Europe’s Rising Star: Tampere, Finland

Industrialization helped Tampere, once nicknamed “the Manchester of Finland,” grow into Finland’s second largest urban area, now a 90-minute train ride northwest of Helsinki.

The cotton mills closed in the 1990s, and offices, restaurants, and cultural attractions, such as the Finnish Labour Museum, moved in. The Spy Museum here displays Cold War curiosities: miniature cameras and cunningly disguised weapons. And the Tampere Lenin Museum, the building in which Lenin and Stalin first met, in 1905, is a must.

Summer draws out locals for boating, swimming, and hiking, but winter may be the time to experience the city at its natural best.

Strap on a pair of saw-toothed snowshoes for a walk on frozen Lake Näsijärvi. Try your hand at ice fishing. Steam yourself at a pinewood sauna on Lake Pyhäjärvi, then dare winter swimming at a section of the lake kept ice free.

More interested in exploring Finland under a warm sun? Northern Finland’s Oulu, the self-styled “capital of northern Scandinavia,” is ideal for summer canoe tours.

This piece first appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.