For a guaranteed white Christmas in Europe, head to Rovaniemi in Finland. As the hometown of Santa Claus, there is plenty to see here in Finnish Lapland. The city is known for its stunning natural scenery, including the Northern Lights.
Although there isn’t a traditional Christmas market, there is a series of Christmas events, attractions and activities and many locations for shopping, eating and drinking.
In this article, you will find confirmed 2023 dates and interesting events you won’t find elsewhere.
The Arctic Circle famously runs right through the Rovaniemi, allowing you to experience the Polar Night, a period when the sun doesn’t rise.
Santa Claus Village is also a standout feature, where you can meet Santa any day of the year.
You can visit the Husky Park, stay in an igloo hotel, and have a close-up experience with Santa’s reindeer.
Santa Claus Village 2023
Christmas in Rovaniemi is integral to the city’s identity as Finland’s original Christmas city.
Many events take place in the famous Santa Claus Village, drawing a large crowd of residents and tourists from around the world.
Activities for children add to the appeal, including the option for husky and reindeer rides and excursions to what is known as the “forest of the elves.” Meet reindeer, alpacas, goats and more at Elf’s Farmyard.
Pick up some Christmas cards, unique stamps and gifts and Santa’s Post Office. Get a real letter from Santa with an Arctic Circle postmark.
Of course, you can meet Santa in person, for free, at his office every day of the year.
All these elements and more come together to create a distinct holiday experience in far Northern Finland.
Dates and Information
Christmas in Rovaniemi Grand Opening: 12th November 2023 at 5pm to 5:30pm.
Santa Clause Village: Open all year round.
Location: Tähtikuja, Arctic Circle.
Opening times: 9am to 7pm.
Christmas Day: Open.
Christmas tree and lights: Switch-on: 9th November at Lordi’s Square from 5pm to 7pm.
Recommended tour: Korouoma Canyon and frozen waterfalls is the most highly-rated tour.
Reason to visit: Santa. Arctic Circle. Northern Lights.
Where to stay: Santa Claus Holiday Village is a popular hotel for families, located 3 minutes from the market.
Where to Stay in Rovaniemi for Christmas
If you consider this visit to the Arctic Circle to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, then I suggest staying at the incredibly beautiful Glass Resort within the Santa Clause Village. Surrounded by snow, in a glass yet cosy building, watching the Northern Lights from your jacuzzi. You won’t get a more unique and special experience.
As an alternative, I recommend Santa Claus Holiday Village, also in the Santa Claus Village. These are cabin hotel rooms ideal for families and groups.
Korouoma Canyon & Frozen Waterfalls Tour: This guided tour takes you to Korouoma Canyon, a notable natural formation southeast of Rovaniemi that stretches for 30 kilometres and plunges to a depth of 130 meters. Winter turns the canyon’s waterfalls into striking ice formations well-known for ice climbing. The tour covers a full day and allows you to experience the variety of features in the canyon, from cliffs to frozen rapids.
Lapland Aurora Hunt: This guided night tour sets off from Rovaniemi to hunt for the Aurora Borealis in Lapland’s countryside. The tour aims to take you far from city lights to improve your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. You’ll also get to indulge in a traditional Lappish barbecue and sip on warm Glögi while you keep an eye on the sky. The tour will make stops at various locations according to the Aurora forecast.
Apukka Husky Adventure: This day trip out of Rovaniemi allows you to engage with huskies in Apukka. You’ll start by meeting the huskies and learning about their training and daily routines. The animals are friendly, and you’re encouraged to pet them, play with them, and photograph them. Next, you’ll move on to a more active part of the tour: a husky sled ride. Covering a distance of 7 to 10 kilometres, you’re not just a passenger but also get the chance to be the musher, controlling the team of huskies that pull the sled.
If you would like to experience a more traditional event, visit one of these Christmas markets in Finland.
Christmas in Rovaniemi
Rye Bread: Known locally as Ruisleipä, this Finnish bread is dense and dark, ideal for hearty winter meals. It’s often used as a base for open-faced sandwiches with cold cuts or cheese.
Lohikeitto: A traditional Finnish salmon soup featuring chunks of salmon, potatoes, and carrots. The dish typically includes a creamy broth spiced with dill.
Karelian Pasty: A rye crust filled with rice porridge or mashed potatoes. Traditionally, they’re served warm with egg butter spread on top.
Mustikkapiirakka: A Finnish blueberry pie that’s more of a dessert than a snack. It has a rich, crumbly crust filled with blueberries and sugar.
Kalakukko: A Finnish fish-pie made by encasing perch, salmon or vendace in a dense rye crust. The pie is baked for several hours until the fish inside is fully cooked.
Karjalanpiirakka: Also known as Karelian pasty, this is a rye pastry filled with rice, potato or carrot and swede mash. It is often enjoyed with egg butter.
Glogi: This warm spiced wine, sometimes called glögi, typically features a mix of red wine, spices like cinnamon and cloves, and occasionally additional spirits.
Salmiakki: A polarising Finnish treat, these are salty liquorice candies. They’re made from ammonium chloride and have a very distinct taste.
I hope you’ll try some of these local foods when you visit Rovaniemi.
Kuksa: A traditional wooden cup made by the indigenous Sámi people. These cups are crafted from birch burl and are often intricately designed. They’re not just for show; they’re sturdy and functional for hot and cold beverages.
Lapland Knives: These are handcrafted knives with wooden handles and leather sheaths, often made by local artisans. The knives are functional but aesthetically pleasing, making them an ideal gift for those who appreciate fine craftsmanship.
Finnish Wool Socks: These socks are a staple of Finnish winter and are made from local wool. They come in various patterns and are reputed for their durability and warmth.
Cloudberry Jam: Known locally as “Lakka”, this jam is made from cloudberries, a fruit native to the region. It’s a sweet-tart jam often used on bread or as a dessert topping.
Arctic Berry Liquors: Spirits infused with native Arctic berries like lingonberries and bilberries are popular. They are often enjoyed as a digestive aid and are distinct to this northern region.
Moomin Merchandise: This famous Finnish comic strip has an array of merchandise, from mugs to notebooks. It’s a favourite among children and adults, making it a versatile gift.
Check out Visit Rovaniemi, the city’s official website, to stay updated on winter activities and the latest events you can enjoy during your visit.
Sustainable Travel Tips
Consider these guidelines for a more responsible trip to Lapland this Christmas.
Eco-friendly Hotels: In Rovaniemi, you’ll find hotels powered by renewable energy, specifically hydroelectricity from local rivers. Prioritise these options when booking your stay. They align with the city’s focus on sustainability and often have certifications to prove their commitment to the environment.
Reducing Food Waste: When eating out on your travels, pay attention to portion sizes when ordering to reduce food waste.
Ethical Consumption: It’s easy to get carried away with buying souvenirs, especially at shops selling unique Lappish crafts or at Santa’s Post Office. Stick to purchasing items you’ll use or gift to others. Remember, consuming responsibly also helps to preserve the local culture.
Sustainable Diets: Local produce is a highlight of the markets, including cloudberries and reindeer meat. Both have a low environmental impact compared to other food sources. Choose these sustainable options to lessen your ecological footprint.
Sustainable Transport: Rovaniemi offers a well-organised public transport system, which is even more efficient at Christmas. Buses run frequently to major tourist attractions like the Santa Claus Village. Use public transport instead of taxis to keep your carbon footprint minimal.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Rovaniemi, Finland. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.