Kemi is a town in Finnish Lapland, at the northernmost tip of the Gulf of Bothnia. Most tourists are drawn by two wintry sights: its world famous Lumilinna Snow Castle & Hotel and the unusual chance to have an icebreaker cruise. The city also boasts an array of shops, restaurants and bars. By its character, Kemi is far more like an ordinary Finnish town than something Lappish.
The surrounding countryside is a separate municipality, Keminmaa.
Kemi is an industrial town dominated by a Metsä Group 1 pulp mill and Veitsiluoto 2 paper mill. The 3 Kemi mine in Keminmaa is the only chromium mine in Europe. The chromium is used in Tornio's stainless steel mill, which was established for this particular reason, 30 km away.
The area surrounding the mouth of the river Kemi (Finnish: Kemijoki) has been subject to agriculture at least since the 13th century. The Kemi parish was mentioned in 1329, but it was only in 1856 that Emperor Alexander II of Russia established the town. It was built according to a strict grid plan, which still makes finding places in downtown Kemi fairly simple.
A sawmill on the Laitakari island started in 1863; the economy in newborn Kemi was heavily based on forest industry. The railway connected the town to southern Finland in 1903, and in 1939 the harbor moved from downtown to Ajos, about 10 km off-town. Today Kemi has one of the few deep-water harbours in Finland. During the World War II aftermath known as the Lapland War, retreating German troops devastated public buildings, and all the bridges over the Kemijoki river, but left private houses untouched.
In July 1949 the government wanted to cut the wages of lumber workers, who went into a strike against the plans. In August 18th 1949 the strike ended up into a bloody conflict between the police and over 3,000 lumber workers and harbour dockers. This "Bloody Thursday" is so far the last fatal political protest in Finland.
Due to its labour activist past Kemi has got fame as a "red town". Still the Left Alliance and the Social Democratic Party have more than half of the city council seats, making Kemi a political curiosity in Finland.
Modern-day Kemi has slightly over 20,000 inhabitants. The population trend is declining.
- 1 Kemi-Tornio Airport (KEM IATA). 6 km (3.7 mi) from the city. Finnair has one or two daily flights from Helsinki, flights taking about an hour.
There are no passenger services across from Sweden, as the rail gauge is different. Within Finland, trains from Rovaniemi take about 1½ hours, while a trip all the way from Helsinki, fairly comfortable if done in a sleeper overnight, is 9 hours.
2 Kemi train station (Kemin rautatieasema). There are a few lockers available inside the station. A sign also mentions luggage storage at the nearby cafe Hertta for (a more expensive) €5.
Buses head over the Swedish border at Tornio/Haparanda (30 min), coming from Luleå (2½ hr), to where there are trains from the south (and from Narvik in Norway). Buses from Luleå are free with most rail passes.
3 Kemi bus station (Kemin linja-autoasema) (100 m up the street from the railway station). Tickets can be bought online from Matkahuolto.
- Kemi Yachting Club, Luulajantie 11, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest marina at local sailing clubs: depth 2.4 m; electricity, water supply, WC, shower, laundry, waste bin, fuel. Restaurants nearby with sauna and Wi-Fi. €10/night, third night €5.
Kemi is a little north of the mid-point of highway 4 (part of E75) connecting Helsinki to Utsjoki (near Nuorgam at the northernmost point of the country); from either of these it's about 9 hours of driving depending on the road conditions. Oulu and Rovaniemi are both a little over an hour away along the same highway.
Easily by walking. Kemin Taksipalvelu Oy operates local bus lines (PDF) (timetables summer 2020) in Kemi with just a few departures a day. There is a route planner for local transport trips. Aside from these your options for getting around without walking (or biking) are driving or taking a taxi.
- 1 Kemi Snow Castle (Lumilinna), Lumilinnankatu 15, Kemi. Jan 18 - Apr 15. The biggest snow castle in the world, built yearly in Kemi, Finland since 1996. About 300,000 people visited the first snow castle. The area covered by the castle has varied from 13,000 to over 20,000 m². The highest towers have been over 20 m high and longest walls over 1,000 m long, and the castle has had up to three stories. The SnowRestaurant has ice tables, seats covered with reindeer fur, and ice sculptures. The ecumenical SnowChapel with 50–100 seats has seen numerous weddings, of couples from as far as Japan and Hong Kong. There is also a Snow Hotel in the snow castle, with double rooms and a honeymoon suite. The Snow Castle of Kemi also hosts such things as an adventure land for kids, theatre and ice art exhibitions with lights and sound effects. Many opera singers and dancers have performed in the SnowCastle of Kemi. €29.
