Modernist-looking Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland and there’s one reason for its fame
It’s not its reindeer antler-style town layout. It’s not its month-long midnight sun in summer or aurora borealis in winter. It’s Santa. There are few better places on earth to meet the great man than here – and few other reasons to come this far north and experience weather this cold!
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As you’d expect, Santa’s hometown is a very special spot to pick up gifts and other Christmassy goodies. Meet the man himself, then explore his Christmas House shop at the Santa Claus Village (Tähtikuja 2). Rovaniemi Tourist Information (Lordi's Square) also stocks locally made sweets, candles, Arctic dolls, ceramics and more. There are also several decades-old workshops in Rovaniemi. Try Lauri-tuotteet Oy (Pohjolankatu 25) for antler and wooden goods, Marttiini Knives (Vartiokatu 32) for beautifully crafted blades, and Taiga-Koru (Santa Claus Village) for gold jewellery.
Food & Drink
Rovaniemi boasts some truly unique eateries. For starters, the winter Igloo Restaurant at Snowland (Kajaanintie 1) serves steaming hot food on ice-sculpted tables under a snow-packed roof. Hilltop restaurant Sky Ounasvaara (Lapland Hotel Sky, Ounasvaara) is also one of north Finland’s top restaurants, with a romantic atmosphere and spectacular views. Back in the town centre, tourist-friendly Restaurant Nili (Valtakatu 20) plays on the Lappish theme with reindeer hides, Sámi music and typical dishes on the menu. At the budget end, Kauppayhtiö (Valtakatu) is a quirky little retro café with unfussy food and a young clientele.
Santa Claus Marathon
Rovaniemi’s Santa Claus Marathon is not a race between red-clad and red-faced Santas, as the name suggests. This is actually a fairly standard marathon, though it starts at Santa’s workshop watched over by the man in red, and passes over the Arctic Circle.
The Men’s 100m is a light-hearted romp through Rovaniemi’s pedestrian heart on the first weekend of August. Young and old take part in the race, with varying degrees of seriousness, and plenty of amber refreshments to ease sore muscles.
Thousands of music fans descend on Rovaniemi for this two-day rock festival in the open air, making the most of the long hours of sunlight.
This week-long folklore festival celebrates Lappish Sámi culture, music and traditions as well as providing a stage for international performers.
Grand Opening of Christmas Season
It’s Christmas time all year round in Rovaniemi, but the Santa-mania builds to a crescendo at the end of November, when the big man and his elves officially open the Christmas season at Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle.
The capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi has a wide choice of hotels. Santa's Hotel Santa Claus (Korkalonkatu 29) is a stylish four-star choice in the heart of town and isn’t nearly so kitsch as the name implies. Santa Claus Holiday Village (Tähtikuja 2), on the other hand, goes all out with sleigh bells and Christmas sparkle, and can arrange Santa himself to visit your cabin with gifts at any time of year. Skiers can glide right up to their cottage at mid-range Ounasvaaran Pirtit (Antinmukka 4) in the Ounasvaara Ski Centre, a short drive outside town, while budget accommodation is available at Santa's Hostel Rudolf (Koskikatu 41-43).