Rovaniemi, the business centre of Finnish Lapland since the 19th century, was razed to the ground by the Germans in the final days of World War II with only a handful of buildings left standing. Rebuilding after the war and economic development over the ensuing decades have left much of the city a featureless expanse of concrete blocks, regardless of Alvar Aalto's famous reindeer antler city plan (try to recognize it if arriving by plane). Rovaniemi became a city in 1960, and in 2006 it merged with the surrounding rural municipality.
Most tourists come because of Rovaniemi's central position for transportation, because of its location at the Arctic Circle or to see Father Christmas, but there are several sights worth a visit.
Because of its central location and status, Rovaniemi has become a center of education in Finnish Lapland. There are as many as 10 000 university and university of applied sciences level students living in Rovaniemi. Compared to the number of inhabitants living in the old city area (pre-2006), as many as one in three or four people are students. During summers this shows as a large drop in the number of people vacating the city.
The river Kemijoki, notable for being the longest river in Finland, runs next to the city center. On the west side of the river there is a large hill called Ounasvaara.
Rovaniemi Airport (RVN or EFRO), 8 km (5 miles) north from the city center, is the largest airport in northern Finland. Most of the flights go south to Helsinki, served by Finnair and Norwegian Air Shuttle. Air fares are sometimes cheaper than corresponding train connections. There are also seasonal charter and scheduled flight from international destinations, mostly in the UK.
Taxi cabs are readily available at the airport, but are costly. Airport Taxi Rovaniemi  provides minibus shuttle service between the airport and city centre hotels, fare €7 per person one way. The service is available for every departing and arriving scheduled flight. Local bus service (Line 8 ) is even cheaper (€3.9), but slower, and is of use only for some flights (check Google maps for timetables ).
Most long-distance buses towards the north (e.g. Pyhä-Luosto, Sodankylä, Saariselkä and Ivalo) stop at the airport, but timetables may not be ideal if arriving by plane.
Rovaniemi is the terminus of most trains from the south. The line extends only a little further north-east to Kemijärvi. The journey from Helsinki takes 9–12 hours and is reasonably comfortable in a sleeper. You can also take your car with you. The railway station is next to the city centre and is within an easy walking distance – you facing north when you exit the station, and the city centre is to your right, to the north-east. Most of the long-distance buses stop here as well.
Coming by bus from the south is relatively cheap but requires about 14 hours of sitting.
Gold Line and possibly other companies operate daily night buses to Rovaniemi from Helsinki via Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Timetables and tickets available through Matkahuolto. There's also a seasonal Onnibus connection, not listed by Matkahuolto.
The bus station is in the centre, a few hundred metres from the railway station.
Rovaniemi is an important road hub in Finnish Lapland. Some of the most important roads are:
- Highway 4 (Finland) from Kemi (southwest) and Ivalo (north). This highway goes all the way down to Helsinki, about 850 km south of Rovaniemi
- Highway 78 from Ranua, Pudasjärvi and Paltamo near Kajaani (south-southeast)
- Highway 79 from Kittilä (northwest)
- Highway 81 from Kuusamo (southeast)
- Highway 82 from Kemijärvi (northeast)
The core of the city is small (a radius of about one kilometre), i.e. everything there is easily reached by walking. Some attractions located farther away might require other forms of transportation.
Local transportation is provided by private bus companies. Information about local buses can be found here. You can use route planner to seek local bus routes between given locations and addresses. Local transport is more frequent during daytime of weekdays of school years and less frequent during weekends, summer time, evening and night time.
The Rollaattori city guide, a must for younger or younger-minded travellers, is sold at locations including railway station's restaurant, Suomalainen kirjakauppa bookstore, City Hall and Roifoto. Created by a few locals who got tired of existing brochures and decided to make their own, the Rollaattori guide lists places which are popular among locals but not mentioned in guidebooks or official Rovaniemi city guides.
Most tourists come to Rovaniemi for precisely one thing: Santa.
