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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Finland

The post Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Finland appeared first on Footloose.

Demystifying Finland

Introduction to Finland

Introduction to Finland

Of what little the average person knows about Finland, a lot is riddled with misperceptions. For one, it is often mistaken for a Scandinavian country, and two, it is often thought to be a comfortably Western European nation with no links to its eastern brethren, Russia.

In actual fact, Finland does not lie on the Scandinavian Peninsula at all. So a better label for it would under the term, Nordic countries. This is not to say that it does not have any Scandinavian connections at all. It spent much of its history as a part of Sweden, and Swedish is one of two official languages in Finland.

After Sweden, Finland spent some time as a part of Russia as well. It gained its independence as late as 1917, taking advantage of the upheaval caused by the Bolshevik revolution. Still, it was not without a bitter fight. Finland lost almost 12% of its territories called Karelia to Russia in the Winter War during World War II. This is still a sore subject in public memory.

Since its emergence as an independent nation, Finland has successfully brushed off any associations with Eastern Europe and has successfully integrated into Western European schemes such as the Schengen Agreement. It has also managed to build a rural farm economy into an industrialized nation with a GDP that ranks among the top 15 in the world. Despite being a relatively rich nation however, visitors might find that food and transport are quite expensive in Finland.

Although a modern nation with all the amenities of a first world country, most Finns have an enduring love for the outdoors and enjoy spending summer months in holiday cabins in the countryside. While southern Finland is more densely populated, large swathes of land remain uninhabited in the north, and are home to very scenic national parks and lakes. If you visit in the summer, you can go up north to see the midnight sun, while winter is a good time to witness the northern lights. Finland also claims to be the homeland of Santa Claus, and attracts a steady stream of tourist traffic during Christmas on this basis.

Almost ten percent of Finland is covered with lakes. There are almost a similar number of islands too. This makes fishing a very popular activity and also an integral part of the cuisine. Reindeer is also eaten throughout Finland all year round. Due to extremely strict hygiene standards, you will not find moose meat in restaurants but it is also consumed in households. Wild berry picking and mushroom picking is a national pastime, and some people strongly feel that the Finns make the best blueberry pies in the world.

While the various natural phenomena in Finland are certainly a draw, the other major attractions to look forward to in Finlandare the capital, Helsinki (which is called the Daughter of the Baltic), the historical sights of Turku, the Olavinlinna Castle in Savolinna, the world’s biggest snow castle in Kemi, the Town of Rauma (which is the largest wooden old town in the Nordics), and the village of Rovaniemi, the hometown of Santa Claus.

For the cultural aficionados, there are many, many museums around the country and especially in Helsinki that provide a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Finland. For those inclined to more physically strenuous activity, ice hockey and sledding is quite popular. Unlike Norway and Sweden, Finland is mostly made of flat lands and very low hills, so skiing and the like are not really possible. Biking is also a pleasurable activity in this flat, open country.

Top Ten Museum Attractions In Helsinki

Museums in Helsinki

Museums in Helsinki

Helsinki is home to more than 80 museums. Some are big and spectacular, others are small and limited, but all have great style and are very interesting. A lot of them have great interactive features, which makes the learning experience even more fun. Some museums have free entry all year round while others are free on a particular day every month. Most remain closed on at least one day a week. Yet others are discounted or free if you have a Helsinki card. It is best to check the website of the museum you are interested in for all these details before your visit.

  1. Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

This was built with the intention to educate the public about contemporary art, especially Finnish art. It has a great interactive style with activities you can do to identify and learn more about a particular artist etc. The Museum has a café which serves more than decent coffee, so you can relax after a hectic half day at the museum, contemplating the great works you were just able to appreciate. In the summer, there is outdoor seating, with pretty views of the gardens.

  1. National Museum of Finland

This museum is better than a library stuffed with books on Finland to learn more about the history of this Nordic country. The exhibits take you from Finland of the Stone Age to the Present. The rooms are themed according to the era, and you can see the evolution of both—the elites and the royalty, as well as the Finnish peasants. At the end of the tour, there’s a souvenir shop with an assortment of Finnish memorabilia. Entry is free for Helsinki card holders.

  1. Aalto Home

Sweden’s IKEA has made the country famous for modern and cutting edge décor, but minimalist and modern architecture is quite popular inFinland as well and things like décor and planning and furniture etc are taken quite seriously in Finnish homes. In that vein, Aalto Home is the museum of minimalist architecture. Quite a few architects visit it regularly for inspiration. It was built in 1936 and is not exactly housed in an imposing building. In fact, the building itself is a specimen of minimalist architecture. It has guided tours available, and you can always book one on the spot.

