Kemi – Tornio
photo © Visit Finland
Tourism Kemi & Tornio
In the northernmost shores of the Gulf of Bothnia lie the towns of Kemi and Tornio, in an area now known as Sea Lapland. Kemi in particular has been gaining an international reputation for tourism, in part due to the magnificent SnowCastle that is built there every winter since 1996 and is the largest snow building in the world. Less than 30 minutes north, nestled on the Swedish border, Tornio uniquely blends the two cultures in an exciting mixture of art, handicrafts and history. During the summer months visitors are attracted to the region by the white-water rivers and spectacular Bothnian Bay National Park archipelago, which provide a wealth of opportunities for fishing, river rafting and sailing. Inland, Aavasaksa Kruununpuisto Park is the oldest tourist destination in the country, and boasts the beautiful Aavasaksa Pavilion and Keisarinmaja, the Imperial Lodge.
Tourist attractions Kemi & Tornio
By far the most famous attraction in Kemi is the SnowCastle, which is rebuilt every winter and is open from the beginning of January until April. It is the biggest snow castle in the world, and features a snow restaurant with ice tables and seats, a SnowChapel, a SnowHotel, as well as an adventure land for children and ice art exhibitions.
Kemi is also home to the only Arctic icebreaker which serves as a cruise ship in the frozen winter seas. The Icebreaker Sampo offers some truly unique experiences, including dips into the freezing waters wrapped safely in a waterproof thermal suit, cruises under the incredible northern lights in mid winter, or through the brilliant white landscapes in the bright sunshine of early spring.
Kemi is rich in culture, and the Kemi Cultural Centre houses the city’s library, theatre, and museum, as well as two auditoriums used for concerts, exhibitions, and seminars. Kemi is also home to the Gemstone Gallery, the largest collection of gems in Europe, as well as the Kemi Art Museum, the Kemi Museum of History, and the Kemi Workers Museum. The cultural attractions in Tornio include the Alatornio Village Museum, the Historical Museum of Tornio River Valley, Aavasaksa Pavilion and the Aine Art Museum.
There are some interesting churches in Kemi, and in particular in Keninmaa, which used to be the original town but is now a small suburb. Here you’ll discover the old church of St. Michael which was built between 1519 and 1521, the most northern medieval stone church in Finland, which houses the mummified body of priest Nikolaus Rungius, and some beautiful ceiling paintings. Opposite you’ll find the later church, completed in 1827, designed by C.L. Engel. Architect Josef Stenbäck designed the main church in Kemi, it was completed in 1902 and is also worth a visit, as is the Paattionlehto Chapel designed by Osmo Sipari.
In Tornio, the Church of Alatornio dates from 1797 but there has been a church on this site since medieval times. Tornio also boasts a lovely Orthodox church, which was founded in the beginning of 1800s for the Russian troops stationed by the Swedish border. The cruciform Church of Karungi was built between 1815 and 1817 by A. W. Arppe and is made of logs. However, the true masterpiece is the Church of Tornio, which was completed in 1686, is supported by pillars and is the largest remaining of its kind.