Moomins, Father Christmas and the Northern Lights. It’s hard not to fall in love with Finland.
Tucked away in northern Europe, this nordic country offers big skies and even bigger adventures. If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all and spend quality time in the Great Outdoors then Finland really delivers.
Most families travel to Finland during the winter months for a chance to witness the dancing colours of the aurora borealis and hopefully have an audience with Santa. But Finland is so much more than a winter wonderland. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Finland with kids then this guide has all the information you need.
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One of the best things about Finland is that it’s suited to all ages from toddlers to older kids. This guide covers all our favourite places in Finland for families plus family vacation planning trips and ideas on how to budget.
The best destinations in Finland
The following are some of the best destinations for a family vacation in Finland. If you’re visiting during the summer months then a good way to see the best of the country is on a road trip.
Helsinki is one of those cities that divides opinion. It’s not a capital that screams for attention, which means some visitors find it a little dull. Give the city some time, however, and you’ll discover that there’s a lot to do in Helsinki with kids.
Highlights include the island fortress and heritage site of Suomenlinna, trying local foods at the Old Market Hall and the Allas Sea Pools where you can swim in the Baltic Sea. It’s also where you can catch the ferry to Estonia for a weekend in Tallinn with kids.
Turku is unashamedly cool. This laidback city was the country’s original capital but having shrugged off this responsibility, it’s reinvented itself as a hip city filled with art museums, restaurants and independent design.
There are lots of things to do in Turku including the 700-year-old Turku Castle, boating along the Aura River and, of course, meeting the Moomins!
Naantali & Moominworld
Possibly the prettiest town in Finland, Naantali is a short ferry ride from Turku and is the home of Moominworld. It’s a lovely place for a day trip but is only open during the summer months so make sure you time your visit correctly.
Moominworld is a must. This is not a theme park rather a magical recreation of the tales of Tove Jansson.
During the summer months the Finland mainly consists of two colours: green and blue. Everywhere you go, the forested landscape is punctuated by patches of brilliant blue. There are 188,000 lakes in Finland the biggest of which is Lake Saimaa.
On summer days, sail boats and motor boats crisscross the lake, running from island to island. During winter months the lake freezes over, turning Lake Saimaa into a winter playground perfect for skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Linnansaari National Park
North of the Finnish Lakeland region is Linnansaari National Park. The waters here are home to the very cute and very elusive Saimaa Ringed Seal. The seals are also horribly endangered with less than 400 left in the world.
The park is also popular for boating, kayaking and the Jarvisydan Hotel & Spa Resort.
Tampere is Finland’s third largest city but with only 200,000 in habitants it certainly doesn’t feel big. It’s becoming an increasingly popular destination thanks to its unique museums, pretty countryside and myriad lakes.
Tampere is home to the Spy Museum, the Moomin Museum and the Lenin Museum, the only one left in the world. It’s housed in the building where Lenin and Stalin met in 1905. Tampere is also where you’ll Särkänniemi, one of the country’s best amusement parks.
Rovanemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus. It’s the place to go to celebrate Christmas all year round at Santa Claus Village and Santa Park
The ski resort of Ylläs and the neigbouring town of Akaslompolo are good options if you want a DIY Lapland with kids experience.
Ylläs is one of the best ski resorts in Finland and the surrounding areas offer all the snowy activities you could ask for – including reindeer safaris and meeting the Big Man himself.
Levi is the largest ski resort in Finland and, like Ylläs, is served by Kittilä Airport. Levi has 45 slopes, 15 of which are floodlit. Most of them are suitable for beginners and intermediates but there are four black slopes as well.
You’ll also find one superpipe, one halfpipe, two snow parks and 10 children’s slopes.
Accommodation in Finland
You’ll find every kind of accommodation in Finland from camping to luxury hotels.
In Helsinki some of the best hotels for families include the Scandic Paasi (all the Scandic hotels are good), Hotel F6 and the Hilton Helsinki Strand all come recommended.
There are also plenty of AirBnB options, which work well for bigger families. If you have never rented through AirBnB before, I can offer you a £27 Airbnb referral credit (this means you get £27 off your first booking).
In Finnish Lakeland I recommend hiring a cottage on one of the islands. Alternatively, book one of the lakeside villas at Antolanhovi Art & Design Hotel near Mikkeli.
Finnish Lapland has a choice of hostels, hotels, B&Bs and rustic log cabins. If visiting Ylläs then I recommend the traditional wooden cabin of Yllashilla.
