Famous for it's majestic red brick medieval castle on the shores of Lake Vanajavesi, and for being the birthplace of the great composer Jean Sibelius, historical Hämeenlinna enjoys a vibrant cultural and commercial life. Surrounded by beautiful National Parks, the city boasts one of the best equipped theme parks in Puuhamaa, two excellent spas at at Aulanko and Vesihelmi, 8 golf courses, and the chance to hike, cycle, ride horses, ski, jet-ski, snowboard, sail and lots more besides.
Hämeenlinna is the administrative centre of the province of Southern Finland, located a little over 100km from Helsinki and at the junction of important rail, road and waterway networks. It was granted city rights in 1639, but there has been a settlement there since the Viking Age, and the castle for which it is famed was built in the late 13th century.
Today, the city enjoys a vibrant cultural and commercial life, as well known for its design products and the beautiful nature reserves surrounding it as it is for the majestic red brick medieval castle located by the shore of Lake Vanajavesi. And of course Hämeenlinna is also famous for being the birthplace of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
Built towards the end of the 13th century, the medieval castle of Häme has functioned over the years as a defensive fortress, the home of the castle manager, a military depot, and as a prison. An historic memorial of cultural importance, the Castle of Häme and its surrounding Castle peninsula are a unique, cultural destination which permits visitors to also experience the numerous museums within its boundaries, these being also the Prison Museum, the Historical Museum and the Artillery Museum, and is open for visitors all year around.
Another popular attraction for visitors is Aulankovuori Hill, which is dominated by the 33m high lookout tower, designed by Waldeman Aspelin and completed in 1907. From the tower you can enjoy the breath-taking views of Lake Vanajavesi and its valley, and appreciate why it is considered to be one of Finland's national treasures. A short drive from the city, just 11km from the town of Pälkäne, you'll find the Vehoniemenharju Ridge which runs between Lake Roine and Längelmävesi, over the Kaivanto Canal and along the west of the Keisarinharju, providing some of most scenic views in all of Finland.
Back in the city, be sure to see Hämeenlinna Church, completed in 1798 and modeled on the Roman Pantheon. Nearby is the old granite church of Vanaja, one of the country's smaller medieval churches built in the 15th century. It features an external pulpit in the western wall, and reredos with wooden sculptures depicting the birth and passion of Christ.
The childhood home of Jean Sibelius, born in Hämeenlinna in 1865, has been converted into a cosy and personal museum. Built in the Empire style, and containing original furnishings and artefacts, it affords the visitor a unique glimpse into the composer's early life, and the opportunity to relax awhile in the lounge while listening to his music. On a similar theme, the Palander domestic museum preserves the life of a well-to-do family a century ago, and features a ceremonial hall, original kitchen, a small costume exhibition, plus a garden stocked just as it was a century ago.
Beyond the city limits, the incredible beauty of the the surrounding natural wilderness and lake areas provide excellent kayaking and trekking opportunities, or the chance to gather native berries and mushrooms in the autumn, and of course skiing in the winter. Hämeenlinna is a destination much favoured by families, and has excellent facilities, activities, and attractions to keep everyone busy and happy for days on end. Children will delight in the myriad of rides and adventures to be had at Puuhamaa, one of Finland's best equipped theme parks, and adults will find the spas at Aulanko and Vesihelmi offer everything a tired body could crave for in the quest for total relaxation. And everyone can enjoy one of the many lake cruises that allow the visitor to enjoy the midnight sun, or take in a tour of a wine estate. There is plenty to do for the more active, for example there are a total of 8 golf courses, or you can choose to hike, cycle, ride horses, ski, jet-ski, snowboard, or sail.
Hämeenlinna has a fine selection of museums to visit, such as the Aleksanteri Ahola-Valo Museum, the Artillery, Prison, and Historical Museums in Häme Castle, the Hämeenlinna Art Museum, Palander House, and the Stone Gallery Lunnikivi. The Art & Exhibition Centre at Hovinkartano Manor is also worth a visit, as is the Hotel Vanajanlinna and the Culture and Congress Centre. View our list of top tourist attractions in Hämeenlinna.
With 8 golf courses and a modern guest harbour amid some of Finland's finest natural parks, there is always something to do in Hämeenlinna. There are ski resorts and snow-shoe safaris for the wintersports enthusiasts, and summer experiences include rafting, cruises, kayaking, sailing, swimming, fishing, jet-ski hire, cycling, horse riding, hiking, hiring ATVs, or even a day out at the Land Rover Experience Centre.
The Häme region is renowned for the quality of its produce, and local cuisine is of a very high standard as a result, so be sure to try some of the local delicacies when visting Hämeenlinna, in particular at any of the Manor Houses which are particularly proud of their fare. However, restaurants are also keenly aware of new trends in food culture, and ethnic cuisine can be also be found.
The choices for accommodation in Hämeenlinna, and the Häme region, are as numerous as they are varied, from top-rated hotels, apartment hotels and hostels, holiday cabins and camps, spas, farm and manor house accommodation, bed and breakfasts, and camping and caravan sites.
Take a stroll down Raatihuoneenkatu to discover numerous boutiques, or seek out the Aarikka, Kultakeskus, Kyyrölän Savi, Pentik and Wetterhoff Crafts shops to see why Hämeenlinna is renowned for its design products. Or pick up a unique souvenir at the Stone Gallery or Role Play shop!
Hämeenlinna is situated on the main line between Helsinki and Tampere, and is well served by both rail and bus. Another alternative way to arrive in this historic city is to travel there from Tampere on a cruise boat, several make the trip daily between spring and autumn.