- 1 Santa Claus Village. 8 km north of Rovaniemi and right on the old computed place of the Arctic Circle (now computed to be 2 km north), is a tourist trap if there ever was one – but few tourists can miss the chance to meet Santa himself. Apart from meeting the man, there are also other attractions like small-scale sledding hills for kids, the Santa Claus post office with special stamps and souvenir shops. The village hosts also several safari companies that organize various activities. During dark times the village has nicely lit ice sculptures. Bus number 8 goes from town to the village.
- 2 Santapark. Underground amusement park within walking distance from Santa Claus Village. €20/adults, €10/children.
- 3 Administrative and Cultural Centre. The rebuilding of Rovaniemi after World War II was largely planned by famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto – particularly its reindeer antler layout. He also designed the Administrative and Cultural Centre which includes the Lappia Hall (culture and congress centre), public library and city hall.
- 4 Arktikum, Pohjoisranta 4 (opposite to Marttiini), ☏ . 10:00–17:00 daily in summer, Tu–Su in winter. One of the best museums and science centres in Finland, focusing on life in the Arctic regions through the ages. Lockers available. Cold in winter time. €12 for adults, €8 or €7 for students, re-entry at same day free of charge.
- 5 Pilke Science Centre, Ounasjoentie 6 (next to Arktikum), ☏ . Tu–F 09:00–18:00, Sa Su 10:00–18:00. Those attracted by northern forests will want to visit Pilke, where exhibitions describe sustainable use of northern forests and diverse yields, forest products and commodities. Same day re-entry free of charge, lockers available. €7/5, reduced price for students and children 7–15.
- 6 Lutheran church. Built 1950, near the administrative centre. Famous for its considerable large fresco "Spring of the Life" by professor Lennart Segerstråle. The fresco uses elements of Lapland in Biblical context (for example there are no lambs but reindeer). There is nice park by the pool Kirkkolampi right next to the church.
- 7 Orthodox church, Ounasvaarantie 16. A small Orthodox church is on the other side of Kemijoki river.
- 8 Korundi House of Culture, Lapinkävijäntie 4 (near shopping centre). Tu-Su. Art, music and events. Art museum collection consists mostly of modern Finnish art. Home of the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland. €8/adult, €5/students, €3/children (7-15).
- 9 Jätkänkynttilä bridge (Jätkänkynttilän silta). One of the most important symbols of Rovaniemi. It runs over the Kemijoki close the northern end of the city center. Bridge has a high pylon with bright yellow light on top.
- 10 Log Train Terminal (about a kilometre west from the train station). Might be worth of seeing during dark times, as the cranes that lift the logs have lights on their arms. Climb to the opposite hill and sit on the fence for a nice view.
- 11 German Soldier Cemetery (in Norvajärvi, 19 km northeast from Rovaniemi). Constructed of large stone blocks and located virtually in the middle of nowhere it might be of interest to some. During autumn one can eat berries on the way.
- 12 Hiidenkirnut (22 km south from Rovaniemi, turn left from the road 926). Fourteen giants kettles (hiidenkirnut), including three very deep ones, can be found from Sukulanrakka slopes near the island of Rautiosaari.
- 13 Auttiköngäs (by road 81 Rovaniemi–Posio, 80 km from Rovaniemi centre). 16 metres waterfall and old forest. Bus stop at the road, parking area 1 km farther. 50 m steep trail for wheelchairs (assistance needed) to a hut with view to the rapids, 3.5 km nature trail through varying terrain, with campfire sites; reserve plenty of time.
- The famous midnight sun, when the sun doesn't set at all, is seen between June 6th and July 7th. The night sky is luminous from May until mid August. At wintertime auroras are seen on most nights if the sky is clear.
Various Arctic safari companies, many of which are on the west bank of the river, can arrange all sorts of cold and snowy activities like snowmobile safaris, husky sledding and reindeer sledding. Most of the tour operators have summer activities available too.
- 1 Lapland Safaris, Koskikatu 1 (On the west bank of the river, next to Hotel Pohjanhovi), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- 2 Unique Lapland, Koskikatu 14, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Produces program services, rents and sells snowmobiles, roadsters, and ATVs, organizes events, concerts, training and coaching and sells high quality outdoor clothing.
- 3 Ounasvaara winter sports resort, Taunontie 14, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Located on the large hill Ounasvaara couple of kilometres from the centre.
