One of Finland’s prettiest towns, Savonlinna shimmers on a sunny day as the water ripples around its centre. Set on two islands between Haapavesi and Pihlajavesi lakes, it’s a classic Lakeland settlement with a major attraction: perched on a rocky islet, one of Europe’s most visually dramatic castles, Olavinlinna, lords it over the picturesque town centre. The castle also plays host to July’s world-famous opera festival in a spectacular setting.
Even if you’re no ariaholic, the buzz of the festival makes this the most rewarding time to visit, with more restaurants and cafes open and animated post-show debriefs over dinner or bubbly going deep into the darkless night. But Savonlinna rewards a visit any time of year, and has other major drawcards like Kerimäki’s church and the Retretti gallery within easy reach.