Top ChoiceFortress 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...

Top ChoiceMuseum 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...

Top ChoiceFinnish in Imatra

Ravintola Nuotta

Two sizes of bliny (Russian buckwheat pancakes), topped with hot or cold salmon, trout roe, crayfish tails, or sour cream, pickled cucumber, red onion and local herbs, are the speciality of this fabulous lakeside...

Top ChoiceCafe in Koli National Park

Alamaja

Right on the lake's shore 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...

Top ChoiceWine Bar in Ilomantsi

Hermanni Wine Tower

Blackcurrants, crowberries and white currants from the fields and bogs around Ilomantsi are blended by Hermanni Winery. At the top of the local 33m-high water tower, you can sample its local berry wines and...

Top ChoiceCoffee in Lappeenranta

Lehmus Roastery

Crowned Finland's best coffee roastery at 2017's Suomen Paras Paahtimo awards, Lehmus occupies a red-brick former warehouse overlooking the lake. Behind the gleaming espresso machine, passionate staff roast four...

Top ChoiceKarelian 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 with vatruskoita...

Top ChoiceKarelian in Joensuu

Teatteri

Locally sourced ingredients prepared in innovative ways are served in the town hall's art-deco surrounds and on its beautiful summer terrace. Dishes span nettle ricotta with wild herb salad to liquorice-glazed...

Top ChoiceBar in Joensuu

Kerubi

Joensuu's best bar-club occupies its own island in the Pielisjoki, linked to the city centre by a bridge. DJs spin techno, trance and electronica on Friday and Saturday; live bands and stand-up comedy take place...

Top ChoiceBar in Lappeenranta

Prinsessa Armaada

Built in 1902, this tar steamship, which once transported timber to St Petersburg (and briefly served in the Russian Imperial Navy in 1914) has operated as a bar since 1959 and has great ciders and craft beers....

Top ChoiceRiver in Imatra

Imatra Rapids

The 1929 construction of Imatra's hydroelectric complex (Finland’s largest) dammed the river, but the watery wonder lives on with the spectacular 20-minute Rapids Show, when the dam is opened to a rousing son et...

Top ChoicePublic 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 3 million kg of sand. Previous themes have included dinosaurs, a Wild West...

Top ChoiceMuseum 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 Karelia's present-day border at this excellent museum. Highlights...

Sculpture in South Karelia

Parikkalan Patsaspuisto

What looks like an ordinary roadside rest stop adjoins a woodland area with 256 surreal life-size sculptures of figures in yoga poses. They're the work of sculptor Veijo Rönkkönen (1942–2010), who lived on the...

Karelian in South Karelia

Säräpirtti Kippurasarvi

The best place to taste Lemi's famous lemin särä (roast mutton) is this family-oriented lakeshore restaurant, which serves nothing but the town's signature dish, prepared according to a thousand-year-old recipe,...

Karelian in Joensuu

Ravintola Kielo

At the high end of Karelian cuisine, Kielo's artfully presented miniature starters such as whitefish escabeche with mussel mayo or sugar- and salt-cured Arctic char with smoked sour cream and fennel consommé set...

Village in Ilomantsi

Parppeinvaara

Karelian traditions are celebrated at this little 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...

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 €19) offers an excellent...

Island in Lake Pielinen

Paalasmaa

Lake Pielinen's largest island, Paalasmaa, is the highest in Finland at 225m above sea level. The best view is from the 18m-high wooden observation tower, 3km along a marked trail from the Paalasmaan Lomamajat...

Museum in Lappeenranta

Cavalry Museum

The cavalry are honoured as Lappeenranta’s greatest heroes and the 1772-built former garrison (the town’s oldest building) at the Linnoitus fortress tells how this band of red-trousered warriors began as the...