Explore Finnish Lapland in the northernmost part of the country: visit Santa, explore the winter playground by husky- or reindeer- drawn sled, and marvel at the Northern Lights in winter or Midnight Sun in summer.
The Finnish part of Lapland is has also become a major family ski holiday destination – one that’s much cheaper than other Nordic countries. Resorts are charming and child-friendly, on gentle slopes that have to be floodlit due to the ‘Arctic Twilight’, when the Sun never shows its face. Try Levi, the ‘Official Ski Resort of Santa Claus’, or Ylläs – a traditional Lappish village that though not suited to experienced powder fiends delightd families with its festive feel (it’s beyond perfect for Christmas ski holidays with kids), beginner-friendly, uncrowded and beautifully groomed pistes and great snow park. Other Ylläs activities include husky and reindeer sleigh rides, Santa visits, and cooking smores over firepits, and kids get free rental equipment and lift tickets if they wear a helmet!
Discover Finland’s easternmost province, Karelia along the border with Russia – perfect for an active family winter break, it’s a wilderness of pristine frozen lakes, vast forests and snow-covered hills. Adventure trips in Karelia include travel by snowmobile across the otherworldly landscape, husky-sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing (and some downhill skiing), ice-fishing and relaxing in a Finnish sauna. And make sure to climb Ukko Koli for the most famous view in Finland – the icy expanse of Lake Pielinen, with trees covered by a thick blanket of snow – build igloos, and indulge in a snowball fight!
Get to know Helsinki, by far Finland’s biggest city, yet one with a relaxed, small-town feel. It comes into its own in summer, when in addition to seeing the sights you can relax on its sandy beaches and visit the many islands of its surrounding archipelago. Family highlights include the UNESCO listed Suomenlinna sea fortress with its cannons and catacombs and its museums (including a submarine and a toy museum), theatres and cafés, restaurants and picnic spots. There's also Seurasaari Open Air Museum with its authentic traditional houses from around the country, craftspeople in traditional dress, and walking trails, Helsinki Zoo, the National Museum of Finland, and the Heureka Science Centre. Very popular in summer is the Uimastadion outdoor pool complex with its waterslides and the adjoining Olympic Tower with its wonderful views, plus Linnanmäki, Finland’s oldest amusement park, with a famous wooden rollercoaster, and the neighbouring Sea Life aquarium.
Go Moomin mad in Tampere, Finland’s second city, where the Moominvalley of the Tampere Art Museum displays about 2000 works, some originals, by author and illustrator Tove Jansson, plus some 3D tableaux by Jansson’s partner Tuulikki Pietilä. Another big draw is Särkänniemi Adventure Park, with a planetarium, children’s zoo and aquarium, observation tower with revolving restaurant, art museum, and themepark rides including hair-raising rollercoasters. Older kids love Tampere’s Vakoilumuseo, a spy museum tracing Finland’s active role in international espionage, including spy tunnels and peep mirrors.
For a slightly Disneyfied Moomin experience, meanwhile, head to the Moomin World themepark at Naantali close to Turku on the south-west coast. Attractions include five-storey Moomin House, Hemulen’s House, Moominmama's Kitchen, the Fire Station, and Snufkin's Camp, and you can also meet Moomin characters doing the rounds, see shows, follow fantasy paths and take part in special activities. It’s only open in summer, as is the nearby Adventure Island Väski, with featuring five ‘adventure worlds’ to explore, including Pirate Harbour and the Hunter’s Camp.