Not necessarily the most obvious tourist destination, Finland contains an array of fantastic options for those wishing to explore this captivating nation. From the grandiose capital city of Helsinki to the fresh air and stunning views of its lakes and forests, Finland has much to offer a holidaymaker. And when it comes to the sights, there’s simply loads to do – meaning it’s a challenge to select a list of just the top ten tourist attractions in Finland.
So if you’ve yet to decide your itinerary, or simply need a helping hand, then our selection of the top 10 sights in Finland will get you started. We’ve included some of the most famous visitor attractions of Finland, alongside a few more unique ones we snuck in when no-one was looking. And don’t forget you can always discover more fascinating places to visit in our full list of sites in Finland.
What are the best tourism sites in Finland?
Built in the second half of the 18th century by Sweden on a group of islands at the entrance of Helsinki’s harbour, this fortress shows off some of the most advanced European military architecture of the time. It’s a unique historical monument and also one of the largest maritime fortresses in the world. Small wonder then that it’s one of Finland’s most popular tourist attractions and we think sits rightly atop our list.
When thinking of a classic medieval castle, something that resembles Hame certainly comes to mind. It’s thought Hame dates back to the thirteenth century following Earl Birger of Sweden’s crusade. Over the centuries Hame has performed an eclectic mix of roles, acting as a royal residence, a granary and a prison. Now it’s a Finnish tourist site, and people can wonder around some of the oldest sections. It also lies on the side of lake Vanajavesi, making a visit to Hame a great day out.
Verla Groundwood ranks among the more understated of Finland’s tourist attractions. Both the buildings themselves and the residential area around them represent a fascinating example of the pulp, paper and board production industries that flourished in northern Europe and North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Only a few have survived today, making it incredibly unique. When combined with how well-preserved Verla is, it’s become clear why UNESCO would have awarded it World Heritage status.
Location, location, location! As true a saying today as it ever was. The medieval castle of Kastelholm stands proudly in a small islet overlooking a fjord and is all the more majestic for it. Kastelholm was first mentioned in 1388, when the region was part of the Swedish Empire. It’s even been home to Sweden’s King Gustav I for a period of time. Today Kastelholm serves as an important reminder of Sweden’s legacy in Finland, as well as the site of the fascinating Jan Karlsgarden Open Air Museum, where visitors can see what life was like in the nineteenth century.
The story surrounding Bomarsund Fortress is as interesting as the ruins are eye-catching. Build between 1832 and 1854 in an area that was then part of Russia, Bomarsund was the site of fierce fighting between Britain and France on one side and Russia on the other during the Crimean War. The real loser was Bomarsund itself, which was largely destroyed in the battle. But some pretty impressive ruins remain and there’s a good museum nearby too – making a visit here an extremely interesting and worthwhile experience.
The sprawling complex of Turku Castle offers a trip back to darker times. One of the most important tourist attractions of Finland, this medieval castle has served as a prison for two centuries and still includes two dungeons where various high profile figures were kept. It’s got a lighter side though and visitors can marvel at the opulent banqueting halls and chambers – this juxtaposition between gore and grandeur provides an excellent way of looking at Finland’s disparate past.
Get your cameras at the ready for a walk around Fiskars Village. Lying 90 minutes west of Helsinki, Fiskars Village is a famous and historic ironworks village. The ironworks company was founded in 1649 and since then has gone through various periods of prosperity (and of decline). Quaint traditional buildings are intercepted by lush woods and canals, making it a wonderful place to walk around. There’s also a decent museum on the village’s past.
The imposing ruins of Raseborg Castle hark back to 1378, or thereabouts. As its structure and rocky hilltop location imply, Raseborg was intended to defend the then Swedish territory in Finland’s south. And it’s not just Swedes and Finns who have clashed over and in Raseborg; Danes and pirates have too. Quite the history and one that places it firmly in our list of top 10 visitor attractions in Finland. It might be a shadow of its former self, but it’s a formidable one at that.
Porvoo is a cathedral as you’ve never seen one before. With its distinct Scandavian architecture, it’s a charming building to behold. Initially built in the thirteenth century, its current style is from the fifteenth. But Porvoo isn’t just a pretty face. It was also the setting of Finland’s first Diet, which established the country as autonomous – making it one of the most important Finnish tourist attractions.
With its enviable location on the beautiful island of Hamno, St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is a beautiful, quaint building with some sections dating back to the fourteenth century. Visitors can see where the monks once lived in the ruins of its convent, as well as the still standing clock tower. A nearby museum highlights what life was like on this remote, stunning part of Finland. With epic views and salty sea air, St. Anna’s Church is one of the most picturesque Finnish visitor attractions.