The more than 20,000 islands in Finland offer plenty of options for places to visit. From its wonderfully remote forests and lakes, to its exciting festivals, excellent skiing, quirky museums and a unique brand of rock ‘n roll, Finland is a country just waiting to be explored. And you can do it all with your Finland rail pass.
Capital at the water's edge
A surprising mix of old world charm and modern flair, Helsinki (Helsingin) is a fabulous destination on your rail adventure. Check out the neoclassical Senate Square, one of the finest in all of Europe. Be sure to visit the famed Helsinki Cathedral (Helsingin tuomiokirkko), the Ateneum Art Museum and the many seaside attractions, like the Fortress of Suomenlinna and the islands of Pihlajasaari, Uunisaari, and Seurasaari. View more things to do in Helsinki.
From Helsinki Central Station (Helsingfors), the Helsinki Cathedral is less than a 10-minute walk.
City of culture, islands of tranquility
Turku was the European Union’s 2011 City of Culture, and with good reason. The 13th century city is the oldest in Finland, and is filled with ancient and modern attractions. Resting on both banks of the Aurajoki river, Turku is alive with music, festivals and cultural events. Be sure to visit the medieval Turku Castle and the Old Town Center before hopping on a ferry and exploring Turku archipelago’s many islands.
Turku Castle is a few minutes walk from Turku satama train station.
The smallest big town in Finland
Formerly an industrial town, Tampere rests between two lakes, best seen from the observation towers of Pyynikki ridge and the Näsinneula in Särkänniemi Amusement Park – one of Finland's top summer attractions. Walk along the banks and the rapids of the Tammerkoski River, which provided hydropower in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the old factory buildings are museums, galleries, restaurants, theatres and boutiques.
Tampere is about t 2 hours away from both Turku and Helsinki.
Island magic of staggering size
The 6,500 islands that make up the Åland Archipelago have to be seen to be believed. The waterways, bridges, boats and islands of Åland will steal your heart. From kayaking to diving, from fishing to biking, this chain of islands offers the ideal setting for anything outdoors. There’s also no shortage of castles, fortresses and churches to supplement your visit, and of course, a great selection of seafood.
Your Eurail pass entitles you to special discounts on the ferry crossing to Åland.
The route of the royal mail
The 13th century King’s Road was the mail route between Bergen, Norway and St. Petersburg, Russia. The route is dotted with historic castles, cottages, churches and iron mills. Modern-day Finland is visible along the route, and among the people who live nearby. The Finnish portion starts in Mariehamn (Maarianhamina) in Åland, and runs through the archipelago and Turku all the way across Southern Finland to Vyborg, Russia.
You’ll likely encounter the King’s Road at several points in your travels in southern Finland. Take the time to visit some of the sights along the way.
The town before time
The historic city center in the town of Rauma has one of the oldest harbors and one of the narrowest streets in the country. It offers some amazing historical sites. Don’t miss the Bronze Age Burial Site of Sammallahdenmäki, 36 burial cairns that date back as far as 1500 B.C. Rauma’s Franciscan church and the town’s museum, located in the Town Hall, are also great to see, and a stroll along the harbor is always a great choice.
Although there’s no direct train service to Rauma, you can travel by train to Kokemäki, and then transfer to a bus to take you the rest of the way.
When to go
Although on the same latitude as Siberia and southern Greenland, Finland enjoys temperatures that are an average of 10°C higher in Finland than in its neighbors. Still, the best time of year to visit depends entirely on what you’d like to do when you get there. Snow and cold can be expected throughout the winter, but make for some phenomenal skiing. In summer, the daylight remains for 18-20 hours per day, so you’ll likely get the most out of your visit then.
Summer (June-August) is also the time for festivals, parties and cultural events throughout Finland, so be sure to check out the Finnish Tourist Board’s list of events and happenings when you’re there. You can’t beat Finland for an enthusiastic, friendly, unique and welcoming crowd.
- August 16 - September 1, 2013
Helsinki’s biggest and most famous festival, this one taps into all sorts of art, music, activities and fun. From classical to jazz, from dance to poetry, this festival’s got it all. Make sure to visit the Night of the Arts, when the city is open for any outdoor performance! It’s worth it to plan your trip to take part.
The festival takes place all over Helsinki and all venues can be reached by bus, metro or tram.
Air Guitar World Championships
- August 21-23, 2013
Oulu strikes a chord with thousands, as the 16th annual Air Guitar Championships get underway. After qualifying in local competitions throughout the world, the best-of-the-best air guitarists gather in Oulu to find out who the real champion is.
Oulu is a 6 hr train ride from Helsinki. The Air Guitar World Championships venue is within walking distance of the main station.
- June 14-16, 2013
This is Finland’s biggest and best rock festival and has been going since 1979. The 3-dayer attracts top international bands. It’s possible to buy a ticket for the whole weekend including camping or individual day tickets.
From the train station in Seinäjokiyou you can take the festival bus to the grounds.
- July 12-14, 2013
Finnish and International rock bands come together in Joensuu for 3 days of rock music. The event is named after the island where the festival was first held in 1971.
To reach the festival take a train to Joensuu and from there you can pick up the festival bus to the site.
World Wife-Carrying Championships
- July 5-6, 2013
No, it doesn’t need to be your own wife, but the Finns do have a strict policy about returning any ’borrowed’ wives after the event. A whole weekend of drinking, dancing and wife-carrying takes place in Sonkajärvi every summer. Not to be missed!
Take the train to Lisalmi. From there you can take a bus to Sonkajärvi.