  1. Helsinki City Museum

This is a museum dedicated exclusively to the evolution and emergence of Helsinki as a major Scandinavian city. You can see through photographs how the city has built and evolved over the years. It also has a separate room that screens a historical documentary on the subject. It’s a must visit, if only because it has free entry for all, all year round!

  1. Suomenlinna Toy Museum

There are six museums located on the island of Suomenlinna, of which the Toy Museum is perhaps the most adorable and interesting. It has exhibits on toys from the beginning of the 19th century right up till the 1960s. It gives a rare and valuable insight into life under a Finnish childhood. Another plus point is, the Museum café serves a delicious pulla, which is traditional French dessert bread. If you visit in the summer months, try the one with blueberry!

  1. Ateneum Art Museum

This is the largest permanent collection of art in Finland. It is interesting because it also holds workshops in painting, ceramics and other crafts inside the Museum. Visitors under the age of 18 have free entry. The museum also has a café and a gift shop. If you are not interested in the workshops and just want to have a look around, then audio guides are available at the entrance.

  1. Haltia – Finnish Nature Centre

This is a little distance from the city of Helsinki but right adjacent to Nuuksio National Park. It is located inside a house which is a prime example of sustainable architecture and minimalist design. Some sections around the area have free entry but the main exhibits have an entrance fee. You can see splendid views of the park from the café.

  1. Natural History Museum

This museum houses the most comprehensive exhibits about nature in Finland. It tells you a lot about the flora and fauna of the Nordic countries generally. This is one of the more interactive museums and a lot of fun for families to come to.

  1. Seurasaari Island and Open Air Museum

This is one of the islands near Helsinki. It is very beautiful in its natural environment. The museum is an open air exhibit spread out in the island so walking through it feels like walking in a set from a fairytale movie! It gives great insight into Finnish houses and lives of peasants and craftsmen from 18th century. The view of the midnight sun from here is magical, if mostly because it is not obstructed by any buildings and such.

  1. Amos Anderson Museum

This museum exhibits from the private collection of Amos Anderson, and it’s the biggest private art museum in Finland. Anderson built the house in which it is housed, himself. While the modern art collection is quite interesting, the house also has a private chapel, a walk through which is also enjoyable.

“Green Travel” in Finland

Green Hotels in Finland

Green Hotels in Finland

The most important rule of sustainable travel is that the destination is never as important as the journey you take to get there. And how you make that journey defines how “green” your travel is. Nothing says green travel of course, like a total boycott of motorized transport, but not all of us have the time or the freedom to just haul our bicycles to explore a country on two wheels.  Still, there are plenty of ways to reduce your carbon impact while travelling, and Finland is emerging as a pioneer destination in this regard. Here are some useful tips to make sure your vacation is as “green” as possible.

  1. When trying to get to a new city, try and jettison air travel as much as possible. Finland’s railway company the VR Group is one of the most eco-friendly transport options over long distances. Since Finland has a vast and extensive lay of railway lines, you can do most of your travel within the country by train. Of course, once within a town, most places are small enough to be easily traversed on foot.
  2. When shopping, try to buy your souvenirs from the locals as much as possible. There are also many Finnish brands that you might come across at malls etc that use sustainable practices throughout the processing of their products. One such brand is the clothing line, Nurmi Design. They have some great style options, while being totally environment friendly!
  3. The one great thing about Finland is that it hasn’t sought to commercialize every piece of beauty it owns to turn it into a profit-making tourist trap. Finland is renowned for its natural beauty and most national parks, lakes and forests are completely and freely accessible to everyone. You can carry your picnics while visiting these places, just be sure not to leave any trash behind!
  4. Finland has a great policy of “Everyman’s Right”. This means that any lay person has the right to pick any wild berries and mushrooms that they come across, and either use them for personal consumption, or sell them in the market. Other activities like hunting and fishing, however, require an official permit. Anyway, wild berry-picking is a very quintessential Finnish pastime, and you can taste a slice of their culture with this activity at minimal cost to the environment and yourself. A bonus point—these indigenous berries are absolutely delicious! Especially try the cloudberries.
  5. For your hotel and restaurant options, you can check whether the establishment of your choice follows sustainable practice by asking if they have the official Nordic Ecolabel. It is given throughout the Nordic region and so far, 40 hotels and 11 restaurants have been certified by it in Finland as eco-friendly. Another label that you can check for guidance is the global Green Key certification, which also guarantees eco-friendly practices, with frequent surprise inspections. This has so far been awarded to 20 hotels in Finland.
  6. When eating out, try ordering the local fare as much as possible. Obviously, you did not just travel all the way to this Arctic country just to eat at MacDonald’s! Also, if you ask, most restaurants will be happy to tell you the origin of the meat you are being served.

