Idyllically situated around a bay on Lake Vesijärvi, Lahti is a vibrant town 100km north of Helsinki. A popular travel destination, Lahti has excellent skiing facilities at Messilä Ski Resort and the famous ski jumps by the Salpausselkä Ridges, and is the only city to have hosted the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 6 times. It is also home to Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and hosts the Lahti Sibelius Festival. Other sites of note are the Church of the Cross, Messilä Manor and its Musical Fountains.
Lahti is a lively city of almost 100,000 inhabitants just an hour from Helsinki. It is the capital of Päijänne Tavastia region, and was first mentioned in documents in 1445, originally being a village in the parish of Hollola, on the medieval trade route of Ylinen Viipurintie which linked the towns of Hämeenlinna and Vyborg.
There's plenty to see and do in Lahti. The redesigned Vesijärvi Harbour has become a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax in; The Church of the Cross, designed by internationally recognised architect Alvar Aalto, is one the most photographed buildings in the city; Eliel Saarinen's Lahti Town Hall is impressive; and The Musical Fountains on the shore of Lake Pikku-Vesijärvi provides a remarkable mix of symphonic music and dancing fountains illuminated in colour.
The region is also famous for its many international cultural events like the Lahti Sibelius Festival, the Lahti Organ Festival, concerts by the award-winning, internationally renowned Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and numerous other events in the region. It is home to the Sibelius Hall, a modern wooden structure, a congress and concert hall that was Finland's largest wooden construction for 100 years when built, and within its grounds you'll find a park filled with wooden architecture and sculpture. Just before midsummer the Lahti Writers' Reunion is held in the grounds of Messilä Manor, an event which brings together writers from across the globe to discuss literature and the role and impact of their art in modern society. This Reunion opens Lahti's summer season, in alternative years, with the Poetry Marathon, a forum for well-known poets from around the world.
Museum lovers are well catered for in Lahti. As well as the Lahti City Museum, there is an Historical Museum, an Art Museum, and a Poster Museum. The Finnish Military Music Museum shines a light on 450 years of military music, and there is a Museum of Military Medicine at Hennala in a barracks originally built and occupied by the Russians.
In winter, people flock to the region to enjoy downhill skiing, cross country skiing, ski jumping, and snowboarding. The longest downhill ski runs are in the Messilä Ski Resort, with 10 runs ranging from beginner to advanced. Lahti is also home to the Ski Museum, located next to the world famous three ski jumps by the Salpausselkä Ridges. In the summer it is possible to get to the top of these jumps, to get an idea of what the jumpers see as they take off, and to enjoy panoramic views of the region.
The city of Lahti is blessed with some of Finland's most unique museums, such as the Museum of Radio & Television, Museum of Military Medicine, Ski Museum, Motorcycle Museum and even a Museum of Posters: these in addition to its fine Historical Museum and the Lahti Art Museum. Lahti also boasts one of the largest theatre company in Finland, and the country's most famous orchestra, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, celebrated for its recordings of the composer Jean Sibelius.
Lahti is internationally famous as a winter-sports centre, both as the location for the Finnish Ski Championships every year, as well as having the Nordic WSC on no less than 6 occasions. It has one of the most recognisable sports centres in the world, the Lahti Ski Stadium, which features the famous ski jumps, museum, ice stadium and its Central Sports Field, which provide a unique forum for national and international events. The nearby Messilä Ski Resort is the biggest and most popular in Southern Finland.
Whether you fancy trying out the natural goodness of Finnish cooking, the more exotic tastes of Thailand, India, China and Japan, or the south European flavours of Spain, Italy, and Greece, Lahti won't disappoint. Local cuisine is typified by the VellamoMenu, where chefs use the bounty of Lake Vesijärvi and the surrounding nature, blending fish and meat with the berries and mushrooms available seasonally.
The range of accommodation in Lahti is as varied as it is plentiful. The centre of the city has the usual big name hotels of Cumulos, Sokos and Scandic, alongside private hotels like the Musta Kissa and Kauppahotelli Grand. There are also two rental apartment hotels for visitors who prefer the freedom of a self-catering break, and hostels for those on a budget.
Lahti's compact size makes it an ideal place for shopping, with many specialised shops, malls, department stores, and factory outlets all located close to the main street of Aleksanterinkatu; the largest mall in Lahti, Trio, is located on this street. Another fine shopping area is around the market square, packed with bargain stalls and outdoor coffee bars. On the eastern side of this market you can find the Kauppahalli, and a stroll through this corridor of stalls will lead you to more streets packed with stores.
The nearest airport is Helsinki-Vantaa, less than an hour away, from where there are regular buses to Lahti. It is very well served by rail and bus, from Helsinki centre, and enjoys good connections with Finland's other main towns and cities, and is situated by the main motorways to the north, making it very accessible by car.