The small city of Rovaniemi is the capital and heart of Finnish Lapland. Known as the home of Santa Claus Village and a part of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is a unique and exciting destination that should not be overlooked.
With two universities, there’s quite a younger crowd and a thriving arts scene that keeps the city modern and lively throughout the year. As remote as Rovaniemi is, it does have its own international airport, making it simple to get to for travellers around the globe.
Think this part of the world is freezing year-round? Think again! While Rovaniemi is a winter wonderland from November to March, the seasons are constantly changing. During the rest of the year, it’s a luscious, natural oasis. Nature begins to bloom once again in May, and earthy autumn leaves paint the city during August and September. During the peak of summer, you can expect pleasant days between 20 to 25°C and constant daylight. This means Rovaniemi is wonderful no matter the time of year.
Other than visiting Santa, you may be wondering what to do in Rovaniemi, Finland. This article will show you what else there is to experience with a list of the top 19 things to do in Rovaniemi.
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Watch the northern lights
One of the best things to do in Rovaniemi is to see the incredible northern lights. The enchanting and illuminating aurora borealis are best witnessed during August and September, though they can still be seen on clear nights until early April. There are many scientific resources available online to predict how likely the northern lights are to appear on any given evening, so remember to check the forecast in advance – keep in mind these are next 100% as it is a natural phenomena.
If you want to combine an activity with your viewing of the lights, you can book a tour. Make your trip even more memorable and go on the Rovaniemi Northern Lights Snowshoe Hike. While hiking through the snow, your group will stop to set up a campfire and warm up with a hot chocolate. With an experienced tour guide, you’ll have the best possible chance of seeing the vibrant green lights in the night sky.
Experience the midnight sun
From early June to early July, there is daylight for 24 hours. This natural phenomenon known as the midnight sun is a result of the Earth’s tilted axis and occurs in all areas north of the Arctic Circle. During the summer solstice on the 21st or 22nd of June, the sun remains completely above the horizon. There are superb viewing spots all around Rovaniemi, including Ounaskoski Beach and the nearby Jätkänkynttilä Bridge.
You’ll find you have increased energy during these white nights, so why worry about sleep when you can nap on the plane home? There are 24-hour activities to get involved in, so get out and enjoy as much of these memorable moments while you can.
Stop by Santa Claus Village
About 10 minutes north of the city centre is Santa Claus Village, one of the ultimate Rovaniemi attractions. Although it is obviously a Christmas-themed amusement park, it’s actually open throughout the year. The Santa Claus Main Post Office is located here and receives half a million letters every year from almost 200 countries around the world.
Here you can book accommodation in the village, eat ginger cookies baked by Mrs Claus, and take part in a range of fun outdoor activities. In Finland in particular, Christmas is all about the spirit of giving and spending time with family and friends, and there’s no better place for that than in Santa’s home. Contribute to the festive cheer by ordering a Santa Claus Letter to be sent to a loved one.
One of the most memorable things to do in Rovaniemi in December is, of course, meet Santa Claus! It’s the perfect activity if you’ve got kids travelling with you, but fun for the young at heart as well.
You can meet Santa at Santa Claus Village or at the Santa Claus Secret Forest. Enjoy a one-on-one chat in an enchanting and cosy atmosphere, and even sing a carol or two together.
Eat traditional Finnish food
Finnish cuisine includes many hearty dishes and sweet treats. Some of the best foods to try are karjalanpiirakka (rice pies), perunalaatikko (sweet potato casserole), korvasienimuhennos (mushroom stew) and kaalikääryleet (cabbage rolls).
Got a sweet tooth? Taste vispipuuro, a whipped pudding made with lingonberries, and some apple doughnuts called omenalörtsy. Of course, you will likely eat a lot of ginger cookies, known in Finnish as piparkakku.
Meet the arctic animals
Lapland is home to some magnificent arctic animals, including reindeer, musk deer, lynxes and arctic foxes. Ranua Wildlife Park is the only place to see the adorable polar bears in Finland, including mama bear Venus and papa bear Manasse.
50 other wild animal species live in the enclosed forest areas, closely replicating their natural habitat. The zoo is committed to caring for endangered species like the arctic fox and the musk ox, as well as informing others about protection programs. The wildlife park is open every day of the year, though it’s best to visit when there’s still plenty of daylight.
Go on a sleigh ride
One of the best things to do in Lapland is to meet the reindeer. Luckily, there are multiple reindeer farms for you to seize this opportunity.
Book a two-hour tour and go on a reindeer safari from Rovaniemi. Sit back in a comfortable sleigh pulled by reindeer and go on a ride through the woods. You’ll even get the chance to steer a sleigh and leave with a souvenir reindeer driver license. Warm up afterwards with a complimentary hot berry juice.
Spend the night in an igloo
If you’re in Rovaniemi during the northern lights, there’s an accommodation choice you can make that will definitely enhance your experience. Book the ultimate stay at Arctic Snow Hotel, Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle or Snowman World and spend the night sleeping in an igloo.
While traditional igloos are an option, the most popular rooms have glass ceilings for you to gaze at the sky as you drift off to sleep. A stay in these igloos ensures a trip you won’t soon forget, and makes for a great tale to tell your friends back home.
