This picturesque town lies on the Oulujoki river, southeast of Lake Oulujärvi, and is famed for its fishing, especially Lake Ruuhijärvi, and for the beauty of the surrounding region which includes the nature protection area Talaskangas and the Otanmäki Bird Basin. Despite its small size, Kajaani has a full calendar of events including the Kainuun JazzKevät, Kajaani Poetry Week, Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, the unique, and hilarious, Swamp Soccer World Championships, Vuokatti Hiihto Skiing Race, Kainuun Soutu Rowing Competition, Kainuun Rastiviikko Orienteering Race, and Kajaani Tanssii Dance Event.
Although the oldest building in the centre of the town is the Town Hall, dating from 1831 and designed by C.L. Engel, the town is famous for the ruins of Kajaani Castle which was built in 1604 on an island in the middle of Kajaaninjoki River, the last medieval styled fortification in Scandinavia. Unlike those in central and southern Europe, Kajaani Castle was neither royal nor aristocratic, but served instead as a military site whose purpose was to protect Northern Ostrobothnia from the Russians, and maintain order on the inland waterways in that region, as well as serving as the administrative centre and as a gaol.
Near the Town Hall you'll find the Kajaani Art Museum, sited in the town's former police station, which was built in the Functional style by local architect Eino Pitkänen who designed many of the other impressive buildings in Kajaani. Tourists also find the old tar channel interesting, likewise the gatekeeper's house, the Jaeger monument, and the Manor Hotel Karolineburg which is situated next to the river. The second oldest building in Kajaani, the old library is now home to an arts & crafts centre and Taito Shop Kainuun Pirtti. Not too far away you can view the railway station, which was built using traditional styles of carpentry, and the Wall of Tears, built to aid people during the great depression.
The Evangelic-Lutheran church in Kajaani is an excellent example of the Neo-Gothic movement, and was completed in 1896, designed by architect Jac Ahrenberg. Nearby visitors are charmed by the the famous wooden church in Paltaniemi; this picturesque place of worship was built in 1762, and houses highly valuable wall and ceiling paintings from the 18th century by Emanuel Granberg.
There are a number of notable cultural events here, namely the Kajaanin Runoviikko (Kajaani Poetry Week), originally known as Sana ja Sävel, and Kainuun JazzKevät, The Kainuu Jazz Spring, and the Kajaani Kaupunginteatteri, which is one of the most respected theatre groups in the country, puts on regular performances in the town, and in neighboring towns when it tours every year.
Other popular spots in and around Kajaani are Vimpelinvaara, a sports and outdoor recreation area, and Rehja Island, where you may stay in a holiday cottage in the middle of Lake Nuasjärvi. Or take a day trip to Vuokatti, Kuhmo, Suomussalmi, Lake Oulujärvi, Paljakka and Ukkohalla. Each has its own special delights, whether involving proud traditions or the latest attractions, and all are located close enough to each other to be easily reached by car, regardless of where you choose to stay the night.
Alternatively, you can go on bear watching safaris, fly-fish, hike or hire quad bikes. Golf, swimming from golden beaches, trips to spas, even cross-country skiing and snowboarding indoors on artificial snow are all possible. There are enough holiday activities in the Kajaani region to give you as good a time as anywhere in Finland.
The main attraction in the city is Kajaani Castle, which was begun in 1604, but there are plenty of other sights and tourist attractions to see here, including the Ämmäkoski Tar Boat Canal, the only still-functioning tar boat channel in the world, originally constructed in the 1840s. The singular Kaukametsä Cultural and Congress Centre in the centre of Kajaani houses a congress and concert hall, a music institute, a community college and the city's cultural services.
Kajaani, and the region of Kainuu, is especially well known for the number of winter sports resorts. The Vuokatti Sports Institute in Sotkamo with its exercise facilities provide a year-round possibility for cross-country skiing, thanks to the first ski tunnel in the world. In summer activities available range from fishing to golf, berry picking, track and field, football, and baseball. The Vuokatti area offers a unique variety of sports both indoors and outdoors.
There are enough good restaurants in Kajaani to please even the most discerning palates, with choices ranging from traditional Finnish cuisine, to Spanish and Chinese. At night, you'll find plenty of lively bars and pubs, many with live music, and there are a number of nightclubs to enjoy if you prefer to stay out til late.
There are a number of good hotels in Kajaani, including the Karolineburg Manor House Hotel, and the Kainuu region is well served by camping sites, holiday cottages, and holiday villages, most notably Rehja Island, where visitors can stay in a holiday cottage in the middle of Lake Nuasjärvi.
There is no shortage of stores and boutiques in Kajaani, but most visitors will eventually find themselves browsing and buying in Kainuun Pirtti which sells arts and crafts from all over Finland, including linenware, tableware, soap, candles and much more. The R-Collection Factory Outlet is also worth popping into as its well known for its bargains.
Kajaani possesses its own airport and flights between here and Helsinki are daily. By rail, the city is connected via Kuopio to Helsinki in the south, and to Oulu in the west. Frequest bus services run between Kajaani and most of the major towns and cities in the region, and the roads here are always well maintained and signposted.