A town rich in history, Kokkola seems to pass each year moving from one celebration or festival to another. Beginning in February with its Festival of Dance, through the Winter Accordion Festival, Spring Fish and Summer Markets, Kahakka Day, Old Kalle's Summerweek, Mustakari in Memories music festival, Kokkola Opera Summer Festival, Kokkola Rock Festival, Venetsialaiset, Scandinavian Blues Party and the Autumn Market; there's always something happening in Kokkola!
Situated half-way up the west coast of Finland in the Gulf of Bothnia, almost equidistant from Helsinki and the Arctic Circle, the historic city of Kokkola was founded in 1620 by King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden, growing to become an important shipbuilding centre in Finland and a major producer of tar. By the 18th century it had one of the largest merchant fleets in the country and was, for a time, the richest town in Finland. Today it remains the provincial centre of Central Ostrobothnia.
This rich history is reflected in the number of museums in the city. The best way to experience them is to take Old Kalle's Town Walk which takes you through Neristan, Kokkola's old timber house district, to the Karl Herman Renlund Art Gallery and Museum, the Historical Museum and the Exhibition Hall in the Museum Quarter, and Kieppi. The K.H Renlund Museum contains around 40 works from the golden age of Finnish art, as well as a large collection of work by renowned artist Veikko Vionja, and the camera collection of photographer Leo Torppa.
In the Museum Quarter you'll find Finland's oldest secular wooden building from 1696, now a museum, where you can discover the town's seafaring history and view miniature models of old ships and an exhibition on the Battle of Halkokari. Nearby stands Lassander House which shows how a wealthy merchant family lived in the 18th century, and an exhibition hall. In Kieppi you'll find collections by nature preservation pioneer Veikko Salkio, which contains examples of almost every Finnish mammal and bird species, Viljo Nissinen, containing over 1,400 specimens of different minerals, and lepidopterologist Armas Järvelä, with around 30,000 butterflies on display, many of them rare.
Other museums include the Kaarlela Museum of Local History and Culture, comprising a stone exhibition centre, a stable, workshop and forge, a smoke sauna, a drying barn and several other buildings, where local peasant culture from the 19th century is presented. The Hunting Museum introduces the history of hunting, always an integral part of Ostrobothnian life, from prehistoric times to the present, in a small log cottage and barn. The Fire Museum contains a collection of objects from the 1800s to the present, and is run by the volunteer firemen of Kaarlela. In the village of Öja, some 15km from Kokkola, you'll find the Fishing Museum, in the form of a cottage, boat sheds, smoke sauna, fyke/fish-trap and salt storage sheds, a woodshed, all furnished and equipped according to their use. 10km to the north is the Toivonen Animal Park and Peasants Museum, providing visitors with an insight into the rustic life of a Central Ostrobothnian village at the turn of the last century, and providing children with the opportunity to see, and touch, some 20 different species of farm animals in traditional surroundings.
Kokkola has a plenty of events in its annual calendar, starting with Kokkolan Talvitansiit, the Festival of Dance, in February. This is followed by the Kokkola Winter Accordion Festival, a week long event which draws thousands of visitors every year. In April the city hosts the Spring Market, and in May marathon runners gather for the Kokkola City run held a week before the Kokkola Fish Market. Summer begins with the Kokkola Summer Market, and is followed by Kahakka Day, when the town celebrates its victory of the British in the Skirmish of Halkokari. On this day in 1854, British marines intent on ransacking the town were repelled, and a gunboat captured - it can be seen today as a museum object in Kokkola's English Park.
As elsewhere in Finland, Kokkola celebrates Midsummer night with fireworks, bonfires and parties, and the week after begins Old Kalle's Summerweek. June ends with the Mustakari in Memories music festival. In July the town hosts the prestigious Kokkola Opera Summer, a week of opera performances. August kicks off with the Kokkola Rock Festival, and ends with the Venetian Night Festival, Venetsialaiset, and annual celebration marking the end of the season for summer cottages with fireworks, fires, and by decorating their yards and trees with lights. In October the town hosts a two day Scandinavian Blues Party, followed by their annual Autumn Market.
Kokkola is home to two theatres, three art galleries, and numerous museums. It is also home to the renowned Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, and possesses a busy calendar of events and tourist attractions that would be the envy of much bigger towns. In short, you won't be bored.
The town boasts some fine facilities, with a modern sports hall, swimming pools, ice hockey rink, and a golf course. A trip out to the archipelago on one of the cruise ships is always a popular treat, and there are great opportunities for fishing, hiking, cycling, and bird watching in the region.
Kokkola has plenty of dining choices, ranging from budget pizza, kebab, and burger joints, right to the a la carte options available in the more upmarket restaurants and hotels. There are plenty of food markets during the year, where you'll find the freshest local produce, and can enjoy the bounty of the sea.
There are 4 good hotels in the city, all centrally located, and other choices available include a beach motel, rental cottages in a holiday village, bed and breakfast at the Old Vicarage, private rental cottages, camping and caravaning facilities, and lots more.
With countless factory outlets, antique shops, arts and handicrafts boutiques, and a handful of large shopping malls and department stores, you'll always be able to find something special in Kokkola. The town also has a history of haggling, so don't be afraid to try a bit of bargaining!
Bus services to Kokkola connect the town with the rest of the country, and there are also daily train connections with Helsinki and cities to the north. Kruunupyy airport is just 20km away, and has scheduled flights to Helsinki, and chartered flights to some European destinations.