Rovaniemi, Finland is the heart of Lapland and the home of Santa Claus. Although this part of the world may bring up images of snow and sub-zero temperatures, Rovaniemi experiences four distinct seasons. There’s a lot to do all year round, and autumn is a vibrant time to visit. The changing leaves paint the city in golden hues, and an abundance of outdoor activities invite you to appreciate the stunning natural landscape.
Despite its isolated location along the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi’s international airport makes it an easy destination for travellers to get to via Helsinki, Finland’s capital city. There’s also the young university crowd that keeps the city lively.
Want to learn more about this one-of-a-kind place? Keep reading for 15 adventurous and interesting things to do in Rovaniemi in autumn. This diverse list is sure to entice you into booking a trip there in no time.
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Rovaniemi’s top museum and science centre, Arktikum, is a popular cultural destination.
It houses the Provincial Museum of Lapland, detailing the history and architectural heritage surrounding Lappish culture, as well as the University of Lapland’s Arctic Centre.
Permanent exhibitions at the Arktikum offer stories from daily life in the world’s northernmost region, from severe weather conditions to the reliance on nature to survive. There’s a wide range of things to learn about here, including Finland’s indigenous population, the origins of the northern lights, and the Lapland War during the 1940s.
For an in-depth exploration of the exhibitions,book a guided tour with Frank from A Frank Idea. A two-hour private tour is recommended, although one-hour group tours in English are available every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. as well. Frank is particularly knowledgeable about climate change and its effects on Lapland. Without a doubt, he will keep you entertained with his fascinating stories and insights.
Outside of the museum is the scenic Beach Park area, a seven-hectare Arctic garden overlooking the idyllic Ounasjoki River. The variety of plants and vegetation found here can uniquely adapt to Finland’s often harsh climate.
Tickets to the Arktikum cost 13 € with concessions available. From the start of September to the end of November, the museum exhibitions are open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday.
Another cultural hotspot in Rovaniemi is the Korundi House of Culture. An old bus depot from the 1930s was revitalised less than a decade ago to create this space for local art organisations. The main attraction here is the Rovaniemi Art Museum, displaying contemporary fine art pieces from Finnish creatives as well as select international works.
The Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation collection, one of the main collections at the museum, contains over 3,000 pieces of modern Finnish art from the 1940s until now. Although all the artworks are contemporary, you can see their progression over the decades from small sculptures and paintings to larger installations using modern media. Also worth seeing is the Sipilä collection showcasing 35 graphic art prints by Aukusti Tuhka.
Korundi is also home to the Lapland Chamber of Orchestra. There is always a special concert calendar for autumn, with ticket prices ranging from about 18 to 25 €. Information for all shows is available in English on the Korundi website.
The Korundi House of Culture is open from Tuesday to Sunday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The museum is open for an additional two hours on Thursday evening, offering free entrance between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The Northern Lights
Choosing to visit Rovaniemi in September, October or November gives you a great chance at seeing the breathtaking Northern Lights. Also known as the aurora borealis, this enchanting phenomenon illuminates the night sky with vibrant green (and occasionally pink) hues.
For the perfect Rovaniemi Northern Lights experience, make sure to choose the right guide or tour for you. Reputable companies will be upfront and let you know if bad weather is going to hinder the visibility of the lights, allowing you to reschedule if necessary. There are various activities you can combine with this magical experience, from snowshoeing and sledding to simply organising a campfire with a mug of hot chocolate.
One memorable option is a photography tour with Beyond Arctic. You’ll be equipped with everything you need, including a tripod, a headlamp, and even a thermos full of hot berry juice. Ensure you are well rested before embarking on this activity, as the tours are typically between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Aurora Ice Floating
Take a completely unique approach to seeing the aurora borealis with Aurora Ice Floating. This fantastic tour allows you to float in a frozen lake as you gaze up at the sky. Before you’re discouraged by the word frozen, know that you’ll be fitted with a full-body, high-quality rescue suit that ensures you stay safe, dry and afloat.
Thermal clothing is also provided for you to wear under your suit. Even as the temperatures drop outside, you won’t feel the cold whatsoever! At the end, you’ll receive a complimentary hot drink. This is undoubtedly an experience of a lifetime, so book in advance to avoid missing out.
Santa Claus Village
Although visiting the home of Father Christmas may seem like a December-only activity, Santa Claus Village is open year-round. Plus, if you’re here in November, there may already be snow starting to fall, adding to the festive atmosphere.
The amusement park is only about eight kilometres from the centre of Rovaniemi. You can take part in several activities here, like meeting Santa’s reindeer, crossing the Arctic Circle, and eating gingerbread cookies baked by Mrs Claus.
You’ll also find Santa Claus Office here, complete with helpful elves and, of course, Santa himself. Half a million letters are sent to this post office from children in over 200 countries every year. Here you can have a chat with Santa and have your photo taken together by one of the elves. While at first this may seem like it’s only for kids, you will quickly become swept up in the excitement regardless of your age.
Both the village and the office are open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day during autumn, and entrance is free of charge.
Arctic Adventure Park Huima
After an adrenaline boost? Look no further than Arctic Adventure Park Huima to unleash your inner dare-devil. Located by the Ounasvaara Ski Resort, the adventure park offers ropes courses that reach seven metres above the ground. Challenge yourself as you move between the trees using the ropes, bridges and nets. However, if you’d rather stay at ground level, you can play minigolf or rent a bike instead.
Unfortunately, you can only visit Huima during September before it closes for the season. Be sure to check the opening days if you’re in town towards the end of the month.
Science Centre Pilke
Science Centre Pilke is an educational attraction that will change the way you think about our relationship to forests. The centre is located within the Pilke House, known for its sustainable use of wood products. The exhibitions and interactive displays educate you on the importance and significance of forests, as well as inform you of current issues like deforestation.