Learn about the environment
Anyone with an interest in nature, forests and environmentalism will enjoy visiting the Pilke Science Centre. The exhibition details all the reasons why forests are hugely important to humans and the world, and how we can further embrace sustainability to protect them. The centre itself is known for its commitment to a low carbon footprint. Use all your senses with the interactive displays and leave with a greater understanding of sustainable development.
Get cultural at the Korundi House
Inside the Korundi House of Culture is the Rovaniemi Art Museum, exhibiting Finnish contemporary art and select international fine art pieces. The Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation collection is one of the finest examples of modern Finnish art, with over 3000 pieces donated to the city.
Also within the Korundi House is a concert hall where the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland regularly performs. Check the concert calendar online at korundi.fi for upcoming performances before your visit.
Go ice fishing
Ice fishing is a true Finnish pastime and one of the many things to do in Rovaniemi in winter. You can take part in this activity on a full-day snowmobiling safari tour, or simply drive out by car with a professional fishing guide who will show you the skills you need to get started. With any tour, all the special gear is provided for you, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. Listen and learn, then enjoy the peaceful tranquillity as you wait for your catch of the day.
Stay at a ski resort
The main ski resort in Rovaniemi is Ounasvaara, only a few kilometres from the centre of the city. Resort accommodation options range from cosy cottages to modern hotels at both the top and the bottom of the mountain.
Beginners can utilise the ski rental service and take private lessons to learn the basics. Rendi’s Snow World is ideal for the less-confident skiers and children who want a safe place to practice. The diverse slopes at Ounasvaara mean experienced skiers and snowboarders will have a blast too. The resort’s winter season begins in late November and wraps up in mid-April, though you can also visit during the summer for cycling and hiking.
Cross the Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is the northernmost circle of latitude and one of two polar circles, signalling the area known as the Arctic.
Cross over and leave all of your worries and stresses behind! Many choose to visit Santa Claus Village to make the cross over the marked line. The only place in the entire world where you can cross the Arctic Circle underneath the ground is in Rovaniemi’s Santa Park. Entering the Arctic at this location 50 metres below the surface of the earth earns you a certificate to commemorate the event.
Go on a husky safari
After seeing reindeer and polar bears up close, it’s time to meet some Alaskan huskies. All you need to do is head to Raitola Farm to visit these fluffy, well-behaved dogs. If you can only spare an hour or two, embark upon a ride led by the huskies through the snowy forest. If you’re in no hurry, you can choose the full-day husky adventure, where you’ll learn the names of each dog and have a go at properly mushing your team.
Visit the Arctic Garden
The Arktikum Arboretum is a visually stunning area in Rovaniemi. It’s worth making the short distance from the city centre, as you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views overlooking the Ounasjoki river. The scenic area is located by the Arktikum, a museum and science centre where you can get to know more about the history and culture of Lapland. At the Arktikum Beach Park, you can discover some of the plant species that have adapted to the harsh Arctic climate.
Make your way through the treetops
Wondering what other kinds of activities are on offer during the warmer months? At Arctic Adventure Park Huima, you can take part in courses with ropes, beams, bridges and nets as you move from tree to tree. Each course is seven metres above the ground, with some specially designed for kids or shorter adults. Unleash your inner monkey and dare to try something different!
Relax at the sauna
Finland has its own sauna culture, which is very relaxed and open. It’s normal for Finnish families to visit the sauna together and not at all taboo amongst strangers. However, it’s perfectly fine for you to wear a swimsuit or wrap a towel around you in the sauna if you’re more comfortable doing so.
Traditional Finnish saunas are simple, quiet and blissful. There’s no fuss, and the goal is simply to relax, clear your mind, and purify your body.
While public saunas are more common, private experiences are possible too. The public Santasport Spa is open year-round, and Kesärafla Sauna only in summer. To find a private sauna, you’ll need to visit a guesthouse or hotel.
Experience a blue moment
Just like summer has 24 hours of sunlight, the dead of winter sees 24 hours of no sun at all.
However, these polar nights are not pitch black the entire time, as you might assume. In fact, the sky becomes a magical blue and purple haze. For a few hours during the middle of the day, the horizon glows and creates a beautiful cotton-candy-like atmosphere that’s truly unforgettable.
Looking for a nice day trip away from the centre of Rovaniemi? The scenic Auttiköngäs nature trail is a circular path spanning three and a half kilometres, and makes for a perfect hike during the warmer months. This virtually untouched forest walk crosses a 16-metre-high waterfall, one of the best in Finland. The largest hill you’ll encounter is Könkäänvaara, reaching an altitude of 240 metres. During summer, you can stop for a bite to eat at the rustic cabin cafe.
Recommend tours in Rovaniemi
- Lapland Reindeer and Husky Safari from Rovaniemi
- Rovaniemi Northern Lights Photography Small-Group Tour
- Full Day Lapland Tour, including Lunch and Dinner
- Lapland Thrill of Speed: Husky Safari from Rovaniemi
- Lapland Reindeer Safari from Rovaniemi
- Northern Lights Hunt from Rovaniemi with Folk Tales and Snacks over Campfire
- Reindeer Farm Experience
- Trip to Ranua Wildlife Park (Ranua Zoo)
- Rovaniemi Guided Tour and Santa Claus Village
- Snowmobiles and Huskies
- Arctic Survival in Rovaniemi
- Snowmobile Safari
- Surfing under Midnight Sun (SUP)
- Arctic Forest Sauna and Hot Tub with Northern Lights
- Private Tour: Ice Restaurant Dining Experience including 3-Course Meal