Are you planning a visit to Rovaniemi in Finland? What a great choice!
Our selection of the top 5 things to do in Rovaniemi (Finland) highlights its unique character and newfound status as a booming tourist destination.
A formerly war-torn town turned winter wonderland, Rovaniemi is a blend of history, culture, and magic. After the devastation left behind by the Wehrmacht in 1944, the major streets of Lapland’s capital were replanned in the shape of antlers and the head of a reindeer.
And rightly so, as this hamlet that sits right by the Arctic circle is home to reindeers, huskies, and the legendary father of Christmas — Santa Claus.
On that note, Rovaniemi offers plenty of opportunities to catch all of them in action. Moreover, its riverside location and proximity to nature set the perfect base for organizing activities and exploring the landscapes.
So, go ahead, and add these attractions to your bucket list for a trip as magical as this place.
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- 1 Top 5 things to do in Rovaniemi (Finland)
- 2 1. Northern lights
- 3 2. Arktikum
- 4 3. Santa Claus Village
- 5 4. Husky farms
- 6 5. Reindeer farms
- 7 Final words
- 8 Getting to Rovaniemi
- 9 Where to Stay in Rovaniemi
Top 5 things to do in Rovaniemi (Finland)
1. Northern lights
The pride of the Scandinavian countries — the Aurora borealis, can be viewed in all its glory from Rovaniemi. So, escape the bustling city and embark on your journey towards the still wilderness to watch the skies transform and glow in the dark.
What’s more, you can book a tour package to enjoy the famed northern lights in all-new ways. That said, here are a few creative ideas to make the experience more memorable.
a) Snowmobile safari and campsite BBQ
Ride across the snowy fields on snowmobiles to reach your destination, where a warm campsite fire awaits. You can roast marshmallows, sausages, and veggies under the clear skies while waiting for the darkness to light up. Then, gather around with your family and take in the arresting sight of the vibrant colours that fill the sky as the fire keeps you warm.
b) Chasing the northern lights via minibus
Travelling with a large family? Book a minibus ride for yourself and your loved ones and look out the window for a view of sprawling white snowfields against a backdrop of fiery skies.
Minibus tours also include several stops at locations from where you can capture gorgeous frames of the northern lights with your camera. Here, you can also enjoy some snacks while gazing at the breathtaking sights.
c) Northern lights photography tour
Rovaniemi is a goldmine for shutterbugs with a knack for landscape photography. And if you are really serious about capturing the beauty of the Aurora borealis on film, sign up for a photography tour.
Led by experienced professionals who will take the group to the best spots far away from the bustle of the city, you are sure to click your next masterpiece. Moreover, this is the perfect chance to break the ice and make friends with like-minded travellers and photography enthusiasts.
d) Fly across the “northern lights” sky
Take things up a notch — literally, by booking a flight across the night sky as you watch the dazzling display of colours. Indeed, some tour packages offer the premium experience of watching the sky come alive right from the sky itself.
This unique experience among the clouds involves private jets and skilled pilots and may take up to one hour, including the landing and take-off duration.
e) Ice floating
Floating in the middle of an icy lake may initially sound intimidating, but you will be provided with an insulated suit to keep warm. At the same time, the sensation of zero-gravity while gazing up at the stars will make you feel as though you are suspended in mid-air, among the northern lights.
Not to mention how the reflection of the lights on the lake waters only elevate the element of fantasy.
Arktikum is a world-class museum and science centre that provides the perfect introduction to the people, culture, and nature of Rovaniemi. Cultural connoisseurs can expect to satisfy their curiosity as they walk through the exhibits that describe the history of the place and provide snippets of Sami culture.
At the same time, science and nature buffs will be enthralled by the wealth of interactive displays focusing on the Arctic and flora and fauna in the region. Regardless of what inspires you, everyone will appreciate the walk through the elegantly designed glass tunnel that leads to the Ounasjoki river.
On that note, this modern and sophisticated architecture is an ideal subject for photographs.
3. Santa Claus Village
A true delight for the kids and adults who have lost touch with their inner child, the Santa Claus Village is a must-visit location 8 km north of Rovaniemi. Situated atop the Arctic Circle marker, this Christmas-themed amusement park offers plenty of family-friendly fun — be it summer or winter.Check availability here
a) Santa Claus post office
Santa Claus receives millions of letters a year via the official Finnish postal network — indeed, your wish lists do get delivered to the Santa Claus post office! On that note, you can skim through some of the authentic letters that are filed and delivered to the right hands by Santa’s elves.
These diligent assistants are also ready to answer any questions kids may have about Christmas. What’s more, you can pay for Santa Claus himself to send postcards to your family and friends at home.
b) Santa’s Grotto
“How is Santa Claus able to deliver presents all over the world in one night?” This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions by kids and adults when they meet the elves at Santa Claus Village.
Why not ask the man himself? Indeed, Santa Claus sees visitors all year round with a massive clock mechanism at Santa’s Grotto. This magical clock slows down the passage of time on Christmas Eve so that Santa can deliver presents to everyone.
As one would expect, this Santa has travelled all over the world and picked up a few languages along the way. On that note, he is well-versed in multiple languages and a charismatic fellow who can hold a conversation with both kids and adults.
And while a private chat with Santa Claus is absolutely free, you will have to buy official photographs to capture the moment.
c) Sleigh rides
Take a ride on Santa’s choice of transportation for the full holiday experience — indeed, you can enjoy a sleigh ride pulled by real reindeers at Santa Claus Village. Traditional runners are reserved for winters while the sleigh runs on wheels during summer.
d) Stay at Santa Claus Village
Once you have explored the intricate ice sculptures and various exhibitions, you can sit down for a meal at the Christmas-themed restaurants. And don’t forget that there are souvenir shops galore selling everything from keychains to exquisite Sami handicrafts.
