Home » Countries » Things To Do In Rovaniemi In Winter

Things To Do In Rovaniemi In Winter

Rovaniemi, located right on the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, is a perfect destination for a winter break. We have recently returned from a trip to this lovely city. Our primary reason for visiting was to try to see the Northern Lights. But seeing the marvellous aurora is very much dependent on both an active sun and cloud-free weather, so we weren’t planning on hanging around waiting. We wanted to visit a location where there were lots of activities to enjoy as well. Here is our guide for things to do in Rovaniemi in winter.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click through and decide to make a purchase we will make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, which will help towards the costs of running this site.

How to Get To Rovaniemi

Most people fly into Rovaniemi. The city centre is located around 9km from the compact airport. It is possible to catch a bus with a not very useful timetable (which currently requires a long wait if you arrive in the afternoon and is no good if you arrive in the evening). A taxi ride will cost around €30-35, depending on where you are staying in the city. There is currently no Uber in Rovaniemi.

Where to Stay in Rovaniemi

We spent a week in Rovaniemi and rented an apartment on the edge of the centre. It’s a small city and very easy to walk around, so we were only 10 minutes away from the bars and restaurants. Our apartment, the Rovavist, also had a mini-supermarket beneath the flats, which was very handy for picking up groceries.

Things to Do In Rovaniemi in Winter

We recommend visiting the tourist information office as they have lots of information about the city, including maps and advice on things to do. They also have a weekly events listing so you can discover any concerts and sporting events that are happening during your visit. The office is open Monday to Friday.

In the town there are three interesting museums/art galleries to visit. They are open Tuesday to Sunday.

If you want to visit all three we recommend buying a Culture Pass at €25. This represents really good value as it offers a saving on the total admission price to all three venues and you can visit each of them as many times as you like within a week. All museums are closed on Mondays.

Arktikum is a fabulous museum dedicated to all aspects of life in the Arctic. The exhibits range from information about the Arctic environment, to the lives of indigenous people and local history.

Things to do in Rovaniemi in winter
Things to do in Rovaniemi in winter

Pillke is a science museum which is perfect for children of all ages. It has a strong environmental and sustainability theme, there are lots of highly interactive exhibits and games to play.

There is even multi-lingual karaoke, generally children’s songs, so we belted out a great rendition of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

Korundi Culture house is Rovaniemi’s art gallery. It has a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions to enjoy. Many of the works are by local artists and the gallery displays artworks which have an Arctic theme.

Things to Do in Rovaniemi in Winter

The Santa Village

The Santa Village is a big draw for visitors, especially for those travelling with children during the months of November and December. Yes, if you are a fan of all things Christmassy, Rovaniemi is the place where Santa lives and you can visit him all year round.

Things to do in Rovaniemi in winter

The village is free to enter. You can catch the bus (the same one that goes to the airport) from Rovaniemi city centre. It’s about 8km away and you can buy a return ticket to take you back into town – keep it and give it to the driver.

The village is actually located directly on the Arctic Circle so you can stop for photos. You can also buy a certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle.

And you can enter Santa’s house and meet the old guy himself. To be honest, it was a bit crowded in there, even in January. It’s likely to be completely packed in December. And while it’s free to go inside and have your photo taken with Santa, you’ll have to queue for a while and Santa’s elves can later sell you a photo at a pricey price between €35-50. (You’re not obliged to make a purchase.)

And everything else in the village seems expensive. You can visit a reindeer farm and go on a reindeer sleigh ride (adult/child prices €25/€20 for 7 minutes, €40€/30 for 15 minutes) or visit Snowman World, (€29 Euros per person but you can stay all day) which has various winter activities and an ice bar. But the entry costs for these will add up, particularly for families.

We were keen to try Santa’s salmon – cooked using a traditional method baked over an open fire inside a teepee.

Things to do in Rovaniemi in winter

But €25 for a salmon steak (which was mainly delicious, although the skin was burned black and not great to eat), a couple of pieces of flatbread and a blob of cream felt overpriced.

“Just hear those cash tills ringing and Euros jingling too…Ding-aling-aling-aling Ker-ching.”

While a visit to Santa Village would undoubtedly be an experience for families with children, we think, in retrospect, we’d rather have visited the Bad Santa Village! (Which doesn’t exist.)

