Famous for its lakeside cottages, Mikkeli is one of Finland's most popular family holiday destinations, having the country's finest water and adventure theme park in Visulahti, and the Hulivili Carnival. Its packed cultural calendar features the Kangasniemi Music Festival, the Mikkeli Music Festival, Savcor Ballet, and numerous performances by the Mikkeli City Orchestra. The region is also home to some of Finland's finest manors such as Annilan Kartano, Kyyhkylä Spa, Anttolanhovi Manor and Wellness Village, and Kenkävero, Finland's largest historical vicarage with the biggest design boutique in the country selling Finnish handicrafts.
The outstanding natural beauty of the lakes which surround it, and the numerous cottages dotted along the shores, have attracted visitors from around the world to Mikkeli for years. Situated in the very heart of Finland's lake district, Mikkeli has much to offer the many tourists who flock here to relax or to immerse themselves in local culture, and is a particularly popular destination for families. Named 'Cottage District of the Year' in 2006, the never ending lake shores of the district provide a range of cottage holidays, with easy access to the town centre by boat or road.
The town is well represented culturally, and is home to the Mikkeli Music Festival, an annual celebration of classical music, and the Ballet Mikkeli which attracts top international dancers every Autumn. An historic garrison city, during the Winter War and Continuation War in the 1940s Mikkeli was Field Marshal Mannerheim's centre of operations, and consequently some of the finest military museums in Finland are located here. These include the Infantry Museum, which focuses on Finnish history since independence, and in particular the role of the infantry in that time, and the Headquarters Museum which uses modern technology to display the operations of the Headquarters and central events of WWII. The museum's premises have been restored to the condition they were in during the war. There is also the Signal Centre Lokki and the Naisvuori observation tower to visit, and a single joint ticket is available allowing access to all four museums.
For anyone curious about the region a visit to the Suur-Savo Museum is essential, for here you'll find over 8,000 catalogued items dealing with the history of Mikkeli and the surrounding region. Art lovers should take time to explore the Salmela Art Centre in delightfully preserved village around Mäntyharju Church. Exhibitions are displayed in the old parish hall which dates back to the 1850s, and in the old vicarage, post office and chemists. Landscaped gardens decorated with sculptures link the exhibitions, and all the buildings have been renovated according to UNESCO guidelines to preserve their original atmosphere.
Other famous attractions in the region include the statue of General Mannerheim in Mikkeli Square, the Rapio Mill in Juva, Marski's Café in the market square (which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the beginning of May to the end of September), and the Kenkävero Vicarage which is considered to be the largest and most beautiful vicarage in Finland, situated in a magnificently impressive milieu. Throughout the year there is something of interest to enjoy here, from the beautifully restored buildings, the many exhibitions and events, and boutiques with delightful handicrafts and souvenirs on offer. Directly opposite Mikkeli's impressive cathedral you'll discover the Mikkeli Art Museum, also known as the Granite House. This building, dating from 1912, was designed by Armas Rankka and houses the Martti Airio collection, which is on permanent display. This collection comprises Finnish paintings from the 1870s to the 1980s, furniture, oriental carpets and small art objects. Most of the works are post-Impressionist and Expressionist. Sculptures from the collection of the sculptor Johannes Haapasalo are also on permanent display.
One of the most popular family destinations in Finland is Visulahti, the country's finest water-park and adventure playground, with sections like Dinosauria with its many slides, cannons, showers, and pools; and Xonpuisto, with electric and micro cars, quads, and motorcycles. Children and adults alike will be thrilled with the choices available, from bungee jumping and paintball, rodeo bulls and space balls, giant swings and even sumo wrestling! Visulahti also provides accommodation, caravan and camping facilities, as well as a top-class restaurant, and is open daily from June through August.
Anyone interested in the pre-history of Europe will be fascinated by Astuvansalmi rock paintings dating from 3800-2200 BC, on the steeply rising bedrock on the shore of Lake Yovesi some 16km from Ristiina Church, south of Mikkeli. Of the 90 rock painting sites in Finland, the Astuvansalmi paintings are easily the largest and most diverse entity, not just in Finland but in all of Scandinavia. In a space measuring about 17m long and 5.5m high, over 80 designs and figures painted in ochre have been identified, including representations of humans, boats, and elks, along with paw and hand prints. The site can be reached by boat or by way of a 3km path.
Visitors to Mikkeli also have a choice of 7 beautiful manor houses they can visit, each offering something a little different. Just south of the city you'll find the elegant Annilan Kartano which also functions as a golf centre; 25km away is the Anttolanhovi Manor and Wellness Village, idyllically situated on the banks of Lake Saimaa in the historic village of Antolla famous for its barge making; west of Mikkeli airport is Kekkola Manor where you can enjoy lakeside saunas or fishing, play tennis or go on horse riding trails; A little over a kilometre from the city centre, Kenkävero is the largest historical vicarage in Finland, with its own restaurant, an art gallery with exhibitions throughout the year, a folk centre, and the biggest design boutique in the country selling Finnish handicrafts, clothing, accessories and delicacies; Kyyhkylä is located in the city on the banks of Lake Saimaa, and operates as a hotel and wellness centre, with historical tours and daily scenic cruises, tennis courts and minigolf; 7km from Mikkeli is Tertti Manor located in the middle of an authentic milieu, with a café, restaurant and souvenir shop.
There are also two Finnish wineries near Mikkeli; Ollinmäen Viinitila produces delicious Finnish berry and fruit wines, ciders and liquors, and is just 18 km from the city, while Tyry Winery, 60km from Mikkeli, produces Finnish berry wines, liqueurs, wine distillates and moonshine mustard.
Mikkeli has plenty for the visitor to enjoy, children delighting in Visulahti and the Hulivili Carnival, and adults kept entertained by events like the Kangasniemi Music Festival, the Mikkeli Music Festival, Ballet Mikkeli, performances by the Mikkeli City Orchestra and Mikkeli theatre groups. There are also numerous museums to visit, as well as Anttolanhovi Manor, Kenkävero, the Liehtalanniemi Farm Museum, and the prehistoric art of Astuvansalmi.
Summer or winter, there is always something to do in Mikkeli, whether its skating, skiing, ice-fishing, nordic walking, kayaking or canoeing, playing golf or fishing, swimming or enjoying a spa and sauna. For those who prefer to watch sports, local team Jukurit have won 4 Mestis' championships since 2001. Or enjoy a day at the races: the St. Michel trotting races in mid July are among the regions biggest annual events.
There are countless restaurants offering all kinds of cuisine in Mikkeli, from French to Chinese, Italian to Mexican, and of course the wonderfully fresh fish for which the Saimaa Lakes are so well known. Ravintola Fernando is known far and wide for its wonderful steaks as well as its tex-mex and fajitas.
As befits a city renowned for being so family friendly, the unending shores of Lake Saimaa around Mikkeli offer all types of cottages of varying specifications, as well as holiday villages, spa hotels, hotels, bed and breakfast, manor house accommodation, and camping and caravan facilities with every modern convenience.
No family holiday would be complete if the mothers didn't get a break to do a little shopping, and Mikkeli has more than enough to keep you happy. From the delightful market place to the Anne Linnonmaa factory outlet, or the 6 different flea markets to the hand woven textiles of Hurissalon Matto ja Tekstiili, we're sure you'll find something to treasure in Mikkeli.
Mikkeli is just two and half hours from Helsinki, and a transport hub with excellent connections by rail from there and from Kuopio to the north, as well as frequent bus connections to the rest of the country.