Welcome to the ultimate Lapland destination in Winter: Rovaniemi! It has been on top of our bucket list for at least 5 years to visit Lapland in winter. It’s a magical and dreamy destination that we simply wanted to discover ourselves. Little did we expect that we would actually visit Rovaniemi in Summer first. That Summer trip to Lapland however, made us fall in love with this place and was the decisive moment we started to make serious work of traveling to Rovaniemi in Winter.
What makes Rovaniemi so special
Rovaniemi has it all. It’s an urban city surrounded by arctic nature, where Lappish culture and a wide range of activities meet. There is no other place in the world where the magic of Santa Claus and Christmas come to life as in Rovaniemi. It is Santa’s hometown for a reason.
It’s that magical and dreamy feeling that makes Rovaniemi a special place in Lapland and the most amazing winter destination in Finland with of course the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
Direct flights to Rovaniemi from Europe
Rovaniemi is located in Finnish Lapland, actually right on the Arctic Circle. Even though it’s located very northern, getting there is super easy really. In fact, traveling to Rovaniemi is now easier than ever. Also for the Winter Season 2023/2024 there are several direct flights from major European cities to Rovaniemi. There are direct flights to Rovaniemi from London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Istanbul, Dublin, Amsterdam and Brussels.
It brings Rovaniemi closer than ever. Most Lapland destinations don’t have direct connections and you have to transfer through other airports. Even in Summer we had to travel through Helsinki to get to Rovaniemi. So these direct Winter flight connections are the best thing.
Meet Santa Claus
There are many amazing places to visit in Lapland if you want to experience some unique Winter activities. What makes Rovaniemi different from all these other places? The answer is easy, Santa Claus! Rovaniemi is Santa’s hometown. Yes, Santa Claus lives in Rovaniemi.
You can visit him every day of the year at Santa Claus Village. Here, you can see Santa’s elves at work and have a personal meet and greet with Santa Claus. You can also find Santa’s Post Office here. If you have ever sent a letter or drawing to Santa Claus, it ended up here.
Rovaniemi is all about Santa Claus and exactly that is what makes this place so special and different from any other place in Lapland.
Santa Claus Village
It's the most popular thing to do and visit when you come to Rovaniemi, Santa Claus Village. It’s the place to go if you want to meet Santa. The Arctic Circle runs directly through Santa Claus Village. Many people have crossing the Arctic Circle on their bucket list, so did we. Santa spends his time year-round at Santa Claus Village taking care of his mission in life; to enhance the well-being of children and the kindness of grown-ups, as well as spread the message of love and goodwill and the Christmas Spirit across the globe.
There are two main Santa Claus and Christmas events at Santa Claus Village every year. Mid-November is the Grand Opening of the Christmas season with big celebrations. Absolutely an event you don’t want to miss out on.
Another big event in Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Village is the start of Santa’s journey around the world on December 23. He leaves Rovaniemi on his journey around the world to visit everyone around the world and deliver all presents. If you’re planning a trip to Lapland for next Winter, you might want to consider visiting during one of these major events.
Winter activities in Rovaniemi
Who doesn’t dream about seeing the Northern Lights, going on a husky sleigh ride, visiting a reindeer farm or experiencing a thrilling snow mobile ride? We have some good news, Rovaniemi offers them all and plenty more too!
We spent a week in Rovaniemi and love to share some of our favorite activities here.
We had seen the Northern Lights back in 2018 in Norway for the first time. Ever since, seeing the Northern Lights again has been a dream. When we decided we were going to visit Rovaniemi in Winter, we had one goal, see the magical Northern Lights again. As they are a natural phenomenon it’s never a guarantee you get to see them.
Luckily we met Lorenzo during our Summer trip to Rovaniemi. He runs his own Northern Lights company and offers excursions and road trips. He disagrees to the fact that you have to be lucky to see the Northern Lights. You just have to know what you’re doing and chase clear skies. We joined him on an Aurora Expedition and truly had the most amazing night.
Traveling to Rovaniemi this Winter or next and dreaming of seeing the Northern Lights? Check out our experiences with Arctic Road Trips, a small and local company from Rovaniemi.
We love adrenaline activities. The crazier it gets, the more we love it. When I saw that there is an ice karting track in Rovaniemi, I was sold! Santa's Motor Park is located across the road from Santa Claus Village. So it’s very easily accessible if you want to go for a ride.
They have completely new karts manufactured by the Italian CRG company. For the real race fans, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen started their racing careers on CRG’s karts. You get introduced to the kart and get a short safety instruction before receiving your helmet and kart. After one test lap you’re ready for the real stuff. And that real stuff is so much fun. You can feel the rear of the kart slipping and sliding constantly. That makes driving challenging but so much fun.
The team at the track are young, enthusiastic and super fun guys. They take photos and videos throughout the experience and share them with you before you leave the track.
There is a fireplace on site where you’re offered hot berry juice and cookies before and after the race.
It's on top of many travelers bucket list when they travel to Lapland, a husky safari. Obviously that wasn’t any different for us. There is nothing more beautiful and amazing than taking a husky ride through magical Arctic landscapes.
We did the husky safari from the Vaattunki Wilderness Resort, located outside of Rovaniemi at a short 25-30 minute drive. You feel like you end up in the middle of nowhere. Pick up from the city center is included when you book with Safartica. Check out their website, they offer way more than just husky safaris.