Hike Through the Forest

The Ounasvaara Winter Trail offers a lovely forest walk. Located just outside of the city, across the Candle Bridge (the bridge with the red lights atop) cross the road under the subway and enter the forest. There are trails for hikers, bikers and skiers with maps and signposts to show the way. The forest, covered in snow, is delightful and you can easily spend a few hours exploring the area.

Things to Do in Rovaniemi in Winter
Things to do in Rovaniemi in winter

Things to do in Rovaniemi in winter

Watch The Ice Hockey

Rovaniemi has its own ice hockey team, Roki, that play regular matches. The Lappi Areena is located just outside of town, close to the Ounasvaara forest. The tourist information centre will be able to let you know the match schedule.

If you’re walking to the arena it takes around 40-50 minutes to get there from the city, across the Candle Bridge. The ticket office opens an hour before the game starts and it costs €15 to watch the game. It’s exciting and full of action and Roki fans are incredibly enthusiastic. It’s great viewing for all the family.

ice hockey

Winter Activity Excursions

There are loads of companies in the city that offer all sorts of winter activities. You can go on snowmobiles, enjoy a husky sled ride, go ice-karting or even visit an amethyst mine. We recommend pre-booking as some popular activities may sell out.

We enjoyed two trips. One was a snowshoeing and ice-fishing day where we travelled to a local frozen lake. It was great to learn how to use snowshoes and then walk on deep snow in the local forest.

Then it was onto the frozen lake where we drilled holes in the ice and enjoyed a spot of ice fishing. Sadly we didn’t manage to eat sashimi for lunch that day, the fish were far too canny to fall for our attempts at enticing them to bite. But it’s not really about the fish, it’s a chance to sit quietly amongst nature and enjoy the scenery.

Things to Do in Rovaniemi in Winter
Things to Do in Rovaniemi in Winter

The other trip was a full day to see the frozen waterfalls in the Korouoma canyon. It was the coldest day of the trip, a freeeeeezing -26C, but also the most splendidly beautiful. The canyon is located around 100 km northwest of Rovaniemi and it takes around an hour and a half to drive there. As we travelled along the road, the sun had just risen above the horizon and kissed the treetops.

We walked for 5km, through the forest of spruce, pine and birch trees, all covered in glittery snow, and down into the canyon. We then trekked along the gorge admiring the frozen waterfalls, which would remain utterly static for another couple of months.

Frozen waterfall
Things to Do Rovaniemi Winter

After reaching the resting places we built a fire and cooked sausages on sticks. Then it was time to climb back up the canyon to return. The sun was just about to set and the sky was a glorious pink, the pale moon gently bathing in the light.

Things to Do Rovaniemi Winter

See the Northern Lights

This was our third attempt at seeing the Northern Lights. We had tried previously in Iceland and Norway – and had had a brilliant time in both locations – but failed to see them. So we were hoping for third time lucky.

The Aurora Borealis is one of nature’s most marvellous phenomena. It happens in northern latitudes when the solar wind emits particles from the sun which interact with the atmosphere creating strange and ethereal lights dancing in the sky.

The sun’s activity has a cycle of around 10-11 years and 2024-5 is the expected solar maximum. There are things you can plan for – an active time in the sun cycle and also possibly choose a time of the month when the moon isn’t full.

But trips are often booked months in advance so you have no knowing if the solar wind will be active and the skies clear. We planned to stay in Rovaniemi for a week, so that if the sky was cloudy on our arrival (it was) we had a few days in hand for the weather to clear.

Of course, you can see the lights on a DIY basis. There are all sorts of apps which will notify you of sun activity and weather forecast. You can hire a car and head out into the frozen wilderness.

An alternative is to book a tour. There are various options available. Some involve a snowmobile safari or husky ride into the night which means that at least you have enjoyed an activity even if you don’t see the lights. But you will have to pay again if you want to try again.

We chose a guaranteed northern lights excursion, which sounds a bit strange bearing in mind that you need all the weather and solar activity conditions to be just right. But this tour offers a guarantee of seeing the lights or they will give you your money back. It does cost more than the standard chases but we felt it was worth it.

On booking, we informed the company of our arrival date and tentatively planned a northern lights chase for the following evening. They asked how long we were staying for. This gave them an idea of when they could reschedule the trip if needed.

They monitor both the solar and atmospheric conditions daily and text an update. The first couple of days had 100% cloud cover, so they texted to postpone to the following day.

