Finland can be found in the far northern part of Europe, and it is bordered by Sweden, Norway, Russia, and the Gulf of Finland. It has 30,000 islands off its coast, and 188,000 island lakes, making this Nordic country one of Europe’s most picturesque. Aside from its spectacular beauty and serenity, Finland’s cultural differences are a reflection of its confused past. Caught up in a tug-of-war between Sweden and Russia, Finland did not declare its independence until 1917.
Offering a high standard of living for its residents, Finland is now a contemporary country that is on the move. Helsinki is Finland’s capital, and it was founded in 1550. It provides tourists with sophisticated comforts and a pulsating nightlife. Helsinki has something for everyone. You can partake of a variety of museums, take a summer cruise through the archipelago, or relax and enjoy a Finnish sauna.
You will want to see Temppeliaukia Church, which brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, literally carved into solid rock. It is one of Helsinki’s most famous tourist attractions. Another big favorite with visitors is the 18th century Sea Fortress, Soumenlinna. This structure was constructed in the 1740’s, and 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.
Constructed in 1950, Korkeasaari Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world. Another must-see is the Olympic Stadium. It was built in 1940, but due to WWII, the games were cancelled. It was not until 1952 that Finland finally hosted the Olympic Games.
Another Finnish highlight is St. Olaf’s Castle, Olavinlinna. You will find this beautifully restored, 500-year-old castle, balanced on the edge of a tiny green island and looking like it came from a fairytale. The King’s Road is worth exploring, too. Once a tie between Sweden and Russia, it follows the southern coastline, and you will still find taverns, castles, manor houses, cottages, and stone churches along the way.
If you want to see a medieval town, Turku is the oldest in Finland. This 750-year-old town was once the capital, and it has a restored, 13th century castle that’s now a Viking museum. Of course, no trip to Finland is complete without seeing Lapland. The Land of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights is a lightly populated wilderness, which offers open fells and hills, unpopulated forests, clear lakes, babbling brooks and frothing rapids. Make sure you try such delights as salmon and reindeer steak, cooked in a variety of ways, and sample some rare golden cloudberry wine. Lapland is the home of Santa Claus, so you definitely want to visit Santapark. It is St. Nick’s theme park!
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