Interrail in Finland: the ultimate country guide 🇫🇮
Table of contents 🇫🇮
A Northern European country, Finland is known for its incredible scenery, saunas and extraordinary dining experiences. It’s also easy to get around, with several types of trains/routes to choose from, including the InterCity, Santa Claus Express and Pendolino. Alternatively, on your Interrail trip, you could choose to travel between Finland and one of its bordering countries such as, Norway or Sweden; which both have excellent rail lines.
With national parks galore (39 of them to be exact!), quaint villages and other key attractions to explore, it’s no wonder it’s a popular European destination. Its breathtaking natural landscape is the perfect place to visit if you’re into your outdoor pursuits, as there are numerous hiking trails, camping spots and cycling paths to take advantage of. There’s also incredible wildlife to see, from the Saimaa ringed seal to lynx, wolverines and bears.
Surrounded by beautiful mountainous scenery, the untouched nature of Finland is like nowhere else in Europe. From the picturesque Saimaa (Finland’s largest lake) to the Northern Lights, you’ll feel like you’re in another world when you step off that plane or train in Finland. And when you want to relax after a day of exploring nature, you can head to a Finnish sauna. A popular activity of the Finnish people for hundreds of years, there are over 3 million saunas in the country!
So what are the top places you should visit when you’re in Finland? We’ve created a list to help you in your planning process. Starting with its capital – Helsinki.
The top 4 cities to visit in Finland
Visited by millions of tourists every year, Helsinki is located on a peninsula on the Gulf of Finland. One of the most picturesque European cities, it’s beloved due to its mouth-watering food, stunning architecture and numerous galleries (including the awe-inspiring National Gallery). Facing the Baltic sea, Helsinki is the largest city in Finland, with dozens of top attractions to make the most of.
One of which is the bustling market square (Kauppatori). Situated in the centre of the city, it has a huge market that’s open every day throughout the year. Full of different stands offering flowers, souvenirs and traditional Finnish foods, it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the Finnish culture. The market square also has live music and cafes dotted across it.
Whenever you look at pictures of Helsinki, one of the first things that you’ll notice is an impressive white building with a green dome top. Well, this is the Helsinki Cathedral. Soaring above the cityscape, this beautiful, 19th-century neoclassical cathedral should be on your list of things to see. A Finnish evangelical Lutheran church, it’s located in Kruununhaka.
Another top attraction is the Korkeasaari Zoo. Located on its own island in the Baltic Sea, it’s within easy reach of Helsinki’s city centre. Home to over 150 animal species from snow leopards to Amur tigers, it’s a unique zoo that makes for a fun day out during your trip. Built in the late 19th century, it’s one of the oldest zoos in the world.
And finally, the Seurasaari Outdoor Museum. Situated in the east of Helsinki, this open-air museum is accessible via a footbridge. Within the museum, you’ll be transported back in time as you experience what Finnish life would be like in the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries. Not only does the museum include farmsteads, a church, a manor house and houses, but also the opportunity to see weaving and other handicrafts.
When you’re fancying a bite to eat, you’ll have tons of places to choose from. Known for its extraordinary dining options, Helsinki will keep your tastebuds happy throughout your trip. For example, you have the Viking Restaurant Harald. Although some people may think this is a little OTT, so many others love the Viking-themed restaurant for all of its quirks. It also has fabulous food to choose from, which includes reindeer and roasted monkfish. Another great option is Ravintola Emo – a stylish restaurant with a modern take on Finnish cuisine.
Straddling the Aurajoki River, Turku is the oldest city in Finland. Located on the southwest coast, it was founded nearly 800 years ago. Once the capital of Finland, it offers a wonderful combination of old and new architecture. One of the former being the grand Turku Castle and the latter being the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art.
It also has a rich naval history due to its location at the mouth of the river. Its riverbank is now one of the most popular attractions for both locals and tourists due to the dozens of restaurants, cafes and bars that surround it. There’s also a fantastic walk you can do to Turku Castle which takes you along it.
The Turku Castle is certainly a must-see attraction when in the city. Built in 1280, this large medieval castle has had several expansions throughout history. Over the years it’s served as a residential palace, jail, granary and fortress (amongst other things). But now it’s simply a museum.
