Be Charmed by Hämeenlinna – the best tips for a day or weekend trip

“I didn’t even know that Hämeenlinna is so beautiful and so close!”

A sentence that every Hämeenlinna resident is guaranteed to have heard from a guest arriving for the first time in Hämeenlinna. Hämeenlinna is very close, just an hour’s drive from both Helsinki and Tampere.

That Hämeenlinna is beautiful is also certainly true. Finland’s oldest inland city was founded in 1639 on the shores of Lake Vanajavesi, next to a medieval stone castle, in a region famed for its natural beauty. Hämeenlinna became the first city in Finland to open a National Urban Park in 2001, and on the city’s edge lies one of Finland’s national landscapes, which opens up from the Aulanko Nature Reserve. These famous views have been a source of inspiration for artists and visitors for over a century and acknowledged by the composer Sibelius to have inspired his epic tone poem Finlandia.

Green parks and beach areas with cafés, restaurants, and summer terraces. Museums, exhibitions, idyllic little boutiques and flea markets. In the middle of the city, the Verkatehdas, which is pulsating with culture, and the Kantola event park, which has taken its place as an arena for mega-concerts. The relaxed feeling in the streets, the music carried away from Linnapuisto and the sound of the waves of Vanajavesi, which follows the outline of the city centre – all combining to make Hämeenlinna one of the most charming summer cities in Finland!

In addition to the castle and Sibelius, Hämeenlinna is also known for its wonderful nature destinations. The Aulanko and Ahvenisto nature reserves, the Evo hiking area, and Finland’s first national urban park with its coastal routes offer hundreds of hectares of nature experiences for hikers of all levels.

The Ahvenisto outdoor area and nature reserve

What does a Hämeenlinna resident do on a sunny summer’s day? Well, of course, pack a towel and lunch in a backpack and head to the Ahvenisto Nature Reserve! The refreshingly clear waters of Lake Ahvenistonjärvi with its magnificent sandy beaches and rugged forest ridges – what more can you hope for from a beach?

The beach has also a free-to-use hut with campfire sites, three beach volleyball courts, an ice cream parlor, and a children’s playground. On the beach, as a counterbalance to lounging, you can exercise on the winding outdoor running trails on the ridges of Ahvenisto, while those more adventurous can head to the climbing ropeways of Flowpark, an ecological adventure park.

Did you know that Hämeenlinna is Finland’s second official Olympic city in addition to Helsinki, and the 1952 Olympic pentathlon was competed in Ahvenisto? The Ahvenisto inland swimming pool was also built for the Olympics, which was recently restored to its historic splendour, and was chosen as a Sport Venue of the year in 2017. The pool has regular SuperWibit water park days for kids, and for the bravest the tower has jump levels from 1 to 10 meters.

Be enchanted by Aulanko

The Aulanko area is the jewel of Hämeenlinna, offering visitors both unique nature experiences and diverse leisure opportunities. Admire the scenery from the iconic  lookout tower, visit a bear cave, raise your heart rate on jogging trails, or enjoy lunch at the park tables by the idyllic Swan Pond – the Aulanko park forest is guaranteed to enchant its visitors!

Of course, Aulanko is much more than breathtaking scenery and outdoor trails: activities can be found from a riding school to an adventure park, and excellent golf facilities, which you can play in unique cultural landscapes on two courses. Visitors can rent SUP boards, canoes, kayaks, and fatbikes from Aulanko Outdoors. The active day is crowned by a relaxing jacuzzi and luxurious pampering treatments at the Aulanko Spa Hotel.

Be impressed by history of Linnanniemi

Did you know that the story of the city of Hämeenlinna began in Linnanniemi in 1639? Centred around the majestic 700-year-old Häme Castle, on the shores of Vanajavesi, a unique park-like complex has been built, located just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre.

The ensemble of three museums, Häme Castle, the Museo Militaria, and Finland’s largest Prison Museum Prison, offers interesting things to do and see for the whole family, and you can conveniently tour them with a common ticket. Don’t miss the sheep in their “summer jobs” as ecological lawn mowers on the castle slopes!

Linnanpuisto is also a popular place for leisure, with its scenic playgrounds and park cafés. Linnanpuisto also serves as an arena for high-level music events from the Kansan Wanaja Fest to rap festival Mellakka and the legendary LinnaJazz in Hämeenlinna.

There is a charming beach route that follows the beautiful beaches of Vanajavesi, and from Linnanniemi you can continue your journey to the National Urban Park, then along the railway bridge all the way to Aulanko Nature Reserve. Tip for Instagram photographers: In the National Urban Park you will find the most picturesque ruins in the county and lace huts!

Fall in love with Iittala

This year Iittala, known as a village of handicrafts, design and art, celebrates its 140th anniversary as a pioneer of progressive Nordic design! The Iittala glass factory has been blowing classics of Finnish glass design, such as Aalto vases, and in the glass factory’s visiting loft, you can follow the glassblowers’ work on classics. No reservation is required for the loft, you can pop in there on weekdays until 9 am to 3 pm. Please note that there is a change of shift from 2pm to 3pm, which is quiet at the factory.

At the Design Museum in Iittala, you can get acquainted with the success story of Finnish glass design in the exhibition of Finnish glass art icons and their creators, which opened in May. In the Iittala Outlet store, you will find all Iittala, Arabia, Fiskars and Hackman products under one roof. Hämeenlinna’s own chocolate factory, Kultasukla, has a wide selection of handcrafted delicacies.

Yes, Hämeenlinna is beautiful and very close. The third surprise for new visitors is often how active and rooted the cultural city of Hämeenlinna is. It is difficult to explain the attraction of Hämeenlinna in words – it is worth coming to experience for yourself!