It is not really hard to reduce your carbon footprint when you travel. Avoid planes within the country as much as possible, recycle your towels at the hotel, eat the local food, and walk as much as possible…you will be more or less on the right path with these tips!

The Nordic Charm Of Small Towns and Villages in Finland

Finland Small Towns

Finland Small Towns

For many tourists, it is of overriding importance to be able to tick off the important landmarks from a self-imposed checklist. Not all the time, but a lot of time these travelers forget to stop and smell the proverbial roses in the process of this frenzied sight-hopping spree. For tourists like these, there isn’t really much to “do” in Finland. No breathtaking, recognizable monument to check off from a list, no famous landmark to touch. It’s a laid back country and its beauty lies in the small things. Like the soothing sight of boats gently bobbing in the harbours. Or, the wild ripe berries growing in the forests, just waiting to be picked. Or the quaint old-world charm of its numerous, oft-ignored small towns and villages.

Finland has many small, tight knit communities that dot the landscape around its bigger cities. Many of these hide significant gems within them, like UNESCO world heritage sites. The towns in the south are much pleasanter to visit, since it can get quite chilly and uncomfortable the further north you go. The best way to enjoy them is to stroll through the streets, and to carry a picnic basket to eat out in the open, observing the locals and melting into the vibe of the place. Here are some of the prettiest small towns in Finland.

Let’s start at the southern tip of Finland, at the southern most town of the archipelago. Hanko is defined by the sea, by its beaches and by its strong maritime heritage. In pictures, it will often be depicted by it most noticeable landmark, a bright red water tank. It’s a great summer town with some pretty beaches.

Naantali is also a pretty summer town in the northwest near Turku. The old wooden part of town, like many towns in Finland, is simply adorable. It also a nice Convent Church. Kultaranka is the summer residence of the Finnish president, and tours are conducted in it, although you do have to book in advance. Moomin World is one of the most popular amusement parks in Finland, which is located in Naantali.

Not far from Naantali is Turku, which isn’t the smallest of towns but it has a laidback feel to it. It was the national capital until 1812 and is home to two universities.

Further north along the west coast we come to Rauma. The most famous old wooden town in Finland (and by now you must have guessed that Finland has many of those) is the town in Old Rauma. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, but not the only one as Rauma is also home to ancient Bronze Age burial site called Sammallahdenmaki, also a UNESCO world heritage site. A must visit from Rauma is the lighthouse of Kylmaphihlaja, which provides nice views of the sea and has a fantastic restaurant located inside it.

A little more to the north is Kristiinankaupunki. Like most towns in this region on the west coast, it is bilingual, with a significant Swedish speaking community residing here. This also has a quaint and charming old town and a pretty stone church worth exploring. No need to worry about transport once you get here. It is small enough to be traversed comfortably on foot.

Moving east now to the other end of the country we come to Savonlinna. It is a good place to explore by boat. The number of lakes is significantly larger in east Finland compared to the west and this region, the Savo region, is considered to be the most scenic in Finland.

Completing our loop and coming down to the south again is the charming town of Poorvoo, about 50 km from Helsinki, making it an ideal place to end your trip. The old town here with the wooden houses has great charm and you will not be bored or saturated despite having witnessed five other old towns in five other cities, we promise you. Enjoy a lunch in the cozy cafes and watch the locals hurry past you. Or stroll around and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the place. Perhaps you will not realize that you’re in heaven while you’re there, but pretty soon, you will be regretting leaving at all. And that’s Finland for you—it embodies the magic of beauty in small things.