- 2 Kemi Church (Kemin kirkko). Gothic revival church completed in 1902.
- 3 Keminmaa old church, Mikaelintie. open during the summer season. One of the northernmost medieval churches in the world and the northernmost one in Finland. Although said to be built around 1520 the church is probably built between 1530–1550, in the very end of the catholic era. This church is one of the most popular attractions in Lapland. The main reason is undecomposed body of priest Nicolaus Rungius who died in 1629. Taking photos of the mummy is forbidden. The new church, built in 1827, is across the road.
- 4 Arctic Gems & Comics (Kemin jalokivigalleria), Rantabulevardi 2, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The largest collection of gemstones in Europe. The gem stone gallery was established in 1986 by goldsmith Teuvo Ypyä. The well known specialty is the crown designed for the King of Finland in 1918. Since 2019 the Kemi comics center has got their comics exhibition in the same building. Tickets €10/6, children 4–11.
- 5 City hall (Kaupungintalo). The most visible building in the town and excellent landmark. It has 13 floors and is 51 meters tall. Built in 1940 it was so steady that even German troops failed to explode it during the Lapland War! Cafeteria and viewing platform are located on the top floor.
- 6 Pohjanranta church, Pohjantie 23. A modern wood shingle(!) church, built in 2010.
- 1 Icebreaker cruise (Ajos, 11 km from Kemi). approx Dec-Apr. In the winter, there are cruises of either 3 or 4 hours on board Sampo out into the Gulf of Bothnia. Depending on the ice conditions the cruise includes either walking on the sea ice or floating in the water wearing a survival suit. There's a restaurant on board the ship. In the summer the ship is anchored and open to visitors. A fun fact is that Sampo is the only Arctic icebreaker in the world solely used for tourist cruises. You can get to Ajos, where the ship departs from, by your own car or by the cruise company's bus from Kemi (an outrageous €39/return and has to be reserved at the same time you reserve your cruise). From €200.
- 2 Watch a football game. Summer. PS Kemi Kings football team plays their home games in the city centre football stadium.
- Satama Open Air: 2–3 August 2019. A rock festival in Kemi (date needs updating)
Reindeer skin rugs are available year round in speciality stores from around €60.
The city centre has a number of shops, including supermarkets, clothes, sports and photography shops.
- 1 Ravintola Merihovi, Keskuspuistokatu 6.
- 2 [dead link] Ravintola Samaani, Valtakatu 1. x.
- 3 Ravintola Pursiseura, Luulajantie 11.
- 4 [dead link] Hoa Phong Lan-Orkidean kukka (Vietnamese), Valtakatu 5.
All are located in the city centre of Kemi and are within 5 minutes walk from the railway station and all hotels.
Kemi has a varied selection of bars, pubs and nightclubs with students often filling them midweek, and locals each weekend.
The most popular bars in Kemi include:
- 1 Punainen Kukko, Valtakatu.
Nightclub choice is reasonably good:
- 2 Corner Inn, Kauppakatu 10. 4 bars within one, with the rooms including Suomi Pop, Karaoke, Pub and Club. Entrance is free with beer typically costing €4 per glass (0.4 L) although in some karaoke bars it is available for as little as €2.50. Cider is around €5 while alcopops and spirit based drinks will cost from €7.
- The city of Rovaniemi and its world-famous Santa Claus Village are approximately 80 minutes drive North from the city, using Highway 4.
- Tornio-Haparanda Golf Club is an internationally-known course which has holes starting and finishing in Finland and Sweden. The course is approximately 20 minutes drive north in the city of Tornio. A round costs €30 in summer, while snow golf is also available in winter.
- Bothnian Bay National Park is a maritime national park out to sea. It is accessible only by boat.
|Routes through Kemi|
|Sundsvall / Kilpisjärvi ← Tornio ←||NW SE||→ Simo → Oulu|
|Vardø ← Rovaniemi ←||N S||→ merges with (S)|