In a region numbering some 450 lakes and over 7,500 summer cottages, Kouvola is a rare mix of urban and rural. Nature lovers will enjoy Repovesi National Park, the Aarnikotka Forest Nature Reserve and Arboretum Mustila. Verla Mill Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Kouvola House, centre for the arts in the region, is one of Finland's most beautiful post-modern buildings. Families will thrilled at Tykkimäki, the third largest amusement park in Finland.
The town, and municipality, of Kouvola is located in southeast Finland, with the cities of Helsinki and St. Petersburg within easy reach making it a central hub of road and rail. Originally developing around the junction of north-south and east-west rail tracks, Kouvola continues to benefit from its good location, becoming Finland's 10th largest city in 2009.
Today, Kouvola has a population of almost 90,000, and is one of the largest centre of rail transport and land logistics in Finland, it is the largest garrison city in Finland, and along the banks of the Kymijoki which winds through the region are some of the largest companies in the global forest industry.
Kouvola is a city where urban and rural blend seamlessly, there are over 450 lakes and over 7,500 summer cottages here. The municipality is home to the foremost forest park in Scandinavia, the Repovesi National Park, and to the Verla Mill Museum which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Arboretum Mustila, to south of Kouvola, was founded in 1902 as a test site for exotic conifers, and is today a unique area of introduced horticulture in Scandinavia, with almost 100 conifer species, 120 broad-leaved tree species, and numerous vines and perennial plants growing in an area covering 120 hectares. Arboretum Mustila is especially famous for its rhododendrons. In June a colourful sea of flowers can be observed in the Rhododendron Valley when hundreds of these beautiful evergreen shurbs with more than 50 species from around the world are blooming. Previously the park was open only to scientists and invited horticulturists, but today its beauty can be enjoyed by everyone.
Just north of Kouvola is the Repovesi National Park and Aarnikotka Forest Nature Reserve, a rugged backwoods comprised of vast uninhabited forests, tens of lakes and ponds, steep cliffs, and the region's highest summits. Repovesi has a long tradition of being one of Finland's top hiking destinations, no doubt because there are great differences in altitude to challenge hikers, but also rewarding the effort with some spectacular views from the hilltops. The Verla Groundwood and Board Mill is a living monument to the history of the Finnish forest industry. Verla Mill Museum was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996. An idyllic village next to the lake, tells the history of the people who worked and lived here. Right beside the museum, on a sheer rock surface above the rapids, are rare prehistoric rock paintings, mainly from around 7,000 BCE.
The city has an abundance of museums, the most impressive of which is Kouvola Museum of Arts, in the city's cultural centre Kouvola House, one of Finland's most beautiful post-modern buildings. The museum holds the art collections of the towns of Kouvola, Kuusankoski and Anjalankoski, and the municipalities of Elimäki, Jaala and Valkeala, exhibited on two floors. The Kouvola City museum it made up of ten local museums; there are four specialised museums in the Finnish Puotimuseo, the Fire Museum, the Museum of Pharmacy, and the School Museum; three homestead museums in Elimäki, Sippola and Valkeala; and the three living museums of Puolakka House, Railway House, and the Worker Housing Museum. Between them, the City Museum's collections include about 35,000 objects.
The Kouvola region is a very popular destination with outdoors enthusiasts and adventurers, just as it is with people seeking to relax and get away from it all. The lakes, rivers, ponds, forests, and numerous hills ensure there is plenty to do, or not do, as the case may be. The hiking trails here are among the best in the country, and the forests are home to bears, deer, and lots of other animals and birds, the rivers and lakes are perfect for kayaking and canoing, and fishing, and there are numerous adventure centres where you can try paint balling, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, and motor sports, such as rally, Formula K, or mini racing. The region is also known for Tykkimäki, the third largest amusement park in Finland, with plenty to do for the big and small alike. Tykkimäki contains over 40 rides and games and there are fun shows on the outdoor stage throughout the summer. There is also an animal farm where the children may pet the animals.
With over a dozen museums and galleries to explore, even more churches, a theatre, and its own 30 piece orchestra in the Kymi Sinfonietta, there is always something interesting to see or do in Kouvola, especially in the Kaunisnurmi Museum & Handicraft Quarter.
The waters around Kouvola provide the chance to take river trips on rubber rafts, go kayaking and canoeing across lakes, enjoy cruises, white water rafting, or fishing. On land, hiking, cycling, golfing, rock climbing, paintballing and various motor sports are all on offer.
Whether you fancy something traditional or something exotic, whether you wish to dine slowly in a relaxed atmosphere or grab something nourishing and run, you'll be sure to find something suitable among the restaurants in Kouvola. Be sure to visit the Mustila and Verla wine chambers to sample the local wines and liqueurs.
Kouvola hotels are renowned for their friendly atmosphere and top quality service, but for those who prefer to be in remoter areas, there are excellent camping and caravan facilities, and lakeshore rental cottages to keep them close to nature.
The best shopping in Kouvola centres around the pedestrian street Manski in the city centre, where there are lots of boutiques, speciality stores, and shopping centres. For something very special take a stroll through the Kaunismuri Museum and Handicraft quarter, or visit the Nordic China Centre.
Rail connections between Kouvola and the rest of Finland are excellent as the city has 4 railway lines leading from it. Bus connections are regular and frequent, and the nearest airports are in Lappeenranta and Vantaa-Helsinki.