Cresting the border of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, nestled in Finland’s northernmost region. As the most connected city in Lapland and boasting an international airport, Rovaniemi is well-travelled by tourists and has since earned its secondary namesake: The gateway to Lapland. However, Rovaniemi also tucks away a rich history — layered under the merry year-round Christmas vibes and lively culture. Here are some things you absolutely have to do while travelling Rovaniemi.
Get up Close and Personal With a Reindeer
In Lapland, reindeer abound. With the number of reindeer in the area hitting nearly the same number of residents, it’s no wonder that they make up a large part of the Lapland culture. Visitors will be delighted to know that there are several reindeer farms in Rovaniemi, one of the more popular ones being the one right behind the infamous Santa Village. Spend some time with these gentle and soft-hearted animals, and you’ll be sure to fall in love. With available activities ranging from feeding and petting reindeer, to going on sleigh rides and hiking with them in the summer, there’s plenty for one to indulge in.
Go Aurora Hunting
It’s no secret that Auroras glitter more prominently in areas with low light pollution. Being surrounded in dark wilderness, Rovaniemi remains one of the world’s most revered destinations for Northern Light hunting. On average, Lapland is graced by auroras 200 nights a year — it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights at least once if you stay in Rovaniemi for 3 days. While it’s possible for visitors to head down to Arktikum Beach to catch a glimpse of this magnificent phenomenon, several local tour companies operate aurora-hunting trips, which will save you the trouble of having to personally check for weather conditions and doing your own location scouting; Some may even provide professional photography equipment and refreshments to tide over the wait.
Immerse in the Architectural Wonder of Rovaniemi City Library
Named the world’s most literate nation by the United Nation, it’s no wonder that Finland is home to one of the most stunning libraries: The Rovaniemi City Library is an architectural wonder designed by architect Alvar Aalto and housed in a grand building completed in 1965. The people of Finland adore libraries, so much that they have become integrated into their culture, with libraries acting as a sort of socializing space. There’s no better place to experience this than in the Rovaniemi City Library; Apart from a deluge of interesting titles lining the shelves, the library is also decked out in distinct furniture and unique fixtures, making it not just a library, but a museum-like tourist icon.
Meet Santa Claus at His Village
Despite December being the month during which Christmas has most significance, Rovaniemi happens to be known as the Official Hometown of Santa Claus. A trip to Rovaniemi would hardly be complete without visiting the Santa Claus Village, which is open every day of the year. While visitors do enjoy free admission into the village, the precinct is constituted by a cluster of privately-run stores and attractions. Most people make a beeline for the Santa Claus Office: It’s the official place where one can meet Santa Claus, and perhaps pay to have their photo taken with him as a take-home souvenir. In the Santa Claus Post Office, visitors can sit down to write a letter to family, friends or even to themselves, and attach it with postage stamp, to be sent off with an official Arctic Circle mark — often the highlight of one’s visit to the village.
Visit a Museum
Being a cultural hub, Rovaniemi boasts a number of museums and exhibitions throughout the year. With a variety of different-themed museums, there is an exhibition of every kind of visitor: The Arktikum Museum is a science centre displaying Finnish Lapland nature and culture; Art enthusiasts will find solace in the Rovaniemi Art Museum, which is housed in an impressive red-brick building dating back to the Second World War and serves as the city’s main centre for arts and culture. History buffs can head to the Rovaniemi Local History Museum, which is an open-air museum reconstructed from traditional wooden buildings to recreate life in Finland during the pre-industrialized era, and nestled upon a former farm which had survived the Second World War.
While it’s well-known for having the best viewing spots to glimpse the Northern Lights, there is a lot more to Rovaniemi than it meets the eye. Spend a couple of days admiring the quiet historical charm of this city and its untouched nature; It’ll be an experience of a lifetime.