Finland is incredibly child friendly, and is a terrific place to holiday with kids. Domestic tourism is largely dictated by children’s needs, and child-friendly attractions abound in the height of summer, while winter brings its own snowy delights, including Santa.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Helsinki

Many attractions, with trams, boats, zoo, Suomenlinna fortress, Linnanmäki amusement park and Serena water park at Espoo. Most museums and galleries have child-friendly exhibits.

  • Åland Archipelago

Flat archipelago perfect for family cycling and gentle beaches; also has forts and castles both stone and bouncy.

  • The Lakeland

The castle at Savonlinna and scope for watery activities make this region one of the best for children.

  • West Coast

Water slides at Vaasa, sandy beaches at Yyteri and Kalajoki, and tranquil shores.

  • Turku & the South Coast

Moominworld at Naantali is a magnet for the young, who drag their parents here from all over the northern lands. Turku itself offers rope courses and skiing, while the Sirius Sport Resort in the southeast has flying, surfing and more.

  • Lapland

A winter wonderland with Kemi’s snow castle, sled trips and children’s ski runs. In summer there’s gold-panning, meeting reindeer or huskies, and national parks. The region’s most famous resident, Santa, is at Napapiiri year-round.

Finland For Kids

As it’s such an outdoors-focused destination, planning a trip for kids could include splashing about on lakes and rivers, hikes in national parks, and cycling. In winter the reliable snow opens up a world of outdoor possibilities, and there’s also the Santa Claus angle in Lapland. There are several standout theme parks across the country, and even potentially stuffy museums make the effort to engage kids, with simplified child-height information, hands-on activities and interactive displays or activity sheets in English.

Activities such as boat trips, canoeing and fishing are available almost everywhere, and large towns all have a swimming complex that includes water slides and Jacuzzis; excellent for all ages year-round.

Children’s Highlights

Castles & Fortresses

Animals

Winter

  • Ice Skating Strap the skates on at outdoor rinks including Helsinkii's Jääpuisto.
  • Skiing Tackle the family-friendly slopes at ski resorts such as Levi, Ruka, Pyhä-Luosto or Jyväskylä.
  • Rovaniemi Get into the Christmas spirit around this town where Santa can be visited year-round, or at his seaside office in Kemi.
  • Snow structures Visit the snow castle at Kemi or the snow village at Ylläs.
  • Snow rides Take a ride pulled by huskies or reindeer in Lapland, or rev up a snowmobile and go for a spin.
  • Ice hockey Soak in the atmosphere of a game in Helsinki.

Theme Parks

On the Water

  • Canoeing Paddle your way around the Linnansaari and Kolovesi national parks.
  • Oravareitti (Squirrel Route) Tackle this multiday canoeing adventure.
  • Ruunaa Shoot the rapids here, or on the Kitkajoki near Kuusamo.
  • Gold panning Search in the Lapland rivers at Tankavaara or Lemmenjoki.

Beaches

  • Hietaranta Helsinki’s best city beach.
  • Hanko Numerous beaches, ranging from paddleable to windsurfable.
  • Åland Has a wealth of beaches and hidden coves.
  • Hiekkalinna, Lappeenranta Check out this amazing sandcastle.
  • Yyteri Has a great variety of beaches.
  • Kalajoki This resort near Oulu, along with Hailuoto island, is excellent for families.

Museums

Planning

For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.

When to Go

Finnish children are on holidays from mid-June to early August, and many child-oriented activities are closed outside this period. This is when campgrounds are buzzing with Finnish families – an instant social life for your kids – and temperatures are usually reliably warm.

Winter is also a great time to take the family to Finland, especially to the north. December sees all sorts of Christmasy things spring up in Lapland, with Santas, elves and reindeer galore. But if your kids are older and you want to get active in the snow, March or April are the months to go: there’s plenty of daylight, better snow and not such extreme cold.

Accommodation

Self-catering is huge in Finland, and the wide network of rental cabins, apartments and cottages – ranging from simple huts with bunks to luxurious bungalows with fully equipped kitchen and electric sauna – make excellent family bases. Campgrounds are also particularly good, with cabins, rowboats and bikes available for hire, and often a lake beach. There are always things to do and other children in these places, and larger ones offer activity programs.

Most Finnish hotels and hostels will put an extra bed in a room for little extra cost – and kids under 12 often sleep free. Many hotel rooms have sofas that can fold out into beds or family suites, and hostels often have connecting rooms. The Holiday Club (www.holidayclub.fi) chain of spa hotels is especially child-friendly. These and other resort hotels always have family-friendly restaurants with a menu for the kids, or deals where children eat free if accompanied by adults.

Practicalities

  • Local tourist information booklets and websites highlight attractions with family appeal.
  • Car-hire firms have child safety seats for hire, but it is essential that you book them in advance.
  • High chairs and cots (cribs) are standard in many restaurants and hotels, but numbers may be limited.
  • Entrance fees and transport tickets for children tend to be around 60% of the adult charge.
  • Most museums in Helsinki are free for kids.
  • Nappies (diapers) and baby food are widely available.
  • Public breast feeding is normal practice.