A Snowy Weekend in Tampere, Finland

A Snowy Weekend in Tampere, Finland

Tampere is the Manchester of Finland, or so my Russian guide Olga informs me. Like Manchester, Finland’s third-largest city was built on the cotton industry after a Scottish Industrialist, James Finlayson, started Scandinavia’s biggest cotton mill on Tampere’s waterways.

As Olga tells me this, we’re sitting in one of the city’s glitziest haunts, a sky bar called The Moro, drinking glögi (mulled wine to you and me), surrounded by an über-trendy city crowd. The true grit of Tampere is 25 floors below us, covered in the darkness that crawled in around 3:30pm – although I can still make out a couple of chimney stacks in the blackness.

Tampere was once all noise: thundering redbrick mills and billowing smoke used to take centre stage.

Today the chimneys are silent. But far from being abandoned, they are an integral part of the new Tampere; a Tampere that is styling itself as a bright, exciting alternative to Helsinki.

In doing so, the city is proudly embracing its industrial heritage and giving new life to its brutalist architecture and factory buildings: depots are becoming bars, warehouses morphing into museums, locomotive sidings reinventing themselves as hot new hotels.

Add into the renaissance the clear waters of Tampere’s two great lakes (Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi), the restful birch forests that surround the city, and Tampere’s reputation as a centre of leading-edge technology, research and education, and you have a star destination in the making – for a weekend or otherwise.

Thankfully, the crowd hasn’t yet caught on to Tampere’s reawakening, which means the city’s pavements are uncrowded, its restaurants and bars are full of locals, not tourists, and its buses and trains are an entirely stress-free and navigable affair.

“Perhaps,” Olga announces during our drink, “The next time you come to Tampere, it’ll be Finland’s first city.” I nod congruently.

But, in truth, I like adolescent Tampere; I like its fresh-faced nature, its humility and lack of self-aggrandizement.

I like its quiet city streets and resident-filled eateries. And I hope it’ll always retain its modest, ‘do-you-like-me’ charm, even if it does become Finland’s number one – which, selfishly, I hope it doesn’t for a while yet.

Tampere in Finland

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Weekend in Tampere by Weekend Candy


Your Tampere Weekend Itinerary

FRIDAY NIGHT

Arrive to snowy Tampere, settle your bags, then head out for some sky-high reconnaissance, a warming sup and an unforgettable meat feast.

DO THIS – At night, it’s impossible to ignore the purple, red, and yellow LCD flames darting upwards from Finland’s tallest hotel, known locally as ‘The Tower’ and officially as the Solo Sokos Hotel Torni Tampere. So it’d be rude not to start here. Walk to ‘The Tower’ after arriving in Tampere (the hotel is located next door to the train station making it an ideal pit-stop) and take the lift to the 25th floor. Here you’ll find the Moro Sky Bar, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, industrial chic vibe, laid-back bar staff and trend-setting crowd. Order the traditional Finnish warm drink of glögi and take a table on the roof terrace for a breath-taking view over Tampere’s hot spots.

EAT HERERavinteli Huber is a carnivore’s dream. A steak house in essence, but a meat emporium in reality, it serves some of the finest cuts in Tampere, all from local cattle. Expect traditional choices alongside more ‘exotic’ dishes: T-bone steak, horse sirloin, ribs, swordfish, with garnishes to match: bone-marrow mashed potatoes, kale and apple, roasted myskikurpitsa. I ordered the swordfish and chips – both of which were excellent – washed down with two Passion Sours (Finnish vodka and passion fruit). The service was slick, although I wasn’t offered dessert (maybe they thought I’d had enough?). Find Ravinteli Huber in down town Tampere, across the Tammerkoski at Aleksis Kiven katu 13.

Moro Tower Tampere

Moro Tower Tampere Finland

LAZY TWEET


SATURDAY

Wrap up warm and get set: your treats include one of Finland’s prettiest towns, the best doughnuts in the world, and a polar plunge.

Tampere Christma Market

SEE THISTampere’s Christmas Market or joulutori is a neat and orderly affair. Forget roaring crowds and crushing queues, its pretty nature and bijou size won’t take up all of your Saturday. Plus, the local vibe – I felt like the only tourist there – means you get a traditional, authentic experience. Set in the heart of Tampere, on the city’s main square: Keskustori, it offers traditional Tampere handicrafts – wooden toys, jewellery, and Xmas decorations, as well as sizzling hot food and drink. Look out for the unusual pantry fillers: reindeer, anyone?

