Top 5 Things to Do in Finland

From saunas and reindeer meat to ancient fortresses and nightclubs, Finland offers a wide array of experiences for the adventurous traveler ready for something completely different.

Below are five of my favorite things to do while in Finland, focused on the greater Helsinki area.

Enjoy the full sauna experience

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Step one, befriend a Finnish family and ask to join them in their summer cottage by the Baltic Sea.

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Step two, sit in a hot, steamy, 80-degree Celcius (176-degree Fahrenheit) room and sweat.

Hint: Try to stay still or the hot air rubbing against your skin will feel even hotter!

Step three, hit your body with a leafy birch branch to release the toxins from your pores and improve circulation.

Step four, walk outside and jump in the 13-degree Baltic sea. Swim for 10 seconds.

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Step five, drink a cold beer while admiring the view.

Step six, repeat steps two to five until cooked to taste you are relaxed and enlightened (or light headed?).

Finally, step seven, enjoy a juicy grilled makkarra (Finnish sausage) with the best mustard on the planet: Auran Sinappi.

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Eat Rudolph (reindeer meat)

Maybe you think Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer, is cute. Maybe you think he has an important role to play every Christmas. I think he is delicious.

Before:

Finland Rudolph Reindeer Meat

After:

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Available year-round, reindeer meat comes from northern Finland in the Lapland region where Santa Claus lives. The meat is quite tasty; it has an excellent steak flavor with a softer chicken meat fiber texture. Thinly sliced and sauteed in butter, it pairs wonderfully with smashed potatoes (yes, they call it “smashed”), shredded carrots, and lingonberry jam.

Go to one of the islands

Finland has a nickname: ” the land of 10,000 lakes”, but that is an understatement. It has more than 180,000 lakes and almost as many islands! It holds the record for the country with the most number of islands in the world.

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You can often enjoy a sauna experience if you visit a summer cottage on an island.

If you prefer larger islands, visit Suomenlinna, a still functioning island fortress only a 20-minute boat ride from the Helsinki harbor. Or visit Suerasaari, an open-air museum/island, also close to the city.

The boat ride to an island in the Baltic Sea should give you a good view of Helsinki harbor.

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Go out at night in Helsinki and enjoy live music

The Rymy-Eetu Brau Haus/club is an excellent venue where you can dance on the tables to live music. The Finns also seemed to enjoy karaoke as half the audience would sing to every song.

Interestingly, another club we passed by was having a California-themed celebration that weekend. Posters included photoshopped pictures of palm trees, the Hollywood sign, and Arnold Swartznegger. No, thank you.

Visit Tallin, Estonia, also known as “South Helsinki”

Tallin is a convenient 90-minute ship ride from Helsinki, perfect for a day trip. Multiple cruise lines serve the route almost every two hours during the day. There is live music, four restaurants including a Burger King, and even a grocery store aboard.

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Once in Tallin, the old city is very walkable. I recommend going to the Rataskaevu16 restaurant for lunch and then going off the beaten path in the afternoon. I had braised bison, a local specialty.

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Two miles from the city center, an abandoned Soviet-era prison that has been pretty much left as the day it was abandoned has now been turned into a living museum/art exhibit. I’ll let the pictures speak to the interesting history of the Paterei Prison. I even wrote part of this post in one of the rooms.

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You can see the ship we came on, not so far away.

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They departed abruptly and left many things behind.

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“what should I say about this place?…”

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gallows.

After touring the Prison (the most interesting part of the Tallin day trip), we were feeling heavy-hearted and exhausted, so we headed home around 5 pm. There is also a popular ‘party boat’ version where you enjoy a day in Tallin, but on the way back the boat’s speed is reduced, and it becomes a floating night club (with private cabins for when you finally pass out).

Conclusion

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Finland is a little-known country of only 5 million people, but their culture and way of life are unique and alluring. Next time you are in Finland, don’t forget to enjoy the sauna, eat reindeer meat, and get to know the locals.

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