Similarly to Helsinki, Turku also has a lively market square. Within the market square, you’ll find hand-crafted souvenirs, fresh fruit, clothing and other traditional Finnish delights. In the winter and when the weather is poor, you can head into the Turku Market Hall which has a variety of decadent Finnish foods
And last but not least, the Turku Art Museum. Set within a magnificent art nouveau building, it has over 7,000 pieces of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostly housing Finnish artists, this well-curated museum is perfect for those wanting to get their art fix.
Like Helsinki, Turku has numerous top-rated restaurants. So it might feel like a challenge deciding which ones to go to during your trip. Well, two great options that you could check out are Nera – which offers delicious seafood and other Mediterranean dishes or Kortteliravintola Kerttu which offers fuss-free options such as fried chicken and burgers.
Next on the list is Rovaniemi. The capital of Lapland, it’s a popular place to view the Northern Lights. Situated in northern Finland, Rovaniemi is only 8km south of the Arctic Circle and has a small population of 62,000 – which rapidly increases when tourists come to see its main attraction of Santa Claus Village. Sadly, a lot of the city was destroyed during WWII, but over the years it has been rebuilt and re-designed by Alvar Aalto – a renowned Finnish architect.
The aforementioned Santa Claus Village is visited by over 500,000 people each year. Not only will this attraction give you the opportunity to visit Santa Claus, but you can also take advantage of the numerous other activities throughout the village. From the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park to the Elf’s Farmyard Zoo, husky rides and the Elf’s Hat Academy, there’s so much to see and do there. Plus there are also 16 bars and restaurants to choose from!
Another attraction previously mentioned is the Northern Lights. Now, there are plenty of places to see these across Finland. But Rovaniemi is often one of the most popular places to view them. This is because it’s located so close to the Artic Circle, so you’ll get the best views there, compared to say a city (as you’ll only be able to see them here if there is a solar storm).
And lastly, the Arktikum. A science centre and museum, this grand building has various exhibitions to see that depict the history, culture and modern life in the Arctic Circle.
Rovaniemi has a great selection of cafes, bars and restaurants throughout its centre. For example, there is the Arctic Restaurant that offers reindeer, salmon, moose and other Finnish cuisine. Alternatively, you have Roka Kitchen & Wine Bar which has a French bistro vibe but offers an international menu including handmade Italian pasta and Spanish tapas.
The fourth largest city, Oulu is often referred to as the metropolitan, business centre of Finland. But don’t let that put you off, there are several attractions to visit throughout your time there that make it well worth a visit. Located in the centre of Finland, it has a pretty waterfront square, that like other market squares on this list has fabulous food stalls offering various Finnish delights. It also has beautiful parks, tranquil cafes and numerous museums to visit during your Interrail trip.
In addition to these attractions, it also has the popular Tietomaa Science Centre. Located in a former power station near to the city centre, it’s the oldest science centre in the country – dating back to 1988. Within the 45-metre tower, there’s an observation deck that you can get to via a glass lift. But not only is this building home to a science centre. There’s also a giant movie theatre inside it!
There’s also an extraordinary attraction just across the river from Oulu, and that is Pikisaari. The moment you step off of the modern bridge, you’ll be greeted by unique wooden houses and industrial buildings that make you feel like you’ve gone back in time to hundreds of years ago. After walking to Pikisaari, you could always visit the Hupisaaret Islands – a public park that has wooden bridges and several waterways.
Oulu has a good selection of places to eat, including Hagia Sofia which offers tasty lunch buffets that are ideal for a quick bite to eat after exploring the city. Or if you’re fancying something a little more Finnish, then the Viking Restaurant Harald is always a good choice.
People who visit Finland also visit...
Which Interrail pass do I need to travel around Finland?
Interrail Global Pass
Interrail Finland Pass
Do I need to make train seat reservations in Finland?
You need to reserve a seat or sleeping accommodation for the following trains in Finland: InterCity, Pendolino, and night trains. These can be booked in person at a Finnish train station or by calling the rail operator VR on +35 89 2319 2902.
Where to stay in Finland
The Yard Hostel - Helsinki
Laivahostel S/S Bore - Turku
Hostel Cafe Koti - Rovaniemi
Oulu Igloos - Oulu
Events in Finland
The Helsinki Festival
Ruisrock - Turku
Santa Claus Is On His Way - Rovaniemi
Air Guitar Championship - Oulu
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