Tampere revisited: all year round city break in Finland
I was quite fortunate to explore Tampere, this amazing city twice and in two different seasons, the end of summer and in the height of winter. When I say the end of summer, by this I mean, the VERY last day of the season. August 31st. After this the Särkänniemi theme park is closed, all the chairs and tables outside cafes are packed away and the weirdest thing I noticed that one day everyone is in summer clothing, the very next day, the first day of September, signs of the warmer clothing on people start to appear despite the fact the weather was the same when I went (Sun, blue skies, no wind, not too cold, not to warm, you get my drift).
Now, why Tampere? Why did I go there? Even I thought that. I first travelled to this region back in 2006 (and this was also the first time myself and my wife Olga did a trip together outside Latvia, she hasn’t been to England by this point!) It was the end of summer, I was looking for somewhere to go which wasn’t too far from Riga, Latvia and a new country to explore. The cheap frills airline Ryanair served the city of Tampere and had flights from London and Riga, so it was a great meeting point. To be frank, I never heard of Tampere until I saw the route map. It seemed like the ideal destination.
Summer is a great month to explore the city. Flying into the nearby airport at Pirkkala (where there is a great bus connection route to and from the centre, just remember folks when returning to the airport from the centre, look for 1A Pirkkala Lentoasema /Airport on the front of the bus), I got to see the density of the forests surrounding the city and its many lakes. I knew from this moment that exploring Tampere was going to be fantastic with a mixture of urban and nature life.
What to do in Tampere during the summer months?
Tampere is plenty of hiking trails around the city which goes out into the forests and lakes. Pyhäjärvi is the lake to the south of the city and to the north is the huge Näsijärvi lake. Both offer beautiful scenery and a great place to get away from it all. Both lakes differ in levels so between them is a set of rapids which flows through the heart of the city and because of this, the city uses this source to generate electricity.
For those who want a bit of fun then check out the Särkänniemi theme park which since I visited, now has an Angry Birds land (yes those flying birds who love hitting the green pigs are also from Finland!). The park may have five rollercoaster’s but there is so much more here than sitting in a cart getting thrown about.
As well as a theme park, the northernmost Dolphinarium is based here as well as a zoo and an art museum but the highlight for me was to check out the Näsinneula Observation Tower. Standing at 168 meters, the view from the top is amazing. As the theme park is located on the shores of Näsijärvi Lake, the view of the water and the forest is amazing and to the south is the view over the city. Well worth the money to take this all in plus all the rollercoaster’s underneath me.
There is another observation tower to the south of here in the suburb known as Pynikki and is located on the shores of Pyhäjärvi lake. Simply wonderful, peaceful and calm in this area and also has great hiking trails along the shoreline. Pynikki is about a fifteen-twenty minute walk from the centre so no need for public transport.
In the actual city itself there are not many landmarks to see but it is a nice place to walk around, taking in the town hall square, the shops and restaurants along Hämeenkatu which seem to be bustling all the time and the nice parks of Pyynikki church park at the western end with the church of Alexander.
Tampere also has a Russian Orthodox church to check out on the south-eastern end of the centre. Built in the late 19th century, the reason it was here that many moons ago Finland was part of the Russian Empire and many of these funky churches were built across the country. This one however is one of the prettiest I have come across in Finland, much better than the big one in Helsinki!
Did you ever watch The Moomins when you were growing up? These hippo-like cartoon characters were created by Swedish-speaking Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson and right here in Tampere is the Muumilaakso (Moomin-Valley) museum. This was a highlight for me as I was brought up on the Moomins and their adventures. Inside there are the original illustrations by Tove, forty miniatures and a small Moomin house. I was right back in my childhood element here, reading books, looking at the pictures, remembering the storylines. By heck I loved these loveable creatures so much I even saw the show in Japanese (just don’t ask!).
Update – I just found out that the museum has had a major refurbishment done since I visited and has reopened. Full details are here. On my return to Finland I will be hoping to do a Moomin blog and revisiting places in Tampere and the Moomin Valley theme park in western Finland – can’t wait!!)
What to do during the winter months?
All of the above really. Tampere is an all year round destination but the craziest thing to do here is to walk on the frozen lakes (when safe to do so) or try out Nordic Walking with the locals (just make sure you buy poles). However nearby (a short drive or train journey away) is the small town of Nokia to the west. I also came here twice. The first time was in the summer months looking for the birthplace of the cell phone manufacture Nokia (the name gives it away) but since found out they moved south to the capital a long time ago. Oh well, it was worth a try.
In the winter months I came out here to check out the more of the frozen lakes and wintry forest scenes and spent a lot of time walking on (and building snowmen) on the lake of Vihnusjarvi. With no soul in sight this lake is perfect. I had it all to myself, as long as I didn’t fall in or freeze to death then life was good! (Just don’t do this is the lake is not thick enough guys!)
As you can see, I got to explore an amazing area of Finland and I would recommend anyone to come here. It has great transport routes (plane, train and car) and is a few hours away from Helsinki. If you are reading this and have been to Tampere before, I would love to hear your views and point out anything I missed out.
Enjoyed reading my blog and want to share it? Share it on Pinterest