City of Lappeenranta (population 60,000) is the economic and cultural center of southeast Finland situated at the southern edge of the Saimaa, the largest lake (system) of Finland. Its culture and dialects are strongly part of Eastern Finland, although it administratively belongs to the Province of Southern Finland. Lappeenranta has a colourful, over 350-year-old history between the east and the west.
Picture taken in Lappeenranta harbour, facing downtown (which is uphill..) on October 1st, 2008.
Two highways, 6 and 13 pass through Lappeenranta. Bus companies operate frequently to Helsinki and other cities, even Saint Petersburg in Russia. Highway 13 extends to the Russian border, some 25 km from the city center, where the Nuijamaa border station is the second busiest border crossing in Finland. Russian tourists usually use this pathway to come to the city either by bus or a car.
The main railway station of Lappeenranta connects the city to the rest of Finland with fairly modern trains, operated by VR . The travel time to Helsinki is currently 2 - 2½ hours. The new shortcut line opened in September 2006 shortened that by roughly half an hour. Trains to Saint Petersburg and Moscow stop at a smaller station in Vainikkala, located near the Russian border.
The airport is located perfectly only 2 km from the center. It is the oldest in Finland established in 1918 with frequent flights mainly to/from Helsinki. Flights to St. Petersbourg, Russia are planned in the future.
Lappeenranta is a popular destination for boaters within the Saimaa lake area. Cruise boats sometimes operate from Lappeenranta to other destinations within the lake area. Lappeenranta is connected to the Gulf of Finland through the Saimaa canal. Cruise boats only operate from Lappeenranta to Vyborg, Russia through the canal, but it is popular among boaters, and private boats come sometimes from as far as Southern Europe.
Everything is within walking distance at the center. Even the airport is within walking range if you do not have much luggage, but taxi is probably preferable.
Getting further to the suburbs is easy by bus.
Historical fortress, . Visit the fortress, the original city center which was established in mid-17th century. The old buildings include the oldest orthodox church in Finland, completed in 1785, as well as the Museum of South Carelia and the Art Museum of South Carelia.
Sandcastle, the biggest one in Scandinavia, . Each summer an ever larger sandcastle is built by artists on the northern end of the harbour area. Each year they have a different theme and make sculptures on the walls of the castle accordingly. There is a small theatre inside the castle playing acts intended mainly to children and families.
Harbour area. The harbour, the parks nearby, the fortress and Myllysaari beach are a perfect place to chill out in summertime, sitting on the terraces, drinking, eating and watching the boats and things that happen. Live music played on many summer days. Early in August there is a popular festival called "Linnoituksen yö" (Engl. The Night of the Fortress) in the harbour and fortress area.
Lake Saimaa and The Saimaa Canal. Take a cruise from Lappeenranta to the Saimaa, Saimaa canal or Vyborg, Russia through the canal! This canal was build to connect the Saimaa to the Baltic Sea at the dawn of industrialisation. The canal was modernized in the 1960s. Finland pays rent for the Russian parts of the canal. The current hire contract expires on 2013, and Finland is currently trying to start negotiating extension to the contract. The canal itself connects to the Bay of Finland, on Russian territory, close to Vyborg (Finn. Viipuri). The canal is mostly used by cargo ships, but there are also passenger boats operating from Lappeenranta to Vyborg. It is also used by private boats from Finland and abroad.
In winter, the city seems to quiet down a little. The main attractions during winter are the city theatre and major league ice hockey and basketball games. Also many possibilities exist for practising winter sports. There are tens of kilometres worth of cross-country skiing tracks (a popular stage circles around the airport), and also a small downhill skiing slope. Many outdoor and indoor ice-rinks are available for skating. The city bay becomes a skating track during winter.
Small coffee booths at the harbour and the market place (Kauppatori) offer traditional meat pies called vety (Eng. "hydrogen") and atomi (Eng. "atom"). Vety consists of a meat pie, ham, boiled egg and condiments. Atomi has either ham or egg, but not both. Also other snack food is offered by the booths.
Many pizzerias, fast food places and ethnic restaurants are available in the city.
Wolkoff, Kauppakatu 26, tel. +358 5 4150320. Mon-Fri 11AM-11PM, Sat 4:30PM-11PM, Sundays closed. A nice, cozy 50-seat restaurant in a historical 150-year-old house. Non-smoking. In the summertime, seats also available on the courtyard. Main dishes €14-28.
Majurska, Kristiinankatu 1, tel. +358 5 4530554, . 10AM-8PM daily in summer, 10AM-5PM at other times. A romantic café in the historical old Fortress. Delicious homebaked cakes and tarts.
Prinsessa Armaada, harbour, tel. +358 5 4513376, . 10AM-2AM daily in summer (subject to weather). A popular hangout place in the summer, this restaurant is built on an old parked steamboat. Most people come here for drinks, although they also serve food (main dishes €9-17). Another similar boat restaurant, S/S Suvi-Saimaa, is located next to Prinsessa Armaada.
An old, classy restaurant, Kasino, has also a separate terrace docked on the water at the harbour.
Most of the other popular bars are located in the city centre.
Some mid-range and budget hotels are present. Local student housing foundation, LOAS , offers affordable accommodation during the summer months for tourists.
Lappeenranta is a safe city very accustomed to foreigners. Lappeenranta is the second most popular destination in Finland, mainly due to Russian shopping tourists, but also many other nationalities visit during summer months.