Expanding rapidly on the back of a tourism boom, the ‘official’ terrestrial residence of Santa Claus is the capital of Finnish Lapland and a more-or-less obligatory northern stop. Its wonderful Arktikum museum is the perfect introduction to the mysteries of these latitudes, and Rovaniemi is a good place to organise activities from. It’s also a transport hub, a convenient spot to hire a car, and has some of Lapland’s best accommodation.
Thoroughly destroyed by the retreating Wehrmacht in 1944, the town was rebuilt to a plan by Alvar Aalto, with the major streets in the shape of a reindeer’s head and antlers (don’t worry, it took us years to work it out). Its unattractive buildings are compensated for by its marvellous location on the fast-flowing – when not frozen over – Kemijoki, spanned by a bridge dubbed the ‘Lumberjack’s Candle’ for its light-topped pylons.