A scenic road trip through Finland

Scenic Road Through Finland

Scenic Road Through Finland

Finland is well connected by trains and buses across its length and breadth. But driving yourself might possibly be the most scenic way to explore the landscapes of this awe-inspiring Nordic country. Of course, the best time to do this is during the summer, as the ice slick on the roads in the winters can make driving less than fun and particularly dangerous.
There are many stretches of roads in Finland that are designated national tourist routes due to their cultural and scenic significance. The latest entrant in this exclusive club was the Bothnian Coast Road in 2010. It runs along the coast in western Finland, from Vehmaa in the south to the border town of Tornia in the north.
Apart from the really good selection of beautiful towns located along this route, one other advantage of this stretch is that many other tourist routes diverge from it at different points, making it possible for you to mix and match scenic roads to suit your interests. For this itinerary, we will stick to the Bothnian Coast Road itself, which has a wealth of tourist interests located along it.
One last thing, if you must know only one Finnish word while driving in Finland, let it be Keskuta, which means the town centre. This will make navigation with maps etc. much easier.
So now we start our trip from the south, though not exactly at Vehmaa. Our tour starts 60 km to the north in the historically significant and sizeable town of Rauma. It is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites–the Bronze Age burial site of Sammallahdenmaki, and the town of Old Rauma. A short drive away is Eurajoki, with its cultural centre Vuojoki Manor. The locals flock to the lunch buffet there every week and it’s well worth the detour.
Next we come to the beautiful town of Pori, from where you can go the Bothnian Sea National Park and visit the light tower called Kylmapihlaja. Again, the lunch served there alone makes it worth the visit. Other short drives away that are good for day trips are the wooden village of Ahlainen, and Vyteri beach.
As you drive further north up the coast, you come to the Ostrobothnia region, which is the Swedish speaking part of Finland. Here you will find Kaskinen, the smallest city in Finland with an adorable old wooden town.
Further up about an hour’s drive away is Vaasa, which is reputed to be the sunniest city in Finland! Another couple of hours drive will get you to Kokkola, which has a strong maritime heritage. A walk through the old Neristan wooden town might prove refreshing. It is full of cute little shops and interesting cafe options for lunch.
Next you will come to Oulu, which is the largest city within a 500 km radius around it, and serves as the unofficial capital of northern Finland. It is a great technological hub as well.
From Oulu you can drive up north to the last stop on this route, Tornio, which is at the Swedish border and forms a unique twin city with its Swedish counterpart Haparanda. This city is often called the gateway to the Laplands. From here on, if you are lucky enough, you can witness the northern lights!
While this is the end of this route officially, nobody stops you from driving further north to Rovaniemi, the village homeland of Santa Claus, and if you’re feeling adventurous, then even further north to the border with Norway! The roads are all in good condition! Happy driving!

Everything You Need To Know To Navigate The Streets Of Finland

Finland Bilingual Road SignsFinland Bilingual Road Signs

Finland Bilingual Road Signs

Driving in a new country can often be disorienting, although the rules appear simple enough. Not so in Finland. Being a country that’s covered in darkness and snow for a sizeable part of the year, Finland requires its drivers to take extra precautions than usual. Consequently, the rules are enforced strictly and the flouting of those rules is not looked upon kindly. Here’s everything you need to know to navigate the streets of Finland.

First of all, Finland is a bilingual country, and inconveniently, one of those languages is not English. The official languages are Finnish and Sweden, which means that most road signs are in those two languages only. What makes matters more confusing however, is that the names of towns and cities and streets extra are different in the two languages. For example, if the Finnish word for a town is Turku, in Swedish it is Abo. Most maps and street signage will feature both names, so make sure you know both names to avoid any doubts. This trend is more common in the Swedish speaking areas in the south of the country, including in Helsinki. Swedish road signs are unheard of in the north, although you might find some in Sami language.

Below is a street reference chart from Wiki Commons to help with some common words you might need to navigate while driving-

Street reference chart
Finnish Swedish English
-katu -gata street
-tie -väg road
-kuja -gränd alley
-väylä -led way
-polku -stig path
-tori -torg market
-kaari -båge crescent
-puisto -park park
-ranta -kaj quay
-rinne -brink bank (hill)
-aukio -plats square

Another useful pointer when reading the road signs is that anything written in white applies only to the weekdays (e.g. The road is open from 4am to 8pm). Anything in white but in parenthesis applies to Saturdays. Anything in red is for the weekends and for holidays.

Some other random but important things to keep in mind–traffic drives on the right in Finland, which should be comfortable for American drivers. One thing to bear in mind is that traffic always yields to the right. Make sure you don’t try and overtake from the left, ever. The roads are generally well paved and extensive. Finland does not have any road tolls. Vehicles by law are required to stop at the zebra crossing even if there aren’t any pedestrians, only if at least one other car has stopped. Otherwise, unless you see a pedestrian stepping on to the road to cross, you are not required to stop. Winter tires are mandatory from December through February.

One very unique peculiarity in Finland is that it requires cars to always have daytime running lights (DRL) on, no matter what time of the day or what season of the year. Many Finnish cars come equipped with DRLs. Otherwise, you can drive with your headlights on. Collision with wild animals is a frequent cause of accidents and deaths on the roads so drivers have to be ever vigilant. A collision with a moose could be fatal, while a reindeer might cause a serious accident. Bears are also known to be hit on the roads sometimes. Make sure to call emergency service in case of an accident with an animal even if you’re okay. The animal might be hurt and you are expected to report that to the authorities.