A visit is definitely recommended for those with an interest in environmentalism. It’s open between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Finnish Sauna Tour
Saunas are a big part of Finnish culture. In fact, soaking in the sauna is a completely normal family activity in Lapland! It’s typically a very relaxed and simple experience, intended to purify your body and calm your mind.
One of the ultimate sauna trips in Rovaniemi is with Nordic Adventures. Depart at 12:30 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. for an authentic three-and-a-half-hour adventure. You’ll be dropped off at a picturesque, privately-owned land outside of Rovaniemi to begin your traditional wood-burning sauna experience. Listen to the crackling of the flames as you let go of your stress (or jet lag).
In between sauna sessions, you’ll be encouraged to get out and jump into the Arctic lake nearby. This back and forth between hot and cold strengthens your immunity, ideal for a frequent traveller! To end, gather around the fireplace and enjoy a snack before being dropped back off at your accommodation.
Ranua Wildlife Park
Want to meet some majestic arctic animals? There are over 50 species at Ranua Wildlife Park, including musk deer, wild forest reindeer, grey wolves, arctic foxes, fish otters and wolverines. Thanks to artificial snow, Ranua is also the only place in Finland where you can see the endangered polar bears.
The wildlife park prioritizes conservation and cares for other endangered species as well. During your visit, take the opportunity to learn about their protection programs.
Since Ranua is about 80 kilometres south of Rovaniemi, you’ll need to organise some form of transport to get you there. If you don’t have a rental car, there are numerous bus connections. YourBusRovaniemi provides luxury coaches that will pick you up at your hotel, as well as private transfers.
A Lappish Nature Wellness Tour
If you’re in Rovaniemi during September, go on the morning Wellness from Lappish Nature tour organised by Lapland Safaris. The Finns have a strong connection with the natural environment, and this tour will introduce you to several traditional past times.
One such activity is berry picking in a remote area outside of Rovaniemi. Your foraging success will depend on the time of year and whether or not the local wildlife arrived before you! There are usually plenty of lingonberries in September, although there is never any guarantee. Your guide will then prepare a campsite breakfast of pancakes, topped with some of the fresh berries you’ve (hopefully) just picked.
Your next activity on the tour is lake fishing with a simple rod and hook. There’s a chance you’ll catch some smaller fish, but this experience is more about relaxation and appreciating the soothing sounds of nature.
One of the most exhilarating things to do in Rovaniemi is a husky cart ride with Bearhill Husky. Keep in mind that this tour only runs when the temperature outside is 10°C or lower. Otherwise, the huskies become too hot.
A driver will pick you up from your accommodation and answer every question you have about these gorgeous dogs. Upon arrival, your guide will instruct you how to steer the cart and introduce you to the friendly huskies. They require lots of training and exercise to stay fit, so your visit is actually helping them prepare for the winter season!
Along the four-kilometre forest trail, you can stop once or twice to safely take a photo or two and have a drink of water. If you’re the one steering the cart, you can also swap over with the person sitting in the back.
Before you depart, you’ll wrap things up with some cookies and more hot berry juice. You may also get a chance to meet some adorable husky puppies.
Pyhä-Luosto National Park
If you have a spare day in Rovaniemi, consider making your way to the stunning Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Fortunately for you, autumn is the most enchanting time to be here. You’ll encounter the mysterious fog as well as the vibrant green, orange and yellow leaves. Pack your best photography equipment for some magical photos!
This forest area is considered sacred by the indigenous Sámi people who used to reside here. The easiest hiking trails are the Tunturiaapa Nature Trail and the Poropolku Trail. Both are about seven kilometres and take two to three hours. There’s an excellent bird-watching tower along the Tiaislaavu Nature Trail too.
Angry Birds Park
Travelling with kids? Children of all ages will love the Angry Birds Park along the riverbank. The open-air playground with slides, swings, climbing frames and a ropewalk are all decorated with images of Angry Birds figures. The park is free to visit and accessible from Valtakatu.
Rollohalli Freestyle Activity Park
Another exciting place for kids (as well as the young at heart) is the Rollohalli Freestyle Activity Park. This amusement centre has a 12-metre-long trampoline track with three super-trampolines and five smaller padded trampolines. There are also two foam pits with spring floors, balance boards, a Ninja Warrior obstacle course, a ball game area and more.
For all this fun, entrance costs only 15 €. Visit with your children or simply come and feel like a kid again! Rollohalli is open daily from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Why not treat yourself to a mouth-watering meal at one of Rovaniemi’s finest eateries? Nili Restaurant is located in the heart of the city and serves up traditional Finnish and Lappish cuisine with an elegant twist. The rustic interiors are made using Lappish wood and genuine reindeer horns.
The menu changes regularly to ensure only the freshest local ingredients are used. Meat eaters can opt for something different and order a bear meat burger or sauteed reindeer when available. For vegetarians, there are always delicious vegetable medleys and options like seitan and quinoa.
Nili is open between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. If you enjoy your meal here, you might also want to dine at their sister restaurant, Nest, which is right across the street!
Recommended tours in Rovaniemi
- Autumn Aurora Borealis Picnic in Rovaniemi
- Explore the Wilderness – Photography expedition (Summer & Autumn)
- Autumn Hiking Day and Evening Northern Lights Tour
- Vaattunki Hiking Arctic Circle Trail in Autumn
- Rovaniemi Northern Lights Photography Small-Group Tour
- SantaPark Admission Ticket
- Full Day Lapland Tour, including Lunch and Dinner
- Ranua Zoo Trip from Rovaniemi with lunch
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