Rovaniemi is what dreams are made of, literally. This charming city is the Official Hometown of Santa Claus, and it was the trip of a lifetime. If you have been thinking about a vacation here – book it!
Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland. Almost totally destroyed during World War II, today it’s a modern city that offers a wide variety of outdoor adventures for the whole family, and it is one of the best locations for Northern Lights viewing.
Not only are there endless activities, but the pace of life here leaves you feeling inspired and forces you to slow down, appreciating all that is around you. The people we met were genuine and kind, offering smiles and sharing great pride in Lapland. Finland is incredibly child friendly, and is a terrific place to holiday with kids – Rovaniemi should be on every travel family’s bucket list!
It’s not every day you travel to a new city that you immediately feel so comfortable and safe. Like in Sweden, we saw babies taking Nordic naps (amazing) and we would walk around in the middle of the night looking for Northern Lights. It is very cold here, so prepare to bring a lot of layers for you and the kiddos!
Autumn in Rovaniemi spans from late August until late November, it’s an ideal time for avoiding the crowds of high tourist season and getting active outdoors. Nature was boasting fall colors and the air was fresh and crisp during our October visit.
We have compiled a list of the three A’s: Accommodations, Adventures, and Appetite! If you have any questions about Lapland or our trip please shoot us an email!
We stayed at the Arctic Light Hotel – from the airport we took Santa’s Express bus and we were dropped off right in front of the hotel (talk about convenience!). This contemporary hotel is situated in the heart of Lapland-Rovaniemi. We were within walking distance of museums, shopping, dining, parks, etc…
It is no wonder this hotel has won several awards, from the moment you walk into the lobby you are warmly welcomed by the staff and the decor is stunning. We received a welcome drink which is sure to give you a boost after traveling.
Our spacious room was perfect for families. It’s not often that luxury is child friendly – but here it most certainly is. With a king size bed and a comfortable pull out couch, we slept the best on our Scandinavian trip in this hotel. We also had a kitchen table and refrigerator/small kitchen area which is always nice when traveling with children. The room had panoramic views of the city, making it ideal to see the Northern Lights!
Breakfast is included and leaves nothing to be desired – they had everything you could possibly want, including cake (this was by far the highlight for our kids).
If you walk through the lobby you will see stairs to a beautiful room in the back where they have several games for the kids to play, and a very relaxed atmosphere. We also enjoyed the use of the sauna to warm up after a fun day outdoors.
The staff here goes above and beyond to make sure your stay is enjoyable and comfortable, and we look forward to returning in the future!
Arktikum Museum and Science Center – The exhibitions here lead guests on an adventure through Finnish Lapland and the Arctic Region. We were so thankful to have a guided tour which taught us history and culture, our children especially enjoyed the company of the tour guide whose knowledge impressed the whole family. This is a great place to bring children – they receive a puzzle in the beginning with clues throughout the museum and a small prize at the end!
Science Center Pilke – Make completely of wood, the exhibitions here allow you to explore current forest issues. Children can get behind the wheel of a forestry machine, climb into a bird house, sing karaoke on an ant hill, and so much more. Explore forests indoors through all the senses and get inspired! Our little ones had a lot of fun on our guided tour here – very educational. Make sure to pay close attention to the floors!
Lappish Handcrafts – We were blessed with an invite to the artisan workshop of Mrs. Irene & Mr. Ari to have a deeper understanding on local way of living and making our own souvenirs. Mrs. Irene treated our children like they were her own, and made leaning fun through arts and crafts with local materials like wood and reindeer antlers. We were welcomed into their home with fresh baked pie and tea – it was an amazing experience, and we miss them both!
Dog Sledding – A highlight of our trip was dog sledding with Bearhill Husky! Yes we were visiting in October which meant there was no snow – so we hit the trails on carts instead of sleds. They talked to us about the care for the dogs and what goes into preparation and conditioning. These people love and care for their dogs very much, and the feeling is mutual. The trail was so fun, and a bucket list item for our family. It was very cold, and we were given warm suits to put over our clothes. They even had some for the little ones which were adorable! Stopping halfway to give the dogs water, Dan took the reins and drove the rest of the way on his sled. We took two sleds out – and were welcomed back with hot apple cider and cookies. After we warmed up, we went back outside to meet the dogs and puppies. We got to play with the new puppies which was a lot of fun!
Santa Claus Village – Christmas magic can be experienced year round here – and it truly is something out of a dream, both for parents and children. We have a bit of an obsession with Christmas so this was a dream come true. Everything is magical here, from crossing the arctic circle to meeting the reindeer in Santa Claus Reindeer Park. But nothing could prepare us for our meeting with Santa – it brings tears to my eyes just writing this. To get to Santa you walk through his workshop filled with boxes being shipped all over the world, to the time machine, to a Christmas countdown. Then we are greeted by an elf that asks “Are you ready to meet Santa?” – HECK YEAH WE ARE! This is the real deal Santa people – he is gracious, kind, and takes the time to answer all your children’s questions. We spent a long time with him and our cheeks hurt from smiling so big the whole time. We were even able to give him a gift to give to our children ahead of time in the post office. We chose two charm bracelets from Baileys for the girls to add charms to as we travel. It was an experience that will live in our hearts forever.
Angry Birds Park – This is the biggest playground in Rovaniemi and was a short walk from our hotel. It was so much fun for the kids and parents!
Shopping Centre Revontuli – A good place to warm up and do some shopping indoors. It is a lot bigger than it looks!
Arctic Restaurant – A beautiful restaurant perfect for couples and families, offering some of the most delicious food in Lapland! We tried the Finnish beef, reindeer, salmon, and king crab – all were outstanding. The service was wonderful and they even have a kids menu! Great place to warm up and have a tasty Finnish meal! This restaurant is located inside the Arctic Light Hotel.
Monte Rosa – The minute you walk into this restaurant you will feel warm and cozy with its candlelit atmosphere and welcoming staff. Our girls were brought crayons and coloring pages (love this) and our waiter very kind and patient! You can’t go wrong with anything you order here – simply delightful! This restaurant is located in the Arctic City Hotel.
Kotipizza – Very good pizza in the heart of Rovaniemi. It was a one man operation in a small restaurant, he was very busy and the pizza was delicious!
Nova Skyland Hotel & Restaurant– We ate here for lunch after visiting Santa Claus Village – it was a short walk past the reindeer! Delicious buffet lunch in a rustic setting, the perfect way to warm up and relive the magic!
Ravintola HIMO – Asian restaurant across the street from the Arctic Light Hotel. Everything we ordered was delicious, we got it to go and ate in our hotel room 🙂
A very special THANK YOU to Visit Rovaniemi for their hospitality, and for making our trip the most amazing magical experience!