From architecturally advanced Helsinki in the south to rugged Lapland in the north, visitors discover scenic beauty and a nation of friendly people whose thoroughly contemporary culture retains a deep reverence for its rich heritage.
Area:130,119 square miles (three times the size of Ohio).Population:5,055,000 (Helsinki, 488,000).Languages:Finnish and Swedish; English is widely spoken.
Helsinkiis known as the Daughter of the Baltic. Favorite activities for visitors include exploring the Market Square and taking a boat trip around the harbor. Distinctive structures include the Rock Church, carved out of solid rock; the Sibelius Monument, made of steel pipes; and the lineup of neo-classic buildings around Senate Square.
Day trips can be made toPorvoo, Finland’s second-oldest town (founded in 1346) for a look at what a small town was like a century ago; to nearbyHämeenlinna, to visit the Iittala glassworks; to the model community of Tapiola inEspoo, known for its parks and gardens; and toHuitträsk, the studio-home of three Finnish architects inKirkkonummi.
Turkuis a 750-year-old city that was the capital until 1812. Its castle, which overlooks the harbor and houses the historical museum, is right out of a Viking saga. The Gothic cathedral is one of the major medieval structures in Finland. NearbyNaantali, one of the oldest Finnish towns, is now a summer resort of brightly colored wooden houses.
Tampere, the third-largest city, is the starting point for popular lake cruises. Dating back to the 18th century, the town offers excellent examples of neoclassical and modern architecture. Popular sites include the Sara Hilden Art Museum, with outstanding Finnish and international artwork on display; Särkänniemi Recreation Center (an amusement park, children’s zoo, planetarium and dolphinarium all in one); and Tampere Hall, the city’s contemporary concert hall and convention center.
Rovaniemi, gateway to Lapland, is only a short flight from Helsinki, but the lifestyles of the residents are poles apart. Visitors send home souvenir postcards attesting to their journey north of the Arctic Circle.
Ateneum, Helsinki. The National Gallery contains Finnish art from the 18th century to 1960, and modern art from abroad.
National Museum of Finland, Helsinki. Sections on archaeology, history and ethnology.
Museum of Applied Arts, Helsinki. Exhibits of industrial artwork, designs and artistic handicrafts from the second half of the 19th century to the present.
Suomenlinna Fortress, Helsinki. Accessible by ferry from Market Square, this 18th-century fortress is built on islands near the harbor.
Heureka Science Center, Vantaa. Exhibition and hands-on activity center.
Ainola, Järvenpää. The home of composer Jean Sibelius has been made into a museum. Sibelius related the saga of his native land in the symphonic poemFinlandia.
Handicrafts Museum, Turku. A collection of original 18th-century cottages where Finnish crafts are displayed.
Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova, Turku.Aboa Vetus(Old Turku) displays the history of Turku and Finland from the Middle Ages to the present. The adjacent Ars Nova is a museum of contemporary art.
Retretti Art Center, Punkaharju. The largest art center in the Nordic countries. Summer exhibitions are popular; some are in underground caves.
Arktikum House, Rovaniemi. Two independent institutes, the Arctic Center and the Provincial Museum of Lapland, share the building. Exhibits feature the Lapp lifestyle and the Arctic.