- 4 Santa Claus Golf, Golfkentäntie 43 (close to the skiing resort), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Nine-hole golf course.
In summertime you may hike on the marked routes around Ounasvaara's forests. Interestingly there are some rocky areas, which are ancient shores from the time of ice age, still visible by these routes. Prepare to face mosquitoes in the forest... From the top of the hill you'll find great views to the forests, hills and swamps outside the city. The city centre is not very easy to see from the top, however a short walk to the Belvedere viewing tower provides an excellent panorama.
In summer there is a small sand beach next to the camping area on the Ounasvaara side of the Kemijoki. Swimming close to the shore is safe but because of the dangerously strong stream, do not even consider to swim across the river!
There are a few places that offer bicycle rentals in town, including Hostel Cafe Koti and the Lauri guesthouse. The Tourist Information Center can provide up-to-date information.
- 5 Arctic Circle National Hiking Area (by E75, 20 km east of Rovaniemi centre). Hiking area with much infrastructure, such as lean-to shelters. There are three trail heads with parking areas. Coaches to Kemijärvi or Sodankylä stop at Lake Vikajärvi, near one of them. Two nature trails (200 m and 1.5 km) are suitable for wheelchairs and prams, the longer with assistance or motor. There are also longer or more demanding nature trails, as well as marked hiking trails, the longest, Olkkajärvi Hiking Trail of 12 km each way, requiring some hiking skills, suitable footwear and possibly equipment for an overnight stay.
- 6 Kalliosalmi–Olkkajärvi canoe route (starting point at Kalliosalmi by road 82, to Kemijärvi, some 55 km from Rovaniemi centre). 64 km canoe route. The last 23 km section, through the Arctic Circle hiking area, is the most demanding. Earlier on the route services are scarce.
Festivals and eventsEdit
- 1 Sampokeskus. Shopping centre, main entrance on Lordi Square
- 2 [formerly dead link] Rinteenkulma. Shopping centre, main entrance next to Scandic hotel
- 3 Revontuli. Shopping centre, next to Rinteenkulma, main entrance above highway E75
- 4 Marttiini factory outlet (opposite Arktikum). Offers the famous knives.
A traditional meal is sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys), consisting of reindeer meat cut in slices and stewed on a frying pan with butter and water. A "bowl" of mashed potatoes is made on the plate and filled with stewed meat. This is garnished with lingonberry jam and slices of pickled cucumber. It's worth trying out once at least - you should be able to find this dish in most restaurants around town.
University canteens offer cheap alternatives (€2.50–5 per meal for students, subsidized by the state; €7 for guests), but the meals are served only around noon.
- Rotko (Faculty of Art & Design). University canteen opposite the railway station.
- 1 Railway station restaurant. The restaurant at the railway station is not bad or expensive either. Ask for student pizzas.
- 2 Golden Rax Pizza Buffet (at crossing of Koskikatu and Korkalonkatu). Self-service all-you-can-eat-and-drink pizzas, chicken wings, lasagne etc.
- 3 Ciao Ciao, Maakuntakatu 29 (Behind Lordi's Square). Serves good kebab & pizza. Try the kebab roll! (Rullakebab).
- 4 Meidän Kebab, Koskikatu 9.
- 5 Haruno Pizza & Kebab, Korkalonkatu 27.
- 6 McDonalds, Poromiehentie 3. Open 24 hr. Supposed to be the world's northernmost McD, but that's wrong as McD in Murmansk (Russia) is more north.
- 7 Curry Masala, Valtakatu 33, ☏ . M-Th 11:00-22:00, F 11:00-23:00, Sa 12:00-23:00, Su 12:00-21:00. Indian and Nepalese restaurant with a good range of meat and vegetarian dishes. Very good value buffet M-Th lunchtime for €9.50, including soup, coffee and mangolassi.
- 8 Torikeidas, Lapinkävijäntie 3 (Near Kauppatori, across from the bus station). From mid-morning to very, very late. Grill.
On the main central square (former Sampoaukio, now Lordi aukio) there is often a fisherman selling freshly caught and pan-fried vendace (muikku), a small freshwater whitefish.