EAT THIS – Snack on fried mustamakkara, Finnish black sausage eaten with Lingonberry jam. It originates from Tampere and you’ll find it sold fresh at many of Tampere’s kiosks and marketplaces, including the Christmas Market. If mustamakkara doesn’t tickle your fancy (it didn’t mine), sweeten up with a hot munkki – a Finnish doughnut deep-friend with cardamom spice. For the best munkkis in the country (no exaggeration) head to the Pyynikki observation tower. The views are sweet, too.

Tampere Xmas Market

Tampere Xmas Market

Tampere Xmas Market


GO HERE – Catch the No.15 bus (the bus station is opposite Tampere’s main square) to the city-centre neighbourhood of Pispala. 10 minutes later and you’re a world away from the city in one of Tampere’s most famous and beautiful residential districts. In the snow, the narrow lanes and colourful wooden houses rival Narnia in fairytale charm. I challenge you not to believe in magic after wandering the silent roads, as flakes fall softly around you. Before you catch the bus back to town, meander to the shore of Lake Pyhäjärvi – one of Tampere’s gems. Don’t forget your camera – the scenery is out of this world.

BUY THIS – Finlayson’s red-brick, six-story façade dominates Tampere’s Tammerkoski Rapids and has done since 1820. Inside its walls, fabrics were woven, patterns created and designs sewn forever into Finnish history. Visit the Finlayson area today for bars, museums and, of course, the Finlayson manufacturers’ store – and leave with a piece of Scandinavian fabric design – cushions, curtains, table linen – to ‘Finnish’ up your home style.

Pispala District in Tampere, Finland

Pispala district Tampere

Finlayson Tampere

DO THIS – Saturday night in Tampere is a steamy business. So pack your trunks and swimmers for Sauna Rauhaniemi – a traditional lakeside sauna just outside the city where €6 buys you an incredible evening. The sauna is Finland’s playground, boardroom, parliament and place of worship and every new house built in Finland comes with one. Sitting cheek-to-jowel amongst strangers may not seem like the sexiest way to spend your Saturday night, but trust me: this is one steam clean you don’t want to miss.

Sweat it out in one of the two saunas – they’re rustic, not fancy – then, for the full Finnish experience, head outside for a polar plunge into the ice waters of the frozen lake. I did it, twice. The first toe-dip was like fire flaying the skin from my limbs – and the subsequent swims weren’t much better! But, boy – it was breathtakingly invigorating and I totally get the addiction. Afterwards, eat grilled bratwurst as the snow falls around you and grin smugly. You’re officially Finnish.

Sauna Rauhaniemi Tampere Finland

Sauna Rauhaniemi Tampere Finland

Sauna Rauhaniemi Tampere Finland

DINE HERE – If you go to only one bistro on your Tampere weekend, make it Bistro Kattila (Hallituskatu 5). The warmth of the welcome matches the snug of the interior: cherry-red walls, oak flooring, heavy-set furniture. On my visit, triffids of amaryllis hung above the bar (amaryllis is a traditional Finnish Xmas plant) and candles danced on the tables. The food and wine – all organic – were delicious. The fish was the freshest and tastiest I’ve had – Baltic white bait, hello – and the gin and tonic, well: Napue Gin – from Finland – is officially the world’s best and is served to the letter in Bistro Kattila, complete with cranberries and rosemary.

Bistro Kattila G&T

Bistro Kattila Tampere Food

LAZY TWEET


SUNDAY

Adventure awaits beyond Tampere. Ice sledging, homemade apple pie, and Finland’s highest rotating restaurant. Dizzying? You bet.

Husky in Lempaala Finland

GO HERE – Catch a train out of Tampere to the pretty municipality of Lempäälä (the train takes 10 mins). Lempäälä is characterised by its lakes and rapids. In the summertime, lake-to-lake boat traffic passes through the town centre by way of a self-service canal. In winter, things fall silent and still as snow turns the beautiful countryside into a magical tundra ripe for winter thrills.

BUY THIS – Before adventure, seek homemade cake in Kahvila Siiri. Perched lakeside, Kahvila Siiri is a cabin of wonderment. Its soft, cottage-style shabby chic interior, romantic chandeliers, homely wooden charm, and bounteous lake views are truly heavenly. Cakes and treats, teas and coffees come streaming fresh from the little kitchen and are served on delicate vintage crockery. Order the homemade apple pie with warmed vanilla cream and a cup of Tampere coffee. Hot work, but someone’s gotta do it.

