With almost 20 museums, numerous art galleries and a city orchestra, Vaasa can lay claim to being the cultural heart of Ostrobothnia. A visit to Vaasa is always a rewarding experience, especially when you arrive during the Vaasa Choir Festival, the Korsholm Music Festival, the prestigious Jorma Panula Conducting Competition, or on Vaasa's popular Night of the Arts. Nature lovers know Vaasa for Terranova, which introduces the wonderful Kvarken Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and will delight in the Nature Trail at Öjberget which takes in the Öjbergsmossen bog, a giant's pot hole, a 'devil's field' and a dwarf pine-covered meteorite crater. At Meteoria Söderfjärden, among other things, is a bird-watching tower in the middle of the most important resting area for cranes in Finland.
The city of Vaasa is located on the west coast of Finland, at the narrowest point of the Gulf of Bothnia, a mere 80km (or 4 hours by ferry) from Umeå in Sweden. The city can trace its beginnings to the 14th century when Korsholm Castle was built near the village of Mustasaari, which was granted city status in 1606. In 1611 it was renamed Wasa, or Vaasa in Finnish, to honour the Swedish royal lineage. In 1852 most of the old town burned down, and was relocated 6km northwest when it was rebuilt, undergoing yet another change of name in the process: Nikolainkaupunki, in honour of Czar Nikolai I. Thanks to its new location by the sea, it became an important sea-faring city, as indicated by the fact that local business man Carl Gustaf Wolff was the biggest shipowner in Scandinavia at one point. The name of the city reverted to Vaasa once Finland proclaimed its independence in 1917.
Vaasa is quite a large city, with a population of just under 60,000, and has an abundance of museums to explore. These include the Vaasa Museum of Labour, Vaasan Sotaveteraanimuseo (War Veterans Museum), the Maritime Museum, Car & Motor Museum, Brage Open Air Museum, the Ostrobothnian Museum, Tikanoja Art Museum, KUNTSI Museum of Modern Art, Library Museum, Sundom Local Museum, and the Nelin-Cronström Home of Art. A must see is Terranova, which introduces the wonderful Kvarken Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is undergoing extremely fast uplift, at least by geological standards. The archipelago, which contains some 5,600 islands, is rising at a rate of about 8mm per annum, which is enough to create 1 square km of new land every year. The archipelago also has the distinction of being Finland's first World Natural Heritage site. Another very unusual attraction in the area is Meteoria Söderfjärden, which is located in the centre of an impact crater, and which houses an exhibition telling the 520 million years long story of Söderfjärden.
Vaasa also has a rich calendar of events which includes the Vaasa Choir Festival, an annual 5 day international event which usually takes place around the weekend of The Feast of the Ascension, or Ascension Day. There is also the Jorma Panula Conducting Competition, one of the most prestigious in Europe where the next generation of talented conductors display their talents. Visitors might also take in a performance by the Vaasa City Orchestra, who perform in Vaasa City Hall. This building was completed in the late 19th century and was designed by Magnus Isaeus in a combined neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque style. The main entrance and lobby, and indeed the assembly room, are beautifully decorated, with splendid paintings by Salomo Wuorio which date back to the 1890s.
Since 1983 the Korsholm Music Festival, also called Chamber Music & Light Nights, has brought leading Nordic and international artists to perform in one of Finland's most recognised chamber music festivals, with music ranging from baroque compositions to classical chamber works and new music. The quality of the musical performances combined with the famous daylight at night brings its own mood to this delightful coastal region, with music resounding in concert halls, restaurants, museums and idyllic church buildings. This year's festival will take place between the 27th of July and August 3rd, 2011. Later in August, Vaasa holds an annual Night of the Arts, a veritable smörgåsbord of art and culture.
There are a wealth of activities to choose from in Vaasa, whether you are of the fit and adventurous mold, or seeking something more relaxing. Nature lovers can explore the Kvarken archipelago, or choose one of the many hiking paths or tours. One of the most popular tours is the Nature Trail at Öjberget, where you can take 'a walk from the Öjbergsmossen bog to a giant's pot hole and over a devil's field to the dwarfed pine-tree-covered meteorite crater rim of Söderfjärden'. You can go bowling, hunting, climbing, cycling, parachuting, kayaking, canoing, swimming, or play tennis or golf. Families can enjoy the Wasalandia Theme Park, or the Tropiclandia Water Park with its amazing selection of water rides and chutes. In winter the usual pursuits are available, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, taking a snowmobile safari, or even ice-fishing in the sea.
Vaasa is a cultural haven with numerous museums and galleries, as well as a host of musical events held during the year. Among the best known of these musical happenings are the annual Vaasa Choir Festival, the Korsholm Music Festival, and RockPerry. There are seven churches to visit, and the city is liberally dotted with some beautiful sculptures, statues, and monuments.
Winter or Summer, there's always something to do in Vaasa. There are facilities for hiking, cycling, bowling, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, golfing, tennis, plus skiing, snowboarding, renting a snowmobile or taking a snowmobile safari.
Every palate and every budget is catered for in Vaasa, from traditional Ostrobothnian cuisine and delicacies, gourmet restaurants, ethnic restaurants, to pizzerias and kebab outlets. The nightlife of the city is rich and varied, with an abundance of lively bars and nightclubs.
Vaasa provides a wide range of accommodation, both in the city and in the surrounding regions, from top class hotels to picturesque inns in the archipelago. There are plenty of holiday cottages, holiday villages, bed and breakfasts, and relaxing spa hotels. On Vaskiluoto island you can stay at Top Camping, with facilities developed especially for families with kids, and within walking distance of the two Theme Parks.
As befits a city of its size, Vaasa has an abundance of shopping opportunities, with three fine shopping malls in the city centre, a bustling Market Hall where you can find plenty of locally produced food and drink, numerous boutiques and design stores, handicrafts and souvenir shops, plus flea markets for the bargain hunter.
Vaasa airport has regular flights to and from Helsinki, with Finnair, Blue1, Golden Air and Finncomm Airlines. Trains connect it Helsinki, Oulu and Rovaniemi, there are buses connecting it with Oulu, Turku, Tampere, Pori, and Kokkola, and a regular ferry between Vaasa and Holmsund in Sweden.