Rovaniemi Travel Guide

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(Looking over Rovaniemi from the Nakoalapaikalle Viewing Tower)

Rovaniemi is the 'metropolitan' hub of Finnish Lapland. As the centre of local government for the municipality, its also the most convenient arrival destination for exploring the region. Many not only come to visit the Santa Claus VIllage and the Arctic Circle, but also catch connecting buses or flights to resort areas further north. While Rovaniemi is surrounded by a vast sea of trees and nature, its actually quite a cosmopolitan an modern little "city" with a thriving arts community and kept "young" as home to two universities which bring many new Finnish and international students to the region each autumn. It's Finlands 15th largest town/city with roughly 60,000 residents.

In the map below, you will find practical places to know about for planning your trip and free sights you can visit. Below the map you will find more helpful Rovaniemi travel information by clicking on a topic button and scrolling down to read.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: How to Get to Rovaniemi
The most direct way to reach Rovaniemi is by plane or train. Bus is an option as well and practical if arriving to other airports in the region (Oulu, Kittilä, etc).

The Rovaniemi Airport (RVN), is located 8 km north of the city. Most flights are to/from Helsinki, but a small number of international flights are available, mostly to North Russian destinations like Murmansk. Often, flights from Helsinki are generally cheaper than taking the train. You can travel from the Rovaniemi airport to the city center by express shuttle bus or a taxi, which are usually waiting when flights arrive. It should cost you €10-30 depending on type of transportation and drop-off location.

The Rovaniemi train station is located next to the city centre and is within walking distance to the city center or other nearby accommodation. If you have a lot of luggage, small children, or prefer get the most of your time while visiting, a taxi might be practical to travel to your accommodation. The train trip from Helsinki usually takes 9-12 hours, and sleeping cars are available on most trains and a restaurant car is available on all trains. You can buy tickets and see train timetables on the VR website.

The Rovaniemi bus station is just a few hundred meters away from the railway station and closer to the city center. You can buy tickets and see bus timetables on the Matkahuolto website. If traveling further north into Finnish Lapland, Norway, or Sweden, there are private bus companies that operate routes to these areas.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Rovaniemi City Layout
Rovaniemi's city center is fairly small with a radius of about one kilometer, and most everything is within walking distance. When the town was reconstructed after being burnt down in WW2 by the Germans, famous Finnish architect Arvo Aalto designed the city around the shape of a reindeer head (see pic below). 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 the large hill Ounasvaara.
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Getting Around Rovaniemi
Most places in town are accessible by walking yet a few are located a bit further away from the center so you might need to find another way to reach them. There are bus routes to other parts of Rovaniemi, yet schedules aren't always convenient during weekends or summer months. In the evening and at night there is practically no bus service available. Walking or taxi are the most convenient ways of getting around as a visitor. You can call for 24-Hour Rovaniemi Taxi service (this is the one I use) at 020088000 or +358 20088000 (using Finland country code).

Read here about how to get to Santa's Village on the Arctic Circle.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Rovaniemi Weather
Rovaniemi is in an arctic zone, characterized by extreme seasonal changes of cold and warm temperatures, as well as periods of darkness and light. Winter is usualy extremely cold and summer mildly warm. If visiting in winter, be prepared for temperature dropping to as low as -25C. If you do not arrive with warm enough clothing, there are plenty of shopping options, including affordable ones, in town to purchase additional layers. Snow usually arrives by late October and accumulates over the following months and is on the ground until April/May. For up to date weather, check out the Rovaniemi forecast on the FInnish Meteorological Institute or have a look at the average your-round temperatures in Rovaniemi.

(Current weather in Rovaniemi)

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Things To Do in Rovaniemi
Winter
  • Snowmobile Safaris
  • Reindeer Sleigh Rides
  • Dogsledding
  • Skiiing & Snowboarding
  • Ice skating
  • Sledding
  • Sauna
  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Ice Swimming
  • Finnish Sauna
  • Viewing Auroras
Summer
  • Hiking
  • Sightseeing
  • Swimming
  • Jet-skiing / Wakeboarding
  • Sauna trips
  • Camping
  • Berry Picking
  • Music & Culture Festivals

