Santa's Village at the Arctic Circle in the winter season

Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland.


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. 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

Rovaniemi railway station

By plane

Rovaniemi Airport (RVN or EFRO), located eight kilometres (five miles) 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, but most buses to the north stop at the airport. Flights from Helsinki, operated by Finnair or Norwegian, are sometimes cheaper than corresponding train connections.

By train

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 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 centre is to your right, to the north-east. Most of the long-distance buses stop here as well.

From Russia you can either go via Helsinki or take the train to Kandalaksha on the Murmansk railway and continue by bus

By bus

Gold Line and possibly other companies operate daily night buses to Rovaniemi from Helsinki via Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Timetables and tickets available through Oy Matkahuolto Ab. Coming by bus from the south is relatively cheap but requires about 14 hours of sitting. There are also connections e.g. to Tromsø, Alta and Vadsø in Norway, at least in summertime. For travellers from Russia, there's a twice-weekly cross-border service with Kandalaksha (Finnish: Kantalahti).

The bus station is downtown, a few hundred metres from the railway station.

Get around

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.

Several bus companies provide local transportation, but the schedules are bad in weekends and summer; there is practically no evening/night bus service.

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 "ordinary" guidebooks like Lonely Planet or official Rovaniemi city guides.


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

Santa Claus Village


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.

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 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.

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!




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.


The most northern McDonalds in the world

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.

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.








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 in the library (might require reservation) and the Arktikum and Kauppayhtiö cafés.

Free WiFi access is available in the 'trendy' coffee shop Kauppayhtiö and 'authentic Lapland' Pub Tupsu.

Go next

Ski areas operate from November to April in Ounasvaara (a few kilometres from downtown), Levi (near Kittilä), Luosto (near Sodankylä) and Pyhä (near Pelkosenniemi).

Routes through Rovaniemi

Vardø Saariselkä  N  S  Kemi Helsinki

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, April 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.