Rovaniemi, Finland, is the home of Santa Claus Village, an amusement park with elves, reindeer, huskies, shops, and restaurants! But the town has more to offer than Christmas cheer! Check out what else to see (and do) in this fascinating Winter Wonderland – all year round!
Straddling the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, the northernmost province of Finland.
With a population of nearly 62,000 people, Rovaniemi was almost totally destroyed during World War II. It is now a modern city known a the “official” home town of Santa Claus.
If you can’t wait for Christmas, you don’t have to! EVERY day is Christmas at Santa Claus Village!
But there’s more to Romaniemi and Lapland than Christmas and Santa Claus Village, as this travel guide will make clear.
Top Lapland Tourists Attractions
- Santa Claus Village – located a few miles from downtown Rovaniemi is Santa Claus Village, an amusement park with elves, reindeer, huskies, shops, and restaurants. Santa Claus has an office here, where you can get up close and personal with the jolly old man. And there is even a post office, where you can send letters to family and friends! Santa Claus Village is open year around, drawing more than 600,000 Christmas lovers a year.
- Northern Lights – a.k.a. Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon visible in Rovaniemi and other parts of Lapland 150 nights a year, from mid-August until early April. They usually appear between 10 pm and 2 am, sometimes as early as 7 pm. They can last from a few minutes to several hours.
- Midnight Sun – because of its location along the Arctic Circle, the sun remains above the horizon in Rovaniemi and other parts of Lapland from early June to early July. It remains daylight throughout the night, however, for a longer period.
Rovaniemi is also home to Arktikum, a museum and science center exploring the Arctic region and the history of Finnish Lapland., and the Science Centre Pilke, which has interactive exhibits on northern forests.
Where to Stay
Rovaniemi and vicinity have several hotels, bed and breakfasts, holiday villages, campsites, hostels, cottages, guest houses, and apartments.
If you want to stay in a conventional hotel in town, the Arctic Light Hotel is one of the best. It is located in downtown Rovaniemi, close to shopping, restaurants, and other attractions. Housed in the former City Hall, it has been totally renovated, having 57 stylish rooms and suites, a cosy lounge, and an excellent restaurant.
If you want to stay as close as possible to Santa Claus Village, you can’t beat Santa Claus Holiday Village, which offers rooms with everything you would expect of a full-service hotel room plus kitchenettes, a terrace, and a private sauna! Walk from your cabin to Santa Claus Main Office in just one or two minutes!
But if you’re traveling all this way, why not stay in something more unique such as a …
Would You Believe, a Glass Igloo?
Arctic Snow Hotel & Glass Igloos – Located far from the city lights of Rovaniemi, the 40 glass igloos of the Arctic Snow Hotel offer an “all-sky vision” in complete comfort. Heated glass ensures that windows remain snow- and frost-free. Some other unusual choices include …
Snowman World Glass Resort – each superior glass apartment at the Snowman World Glass Resort has a living area, mini-kitchen, and upstairs bedroom with a private sauna and a glass ceiling, allowing you to view the Northern Lights in the warm comfort of your room.
Arctic Fox – igloos are located on the peaceful shores of Lake Ranuanjärvi, far from visual pollution of city lights at the Arctic Fox. The Igloos have been built on the shores of the lake, offering unobstructed views. The glass-panels are heated, preventing the frosting over of the glass surfaces.
Apukka Resort – located just north of the Arctic Circle, Apukka Resort comprises unique buildings made of ice logs developed in house and found nowhere else in the world.
TreeHouse Hotel – with spectacular views over the treetops, the suites at the TreeHouse Hotel offer an exclusive combination of local tradition, Lappish heritage, and modern Scandinavian design.
Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle – the glass-roofed, arctic view rooms at Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle are designed for year-round use, offering an opportunity to experience Lapland’s ever-changing nature, from the Northern Lights of winter to the Midnight Sun of summer.
Aurora Village – offering views of the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bedroom, cabins at Aurora Village is located far from the city lights of Rovaniemi. Get up close and personal with a pack of reindeer living in the village and borrow a pair of snowshoes to take a walk in the snowy forests that surround the village.
SnowBrick Sine iGloo Village – located in nearby Sinettä, SnowBrick Sine iGloo Village offers the chance to spend the night in an iGloo that you built yourself.
What to Eat …
Thanks to its pristine environment, Lapland is famous for the quality of food served in the restaurants and cafes of Rovaniemi and the vicinity.
Rather than sticking with the tried and true, why not sample some local dishes?
Local Lapland specialties include reindeer, game, fresh water fish, berries, and root vegetables such as potatoes.
Look for bread cheese, which is served with fresh cloudberries or cloudberry jam, and barley flatbread, which is served with butter. Sweet pastries are also popular.
When to Go …
Forget four seasons; locals say Roveniemi has eight! Not surprisingly, what locals call “Christmas” is most popular, which should come as no surprise since the town is the official hometown of Santa Claus.
But a visit during some of the “off seasons” means smaller crowds, more peace, more quiet, a greater chance to connect with nature – and lower prices!
Why not go camping in summer?
- Midwinter – January to February, the depth of winter, with only a few hours of sunlight.
- Snowy spring – late February to March, most popular with locals, who favour outdoor activities such as skiing, ice fishing, showboarding, and taking walks.
- Spring – April to May, the ice starts to melt, the days start getting longer, and nature starts coming back to life.
- Summer – June to July, 24 hours of sunlight from early June to early July, with temps that can reach 25 degrees Celsius.
- Harvest season – August, time to harvest the berries and mushrooms! Nights start getting longer, and the Northern Lights start to appear.
- Autumn leaf colour – September, as the leaves start to turn colour, there are hints of winter in the air. Perfect for hiking and trekking.
- First snowfall – October to November, the temperature drops below zero at night and frost starts to appear in the morning. Perfect for cross-country skiing.
- Christmas – December, the sun stays hidden but the town comes alive as visitors from around the world arrive to celebrate Christmas.
If you are hoping to witness the Northern Lights, keep in mind that there are no guarantees. They are a natural phenomenon, and while they appear most nights during the Northern Lights season, they don’t appear every night.
How to Get There
Roveniemi Airport (RV) is the third busiest airport in Finland. Located 10 kilometres (six miles) north of downtown Roveniemi, it is a short drive from Santa Claus Village.
Roveniemi Airport is served year round by Finnair and Norwegian Air Shuttle with flights to Helsinki. Most international travelers fly into and out of Helsinki, and either transfer to domestic flights or continue by train or bus.
Both airlines and several other European carriers, however, do offer seasonal service to Britain and other European countries, generally from the end of November until the middle of January.
Service to Russia is offered a bit later because Russians celebrate Christmas later than most other countries.
Direct daytime and overnight passenger trains link Rovaniemi with several other Finnish citiers, including Helsinki.