Culture & History

The Finnish culture is a mix of indigenous heritage, Nordic and European influences. Differences in customs and traditions can be observed in the country’s various regions. There are Sami, Romani, Swedish-speaking Finns, Tartar, and the Jews, all of which have maintained their unique cultural identities. This melting pot can be observed in festivals, literature, visual arts, music, cinema, and even cuisine.

Finnish artists and architects have made major contributions to industrial design and sculpture. Finns are also very musical people, with rich folk traditions, such as Sami Music, often used to express beliefs and myths. Locals enjoy classical and opera music, with the country boasting popular works like Kullervo and Finlandia by Jean Sibellus. Pop and heavy metal entered the scene as Finland established closer relations with its Nordic neighbors, which coincided with a surge in musical acts, rock bands, dance music, and hip hop.

Festivities and traditions in Finland are closely tied to the Christian Calendar, as well as to different protestant and pagan holidays. Midsummer and Christmas events are widely celebrated, along with Vappu/May Day, which is as close as you can get to Mardi Gras in Finland. The ubiquitous sauna bath is also a permanent fixture in daily Finnish life.


Thanks to European and Western influences, a rich culinary tradition has begun developing in Finland. Modern Finnish cooking is giving new flavor to usual staples like fish, vegetables, meat, and berries. In Lapland and the Lakeland areas, reindeer and seafood are the most common menu items. Arctic wild berries, harvested from the forests along with rare mushroom species, add unique flavor to dishes. Coffee, tea, milk, and buttermilk are popular beverages, as are local brews like sahti (traditional beer), sima (mead), kilju (sugar wine), and pontikka (moonshine).

Fish plays an important role in the culinary culture of the country. In fact, both saltwater and freshwater fish find their way into many local recipes. In Finland, there are numerous dishes prepared with salmon. One way to enjoy salmon is freshly caught and immediately grilled outdoors. As soon as the fish has been fileted, it's placed on a wooden plank with pegs to hold the fish. The plank is then placed vertically at an angle close to the fire. This style of cooking is called 'ristiin naulittu lohi.' The salmon can be paired with a glass of vodka which helps to bring out the smoky flavors from grilling.

The Finns love salt licorice flavored everything. You can find salmiakki ice cream, cakes, candies, and liquor. In fact, any dessert you find in Finland probably comes in salmiakki. Finns are also quite fond of plain licorice (lakritsi) so check the packaging and make sure it actually says "salmiakki" or you might accidentally end up with the non salty kind (which is also good but not as uniquely Finnish).

Urban Experience

Finland isn't just vast expanses of pristine wilderness. Vibrant cities stock the country's southern areas, headlined by the capital, Helsinki, an electrifying urban space with world-renowned design and music scenes. Embraced by the Baltic, it’s a spectacular ensemble of modern and stately architecture, island restaurants, and stylish and quirky bars. And the ‘new Suomi’ epicurean scene is flourishing, with locally foraged flavors to the fore. Beyond Helsinki, Tampere and Turku in particular are lively, engaging cities with spirited university-student populations.

Finland’s short but sparkling sunny season sees the country burst into life. Finns seem to want to suck every last golden drop out of the summer in the hope that it will sustain them through the long, dark winter months, and there’s an explosion of good cheer and optimism. With surprisingly high temperatures for these latitudes, summer is a time for music festivals, art exhibitions, lake cruises, midnight sunshine on convivial beer terraces, idyllic days at remote waterside cottages, and bountiful market produce.

Outdoors & Adventure

The Finland you encounter will depend on the season of your visit, but whatever the month, there’s something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that’s vital and exciting. With towering forests speckled by picture-perfect lakes, as if an artist had flicked a blue-dipped paint brush at the map, Suomi (the Finns' word for their country) offers some of Europe’s best hiking, kayaking, and canoeing. A fabulous network of national parks has well-marked routes and regularly spaced huts for overnighting, and you can observe bears and elk deep in the forests on nature-watching trips.

Winter has its own charm as snow blankets the pines and lakes freeze over. The best way to banish the frosty subzero temperatures is to get active. Skiing is great through to May. Other pursuits include chartering a team of dogs, a posse of reindeer, or a snowmobile for a trek across snowy solitudes, lit by a beautiful, pale winter sun; catching the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) after your wood-fired sauna; drilling a hole for ice fishing; and spending a night in a glittering, iridescent ice hotel.