- 9 Fransmanni, Koskikatu 4 (at Sokos Hotel Vaakuna), ☏ . M-F 11:00-23:00, Sa Su 12:00-23:00. Traditional Lappish dishes, French cooking and one of the best bars in town.
- 10 Cafe Toivo, Rovakatu 14, ☏ . M-F 07:30-17:00, Sa 10:00-14:00. Excellent baked goods and lunch. Very fresh ingredients and all made on site including baked goods.
- 11 Restaurant Saihu, Toukolantie 49, Hirvas (In the village of Hirvas, opposite the turn to Kalliokumpu, at Hotel Metsähirvas (formerly the Forestry School)), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Dinner Tue-Sat 16:00-21:00, Breakfast Mon-Fri 07:00-10:00 and Sat-Sun 08:00-11:00. A well-hidden restaurant with comfortable atmosphere and a short but very good menu featuring reindeer, moose, and salmon.
- 1 Doris. Next door to the Restaurant Fransmanni, next to all the safari companies. Fashionable crowd, safari guides, hotel guests and high school students.
- 2 Kahvila Kauppayhtiö, Valtakatu 24 (100 metres from Hotel Santa Claus), ☏ . Sandwich shop, ice cream, milkshakes, sushi restaurant and bar. Its slogan is "the café where everything is for sale".
- 3 Paha Kurki, Koskikatu 5, ☏ . Notable rock-ish beerhouse, located opposite to the safari company offices near the river.
- 4 Tivoli, Valtakatu 19 (200 metres from Hotel Santa Claus). Two-room night club popular among students, famous for its Beach Party in February. Occasional live acts. safari guides and a bit more older crowd.
- 5 Zoomit. Café and bar in Hotel Santa Claus
- 1 [dead link] Guesthouse Borealis, Asemieskatu 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a very friendly guesthouse located in the immediate vicinity of the railway station. Cross the road from the railway station, directly in front of you is the red-yellowish university building, find a small walking road to your left (facing the building) that goes uphill. Turn left to the bigger road and walk 25 metres (80 feet). If you are looking for a warm and hospitable place to stay then this is worth checking out.
- 2 [dead link] Hostel Rudolph, Koskikatu 41-43, ☏ , fax: . Inexpensive, but the reception for this location is off-site; check-in is at the reception of the Santa Claus Hotel just down from Lordi's Square. €50/double.
- 3 B&B Reindeerstreet 24, Porokatu 24, ☏ . Friendly bed & breakfast next to Ounasvaara, about 1.3 km from downtown, can arrange tours and activities during your stay.
- 4 Ounaskoski Camping, Jäämerentie 1, ☏ . Camping site (100 places) on the other side of the river with view of the city, c-store, cafeteria, laundry, sauna, playground. From €15/RV or €14/tent, +€6 for power (10A), +€7/person.
- 5 Hostel Café Koti, Valtakatu 21, Rovaniemi, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. from €30 for a bed in a 10-bed dorm, from €99 for a double room.
- 6 Scandic Hotel, Koskikatu 23 (in city centre), ☏ .
- 7 City Hotel, Pekankatu 9, ☏ , fax: . In the heart of Rovaniemi, next to Sampokeskus shopping mall and Lordi's Square.
- 8 Cumulus Rovaniemi, Valtakatu 23, ☏ . Mid-priced hotel, centrally located.
- 9 Santa Claus Holiday Village, Tähtikuja 2, ☏ . Hotel-like accommodation in cabins in Santa Claus Village, Arctic Circle.
- Lapland City Apartments, Varies. Small but comfortable apartment close to the town centre, including fridge, oven, microwave, shower, television and optional internet. Booked through booking.com. prices may vary if shared. €87 per night single plus €5 internet.
The Hotel Santa Claus has a laptop in the lobby, meant for guests, where anyone can sit at the computer and use the Internet for free.
There is Internet access via Wi-Fi in the main library, and using their computers is possible but might require a reservation, ask at the desk.
Free Wi-Fi access is available in the 'trendy' coffee shop Kauppayhtiö, and the 'authentic Lapland' Pub Tupsu, and the Arktikum.