Kahvila Siiri Lempaala

Kahvila Siiri Lempaala

Kahvila Siiri Lempaala

DO THIS – A husky safari is a must and Gegwen Huskies in Lempäälä one of the best. However, Gegwen Huskies gets booked up fast, so you need to act quickly. Gegwen offers a variety of trips, including a husky picnic in snowy season every Sunday at 4pm. Hot food, hot drinks, a fire-warmed tipi concluding in a 1km husky ride (€25) – erm, yes please. Of course, for a husky ride you need plenty of snow, which was thin on the ground the day we went. Instead of a countryside romp, we enjoyed a 2km polar express on the nearby solid-ice lake. The resulting smile has been frozen on my face ever since.

SEE THIS – Back in Tampere, the city’s most notable church is calling. Tampere Cathedral was constructed in the district of Jussinkylä between 1902­ and 1907 and reigns in contrast to Tampere’s industrial core. Its national romantic style has a sense of the medieval about it; purposefully so – designed to express the national spirit and rebuke the Russification of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the early 20th century. Although, I didn’t go inside Tampere Cathedral, I’m told its famous frescoes are unforgettable.

Gegwen Huskies in Lempaala Finland

Gegwen Huskies in Lempaala Finland

EAT HERE – Fine dining takes on new heights at Restaurant Näsinneula. Found in the largest structure in Finland, the Nasinneula Observation Tower, Restaurant Näsinneula is a revolving restaurant famed for its a-la-carte menu as well as its jaw-dropping views. Sadly, the fog sat squarely on Tampere the evening we went, turning the 360-degree vista white, and bringing the food more sharply into focus – but not disappointedly. We feasted on the Winter Finlandia Menu (€65) – it changes by the season – paired with wines and excellent service. Amongst the more unusual, but delicious delights: marinated baltic herring with sour milk; elk from Rantsila and juniper berry, and Finnish white mold cheese with plum.

Restaurant Näsinneula Tampere Finland

Restaurant Näsinneula Tampere Restaurant Näsinneula Tampere


STAY HERE – Lapland Hotel Tampere brings all the charms of Finland’s most famous destination to Tampere’s heart and is an ideal base for your weekend trip. Step inside to find reindeer skins and antlers adorning charcoal walls. Fat, white candles flickering softly against a stone-coloured bar and lounge. Rooms are comfy and spacious, with Lapland’s magic ever present in the form of fur throws, Scandinavian minimalism, reindeer chips, and blueberry nature bars. Whilst in the restaurant, where breakfast is served, Nordic sunlight pours through the glass roof. The whole hotel seems to have its own hygge manifesto – welcome I felt, cosy I was, and return, I sure will. (I stayed in a comfort twin, from €122 per night).

Lapland Hotel Tampere

Lapland Hotel Tampere

WATCH MY WEEKEND IN TAMPERE VIDEO


FINNISH FAST FACTS 

  • The size of UK and Ireland, Finland is blessed with 188,000 lakes and a population of just over five million. That’s about 27 people per lake.
  • There is one sauna for every three people in Finland.
  • Finland takes pride in being the world’s most avidly coffee-consuming country — drinking three times as much coffee per capita as the United States.
  • Tampere has three universities and has been voted the most student-friendly city in Finland.
  • Helsinki is only a 90min drive from Tampere and St. Petersburg is just 400 kilometres away. Plus, there are also direct flights 6 days a week between Tampere and Riga, the capital of Latvia, so you can bag two wonderful cities if you stay for a longer weekend.
  • Tampere is Moomin mad. Although the Moomin’s author, Tove Jansson, wasn’t from Tampere she bequeathed the city library more than 2000 original art works, like her Moomin illustrations and paintings, which will be displayed in the world’s only Moomin Museum – opening in Tampere in June 2016. 

TAMPERE – TELL ME, WILL IT MAKE IT ONTO YOUR WEEKEND HOTLIST?

Disclosure: I enjoyed a Weekend in Tampere courtesy of Visit Tampere and Lapland Hotel Tampere. As you can see, I had the most amazing time in Tampere and everything you read here is a true reflection of my Tampere weekend visit.

28 Comments

  1. January 17, 2017 / 12:43 pm

    Great post, thanks for sharing! It sounds like a truly incredible trip to experience. Finland is such a spectacular part of the world to explore, with so many hidden gems. No wonder it’s continued to be a popular travel destination. Traveling certainly presents such an amazing opportunity and can really broaden your perspectives on life and strengthen your understanding and appreciation for other cultures.

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:08 pm

      That you can. Travelling to Tampere has totally changed my views on how to approach winter – I’m going to make much more of an effort to embrace it, rather than run from it!

