Finland — Shopping and Leisure
Souvenir shopping is predictably expensive in Finland, but collectors will have a ball browsing for traditional goods like hand-woven rugs (locally known as ryijy) and puuko knives. Reindeer parts are also a big hit, along with Lappish handicrafts. To ensure authenticity, look for certification that says "Sámi Duodji." In addition to local souvenirs, most tourists also shop for beautiful jewelry, designer clothing (keep an eye out for the famous Finnish brand Marimekko), quality glassware, and ceramics. If you are into interior design and unique furniture, you may wish to check out the works of the renowned architect Alvar Aalto (mind the shipping cost).
There are numerous shopping opportunities in Finland's towns, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Kauppahallis (indoor markets) are abundant and can be found in almost every town, as are open-air fairs, just like the one in Helsinki’s Market Square. There are also exciting market alleys, souvenir shops and cafés in all the cities. The Pikku-Pietarin market alley in Kuopio is a good example, featuring red wooden houses refurbished and converted into eccentric shops that sell clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, and sundries.
In Helsinki, it’s easy to find great places to buy local artwork and other trinkets. Head to the Kamppi Shopping Center and the Kiselef Bazar for good-quality clothing. Esplanadi Street has steeper prices, but still provides a good place to shop for souvenirs downtown. The Forum Mall is known for its modern apparel chains, as is the larger Itakeskus Mall, which lies seven miles from the city center. The Kauppatori Market Square in the heart of the city is best known for its festive atmosphere, fresh food and high-quality crafts.
Unfortunately for shopaholics, Finland has very limited retail hours. Smaller shops only stay open from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and close even earlier on Saturdays. Larger stores generally stay open until 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Most shops are closed on Sundays and during national holidays. Hours are extended slightly during the Christmas season, but do not expect to be shopping well into the night in the small towns.
Often said to be Finland’s most significant contribution to world culture, Finnish saunas are very popular with both locals and travelers and there are over a million saunas throughout the country. The cold weather obviously encourages this prevalent tradition, which involves sitting in a heated steam room (up to 158-248°F), with leafy birch branches for self-flagellation. The leaves create a soothing and enjoyable aroma that supposedly improves blood circulation. Historically, saunas were used for healing and as venues for giving birth. Saunas also form part of many Finnish houses and traditionally, it is the first structure erected. Practically every household, apartment, summer cottage, hotel, and even office has a sauna and every town and city has at least one public sauna.
You should visit Jatkankamppa Smoke Sauna (Kuopio), one of the most popular smoke saunas in the country. Rauhaniemi Kansankylpyla (Tampere) provides a relaxing beachside experience on the shores of Lake Nasijarvi. It is also one of the oldest in the country, dating back to 1929. Rajaportin, which is also located in Tampere, is another popular choice, having been around since 1906. In Helsinki, the go-to place is Kotiharju, a well-known institution and the only wood-burning public sauna in town. Tourists who are serious about experiencing the sauna culture often visit Saunasaari, an island resort filled with countless authentic wood-fired saunas and outdoor pools. It is only 15 minutes by boat from the Market Square in Helsinki and a good way to let off steam (no pun intended).