If you need more specialized tips for driving in tough road conditions in Finland, then the official Finnish Road Safety Agency, Liikenneturva, has a page dedicated to the subject here. Safe driving!

Winter Adventure Sports In Finland

Finland Winter Sports

Finland Winter Sports

There are some options for adventure sports in Finland in the summer, but really, those can be done anywhere in the world. No, the beauty ofFinland comes alive only as a winter adventure sports destination. Finland’s topography and climate is unbelievably suited to enjoyable winter sports activities for people with all levels of experience. If you’re a novice, you can try your hand at the activities at some of the southern towns. If you seek a little more thrill, then you’re welcome to head to the Lapland and show off your prowess!

What makes Finland perfect in this regard is the wonderful synchrony in winters with its frozen waterfalls and streams, its fresh, deep snow, and its large, flat expanses of land. All these lend themselves to myriad different activities that you can try out according to your interests!

One of the most traditionally popular sports, born out of necessity rather than recreation, is alpine skiing in the Finnish Lapland. The slopes rarely rise above 1000 meters, but the large, flat grounds and fresh snowfall ensure that you can ski at high speeds on uncharted snow!

Ice climbing is perhaps more peculiarly Nordic, enabled by the freezing of waterfalls and streams in the winter months. Ice climbing allows you to reach heights with spectacular views of the large, barren, snow covered landscapes. Some popular companies that offer ice climbing tours that you might want to check out are Stella Polaris Lapland, and Bliss Adventure.

Under ice diving is also a new activity that has been gaining traction among adventure loving Finns in the past 20 years or so. About 10% ofFinland is covered in lakes, most of which freeze rock solid in the winter time, but underneath that ice, life still thrives at a relatively comfortable 4 degrees Celsius. A popular winter diving destination is at Oulu, called the Oulu diving centre. An insider’s tip—make sure you have a sauna booked and ready for you to plunge into after your diving session!

Snow kiting is another winter sport activity that is tailor made for the Finnish climate and geography. Snow kiting requires wide open spaces, heaps of fresh snow and strong accompanying gales. Finland comfortably ticks off all those three boxes. Snow kiting involves attaching a pair of skis to a large kite and letting that kite maneuver you around. Adjusting your direction with respect to the gales, you can sometimes easily reach speeds comparable to the average car. If you’re relatively new at this, then Munkkiniemi near Helsinki is a good place to start and meet other aficionados. For a more awe-inspiring experience, head over to Saariselka in the Lapland instead!

Snowmobiling is a more conventional winter sport adventure activity though no less thrilling. There are many companies operating throughout Finland that offer snowmobiling tours and lessons. Safety is important of course, so it will depend on your abilities and aptitude for the stuff whether you will be allowed to drive by yourself. However, it’s no less fun with a ride on the back, especially when the snowmobile reaches speeds that make you feel like you’re literally flying on clouds of snow!

So plan a vacation to Finland for this winter! Who says the Nordic is only interesting in the summers?

Top Restaurants In Finland For All Budgets and Tastes

Finland Restaurant

Finland Restaurant

Finnish cuisine includes a lot of fish and meat, downed with a great wine or beer. Eating out in Finland as a rule is quite expensive, so if you’re forking out all that money, might as well make it worth your while right?
In the past few years, the food scene in Finland has been burgeoning by leaps and bounds and you can get a decent meal–even a fine dining experience–at reasonably reasonable rates by Finnish standards.
If you enjoy a themed decor with costumes, or a fancier sit-down dinner, or even the slap-in-the-back bonhomie of a cozy pub, Finland has fine specimen to offer in every category. Below, we highlight the best of them.
Kappeli in Helsinki
Located in the heart of town, overlooking the central Espalanadi park, this establishment in quite visible on the tourist beat. But on no account is it a rip off! The ceiling to floor glass walls on two sides provide an interesting people-watching and scenery-admiring experience as you wait for your food.
The service is quick, friendly, and most importantly, delivered in perfect English. Exotic food is not the most appealing to a first-timer, but if you have your heart set on trying reindeer meat in Finland, then no one prepares it better than Kappeli. For the more conventional minded, the salmon soup seems to be a crowd pleaser. If you want to have a really traditional meal then go for grilled liver with lingonberry and mashed potato.
Kappeli has a very long and illustrious history with a lot of famous artists having visited it. A must visit in Helsinki.
Passio Kitchen and Bar in Helsinki
 
