I can truly say that few places instantly reminded me of home more than Finland. Whether it was breathing in the familiar scent of cedar and pine in the forest, sipping on bright craft beers in cozy brew pubs or sharing some laughs with fun-loving locals, my whole trip was filled with reminders of my Northern upbringing—even though I was, seemingly, a million miles from my motherland of Canada.
In a matter of transparency, I’ll admit that one of the reasons I loved Finland so much was that my expectations were quite low. Time and time again, I’d heard that there was barely anything to see in Finland and that the best of Scandinavia was found elsewhere. Fortunately, I chose (as I often do with these subjective travel opinions) to not listen and go head north anyway.
What I discovered, besides a little taste of home, was a country full of outdoor adventure, hip urban designs, and better than expected food and drink.
Not sure how to start planning your trip? Get started with this Finland travel guide…
Looking to explore other countries in the region? Check out our Northern Europe Travel Guide for more destination ideas & tips!
When to visit Finland
As you’d imagine from its northerly location, Finland is true four-season destination. If you’re an especially brave traveller (or a warm-blooded Canuck), Finland offers plenty of arguments for visiting at any time of the year.
For most travellers though, the best time to visit Finland is either in the summer months of July and August or in the late winter around February and March.
Summer in Finland can be glorious weather-wise, offering bright sunny skies with plenty of hot days thrown into the mix. Just keep in mind that summer is also high season in Finland. Crowds can get quite thick around the country—as can the swarms of pesky mosquitoes, especially in June & July.
Winter is another great time to visit Finland as it unravels experiences that are rare elsewhere in the world. The late winter months of February and March are best as the dark days of December and January begin to lengthen while the temperatures slowly start to climb towards spring. February and March also tend to be the driest months of the year and offer the best opportunity to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky.
Where to go in Finland: The top destinations & best places to visit
Compared to many other European countries, planning a trip to Finland may seem less “obvious.” Even counting the Finnish capital of Helsinki, there’s no massively popular destinations or sites here that slide effortlessly onto travellers’ bucket lists.
And, for many, that’s a huge part of Finland’s charm.
While that doesn’t mean you’ll have the whole country to yourself, visiting Finland allows you to skip on the bulk of the crowds that fill other European destinations to the brim. Get started with a few of these best places to visit in Finland…
Maybe it’s not quite what you’d expect in a European capital, but there’s no denying that Helsinki simply oozes with cool. Few cities impressed me more than the centre of Finland’s cultural universe. Thanks to some seriously bad advice from other (clearly uninspired) travellers, I expect Helsinki to be a bland, boring & stale city hardly worthy of stopover.
Oh, how wrong I was!
In fact, I’d venture a guess that anyone visiting Helsinki with an open mind will quickly come to love this quirky city. Admittedly, you won’t discover more than a handful of standout attractions (although the top ones are quite impressive). Helsinki’s a city that meant to be savoured as a sum of all its parts.
Clear your lungs with Baltic seabreeze while shopping for fresh fruit at Market Square, wallow through the boutiques & galleries of Punavuori’s Design District, admire the city’s varied architectural palette or wash down some locally-sourced wild meat with a lingonberry liqueur, and you’ll quickly discover why Helsinki’s got such a legion of admirers around the world.
Ready to plan your trip to Helsinki? Get started with these resources:
- One Day in Helsinki: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Helsinki: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Helsinki: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
…and more Finnish destinations to come!
What to eat in Finland
One of the most exciting things about a trip to Finland is to get a taste of its food. Compared to other European countries, the Finnish food scene is relatively unknown around the world. Truthfully, if you open your mind to its less-than-common ingredients and out-of-the-ordinary flavours, you’ll discover a culinary tradition that’s as unique as it is surprisingly delicious.
Here are a few of the top Finnish food to seek out on your trip:
- Karjalanpiirakka: Crispy pastries that hail from the eastern province of Karelia on the Finland’s border with Russia. They’re traditionally made from rye flour and stuffed with hearty ingredients like potatoes, rice, and root vegetables.
- Grillimakkara: Beefy sausages that are a summertime BBQ favourite. Best enjoyed with a pint of Finland’s finest beers!
- Ruisleipä: A sourdough rye bread that’s a staple on many-a Finnish table. The thinner cracker version, näkkileipä, is commonly eaten at breakfast with spreadable toppings like cheese or butter.
- Mustikkapiirakka: Try saying that 10 (or 2) times fast! Fresh berries are one of the foods that give Finnish cuisine its distinctive flavours. Two of the country’s most unique are the sour-tasting lingonberry and the tart & bright cloudberry.
- Poronkäristys: Unless you’re a vegetarian, you simply can’t leave Finland without trying reindeer. This wild meat is super lean and tasty, and is filled with a ton of vitamins and nutrients. Topped with a berry sauce, it’s simply divine!
Transportation in Finland
By air: For most travellers, the main international gateway to Finland is Helsinki Airport (HEL). The airport is a major hub for the national carrier, Finnair, which connects to nearly every corner of the global as a member of the Oneworld airline alliance.
By ferry: If you’re already in Northern Europe, one of the most picturesque ways to get to Finland is by ferry. Some of the most popular routes include Helsinki-Tallinn (2h), Helsinki-St. Petersburg (14h), Helsinki-Stockholm (16h50m), and Mariehamn-Stockholm (5h30m).
By train: There are no train connection between Finland and other Scandinavia countries like Norway and Sweden. There is, however, a high-speed train that operates between Helsinki and St. Petersburg (3h30m).
By train: Like most European countries, trains are a great way to scoot between many of Finland’s biggest cities. Popular routes from Helsinki include Tampere (2h), Turku (1h48m), Lahti (1h3m), Kuopio (4h20m), Oulu (5h54m) and Savonlinna (5h5m).
By bus: There’s also an excellent network of buses operating throughout Finland. Although buses are often cheaper than the train, for many of routes between the top destinations in Finland, they tend to be slower.