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Rovaniemi

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Finnish Lapland : Rovaniemi
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Rovaniemi [1] is the capital of Finnish Lapland.

Understand

Rovaniemi has been the business centre of Finnish Lapland since the 19th century. It was razed to the ground by the Germans in the final days of World War II, with only a handful of buildings left standing. The rebuilding after the war and the economic development in the ensuing decades have left much of the city a featureless expanse of concrete blocks. Officially Rovaniemi became a city in 1960, and in 2006 it merged with the surrounding rural municipality of Rovaniemi.

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.

Get In

By plane

Rovaniemi Airport [2] (RVN or EFRO), located eight kilometers north from the city center, is the largest airport in northern Finland. Most of the flights go south to Helsinki, but it fields a limited number of international flights mostly to North Russian destinations like Murmansk. To get to the city center you have to take a bus or a taxi. Flights from Helsinki, operated by Finnair or Blue1, may be cheaper than corresponding train.

By train

Rovaniemi is the terminus of most trains from the south. The line extends only a little further northeast 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 located right next to the city centre and is within an easy walking distance - you facing north when you exit the station, and the city center is to your right, to the northeast. Most of the long-distance buses stop here as well.

Rovaniemi Santa Claus Village

By bus

Gold Line [3] and Oy Matkahuolto Ab [4] operate daily night buses to Rovaniemi from Helsinki via Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Coming by bus from the south is relatively cheap but requires about 14 hours of sitting.

The bus station is in the city center and is just a few hundred meters away from the railway station.

Get around

The city center itself is very small with a radius of about one kilometer, and everything inside it is within an easy walking distance. Only some of the tourist attractions are located farther away from the center and might require other forms of transportation than your feet.

There are several bus companies providing transportation to other local areas in Rovaniemi, but the schedules are bad during weekends and summers. During evenings and nights there is practically no bus service available.

The Rollaattori city guide that can be bought from the restaurant at the railway station, Suomalainen kirjakauppa-bookstore, City hall, Roifoto etc. is a must for younger or younger-minded travellers. Rollaattori is made by few locals who got tired of existing brochures, so they made their own. Rollaattori guides you to places which are meaningful to local people too, but which are not mentioned in "ordinary" guidebooks like Lonely Planet or official Rovaniemi city guides.

See

File:Rovaniemi on map.JPG
Rovaniemi on the map

Most tourists come to Rovaniemi for precisely one thing: The Santa.

  • Santa Claus Village [5], 8 km north of Rovaniemi and right on the old computed place of the Arctic Circle (currently computed to be 2km 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, Santa Claus post office with nice special stamp, souvenir shops etc. 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.
Rovaniemi statistics
  • Within some walking distance from the Santa Claus Village is Santapark [6]. An underground amusement park. Santapark has been under heavy re-decoration recently and should now be much less Disney-style place than before. Ticket price is €20 for adults and €10 for children but considerable place to visit still.
Santa Claus Village
  • 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.
  • Arktikum. Pohjoisranta 4 (opposite to Marttiini), tel. 016 322 3260, [7]. One of the best museums and science centers in Finland, focusing on life in Lapland and arctic region through the ages. Admission €12 for adults, €8 or €7 for students, re-entry at same day free of charge, open 10AM-5 PM daily (but closed Monday in winter). Lockers available. Cold in winter time.
  • Lutheran church is build 1950 and it's located close to administrative center. Church is famous for it's considerable large fresco "Spring of the Life" by professor Lennart Segerstråle. Interestingly the fresco uses elements of Lapland in Biblical context (for example there are no lambs but reindeers). There is nice park by the pool Kirkkolampi right next to the church. A small orthodox church is on the other side of Kemijoki river (address: Ounasvaarantie 16).
  • Art museum [8] is located not very far from the shopping centre. It's collection consists mostly of modern Finnish art. Ticket price is €4/adult, €2 for students and free for people under 18 years old. Museum is closed on Mondays and has free entry on Saturdays.
  • Jätkänkynttilä bridge is 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.
  • Log Train Terminal, about a kilometer 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.
  • German Soldier Cemetery is 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.
  • 14 giants kettes (hiidenkirnut), including three very deep ones, can be found from Sukulanrakka slopes near the island of Rautiosaari, (22 km south from Rovaniemi, turn left from the road 926).

The famous midnight sun is seen between June 6th and July 7th while Sun doesn't set at all. Nightsky is luminous from May until mid August. At wintertime auroras are seen on most nights if the sky is clear.

Do

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 and dog sledding. Most of the tour operators have summer activities available too.

  • Fintravel Tour Operators Ltd, Koskikatu 36-38, +358 403 447 770 (, fax: +358 403 447 771), [9].
  • Lapland Safaris (Tour operator), Koskikatu 1 (On the west bank of the river, next to Hotel Pohjanhovi), +358 (0)16 3311 200 (, fax: +358 (0)16 3311 233), [10].
  • Wild and Free (is an incentive tour operator catering to the most demanding of customers.), Kivirinne 16, +358 403 447 795 (, fax: +358 403 447 771), [11].
  • There is winter sports resort [12] on the large hill Ounasvaara couple of kilometers from the centre.
  • Arctic Golf Finland has a 9 hole golf course [13] close to the skiing resort.

At 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 wiews 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.

  • Santa Claus Marathon [14] Travel sport event in June
  • SimeRock [15] Rock festival in July
  • Jutajaiset [16] is about one week long international folklore festival arranged in the July.