On the third day we got a call saying that they’d had their meeting and thought that the skies would clear. They predicted an 80% chance of seeing the lights and said we could either go for it or have our money back. We decided to go out and they arranged an evening pickup from our apartment.

Then you go out in a van with a small group of people and head to the clear skies and open spaces away from city lights.

There’s a lot of waiting in the cold so we advise wrapping up warm. But it was worth it – we were treated to the most magical display.

Things to Do Rovaniemi Winter
Things to Do Rovaniemi in Winter

Rovaniemi for Foodies

The city has a good food scene with a wide variety of traditional Lappish dishes to try. Eating out isn’t cheap in Lapland so we combined shopping at local supermarkets to cook in our apartment with dining out at a variety of restaurants.

Fine Dining

There are a number of fine dining restaurants offering traditional Lappish food. Some offer tasting menus. We enjoyed a five course tasting menu at the Arctic Restaurant on Valtakatu.

We enjoyed a silky-smooth crayfish soup followed by reindeer tartare with remoulade and sun-dried tomato. The next courses were white fish with hollandaise, carrot and caviar, and then rare tenderloin of beef with a port jus, potato stack and beetroot puree. A lemon sorbet cleansed the palette before we tucked into a creamy crème brûlée.

Restaurant Nili next door also offers tasting menus.

Fast food

The café at the Arkitum offers a Lappish buffet on weekdays for €15 and includes a cup of good coffee. It’s hearty and filling and tastes great.

We were highly amused by Santa’s Doner Kebab on Koskikatu. Yes, they do offer reindeer – Do(n)ner but no Blitzen or Rudolph! – and the kebab was delicious.

Pure Burger Kauppayhtiö on Valtakatu offered reindeer burgers with dirty fries and Café 21 on Rovakatu offers sweet and savoury waffles as well as a number of pastries and cakes.


Finnish people enjoy their coffee and you are guaranteed a great brew. One of the more unusual ways to serve coffee is with bread cheese. Bread cheese, or leipäjuusto, (sometimes known as cheese bread or juustoleipä), is a mild, sweet, squeaky cheese. It has the texture, but not the saltiness, of Halloumi. It can be enjoyed in slices with cloudberry or lingonberry jam.

More unusually it is enjoyed as Kaffeost. Cubes of cheese are submerged in dark black coffee. They soak up the coffee and can be eaten with a spoon. It’s a very unusual way of enjoying cheese – and coffee – but is surprisingly good.

If you enjoy a tipple Finland, like many Scandinavian countries, is pricier than most. We found it to be pricey but not eye-wateringly expensive (certainly not as expensive as Norway or Sweden). There are restrictions on when you can buy booze. No strong beer can be bought from a supermarket after 9pm but weaker beers can. Olvi Kotikalja beer is a traditional dark brown beverage made from rye and barley malt. Its alcohol content is 2.2 % and it tastes like shandy.

Lapland Brewery

If beer is your thing, Rovaniemi’s local brewery is the northernmost brewery in Finland. It has a taproom and also offers tours. They have a good range of beers, and also some alcoholic drinks made by mixing local berries, such as cloudberry, with spirits. It is located 3km outside of town and is walkable from the city centre – it takes around 50 minutes to get there.

The pub Oluthuone, on Koskikatu, is a pub predominantly frequented by local people and offers Rovaniemi and Finnish beer (as well as international brands) at reasonable prices – we’d compare them to London prices. We received a warm welcome.

What to Bring to Rovaniemi in Winter

Warm clothes are essential. The temperatures can be very cold. We visited in January and did the waterfall hike in temperatures of -26C. We recommend wearing layers. Thermals are a good idea to wear underneath your clothes to provide extra insulation. A thick, warm waterproof jacket, woolly hat and gloves are essential. Balaclavas and scarves will also be useful.

In winter you’ll be walking on snow and sometimes ice. Good footwear is essential. You might also want to invest in some rubber straps with mini-spikes which you can fit over your boots.

If you don’t have enough equipment there are plenty of shops where you can buy anything you might need. Also, some of the activity companies will be able to hire exposure suits, if you want to be really snug and warm.

If you plan to go snowmobiling you will need to bring your driving licence.

If you are on a Northern Lights tour take your passport as some of the companies may travel into Norway or Sweden if there’s a chance of clearer weather there. You will also need to be contactable by phone if you are choosing a guaranteed tour so that you can find out about local conditions, so consider an international SIM or an e-SIM if your phone needs one.