A cozy eatery again located close to the city centre. All ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. Thus, the menu typically varies quite often according to the seasons and depending on the chef’s mood. With such high standards it’s quite an expensive establishment.
To get the best bang for your buck, it’s recommended that you opt for the chef’s surprise menu with wine pairing. You can choose between a 3-course or a 5-course meal. Their aim is to experiment with different flavours and push boundaries, but the execution is flawless and leaves you with a memorable gourmet experience.
They have their own brewery with unique beer options. The best part is that the wait staff explain the chef’s vision with each course so you get a little insight into what to expect and why. Another reliable hit and highly recommended eatery in Helsinki.
Bryggeri in Helsinki
 
A different concept from fine-dining, this is a pub cum restaurant with hearty and delicious fare and a great selection of home brewed beer. The barkeep will be happy to explain to you the different kinds of beers and ciders they have, but may we recommend that you definitely try the wheat beer!
All their produce is locally sourced and extremely fresh. If you were a local, your go-to meal would be the pulled pork burger, some fries and a hearty glass of their lager or cider. Their burgers really are quite tasty! You can also get the typical Scandinavian fare, salmon soup here, with large chunks of fish and potato.
The establishment is happy to cater to kids as well. Best part (after the food and beer of course) is that they have free wi fi!
Farang in Helsinki
 
If local Finnish fare does not appeal to your taste buds, fret not. Farang is a southeast Asian restaurant in Helsinki that has cult status and is one of the more famous establishments in town. Any expat in Helsinki would have visited it at least once, and so should you!
Their speciality is Vietnamese and Thai food. The food is quite expensive and the menu does not change very often from one year to next. So on your first visit, you might want to get a tasting menu, and let the staff recommend the wine pairing to you.
This is a restaurant that cares a lot for quality and experience and again, the wait staff are very eager to explain the chef’s vision with each dish. You will find this restaurant mentioned in almost all guides to Helsinki and with good reason. Definitely worth one visit.
Viikinkiravintola Harald in Tampere
 
This is a fun, viking themed restaurant, but that does not mean that they take their food lightly. They are famous for having slightly off-centre options on their menu, like reindeer tenderloin, wild boar and duck’s heart. They also have a branch in Helsinki, but the one in Tampere is more famous.
They also have their own home brewed beer selection, which is quite strong. With the wait staff dressed in costumes and viking hats available to customers on demand, this restaurant definitely appears tailor made for the tourists looking for a fun and authentic Finnish experience. However, this is by no means a tourist rip off as it is exceedingly popular with the locals as well!
You will not want to eat anywhere else in Tampere after one visit here, we promise you.
Mami in Turku
 
Mami is a small, cozy establishment which makes you feel like you’re a local hanging out at a favourite joint. It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays and is packed full on other days so you will most likely always need a reservation to get in.
For lunch, they include a special array of coffees in the menu. All their ingredients a fresh and locally sourced. This means that their menu is never very long but always delicious, and it changes pretty frequently according to the produce that’s available. They are happy to tell you the origin of the meat that you’re eating if you ask.
The location is pretty superb as it overlooks the river and the cathedral, which means you have the option of a nice, postpandrial walk along the scenic route if you please. Most easily the best place to eat in Turku, and one of the highest quality establishments in the country.

Regional specialties and cuisines of Finland

Finnish Karelian Hot Pot

Finnish Karelian Hot Pot

Food does not perhaps play a significant or central role in the lives of Finns as much as it does in other European countries, most notably, Italy. But over the years, the cuisine that has evolved in different parts of this Nordic country is simple yet delicious, and makes the most of locally available ingredients.

Fish and meat play a central role in Finnish cuisine. Berries are a central part of Finnish households and cultures. Berry picking in the wild is a pastime for a great many Finnish families while making jams and preserves out of them is quite popular among households, especially older people. The popular berries are lingonberry, cloudberry, and of course, blueberry. Fresh vegetables being scarce for most times of the year due to the frigid temperatures, tubers like potatoes and turnips play a significant role in Finnish diet, and are served with almost every main dish throughout the country.

Regional differences come into play due to two factors. While some parts of the country make more use of meat, other parts have dishes that make more use of fresh vegetables like cabbage and mushrooms. A second factor is influence of surrounding cuisines.

Finland is lies between Sweden and Russia, so naturally its food shows strong influence of Swedish and Russian, and to some extent, German cuisine. Finns generally show a strong preference for unsweetened food, though there are regional variations present.

The Swedish influence is the strongest in the west coast of Finland, and especially in the Swedish speaking island of Aland. Swedish speaking populations are particularly fond of eating smoked herring, and also the seasonal favourite, the crayfish, whom they celebrate around August with parties and drinking.

