Cities in Six—Rovaniemi, Finland

Visual, Virtual, Visiting---Six Photos at a Time

Rovaniemi is in northern Finland, nudging up against the Arctic Circle, and is the regional capital of Lapland.  The city was almost completely destroyed by the retreating German army in 1944, but rebuilding commenced immediately after the war.

In addition to being the official home of Santa Claus (who you can visit at Santa Claus Village), Rovaniemi has the excellent Arktikum—a museum and science centre—and other attractions.  In the winter, Rovaniemi hosts an influx of visitors, who come to Lapland for skiing and dog sledding, and to view the Northern Lights.  We visited Rovaniemi three times briefly on our way from Helsinki to Lapland.  These photos are from early summer of 2011 and 2017.

Where rivers meet.  Rovaniemi lies at the confluence of the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki rivers.  The Jätkänkynttilä bridge with its eternal flame is a local landmark.

From all points.  Rovaniemi’s airport is the second-busiest in Finland.  Many tourists from Europe and abroad visit in summer and winter.  This directional sign outside the airport seems to be missing a Canadian reference.

Arctic Circle.  You can’t miss the Arctic Circle, because it’s painted on the ground!  Well, it is at Santa Claus Village.  (The Arctic Circle isn’t static and the position indicated here reflects its position in 1865.)  Santa Claus Village is near the Rovaniemi Airport and is popular with visitors who want to use the on-site post office, shop for Christmas décor, or visit Santa and his reindeer.

Midnight Sun.  I offer proof that it never gets dark in mid-summer.  This photo was taken just after midnight in early July, when the sun just circles around the sky before dipping briefly below the horizon.

Rovaniemi Library.  The light-bathed public library, completed in 1965, is one of several buildings designed by famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.  Aalto also designed the nearby city hall and the Lappia Hall arts and conference centre.  Virtually all buildings in modern Rovaniemi were built in the 1950s or later, after the city was destroyed near the end of WWII.

Reindeer Plan.  Alvar Aalto was the lead architect of the team commissioned to design a city plan for Rovaniemi’s post-war rebuilding.  In the plan, called Poronsarvikaava or “Reindeer Antler Plan”, the city’s urban area is shaped like a reindeer’s head, with five arterial roads forming reindeer antlers.  Reindeer sculptures are liberally sprinkled throughout the city. Reindeer are plentiful in Lapland and you can’t avoid encountering many real ones.

Travel note:  Rovaniemi is easily reached from Helsinki by either a one-hour flight or a twelve-hour train ride.  Rovaniemi’s train station is near the city centre and adjacent to the bus terminal.  Rovaniemi’s airport is about 10 kilometres north of the city; shuttle buses run regularly between the airport and the city centre.  From the airport travellers can connect to many destinations in Europe.