  2. January 17, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    Hi Claire. I have to say a weekend in Tampere sounds and looks amazing! I’ll definitely add it to my wishlist. Is it easy to get to from Britain?

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:05 pm

      Hey Sara, thank you! Yes, it’s very easy (have I missed that out of the post – doh!). You can get a direct flight to Helsinki (about 2 hours), then get the train to Tampere (about 1hr 30). Simples

  3. January 18, 2017 / 6:04 pm

    What a interesting post, Claire. I’m always looking for ideas for places to visit in Scandinavia and it’s great to get ideas outside of the capital cities. Tampere looks well worth a visit (even though the Moomins used to scare me when I was little. I think I’m over that now though!)

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:02 pm

      Oh no! The Moomins aren’t scary! Maybe you should visit Tampere for ‘therapy’ 😉

  4. January 18, 2017 / 6:18 pm

    It looks jolly chilly indeed. All old industrial cities have something to offer, it really is a case of going to find the pretty side, or the moody side of it, which you’ve done!

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:01 pm

      It wasn’t quite as chilly as I expected! But then I did have 20 layers on!! Nothing us Brits aren’t used to!

  5. January 18, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    Absolutely fascinating. Firstly you had me right from the start by comparing it to Manchester. I also tend to love the 2nd or 3rd city in any destination more than the obvious or the capital, and it is a bonus if they have a manufacturing or industrial past which they have shaken off.

    Tampere sounds like a great ‘underdog city’ as I call them, and it doesn’t hurt that it is pretty as a picture in all that snow. Really hope to visit for myself.

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:00 pm

      Thanks, Jaillan. I think you’re right about it being an ‘underdog city’ – although they wouldn’t think of themselves as such. I was a little unsure of the industrial ‘look’ at first, but I actually fell for it within a few hours. I like ‘gritty’ cities very much.

  6. January 18, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    I wanted to go here as soon as you told me about this place, now I’ve read this I want to go even more than ever! Sounds like a true winter wonderland – and LOVED your amazing intro section…

    • January 20, 2017 / 1:56 pm

      Oooo, thanks lovely Keri. It was a wonderland to be sure!

  7. January 18, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    I don’t know why everyone worry about getting to a beach in the winter when there are so many incredible spots to enjoy a good bit of snow. One sauna for every 3 people-wow! The Lapland Hotel Tampere looks like just the type of spot I’d love to spend some time testing out that statistic!

    • January 20, 2017 / 1:55 pm

      I know. Finland has really changed my view of winter – they embrace everything about it rather than running for the duvet!

  8. January 19, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    I’m getting immense snow withdrawal symptoms and you’re not helping! Looks fantastic, especially the husky sledding which has been on my wishlist for ever.

  9. January 19, 2017 / 10:28 pm

    Totally agree with Jaillan – it reminds me of how I feel about Utrecht in the Netherlands, these 2nd/3rd cities frequently remind you of the difference between being a traveller and a tourist – with capital/first cities I sometimes feel as if I’m following a checklist of primary sights. Lempäälä lakes, fairytale Pispala and the husky safari would be my trio of things to try first, I think!

    • January 20, 2017 / 1:53 pm

      Yeah. That’s a good point. I really am starting to fall out of love with the checklist kinda visits to places. It’s nice to just discover a place naturally.

  10. January 19, 2017 / 11:01 pm

    It looks like you had an amazing weekend, and the places you visited look beautiful. I came to your post straight after looking at a hotel in Finland and I am now desperate to visit! Off to work on hubby next 🙂

    • January 20, 2017 / 1:52 pm

      Ha! How did persuading your hubby go? Finland is wonderful – the little part I’ve seen of it, that is – so I hope you get a trip there soon!

  11. Michael
    January 25, 2017 / 5:18 pm

    Almost like the itinerary we gave out for our wedding in Tampere. Loved it so much I had no problem settling down there this year. Its very laid back all year round. The food at the Lapland hotel is well worth a shot too. Glad you enjoyed your stay.

  12. Living there every day.
    January 25, 2017 / 5:32 pm

    Hello from Tampere! It was nice to read about your trip. You really found local things to do. 🙂 Great posting.

  13. May 16, 2017 / 3:26 pm

    As much as I love the sun and am looking forward to summer, I have to say that these pictures got me a little Christmassy 😉 It looks truly like a winter wonderland and definitely one to add to the must-visit list.

  14. January 12, 2018 / 1:08 pm

    That you can. Travelling to Tampere has totally changed my views on how to approach winter.
    Good information about this travel ,we would like to see it
    Thanks

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