Situated at the junction of the majestic rivers of Kemijoki and Ounasjoki on the Arctic Circle, in the midst of a captivating and rugged wilderness, Rovaniemi is Lapland's capital city, an energetic jewel of the North which lays claim to being the home of Father Christmas. Indeed, visitors from all over the world travel here to meet him, at the famous Santa Claus Village or at Santa Park, located in a deep underground cavern, while many other winter visitors arrive to holiday at the Ounasvaara Ski Centre & Resort. Rovaniemi also has a rich cultural life with its own orchestra, theatre, 6 fine art galleries, 4 excellent museums and 2 science centres.
Rovaniemi is also famous for having 8 distinct seasons, each with its own distinct type of daylight, temperatures, and natural phenomena. These seasons are known as Christmas, Frosty Winter, Crusted Snow, Ice Breaking, Midnight Sun, Colourful Autumn, and First Snowfall, and each seasonal variation gives the opportunity to experience the city in a different light, literally! With each seasonal variation comes differing experiences to be had here, from cruises under the midnight sun, to the many types of snow related activities of the snow seasons. Key to Rovaniemi's fame are the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, which can be seen as many as 200 times a year in Finnish Lapland, whereas in the South that number might be as few as 20.
Thanks to its average of over 180 days per year of having snow on the ground, Rovaniemi is very popular with the skiing fraternity, and across the river from the town is the world famous Ounasvaara ski centre and resort, at the top of which is the site of some of the earliest known human settlements in the area. From atop the hill visitors can view one of Rovaniemi's most prominent landmarks, the Jätkänkynttilä bridge, where the eternal flame burns over the Kemijoki river. Other notable landmarks are the Arktikum House, rising up from the Ounasjoki river, the Lappia Hall, Library and City Hall, all designed by the world-famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and considered by many to the most beautiful of all his works.
Much of Rovaniemi's cultural life revolves around the newly opened Kurundi House, the former post office vehicle depot, which was restored by architect Juhani Pallasmaa. As well as housing the Rovaniemi Art Museum, Korundi is home to the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland and hosts other cultural events in the city. The Art Museum displays the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation collection of Finnish art as well as changing exhibitions. Rovaniemi has a well deserved reputation for the visual arts, with exhibitions at Gallery Napa, Varjo Gallery, Lapponica Hall, and in the Valo, Kajon and Kilo galleries of the Faculty of Art and Design of the University of Lapland.
Visitors to Rovaniemi are most impressed by Arktikum which houses the Provincial Museum of Lapland and a permanent (and interactive) exhibition called 'The Arctic in Change' which allows visitors to learn more about ice caves, the arctic rivers, research stations, the arctic seasons and visit the northern lights theatre. Close by, the Pilke Science Centre's permanent exhibition deals with sustainable forestry, and explores such themes as the ecology and biology of forests, the many uses of wood from construction to medicines, and the area's past. A further treat for nature lovers is found at Ranua Wildlife Park, just 80 km to the south of Rovaniemi, where about 60 species of arctic and northern wild animals, including bears, lynx, wolves, wolverine, moose and the only polar bears in Finland.
A little outside Rovaniemi, on the shores of Lake Lehtojärvi, lies the Arctic SnowHotel, fashioned entirely from snow and ice, where visitors can sleep snugly in rooms maintained at a steady -5ºC! For those who prefer to sleep in warmer environments, the SnowHotel is still worth visiting - enjoy a hot toddy at the bar, or dine in a restaurant adorned with ice sculptures.
Visitors to Rovaniemi who arrive in late March invariably enjoy the culmination of the city's Spring Market Week, when the annual reindeer sprint race takes place - reindeer and their drivers race from Pohjanhovi to the Lordi Square! The city also hosts the Arctic Lapland Rally at the end of January.
Whatever season you visit Rovaniemi in, there are always plenty of things to do and see, from midnight sun cruises in summer, to the enchanting Ice Park and Ice World next to Santa Claus Village. Rovaniemi is also the cultural hotspot of the north, with plenty of museums and theatres, and is home to the Lapland Orchestra. View our list of top tourist attractions in Rovaniemi.
Although world famous for it's Ounasvaara Ski and Recreation Resort, there are plenty of other activites to enjoy in Rovaniemi. Located at the meeting of two great rivers, the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki, it is a haven for canoeists and fishermen, while the unspoilt beauty of the wilderness all around makes it a haven for hikers, backpackers and cyclists.
Lapp cuisine is unique in Finland, changing with the seasons, and reflecting the natural bounty of the region. Depending on the time of year, you can enjoy such delicasies as whitefish, moose and cranberry, roe, reindeer and cloudberry, or freshwater trout and salmon caught locally. Afterwards, the well fed visitor will find a great selection of welcoming bars and nightclubs to enjoy until the early morn.
From top of the range hotels to economic bed and breakfasts, Rovaniemi has it all, and a little more besides. Those of a more adventurous spirit should try the Arctic SnowHotel, where they can sleep surrounded by ice in a comfy sleeping bag. If that seems a little extreme, there are snug log cabins right next door.
As the capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi offers wonderful opportunities for shopping, with an abundance of well-known Finnish design products and native Lapp handicrafts and arts, including gold and jewelry by local goldsmiths based on Lapp culture and nature. The city centre is has many pedestrian areas around Lordi's Square where you can lose yourself in beautiful stores.
Getting to Rovaniemi couldn't be easier, with Finnair operating 6 daily flights from Helsinki, and budget airline Blue1 6 weekly flights. The national railway, VR, has 5 trains a day, and there are numerous bus and coach services linking the city to the rest of Finland.
Rovaniemi is one of the top christmas destinations. It's not hard to see why, Rovaniemi is branded as 'The Official Hometown of Santa Claus'.