Still can’t get enough of the holiday cheer? You can book a stay at the on-site accommodation options, such as the Santa Claus Holiday Village. And if you are looking for a whimsical retreat, head over to the igloos or the winter-only ice hotel.Check availability here
At a short distance of 2.5km from Santa Claus Village, you will find another Christmas-themed amusement park aptly named Santapark. This theme park is an interesting structure nestled inside a cavern in the mountains. Here, you can expect the joy and spirit of Christmas that is most animated during the holiday season.
That said, Santapark offers plenty of opportunities to bond with your family — whether it is while decorating gingerbread cookies or watching the Elf Show at the theatre. And as the kids enjoy riding the magic train, sleigh, and carousel, parents can head to the bar or admire the ice sculptures in the gallery. There is something for everyone of all ages at this popular attraction.
4. Husky farms
Siberian huskies are magnificent, strong, and extremely cuddly. When reared under excellent conditions, these majestic dogs are affectionate and become loyal partners to their owners and human friends. Here in Rovaniemi, you can book a meet and greet with these furry dogs, even if you are travelling with small children.
On that note, the Husky Farm in Santa Claus Village is home to several adorable huskies that are trained to take you on thrilling sled rides. Anyhow, the city outskirts are dotted with husky farms where you can enjoy Lapland’s nature at its finest while experiencing the adrenaline rush of sledding.
However, do remember that sled rides on wheels in the summer may cost significantly higher than winter rides through the snow.
5. Reindeer farms
What’s more adorable than reindeer? Reindeer calves, of course! You can interact with the animals and learn more about them at the many reindeer farms and go on sleigh rides around Rovaniemi. That said, guided tours can help you learn more about the life cycle of reindeer and their habits.
Most tours include lunches that feature local delicacies. However, remember that reindeer meat is a typical dish served at many farms.
Rovaniemi is famed for being the hometown of Santa Claus, but there is so much more to this lively city than amusement parks.
And while you must participate in the fun-filled Christmas-themed activities, don’t forget to take a breather from the ruckus of the city. Nature lovers can ride snowmobiles and husky-powered sleds through the snowfields to watch the natural beauty of the northern lights.
Even in the city, Lapland’s world-famous museums provide a glimpse into this Arctic region’s history, culture, and life.
No matter the attraction you plan to visit, the beauty of Rovaniemi pervades in the architecture, nature and in spirit. So, go ahead, and add these activities to your itinerary to spread the cheer of the holidays any time of the year.
Bio: Niels Thomas is a wildlife expert and a nature lover. During his road trip of 30,000 km through 41 countries, he fell in love with the beauties that the Norwegian culture, fjords and local wildlife have to offer. He turned his passion into his work by starting a Northern Lights Tromso tour company and recently expanded to the Lofoten Island and Rovaniemi, Lapland.
We thank Niels for his very informative article on Rovaniemi in Finland. This destination is definitely one for our bucket list is it on yours?
Getting to Rovaniemi
Click here for the Rovaniemi Tourist Map supplied by Visit Rovaniemi.
There are direct flights to Rovaniemi from Helsinki, Gatwick, Dusseldorf, Paris and Istanbul.
For the latest flight deals and schedules click here
Rovaniemi Airport is located 9 km from the city centre.
Santa Claus Village and Santapark is 3 km from the airport.
Transport Options Around Rovaniemi
(source: Visit Rovaniemi)
Buses are the only form of public transport in Rovaniemi. Timetables, routes and ticket prices can be found here: www.linkkari.fi
Some useful lines:
- Line 8: Arctic Circle (Santa Claus Village). Timetable
- Line 5: Lapland Central Hospital
- Line 4: University of Lapland
Buses to Santa Claus Village:
- Bus company Kutilan liikenne (Ounasvaara – railway station – city centre – SantaPark (1.12.-8.1.) – Santa Claus Village – airport):Bus tickets from the bus or in advance from www.matkahuolto.fi/en
- Santa Claus Bus (Railway station – city centre – Santa Claus Village):
Bus tickets from the bus or from Rovaniemi tourist information.
Buses to Ranua Zoo:
Bus company Kutilan liikenne (Santa Claus Village – City Centre – Ranua Zoo):
Bus tickets from the bus or in advance from www.matkahuolto.fi/en
We’d recommend the following taxi companies in Rovaniemi:
Taxi Lähitaksi Rovaniemi, tel: +358 200 88 000; email: [email protected]
Rovaniemi Taxi Service, tel: +358 60 030 030 / +358 29 009 1090; email: [email protected]
Menevä Taxis, tel: +358 800 02120; email: [email protected]
Airport taxi shuttle service
Fares for the Airport Taxishuttle service to Finnair and Norwegian flights start from 7 euro / person. The route is:
Central Bus Station – Hotel Aakenus / Santa’s Hotel Rudolf – Hotel Scandic Rovaniemi City – Arctic City Hotel – Hotel Santa Claus/Hotel Haawe – Arctic Light Hotel/Hotel Scandic Polar/Hostel Cafe Koti – Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna – Hotel Scandic Pohjanhovi – Airport.
The shuttle bus leaves from the central bus station 1 hour and 30 minutes before the departure of the next flight. NOTICE! Check timetables here
After the arrival of Finnair (AY) and Norwegian (DY) flights, the shuttle bus departs from the airport to the town centre. On the way, it stops at hotels when necessary. Stops at private addresses are possible on request.
Where to Stay in Rovaniemi
Books you may enjoy on Finland:
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