finland’s biggest malls, and Flamingo Spa, the country’s largest.
Another city in the surrounds of Helsinki, Espoo makes for a unique place to stay while in the city since Helsinki city centre can be reached in less than 20 minutes on the metro.
Espoo has a large student population and is home to the Museum of Modern Art, its most popular attraction.
Located right on the Baltic Sea, Espoo offers plenty for outdoor lovers, plus over 150 islands just offshore to explore.
Espoo is filled with history, too, home to a cathedral built back in 1480 and the location of the ancient King’s Road, which originally ran between Stockholm and Viipuri.
In the summer, head to the city’s northern area of Nuuksion National Park, which has miles of untouched forests and lakes to discover.
Kuopio is located in Finland’s Lakeland region, so naturally is surrounded by two huge lakes.
The city is a mixed bag of things to see and do, with a little something for everyone.
From the cool Puijo Tower, which offers sweeping views of the city, to the Kuopio Art Museum and unique Monastery of Valamo, you can easily spend a few days here.
At any time of year, make sure not to miss a visit to Jätkänkämppä Logging Lodge, which allegedly houses the world’s largest smoke sauna.
Its location on the lakes and proximity to other islands and cities mean it is also ideal for exploring, with numerous cruises and boat tours on offer in the area, which can be fun for sightseeing in the summer, or simply a quick way of getting around when it’s cold.
Another Lakeland city, Jyvaskyla, combines outdoor activities with great Finnish eateries and lots of winter activities.
As we’ve mentioned, in the summer, the lakes of Finland offer the chance to swim, kayak, go boating and more, which many people enjoy in Jyvaskyla.
However, the city is also home to two ski resorts, making it a popular winter destination too.
Himos Resort is one of the biggest in Finland and has 12.4 km of slopes to explore on skis or snowboard, while Laajavuori has 4.8 km of slopes available and is preferred by families and beginners.
On your explorations of the city’s cute shops and cafes, stop at Alvar Petäjävesi Church which is also UNESCO listed and made completely of wood.
Recommended tour: Jyvaskyla 2-hour Romantic City Walking Tour
Joensuu is a small but popular city due to its large student population and is well-known for its great live music scene, including some folk and rock festivals during the summer.
Some of the best things to see include Botania, the city’s botanical gardens and butterfly park, which has multiple greenhouses with beautiful plant species inside, and the Joensuu Art Museum, which not only houses classic artwork but is a beautiful building in itself.
During the day, head to Joensuu Market Hall and the city’s main square, where you’ll find lots of stalls selling handmade items, food, produce and craft items.
Rauma is often a city many people haven’t heard of. Located around four hours from Helsinki in the west of Finland, the city’s beautiful town centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The centre of Rauma is made of over 600 beautiful medieval buildings entirely made from wood, including homes, churches and shops.
Surprisingly, the city is also famous for its lace-making traditions, so you can find many souvenirs here made from lace or even learn to thread something yourself to take home with you at Pits Priia.
After wandering the town centre, you can learn more about the city by visiting either the Rauma Museum or the Rauma Maritime Museum.
Saariselka is one of Finland’s most northern cities, even further up than Rovaniemi.
This means it is blanketed in snow and darkness most of the year but also gets the best sightings of the Northern Lights and some of the most beautiful winter scenery in the country.
It is also a less touristy place to see an authentic side of Finnish culture by visiting a local Sami tribe, who are traditionally reindeer herders.
The city also has its own ski and winter sports resort, which doesn’t just have slopes but also an adventure park for kids and great views of the city.
Saariselka is on the edge of Urho Kekkonen National Park.
Despite Finland’s typically flat topography, is the country’s most mountainous area, covered in dense snowy forests and cross-country skiing trails.
Just a short way south of Rovaniemi lies Kuusamo, a popular winter sports city that is also surrounded by lakes.
Ruka, the largest winter sports and skiing complex in Finland, is located here and hosts ski jumping, cross-country skiing and championship-level competitions.
Outside the resort, the city offers many other snow-based activities, such as snowmobile safaris and snowshoeing.
When it’s warmer, exploring the nearby Hossa National Park is a fun activity in nature, where you can take a boat ride on the lake or hike up the cliffs for epic views over the area.
Naantali in southwestern Finland is where the locals take a staycation.
Naantali is where the summer home of Finland’s Prime Minister is located and in the warmer months, it is usually crowded with visitors soaking up the sun and enjoying the water.
It is also home to Naantali Spa, the largest spa not just in Finland but in the whole of Scandinavia, plus the famous Moomin World theme park, a quintessentially Finnish thing to do and highly entertaining if you have children.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in summer and secure somewhere to stay, try getting tickets to Naantali Music Festival, which often includes musical cruises to nearby Estonia and Latvia.
Recommended tour: Finland Bear Watching Night Trip
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