Internet access is hard to come by but the Hotel Santa Claus has a laptop in the lobby which is meant for guests. Just stride in and look like you know what your doing and you can sit at the computer and use the internet for free. There are internet access also in the library (might require reservation), Arktikum and Kauppayhtiö cafe. Free WiFi access is available in many places, for example the 'trendy' coffee shop Kauppayhtiö and 'authentic Lapland' Pub Tupsu.

At summer a small sand beach is located 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!

Learn

Despite being best known as a superficial themepark-like attraction for charter tourists around Christmastime, the town has the EU's northernmost university:

  • University of Lapland, [17]. Slightly less than 5000 students, of which about 200 are international exchange students.
  • Another important institute is Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences (Rovaniemen ammattikorkeakoulu) [18] with three degree programmes given in English.

Buy

  • Sampokeskus shopping centre, main entrance on Lordi Square [19]
  • Rinteenkulma shopping centre, main entrance next to Scandic hotel [20]
  • Revontuli shopping centre, next to Rinteenkulma, main entrance above highway E75 [21]
  • Marttiini factory outlet, offering the famous knives, located opposite to Arktikum

Eat

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 cranberry 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.

Budget

University canteens offer cheap alternatives (€2.5-5 per meal) but the meals are served only around noon.

  • Rotko, Faculty of Art & Design (red-yellowish building). University canteen conveniently located right opposite the railway station.

The restaurant at the railway station is not bad or expensive either. Ask for student pizzas.

  • Subway is just behind Lordi's Square.
  • Golden Rax Pizza Buffet, at crossing of Koskikatu and Korkalonkatu, GPS 66.502223333 25.733049999, [22]. Self-service all you can eat and drink, pizzas, chicken wings, lasagne etc.
  • Ciao Ciao Located across the street where Subway is. Serves good kebab & pizza. Try kebabroll! (Rullakebab)
  • Meidän Kebab
  • Haruno Pizza & Kebab
  • McDonalds, Poromiehentie 3. Otherwise totally nondescript, but holds the minor distinction of being the world's northernmost McD.

On the main central square (former Sampoaukio, now Lordi aukio) there is often a fisherman selling freshly catched and fried smallfish.

  • Lordi Rocktaurant, Koskikatu 25 (near Poromiehentie), [23]. Inspired by the Eurovision winners, serves appropriately monstrously huge portions of meaty fare at reasonable prices. Surprisingly popular with families.

Drink

  • Kauppayhtiö, Valtakatu 24, about 100 meters from Hotel Santa Claus. The cafe where everything is for sale! Great sandwiches and ice-creams/milkshakes! Good place to stop by at daytime or start your evening with drinks! [24]


  • Tivoli, Valtakatu 19, a 200 meters from Hotel Santa Claus. Legendary and popular nightclub with 2 different rooms, crowd consisting mainly students, safari guides and a bit more older crowd and has occasional live acts. Its Beach Party in February is famous among Students througout Finland. [25]
  • Zoomit, cafe&bar in Hotel Santa Claus.
  • Pub Tupsu, located in the vicinity of both Rovaniemi Theatre and University Theatre. A favorite of bohemian art school kids and middle-aged alcoholics. Has good happy hour beer offers.
  • Paha Kurki, located opposite to the safari company offices near the river. Notable rock-ish beerhouse.
  • Doris, next door to the Restaurant Fransmanni, next to all the safari companies. Fashionable crowd, safari guides, hotel guests and high school students.
  • Onnela, opposite from Scandic hotel. 4 different rooms with different music: pop, 80-th, rock, folk hall with dancing tables. Small casino games. Entrance €8, before midnight free of charge.

Sleep

Budget

  • Guesthouse Borealis [26],tel: +358 (0)16 342 0130, Fax: +358 (0)16 310 261, guesthouse.borealis@co.inet.fi. 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 meters. If you are looking for a warm and hospitable place to stay then this is worth checking out.
  • Hostel Rudolph Koskikatu 41-43, tel +35816321321, [27] is the cheap place to go in town. The only catch is there is no reception at this location, you have to check in at the reception of the Santa Claus Hotel just down from Lordi's Square. Its a bit of extra walking but for €25 per bed in a double room, its well worth it.
  • UniHostel, tel. +35816347950, [28]. Run by the university housing association, it offers cheap accommodation about three kilometers away from the city center.
  • B&B Reindeerstreet 24, Porokatu 24, tel. +358 40 531 5280, [29]. This is a friendly bed & breakfast next to Ounasvaara, about 1.3 km from downtown. They can arrange tours and activities during your stay.
  • Camping site is on the other side of the river and has a nice view of the city.
  • Cabins in "the most beautiful village of Lapland", 48 km from Rovaniemi centre towards Kuusamo (road no 81). Viiri Holiday Village [30].

city hotel

Mid-range

  • Scandic Hotel Koskikatu 23, tel. +358-16-606000, [31]. In the city center of Rovaniemi.
  • City Hotel Pekankatu 9, tel. +358-16-3300111, fax. +358-16-311304, [32]. In the heart of Rovaniemi, next to Sampokeskus shopping mall and Lordi's Square.

Splurge

  • Hotel Santa Claus, Korkalonkatu 29, tel. +358-16-321321, [33] Best hotel in the centre of town.
  • Rantasipi Pohjanhovi, Pohjanpuistikko 2, tel. +358-16-33711, [34]. Four star hotel in the centre of town. Has not just the usual saunas, but a swimming pool too.

Get out

Ski centers are open during the winter season from November to April. The nearest ski centers are Ounasvaara just few kilometers from city center, Levi near Kittilä, Luosto near Sodankylä and Pyhä near Pelkosenniemi.


Routes through Rovaniemi
VardøSaariselkä  N noframe S  KemiHelsinki




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