There are plenty of things to do in Rovaniemi in winter and we absolutely recommend spending time in this lovely little city and the surrounding countryside.

Svalbard holiday
A Svalbard Holiday
Winter iceland itinerary jokulsarlon
A Winter Iceland Itinerary
Five days in copenhagen Nyhavn
Five Days in Copenhagen
Faroes Nólsoy
Visit The Faroe Islands
If you liked this post, please share it:


  1. I’m in love with Finland and literally couldn’t stop smiling whilst reading your post. I can confirm Finland is not a cheap country and especially the food is pricey, since they source most of the produce locally. The reindeer kebap also triggered some fond memories. Very pleased to hear you guys were able to see the Aurora and planned your trip accordingly since there is a high chance you may not see it and you have to give it a few tries.

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

    • We’re so delighted that you love Finland – we think it’s a splendid country. Glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed reindeer kebabs as well! We were so thrilled to see the Aurora at last but it was just one brilliant element of our time in Rovaniemi- the whole trip was a blast!

  2. Finland fascinates me. I’m so pleased you were able to see the Aurora — I have been blessed with seeing them many times here in Canada and it never ceases to thrill me. I’m not fond of cold weather but there’s no doubt that Finland needs to be a winter trip.

    Great tips regarding the Culture Pass and Santa’s Village. The pass is a real bargain and I would absolutely take advantage of it.

    Lyn | http://www.ramblynjazz.com

    • Seeing the northern lights was a dream for us but it’s so nice to hear that you are always thrilled to see them. The weather is very cold indeed but it’s a ‘dry’ cold. Lapland is definitely a place to visit in the winter and there is so much to do – both indoors and outdoors.

  3. Am so glad you eventually got to see the Northern Lights. I have yet to do so – spent 3 days in Iceland to see them and they never appeared!.
    Those prices are eye-wateringly high but I do remember Finland as being expensive when I was there.
    Love the quip on the don(n)er kebab.
    Would love to visit the most northern brewery – love a beer when in any country. Not sure about the cheese soaked in coffee – I adore them separately but cannot imagine the taste of them together.

    • Thank you! We, too, tried to see the lights in Iceland and failed. Fingers crossed for some Aurora luck next time! The cheese soaked coffee was strange but surprisingly good. The cheese has a slightly sweet flavour and isn’t salty at all so the flavour works better than expected.

  4. A trip to Finland is not currently in the radar yet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s way too early not to plan a trip there. After all, seeing the Northern lights is everyone’s dream and perhaps the ultimate trip of a lifetime. Gazing at the light spectacle even just for a few seconds will surely allow one to forget the pricey food easily. I just hope that I get to see Aurora too during my future visit, if not, a Santa enjoying a doner kebab might just also be something to smile about #flyingbaguette

    Jan – https://flyingbaguette.com/

    • You’re so right – it’s always worth putting a new destination on the radar! The Northern Lights were just magical and it was a joy to see them. We hope that you get to see them one day, possibly even eating a doner kebab, they are very, very special.

  5. Well I loved Rovaniemi, I do agree about Santa’s Village. I’m that crazy Christmas person and still found it expensive haha. I still think it’s worth a visit, but be prepared. I’m so glad you saw the northern lights and enjoyed the winter wonderland that is Finland! Captured my heart

    • Thank you! It’s interesting that you felt the same way about Santa’s Village – worth a visit but be prepared. Yes, the northern lights were just fantastic. You’re so right that Finland is a winter wonderland.

  6. I’m so happy you saw the lights, your photos are wonderful. It’s truly very magical. Speaking of magical, I might be tempted by Santa’s village, even if it is busy. Great that there’s also so many places to visit indoors in case you really need a break from the cold, but the frozen waterfalls and outdoor activities look fantastic.

    • Thank you so much! Yes, Rovaniemi has so many things to do, from the Santa Village to the excellent museums to the amazing outdoor activities.

  7. First of all: I’m very happy that you finally got to see the Northern Lights! It’s undoubtedly an experience that hardly anyone can put into words.
    Like other northern European countries, Finland is quite expensive, especially for budget travelers. However, it’s worth the investment to explore a country with such fabulous natural beauty.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up To Our Very Tasty Newsletter