Set in the northern part of Europe, the country of Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway, Russia, and the Gulf of Finland. It has an impressive 30,000 islands off its coast, and 188,000 island lakes, which makes this Nordic country renowned as one of Europe’s most striking. Still, regardless of such beauty, Finland’s past was tumultuous. At one time, it was caught in a tug-of-war between Sweden and Russia, and in fact, did not declare its independence until 1917.
A modern country today, Finland provides a high standard of living for its residents. Founded in 1550, Finland’s capital, Helsinki, has an impressive abundance of cosmopolitan comforts, not to mention a lively nightlife. Maybe you are interested in museums, or a summer cruise through the archipelago, or perhaps a Finnish sauna is your cup of tea. Regardless, you will find it all in Helsinki.
One of Helsinki’s most famous tourist attractions is Temppeliaukia Church. It was built by brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, and they carved it into solid rock. Another favorite stop is Soumenlinna, an 18th century Sea Fortress. It was originally constructed to secure Helsinki against Russial attacks. Built in the 1740’s, it is one of the largest in the world.
Finland is home to more museums than anywhere else in the world, and two of the finest are the Ateneum Art Museum, and the National Museum. If a castle with a moat strikes your fancy, be sure to visit Hame Castle. It was built in the 13th century. In the 1830’s it converted to a prison but it has been restored, and is now a museum.
Built in 1950, the Helsinki Zoo, Korkeasaari, is one of the oldest in the world, and a big attraction. Another place visitors love is the Olympic Stadium, built in 1940. Because of WWII, the games were cancelled, but Finland eventually hosted the 1952 Olympics
St. Olaf’s Castle, Olavinlinna, is one of Finland’s better known attractions. This 500-year-old castle is balanced on the edge of a tiny green island lake, and looks like it came right out of a fairytale. The King’s Road is worth seeing, as well. Winding along the southern coastline, this road once connected Sweden and Russia, and still has many intact taverns, castles, manor houses, cottages, and stone churches.
Turku was once the capital of Finland, and it is the oldest medieval town in the country. A mere 750 years old, it has a 13th century castle that now serves as a Viking museum. Finally, the Land of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights is a must on any itinerary. Lapland is sparsely populated, and there is tranquil beauty in its forests, lakes, brooks, fells, and rapids. You will want to partake of the local salmon or reindeer, and do not forget to try some of the rare golden cloudberry wine. Lapland is also Saint Nick’s home, and you will definitely want to visit Santa’s theme park, Santapark!
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