Companies Who Welcome Independent Travelers

  • Access Lapland - Offering accommodation, car, & jetski rentals, as well as unique Summer tours and wakeboarding/waterskiiing lessons on Rovaniemi's waterways. Ever wanted to go Arctic waterskiing? Also offer cottage rentals.
  • Santa Claus Reindeer - Reindeer sleigh rides at Santas Village at the Arctic Circle.
  • Santamus - TripAdvisor's top rated restaurant in Rovaniemi. More than just delicious cuisine, they offer a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
  • The Arktikum - Museum and science center that is one of the most recognizable landmarks on the Rovaniemi cityscape. Showcases contemporary research about international Arctic topics and its exhibits present an interesting overview of Lappish history, culture, and nature.
  • Lauri-tuotteet Oy - Offers a variety of handicrafts of different design, often carved from reindeer antler and local wood, that make for nice personal items or gifts for visitors to Rovaniemi to bring home from Lapland.
  • Hotel Aakenus - Quality and affordable accommodation just outside Rovaniemi city centre.
  • Hertz Car Rental - Offers the best daily rates for car rentals in Lapland.
  • Arctic Light Hotel - New boutique hotel near Rovaniemi's city centre.

Free Things to Do in Rovaniemi

  • Santa Clause Village / Arctic Circle - A must if visiting Rovaniemi (bus timetable)
  • Lordi Square - the city centre of Rovaniemi.
  • Hiking in Ounasvaara
  • Hiking in Arctic Circle Hiking Area - some relaxed hiking trails a little further away from the city, accessible by public bus or car.
  • Koivusaari Island - an island on the Ounasjoki just 2.3km from the city center with an easily accessible duckboard trail for visitors to hike and learn about local cultural landscapes, flora, and fauna.
  • Lutheran Church - built in 1950, the church is a local landmark with an interesting large fresco "Spring of the Life", created by professor Lennart Segerstråle.
  • Kirkkolammenpuisto (Summertime only) - Close to the church, there is a nice park and small lake with gardens and footpath.
  • Jätkänkynttilä bridge - Also known as the Candle Bridge, probably the most notable landmark in Rovaniemi.
  • Rovaniemi Log Train Terminal - an interesting site about .5 km west of the train station.
  • German Soldier Cemetery (Summertime only) - Cemetary and monument for those german soldiers who died fighting in Lapland in the WWII.
  • Auttiköngäs waterfall - day hike destination from Rovaniemi which traverses one of Lapland's largest waterfalls.
  • Midnight sun - Roughly, between June 6th and July 7th the sun can be seen above the horizon in Rovaniemi and its quite a surreal experience to stay up late into the evening to watch the different colors produced as the sun floats on the horizon. In general, the night sky is luminous from May until mid August
  • Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) - many visitors come to Lapland hoping to see the dancing solar winds in the night sky.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Rovaniemi Travel Tips
  • Practical Lapland Travel Information
  • Santa at the Arctic Circle is free to visit for everyone at anytime. You only have to pay to have your photo taken with him.
  • For winter 2014 / 2015, there are TWO Santa's at the Arctic Circle which people can visit (Santa Claus Office & Santa Village). The one at Santa Claus Office is the main one who has been there for years.
  • The bus to Santa's Village only takes cash. You can see the timetable for the winter 2014/15 season here.
  • There is a cash machine at the Neste gas station at the Arctic Circle/Santa's Village, but not in the village area itself
  • The Arctic Circle hiking area north of Rovaniemi can be reached by public bus each day if you do not have your own transport
  • If you're heading north and picking up food supplies in Rovaniemi, Lidl is the cheapest place for food shopping - See map above for location
  • SALE in the city centre is the only 24 hour food shop in town - See map above for location.
  • There are daily buses between Rovaniemi and Pyhä-Luosto National Park area if you are interested to do some hiking outside of Rovaniemi but don't have access to a car.
  • Hertz generally offers the best daily rates on car rentals in Rovaniemi. Get a quote from them before you book with another company.
  • If buying stamps for postcards in Rovaniemi, the official 'Rovaniemi - Home of Santa Claus' stamp costs 1.80 euro, whereas a regular stamp to send a postcard anywhere in the world in Finland only costs 1 euro.
  • The main tourist office sells a SMS service that claims to alert you when there are visible auroras outside in the evening. However, if you learn how to predict aurora forecasts on your own and monitor the real-time forecasts which are FREE for everyone to view on the internet, you do not need to pay any fees to see auroras. Also, its best to be outside looking up at the sky BEFORE auroras appear versus running outside AFTER you get a text message saying there are auroras overhead. They can appear and disappear quickly.
  • Fazer Christmas chocolate is a great gift to bring back to someone from your Lapland Christmas holiday that costs less than 5 euro. You can buy at almost any grocery store.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Finding Accommodation
  • Hotel Aakenus - Quality and affordable accommodation just outside Rovaniemi city centre.
  • Access Lapland - Luxury Chalet and cottages just outside Rovaniemi
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