Travel Hacks

9 things to know before you visit Finland

Finland is all too often overlooked as a travel destination, with people preferring to visit the countries Scandi relatives, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, or the golden girl of Europe, Iceland. And yes whilst these countries have gorgeous archipelagos, spurting geysers and breathtaking fjords, you'll find equal wonderment and beauty when you visit Finland.

There's so much to do in Helsinki

When you think ‘cosmopolitan city’ you probably conjure images of London and New York. But Helsinki is a unique blend of modern, trendy cultural hotspots, paired with Nordic charm. From the super edgy design district to the iconic white Helsinki Cathedral, you’ll be overwhelmed by things to do and see. To discover the real heart of the city, start off in the Market Square and then wander around the old town while sipping on a cup of Finnish coffee.

Christmas is a pretty huge deal

With the knowledge that Santa himself is a Finnish native, is it any real wonder that christmas is a whole other kettle of fish in this Nordic paradise? During the christmas period, the entire country transforms into a fairytale winter wonderland. The streets are lined with thick white snow and christmas markets pop up everywhere. Gingerbread, mulled wine and roast pork are all enjoyed in abundance, and you can even go and visit St Nick himself – and go on a real life sleigh pulled by reindeer, in snowy Lapland.

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Saunas are part of the culture

For most of us, going to the sauna at your local spa or gym is the absolute height of pampering but for Finns, saunas are a way of life, with many people having a sauna in their home. It’s even said that in Finland, more important decisions get made in saunas than in business meetings. Finnish sauna etiquette includes being totally nude, and gently whipping yourself with a bundle of fresh birch leaves. Well, when in Rome…

Finns love their coffee

Sure, the Aussies have their flat whites and the Americans love their iced frappe’s – but the Finns have an affiliation with coffee on another level. In fact, Finnish people consume more coffee per capita than anyone else in the world, meaning 8 or 9 cups a day is totally normal. In Finland, having a coffee is an explicitly social activity, and is always served with a cake. They’ve even got a word for the traditional coffee and cake combo: kakkukahvi. Kudos if you attempted to pronounce it…

The food is eclectic

Whatever you imagine Finnish food is, it’s probably not that. Finnish food is a lot more eclectic and exciting than people assume. Market stalls dominate the Finnish food scene, so you can bet you’ll always be able to find artisinal delights and local delicacies wherever you are. While ‘reindeer and mash’ might be a tad different from your Sunday night roast, you’ll also be able to find more palatable Finnish classics, like cinnamon buns and Salmiakki – salty liquorish. We told you it was eclectic…

It’s been named the happiest place to live

Step aside Norway; Finland has overtaken you the as the happiest country on earth as of 2018. As well as having a pretty good economic and political situation, Finland places a huge emphasis on wellbeing over anything materialistic. With a strong affiliation with nature and a slow pace of life, the Finns are known to take time for the little things and not rush – finding happiness in being with friends rather than monetary wealth. I mean, with all those huskies and lakes around me, I’d be pretty happy too…

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And the safest place in the world

We’ve experienced the sheer panic of losing your wallet or phone while travelling. In Finland, your belongings will more than likely be returned to you, maybe even with souvenirs. Finland was named the safest country in the world according to a 2017 report. No matter the hour, Finnish people feel safe using public transport or walking alone through a park – although that’s not to say that travellers should still be super savvy and vigilant…

Finland is great for seeing the northern lights

Unlike its Nordic neighbours, where you have to be super strategic about where you are/what time of year you visit to capture the Northern Lights, the spectacle can be seen clear as day in Finland. Head to Lapland in any of the 200 days that the Northern Lights appear and you’ll be blown away by the world’s finest natural phenomenon. Stuck in the south? The lights still shine for 10 – 20 days a year. Basically, if it’s winter and the night is clear – you’ll probably see the lights in Finland.

RELATED: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO SEEING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

The lakes and islands make for great day trips

Finland wasn’t dubbed “Land of a thousand lakes” for no reason – lakes are part of the Finnish identity. Boasting an impressive 188,000 lakes and an equally impressive 179,888 islands, it’s pretty much the lake capital of Europe. Venture into Finland’s lush countryside and the scenery will become inundated with serene lakes, framed by gorgeous forests. Lakeland in Eastern Finland is home to Saimaa, the country’s greatest (and most stunning) lake.

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