Snowscapes and Bright Lights

Depending on the time of year and the locations they choose, visitors to Finland might find themselves taking part in activities as varied as tracking elk and bear deep in a snow-dusted forest or watching an up-and-coming band play live in a cool Helsinki bar. Finland is the country of lakeside saunas in the middle of nowhere; ice fishing and snowshoeing; vast national parks criss-crossed by hiking trails and dotted with bodies of water; and Lapland, the official home of Santa Claus. But it also has a cutting-edge cultural life that puts it at the forefront of the culinary, music and design scenes in Europe.

The Baltic Sea EU macro-regional strategy applies to Finland, meaning that the country seeks to further aims including protection of the sea, increasing prosperity and international connections. Three cultural routes take in sights and cities in Finland, and these aims are also fundamental to these routes. Whether tracing the Viking history of the Baltic region, following in the footsteps of Saint Olav, or diving deep into the history of the medieval Hanseatic League, Finland’s cultural routes offer the opportunity to further explore the values this fascinating country shares with its neighbours.

How to get there?

It’s possible to reach Finland from elsewhere on the continent by car, train or plane. Popular ferry routes also run from Estonia and Sweden to several ports in Finland. There are dozens of international airports in the country, but the busiest by far is in Helsinki. Once in Finland, it’s easy to get around using the comprehensive public transport system, especially within cities. The country’s low population density means driving is generally straightforward. Cycling holidays in Finland are also popular in the warmer months, and EuroVelo routes 10, 11 and 13 are among the country’s many bike routes. And of course, snowmobiles and dog and reindeer sleds offer more interesting ways of getting around in the icy winter.

  • Time Zone
    GMT +2
  • Population
    5.5 million
  • Capital
  • Official language
  • Currency
    € or EUR

EU citizens do not need a visa to visit Finland

Cultural Routes in Finland

Finland has three cultural routes with itinerary stops within its borders: Viking Routes, the Route of Saint Olav Ways and The Hansa. The other countries in the Baltic macro-region are Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden, and Finland’s cultural routes have stops in some of these countries too – as well as some stops outside the macro-region.

Viking Routes

The Vikings settled in or at least passed through multiple countries throughout the Baltic region and even as far away as Canada, Russia, Ireland and the United Kingdom between the 8th and 11th centuries. The Viking Cultural Route has stops not only in countries the Vikings dominated, but also in ones they influenced in other ways, such as Finland. In following this route, travellers will discover Viking towns and villages, museums showcasing important Viking artefacts and much more besides.

Route of Saint Olav Ways

The Saint Olav Ways is a cultural route with multiple branches, inspired by the pilgrimage trail that follows in the footsteps of King Olav II Haraldsson of Norway, who ruled from 1015 to 1028 and is now a saint. The Saint Olav Waterway is a branch of the route that runs from Turku Cathedral through the Åland islands and into Sweden. Like all Saint Olav Ways routes, this one ends in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, Saint Olav’s burial place.

The Hansa

The Hansa cultural route connects many of the cities that were part of the medieval Hanseatic League, which held great power in European trading and politics beginning in the 13th century. Today, there are two Hanseatic cities in Finalnd: Turku and Ulvila. According to the official The Hansa website: “The objective of [The Hansa] is to make a contribution to economic, cultural, social and civic unity in Europe, and thus to strengthen the self-awareness of the cities and municipalities so that they can fulfil their role as a home of living democracy.”

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