Another Swedish inspired specialty, which is especially from the island of Aland, is the svartbrod, or black bread. It is made from wholemeal rye, like most breads in Finland, with the exception that it has a very strong taste of brown sugar, whereas bread in Finland is usually unsweetened. It is quite dense and heavy. It can be eaten with butter and jam, or with some salt cured salmon called Gravlax. Klimppisoppa is a flour dumpling soup, which a popular dish exclusive to Aland.

To the east of the country we can see very strong Russian influence in the Karelian area. A lot of Karelia was lost to Russia in the Second World War but the refugees who stayed back in Finland contributed to the cuisine with their delicious traditional Karelian hot pot. It is a meat stew which originally featured beef and pork, served on a bed of mashed potatoes, though variations make use of lamb as well. The Karelian pastry is now popular throughout the country. It is a rice pudding baked in thin rye crust. Before eating, it is smeared with a mixture of eggs and butter called munavoi. Mushrooms also grow wild aplenty in Finland and Chanterelles are a popular variety throughout the country. But the Russian influenced eastern part also sees a lot of use for the milkcap and russulas varieties.

While Karelian food has managed to become popular throughout Finland, Finnish cuisine also varies by famous and peculiar local specialties. Some of these are available throughout the country in supermarkets and such like, but can trace their origins and fame to certain towns. Others are very particular to their region.

The most well known specimen among these is Mustamakkara, or blood sausage. It is traditionally eaten with lingonberry jam, which is tart and sour in taste. The sausages are found in supermarkets everywhere, but are a specialty of Tampere in central Finland. They are best eaten fresh from the market stalls. They are made by mixing pork, pig blood, crushed rye and flour, all stuffed into intestines.

Another regional special is Rossypottu, which originates from the northern town of Oulu and is virtually unknown in the southern parts. This is also a stew made of potatoes, pork and rosy—a mixture of blood, beer, rye flour and spices.

While rye breads are made throughout the country, a second northern specialty is the flat breads from Kainuu called Pettuleipa, made from rye flour and pine bark. Due to frigid conditions which threaten famine, this was developed by the locals to guard against hunger. It is considered extremely nutritious and extremely tasteless. But in recent years it is seeing resurgence due to its health benefits.

Mouthwatering Finnish Food and A Bonus Traditional Recipe!

Finnish Kalakukko

Finnish Kalakukko

The popular perception about European food is that it is quite bland and unimaginative. But Finland proves quite an exception to that case! The Finns are extremely proud of their culinary heritage, and rightly so since traditional Finnish food is as tasty as it is interesting.

The basic ingredients in most traditional dish will comprise of either fish or meat—almost always accompanied by potatoes, rye bread—which is the staple in Finland, and different kinds of berries.

Finland is the land of many rivers and streams and the fresh waters of Gulf of Bothnia are home to very fertile fishing grounds. Salmon is quite popular, and in most pubs or restaurants, you will find “Lohikeitto” featured on the menu, which is a soup with salmon, leek and potato. It’s very tasty and filling, and makes for a meal by itself. Another popular salmon dish is “Graavilohi” which means salt cured salmon. Apart from that, they have a very traditional Finnish fish pie called “Kalakukko”, which is a thick rye crust stuffed with herring fish. Lastly, we cannot talk about fish in Finland without bringing up crayfish, the national favourite. Known as “Rapu”, the crayfish are small fresh water lobsters which are very expensive and available only for a short season every year. The Finns love to hold crayfish parties to enjoy the season with their friends and family.

In the meat department, beef, chicken and pork are all traditionally consumed in Finnish households but reindeer meat is quintessentially Finnish fare. Called “Poronkaristys”, the dish is typically served with mashed potatoes and/or lingonberry jam and eaten all year round.

The Finns take their breads very seriously. Cinnamon buns and crepes and pancakes are all very popular and consumed with great alacrity, but the Finnish staple, and the bread closest to a Finn’s heart, is “Ruisleipa”. It is a wholegrain rye bread, made with sour dough. It is quite flat, quite dense, and very heavy. It is traditionally had during breakfast, with butter and cloudberry jam, or also during lunch with soups.

Come summer, the Finnish countryside bursts into a cacophony of different coloured berries, of which blueberries are the most abundant. Finns enjoy these in jams or as blueberry pies, and the jury is still out on whether the Finns make the best blueberry pies in the world. “Mustikkapiirakka” is a traditional, gluten free blueberry pie, best consumed with homemade vanilla ice cream. Blueberry buns called “Mustikkapulla” are also quite popular. Lingonberry is another kind of berry found in Finland. It’s quite tart and is used as an accompaniment to many savoury dishes as a jam. The most divine of them all, however, is cloudberry. They are a deep orange colour and very sweet, and enjoyed in Finnish households either as jams or by themselves.