Lapland is also where you can sleep in an igloo and hope that the northern lights pass overhead. Rovanemi has a number of igloos on offer including the Glass Resort, the Arctic Treehouse Hotel and Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle, which are just a short walk to the Santa Claus Village.
In Levi try the Golden Crown, which offers 360 panorama views, or Northern Lights Huts located on an old reindeer farm.
In Turku, a good option for families is the Naantali Spa Hotel, located on the waterfront of the Turku archipelago. You’re also within walking distance of Moominworld.
Transport in Finland
Getting around Finland is incredibly easy, whether you’re navigating public transport in the cities or embarking on a road trip around Finland.
Not surprisingly, public transport in Finland is very efficient. In Helsinki, you won’t need a car at all thanks to the network of trains, buses, trams and underground system. If you’re arriving at Helsinki Airport then the easiest – and most cost efficient – way to get into the city is by train.
Getting around the capital is easy. It’s worth downloading the Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) app where you can buy tickets for all public transport. The good news is that children under 7 travel free of charge.
Driving in Finland
If you’re planning on spending some time in Helsinki at the start of your road trip then I would recommend hiring a car in Helsinki itself, rather than at the airport. We often hire cars through Auto Europe.
Remember that if travelling in Finland with kids then it’s compulsory to have a car seat or booster seat for children under 135 cm height.
Driving in Finland is very easy; there is hardly any traffic, roads are well maintained and places are well signposted.
If visiting Finland during the winter then take comfort in the fact that all cars in Finland use winter tires so there’s no need to hire an SUV. Speed limits are also reduced during winter months.
There are, however, a couple of things to look out for.
Most places in Finland have paid parking and there is usually a ticket machine where you can pay with coins, a credit car or a mobile app. However, a parking disc is also often used in Finland (they usually come with your rental car).
These are used when you are allowed to park for free for a certain amount of time. You need to set the parking disc so traffic wardens can see how long you have been there. Don’t, however, think that you can use the parking disc instead of paying. We did and ended up with a fine!
Be wary of speeding too; fines for exceeding the speeding limit on Finnish roads are proportional of your income, meaning that it could be quite expensive.
Airports in Finland
The main airport in Finland is Helsinki Airport. Other airports that might be useful on your travels include Kittilä Airport, Turku Airport and Tampere Airport. Rovaniemi Airport is the official airport of Father Christmas and one of the busiest airports in Finland.
One option for travel between Helsinki and Lapland is to take the train. In Lapland, you have three railway stations to choose from: Rovaniemi, Kolari and Kemijärvi.
Kolari is the station you need for Ylläs and Levi. Kemijärvi station is for exploring eastern Lapland. Rovaniemi is the station for Santa Claus!
The Helsinki to Rovaniemi Night Train is often called the Santa Claus Express. Tickets must be booked in advance and can be done via Finnish Railways.
How to budget for a trip to Finland
Finland is an amazing, family-friendly destination but travelling here can be expensive. There are, however, various ways you can save money when visiting Finland with kids.
If you visit Lapland during Christmas and New Year you will spend a small fortune. Activities such as husky rides and cross-country skiing are not cheap. To give an example, the price for a snowmobile safari per person starts around 85 €.
However, if you visit Lapland during the spring you’ll enjoy sunny weather, lots of snow and discounted rates – particularly with accommodation.
The peak summer months for visitors is June to August.
Pack a picnic
Eating out in Finland does not come cheap. And, if you like to have a glass of wine with dinner, remember that alcohol is also expensive.
One way to keep costs down is to stay in self-catering accommodation and cook for yourselves.
Cabins and camping
Hiring a cottage and pitching a tent are great ways to keep costs down.
The best time to visit Finland
Winter remains the most popular time to visit Finland with visitors arriving by the planeload to discover Lapland. However, having spent time in Finland in both winter and summer, I can honestly say that both seasons are wonderful times to visit. Winter brings with it promises of reindeer rides, skiing on amazing snow, the Northern Lights, the chance to meet Father Christmas and much more.
Summer, on the other hand, offers long sunny days, lots of time spent in the beautiful Finnish Great Outdoors and the chance to really enjoy everything that the country has to offer. Plus, if you’re planning scenic drives in Finland, then summer is a much better time. The midsummer celebrations are held in late June (called Juhannus in Finnish) and are definitely worth tying into your Finland tour if you can.