Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland and Official Home of Santa Claus, sits just five miles south of the Arctic Circle.
Retreating Nazis destroyed much of Rovaniemi in 1944, but the city bounced back. Finnish architect Alvar Aalto planned much of the modern city, including roads, in the shape of reindeer antlers.
Lumberjack's Candle Bridge (Jätkänkynttilä) spans the Kemijoki River. It opened in 1989 as the first cable-stayed road bridge in Finland and ranks among the most recognizable landmarks of Rovaniemi.
According to local legend, Santa’s original home occupies a secret location in Finnish Lapland. His Rovaniemi office opened in 1985, and the town became the Official Hometown of Santa Claus in 2010.
Santa keeps an office in Santa Claus Village, where more than half a million people visit him each year. While exploring the village, visitors can also cross the Arctic Circle.
It should come as no surprise that a city with a reindeer head-shaped street plan has an affinity for the animals. No visit to Rovaniemi would be complete without taking a reindeer sleigh ride.
Winter (December to March) in Rovaniemi can be dark and cold, with daytime temperatures below freezing and polar nights where the sun never makes it above the horizon.
The cold and dark don't stop locals from enjoying the snowy landscape. Snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, skiing, ice climbing and fat biking represent a few winter adventures.
According to local Sámi legend, the northern lights (revontuletor or “fox fire” in Finnish) is caused by a fox running through the snow and whipping ice crystals into the sky with its bushy tail.
Summer in Rovaniemi brings nightless nights (also called polar days) where the sun never sets. You can see the midnight sun from early June to early July.
Dog mushing has long served as an important mode of transportation in Lapland. Visitors can experience dog sledding or visit a sled dog farm to learn more about the life and work of these huskies.
If you associate swimming with hot summer days, you’re not from Rovaniemi. Here, winter swimming ranks as a popular pastime, believed to promote good health.
Reindeer racing is another popular pastime. During a typical race, four reindeer compete at a time. The jockeys don’t ride the reindeer but follow behind on skis.
Summer is a popular season for foraging. Head out into the Lappish forests to find blueberries, cloudberries and wild mushrooms.
Spend an evening dining on Lapland cuisine inside the Snowland Restaurant. The igloo restaurant features tables made of ice and two ice bars.