Photograph by Henryk Sadura, Getty Images
Read Caption

Snowcapped rooftops glow in Helsinki.

Photograph by Henryk Sadura, Getty Images

From Saunas to Santa: Things to Do in Finland

With 40 National Parks, intriguing nordic cuisine, and a Santa Claus Village, there is something here for every traveler.

It might feel like the ends of Earth, but Finland is just the beginning of your Scandinavian travels. Start with Helsinki, a city as hot as the saunas that bubble throughout this classic European capital. Once you’ve warmed up, get outdoors and explore the country’s vast wilderness and national parks. Take a deep breath—the air is fresh and full of promise. That’s what adventure smells like, Finnish style.

Sauna Like a King

This is land of the sauna. In Helsinki try it the traditional way at Kotiharjun or Hermanni. Steam in midair at SkySauna or with a Whopper at Burger King Sauna. 

Discover a New Park

For Finland’s centennial this year, the country inaugurated its 40th national park. Near the Russian border, Hossa National Park’s remote location is perfect for fresh-air adventures like canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, and bird-watching.

Get the Maximum Moomin

Opened in June, the Moomin Museum, in Tampere, celebrates the beloved hippo-like cartoon characters the Moomins, dreamed up by illustrator Tove Jansson during WWII.

Enjoy a Blini Bonanza

January means blini time in Helsinki, as locals go on restaurant crawls, sampling as many dinner-plate-size specialty blinis as they can. There’s the usual smoked fish and roe topping, but other inventive fillings that speak to Finland’s unique Russian-influenced Nordic cuisine include slow-cooked Finnish lamb’s neck, cured reindeer, and condensed milk and honey. 

Meet Santa

In Rovaniemi, in Finnish Lapland, visit year-round Santa Claus Village, an amusement park located on the Arctic Circle, where letters get postmarked with a special Santa Claus stamp. If you come in summer, head over to Rovaniemi Local History Museum to learn about rural life in the late 19th century.

How Do You Become Santa Claus? Santa School, Of Course! WATCH: Aspiring Santas learn beard grooming, belly laughs, and how to negotiate contracts at Santa School.