Top things to do

Top Choice Fortress in Lappeenranta

Linnoitus

Standing guard above the harbour, this hulking hilltop fortification was begun by the Swedes and finished by the Russians in the late 18th century. Today it contains galleries, craft workshops and fascinating museum…
Top Choice Karelian in Ilomantsi

Parppeinpirtti

Ilomantsi's one foodie highlight is this traditional house in the Parppeinvaara village, which does a real-deal pitopöytä (Karelian buffet) complete with a kantele soundtrack. Heap your plate high with vatruskoita (…
Top Choice Karelian in Joensuu

Teatteri

Locally sourced ingredients prepared in innovative ways are served in the town hall's art deco surrounds and beautiful summer terrace. Dishes span braised, smoked pork neck with wild boar sausage and rhubarb compote…
Top Choice Cafe in Koli National Park

Alamaja

Right on the lakeshore at Koli harbour, this rust-red, double-storey timber building has two terraces overlooking the water (or, in winter, ice) and some of the best food for miles around: reindeer steaks with lingo…
Top Choice Public Art in Lappeenranta

Hiekkalinna

Every summer around 30 sand artists from Finland and abroad gather to build the Hiekkalinna, a giant themed ‘sandcastle’ made from some three million kilograms of sand. Previous themes have included dinosaurs, a Wil…
Top Choice Finnish in Lappeenranta

Wolkoff Restaurant & Wine Bar

This grand old-world restaurant utilises organic produce and seasonal ingredients to create gourmet Finnish cuisine with adventurous flavour combinations like reindeer tartare with Dijon mustard ice cream, and duck …
Top Choice Museum in Joensuu

Carelicum

Themed displays – on the region’s prehistory, its war-torn past, the Karelian evacuation, the importance of the sauna etc – cover both sides of the present-day border at this excellent museum.
Museum in Ilomantsi

Parppeinvaara

Karelian traditions are celebrated at this little Bardic village, 2km south of Ilomantsi. It's named for bard and kantele player Jaakko Parppei (1792–1885), whose songs inspired the Kalevala epic. Listen to the harp…
Historic Building in Hattuvaara

Taistelijan Talo

The striking wooden Taistelijan Talo was designed by Joensuu architect Erkki Helasvuo in 1988 to symbolise the meeting of East and West. On the ground floor, the restaurant (buffet €17) offers an excellent all-day K…
Museum in Lake Pielinen

Paateri

Between Vuonislahti and Vuonisjärvi, Paateri was the home and workshop of Eva Ryynänen (1915–2001), Finland’s most respected wood sculptor – as well as her greatest work, Paateri Wilderness Church (1991). Carved flo…