7 of the best places to visit in Finland in 2024

The ‘world’s happiest country’ contains a fascinating array of cities, national parks and beautiful natural areas

Chris Wilson
Wednesday 24 April 2024 16:13 BST
Helsinki is a great place to start your trip to Finland before venturing further afield
Helsinki is a great place to start your trip to Finland before venturing further afield (Getty Images)

Finland may not appear as regularly on the tourism wish-list as European heavyweights such as Spain or Italy, but it’s ability to cater to vastly different types of tourism means that it will inevitably start popping up on the radar.

Few countries on the continent can cater to beach holidays, Northern Lights excursions, island hopping and trips to the Arctic wilderness – but Finland is one of them.

Whether you want to ski in Lapland, explore some of its thousands of lakes in the Lake District, visit Santa Claus near the Arctic Circle or live like the world’s happiest locals in Helsinki, Finland caters to both the well-trodden and the unfamiliar in terms of potential holidays.

From the cool capital and historic cities to lakeside towns and national parks that provide a vast expanse of wilderness, Finland offers an abundance of the unexpected to the uninitiated. Below, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best places to discover in this part of the Nordics.


Helsinki became the capital of the country in 1812
Helsinki became the capital of the country in 1812 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The capital of the world’s happiest country is always going to be an intriguing place. Helsinki contains some of the country’s most famous landmarks and attractions, from the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Ateneum (a space for Finnish art) to the Suomenlinna fortress and the National Museum of Finland.

What makes Helsinki particularly appealing, though, is the effortless fusion of nature and city life. Helsinki sits on the Baltic Sea, part of an archipelago of 330 islands, and is home to fantastic beaches and dense forests that make shoreside relaxation and hiking equally as accessible as dining out or shopping. Within the city, the verdant Esplanadi park and beaches such as Hietaniemi are the highlights, while a range of public saunas – Löyly is the most well-known – cater to outdoor swimming and easy relaxation.

Read more on Finland travel:


Rovaniemi is the official ‘home of Santa Claus’
Rovaniemi is the official ‘home of Santa Claus’ (Getty Images)

Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland, and the centre of the winter wonderland around Christmas time. Those visiting during the festive period can enjoy a trip to the Santa Claus Village, where you can cross the Arctic Circle, go on snowmobile and husky excursions, and potentially see the Northern Lights.

For a great view of the Arctic landscape, head to the Syväsenvaara Fell observation tower. Once you’re done exploring the surrounding nature of the Arctic, take a trip to the Arktikum, which showcases Arctic history, or the Pilke House, a local science museum. For the more adventurous, the ski resort of Ounasvaara lies just 15 minutes away from the city.


Turku was the old capital until Emperor Alexander I of Russia changed it to Helsinki
Turku was the old capital until Emperor Alexander I of Russia changed it to Helsinki (Getty Images)

Turku’s one-time status as the country’s capital means that it remains one of Finland’s foremost cities, and that is evident in its abundance of natural and architectural sites. The main landmarks include the country’s largest fortress (the Turun Linna), the magnificent Gothic cathedral (Turun Tuomiokirkko) and the old market square. Nevertheless, a host of museums – including the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, a museum that combines contemporary art with exhibitions on the city’s past, and the Forum Marinum, the city’s maritime museum – provide another insight into local history and culture.

Like Helsinki, Turku has managed to maintain its history and culture while also preserving the surrounding natural landscape. The Aura River is a focal point of the city – littered with bars and restaurants and ideal for a stroll or river cruise – while green spaces like the Kupittaa Park provide more opportunities for relaxing outside, as do the numerous saunas and beaches such as Ekvalla.

Saariselka and the Urho Kekkonen National Park

Along with Rovaniemi, Saariselka is one of Lapland’s most popular resorts
Along with Rovaniemi, Saariselka is one of Lapland’s most popular resorts (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Saariselka is a popular choice for package holidays to Lapland, and during the winter months this is one of the country’s premiere tourists resorts. Though it is still picturesque in summer, the region – located high above the Arctic Cirlce – is a veritable winter wonderland when the snow is falling and the Northern Lights are visible (usually from September through to March).

This a destination for being at one with nature, from stays in glass-roofed aurora cabins and ventures around modest ski resorts to husky sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing and snowmobile excursions. The town is also the gateway to the Urho Kekkonen National Park, an even more remote part of Finnish Lapland, and is also less than an hour away from Inari, the centre of Finland’s indigenous Sami culture.


Finland is actually home to around 188,000 lakes
Finland is actually home to around 188,000 lakes (Getty Images)

If you’re visiting in summer, swap Lapland for Lakeland. Savonlinna is the place to come if you want to delve deeper into the reasoning behind Finland’s nickname as the ‘Land of a Thousand Lakes’. It spans two islands between the lakes of Haapavesi and Pihlavesi, and the serene waters and surrounding woodland offer some of the most beautiful summer scenery anywhere in the country.

Savonlinna is among the best summer choices for nature lovers and adventurers, with cycling, hiking, day cruises and various water sports all within easy reach. You’re right on the edge of the two national parks of Linnansaari and Kolovesi too, though do make sure to take some time to visit the 15th-century Olavnlinna castle. If you’d like to combine the arts and adventure during your stay, visit in July for the town’s annual opera festival.


Hanko is located around 90 minutes to the southwest of Helsinki
Hanko is located around 90 minutes to the southwest of Helsinki (Getty Images)

A country with over 50,000 islands and thousands of miles of coastline offers as many beautiful beaches other countries in Europe. Hanko, a small town with a population of just 8,000 people, has 130km of pristine coastline – this is a lovely option for a day trip from Helsinki when the sun is shining on beaches like Hangö Plagen, Tulluddsstranden and Centrums Badstrand.

The fact that this is the sunniest area of Finland means that many do visit for beach days, but as well as lying on the sand and trying your hand at water sports, visitors can trek along the trails of the Tulliniemi Nature Path, explore castles in nearby Raasepori, and see the tallest lighthouse in the Nordics, Bengtskär.


Yllas is both the name of the resort and the 718-metre fell
Yllas is both the name of the resort and the 718-metre fell (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Yllas is Finland’s largest ski resort, and one of two main resorts – along with Levi, around an hour away – that is an option for package ski holidays from the UK. Yllas is the more traditional village of the two, with 53km of pistes across 63 runs (the majority of which cater to beginner and intermediate skiers). For cross-country skiers, there are over 500km of trails in Yllas and the nearby Pallas-Yllästunturi national park.

Skiiing in Yllas often offers uncrowded slops, runs dotted with rime-frosted trees and even the Northern Lights dancing above you, as well as reliable, good-quality snow cover. It may not have the reputation of Alpine resorts, but for an altogether more laid-back, low-key ski trip, Yllas is an ideal option.

The village of Ylläsjärvi itself provides a hearty mix of Nordic and Finnish architecture and cuisine, as well as an ice spa and swimming pool (complete with a unique sauna gondola) and opportunities to try winter activities, from snowshoeing to ice fishing.

Read more on the best places to see the Northern Lights around the world – and when to visit

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