Other traditional Finnish snacks that you might want to look out for in Finland are “Leipajuusto” which is a type of oven baked cheese cut into thin wedges and serve with cloudberry jam, and “Karjalanpiirakka”, which is a rice pie stuffed with rice porridge and potatoes and served with munavoi, which is an egg and butter mixture. These are popular items to watch out for at the local market. But if you are lucky enough to sample them at someone’s home, then don’t miss the opportunity to experience the authentic flavours!

If you want to bring the taste of Finland in your own kitchen, then perhaps you might want to tackle a traditional salmon soup. The ingredients are easily available at supermarkets around the world. To start with, chop a couple of onions or leeks and sauté them in butter till they are golden brown. Add around 6 cups of water to the pot. Dice around 1 kg of potatoes into cubes and add those to the pot with some salt and pepper and 1 bay leaf. Let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes, and stir only occasionally. Then add 500 grams of salmon fish fillet. They must be de-skinned and cubed. Immediately, add 4 cups of heavy cream and some freshly cut dill. Cook for only 5 minutes, as salmon doesn’t take long to cook. Add a tablespoon of butter and stir till it melts in the soup. Fish out the bay leaf and discard it. Serve the soup hot with a garnishing of dill and accompanied with some rye bread for an authentic Finnish meal.

 Top Three Spa Resorts In Finland

Finland Spas

Finland Spas

While the name spa may well originate from the town of Spa, Belgium, but no one has claimed it and made it their own as well as the Nordic countries have. The freezing temperatures of course, make it an especially enjoyable activity anywhere, but these countries have actually managed to turn it into art.

A typical spa experience in Finland, for example, would involve the Nordic ritual of soaking yourself successively in waters of contrasting temperatures to relax your muscles and rev up your metabolism at the same time. First you might sweat out all the toxins in a sauna perhaps. Immediately after you plunge into a cool indoor pool, after which once again you sink into a relaxing hot tub. Ah…heaven.

Another quintessentially Nordic addition to the pampering list of spa activities is the warm outdoor pool. Such undeniably eccentric luxury you may perhaps not witness anywhere else in the world—you can literally float in an outdoor pool with water at balmy temperatures while trying to catch the fresh snow flakes falling from the sky on your tongue. Needless to say, the kids love it too!

While almost every mid range hotel or resort in Finland will have a spa area for you to enjoy in, we wanted to look at places that are renowned for their spa activities. We found the three perfect candidates to suit different needs and interests—a family friendly spa, a spa for grown-ups, and well, the most famous spa in Finland.

Holiday Club Saimaa, Imatra

This is a spa cum indoor water park, and fits into our category of family-friendly spa. There are many pools for kids to enjoy in, although there are some massage spots for the adults as well. There are tubes to slide down on, and pools of different temperatures. The smoke sauna on the sun deck especially seems to be a crowd pleaser with adults.

Flamingo Spa, Vantaa

Cited by many as one of the best spas in Finland, it is certainly one of the best maintained and modern ones. The exclusive Wellness section has an age limit of 20+ and is a relaxing environment with Roman deco, soft background music and darker lighting. It has a wide selection of saunas and warm water pool as well as a mineral water pool, all of which you can enjoy while sipping a glass of wine. The twenty luxurious treatment rooms offer a variety of massages and baths. For those who would like something a little more rigorous, they have sauna yoga and pilates class as well!

The Aqua Park Flamingo is more like an indoor water park, and is a common area for everyone. It also has warm water pools and Jacuzzis, and tubes for some fun sliding and splashing.

Flamingo Spa is open all year round, but is obviously quieter in the off season during the summer!

Naantali Spa, Naantali

The oldest and the most well known spa in Finland, it is located in Naantali which is the summer resort town of choice for Finnish folk. The spa appears among the prestigious list of the “Royal Spas of Europe.” It has a range of open air and indoors heated pools, Jacuzzis and special facilities for kids to enjoy in. It has two Turkish saunas and four Finnish ones, and two Roman whirlpool baths. You also have a large variety of massages to choose from, like the mud bath or the Thai massage. While Naantali might not have a lot to do in the off-season, the town of Turku is not far away and makes for an excellent day trip. If you get too tired, you can always come back and be rejuvenated at the spa!

So there you have it—three of the best spa facilities in Finland, catering to different interests and tastes!

To get there, we recommend stopping over in Paris. Check out our post about the best area to stay in Paris

The post Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Finland appeared first on Footloose.



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