Your adventure starts with a short introduction to the dogs and the sled. They tell you everything you need to know to be able to ride the sled and work with the dogs. Warm clothing is provided if needed.
Your husky sleigh ride takes about 30 minutes and is a 5km track. It takes you through the forest and then onto a frozen lake, which is an amazing experience. About halfway they make a stop to take some photos and also to switch positions on the sleigh.
After the ride you’re welcomed back at the kennel and offered hot drinks and biscuits by the campfire.
Reindeer Sleigh Ride
Who doesn’t dream about meeting Santa Claus and his famous reindeer? It’s all possible at Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. When they’re not busy over Christmas, Santa Claus Reindeer hang out right in the backyard of Santa Claus Office. In Summer time you can visit them, learn about them and feed them. In Winter you can enjoy these special reindeer rides in Santa’s backyard. They offer 400 meter, 1 kilometer and 3 kilometer reindeer rides.
The 400 meter goes only through the Santa Claus Village, just to get the idea of riding a sleigh by reindeer. The 1km goes further, passed the Glass Igloo Resort and a bit through the forest. Then the 3km really goes into the forest for the full experience. A must do, especially for families with kids, this is an amazing experience.
When we visited Rovaniemi in Summer, we went on an E-Fat Bike ride in Ylläs. It became one of the coolest things we ever did. Luckily there is this Finnish company that offers mountain biking experiences in Finland, and they recently expanded to Rovaniemi. Roll Outdoors offers private guided tours in Rovaniemi, where one of their professional guides takes you to the best trails that Rovaniemi has to offer. If you’d rather go on your own, no problem at all. They also offer rented bikes and can advise you on where to go.
This excursion is a unique and full day trip from Rovaniemi. A shuttle bus takes you to the Bothnian Sea where the Polar Explorer Icebreaker is waiting for you. During the cruise you experience what it’s like to be on an icebreaker and what it’s like to see such a boat break the ice.
There are several stops throughout the cruise, where you’re offered to enjoy some floating in survival suits in the middle of the Arctic Sea. Or you can walk safely on frozen sea ice, how cool must that be. Unfortunately we didn’t do this one ourselves and I do regret that a bit. Well, I guess you always have to leave something for a next visit to Rovaniemi, right?!
Electric Snow Scooter
This is something brand new. These Electric Snow Scooters are only available at a few accommodations throughout Finland. The eLYLY is the world’s first electric snow scooter. It’s silent, sustainable and a lot of fun. They are designed and made in Finland. In Finnish folklore the word ‘lyly’ means a sliding ski.
The Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos in Rovaniemi is one of the very few to have these new electric snow scooters. We were super lucky as we were offered a test drive at these eLYLY’s while staying at the SnowHotel. I honestly think these scooters are the next big thing! The way they slide through the snow is just awesome. The Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos are going to offer these electric snow scooters exclusively as a new activity next Winter.
Best places to stay around Rovaniemi
We experienced Lapland and Rovaniemi to be extremely hospitable. We’d like to shortlist some of our favorite hotels and restaurants, just to make it a little easier for you.
HAAWE Boutique Apart Hotel
I have dedicated a full blogpost to this amazing boutique hotel in the center of Rovaniemi. It’s on top of our list of favorite boutique hotels that we have ever stayed in. It has a great location, with all major tour operators at walking distance.
If you want pure luxury and ultimate privacy, check this place out! See more photos in my review of HAAWE Boutique Hotel.
Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos
The Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos is all about bucket list experiences. When visiting Lapland, sleeping at a SnowHotel or in a Glass Igloo is on top of many travelers’ wish list. The Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos are located about 30 minutes from the city center of Rovaniemi, at the shores of lake Lehtojärvi. It’s one of the biggest snow hotels in the world.
Staying here is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Even if you don’t want to stay over, visiting this place is absolutely worthwhile. You can visit the SnowHotel as a visitor and see what it’s like.
Vaattunki Wilderness Resort
Rovaniemi is surrounded by nature, so it’s not that difficult to go out and enjoy the pure and vast wilderness. There is nothing better than spending a few nights far away from the city and enjoying nature to the fullest.
I’m super happy and excited that we got to experience the Vaattunki Wilderness Resort. It’s these kind of places we often search and like to stay the most.
It's located only a short 20 minute drive from the city center, but it feels like being somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I can only recommend their panoramic huts. Simply amazing wooden huts with a large floor to ceiling window at the back, overlooking the forest.
It doesn’t get more relaxing than this. You only need your backpack and hiking gear and outfit. Nature is at your feet here.
Arctic Light Hotel
We stayed at this place in the Summer of 2022 and it was perfect. It has a great location in the center of the city. Very close to some of Rovaniemi’s major tour companies, so very easy when you have planned a few excursions here.
If you are looking for the best breakfast in Rovaniemi and beyond then look no further. People come to the Arctic Light Hotel especially to enjoy their healthy and energizing breakfast, created by Finnish – American TV chef Sara La Fountain.
Santa’s Hotel Santa Claus
Just the name of this hotel makes me want to stay here. This hotel is located right in the city center of Rovaniemi. It is right opposite the local tourist office and within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants.
What I really like about this hotel is that all their rooms feature a bathtub, adding a pinch of luxury to your stay. We stayed at the top floor in one of their deluxe rooms. These rooms offer amazing views over the city. And, by far the best part, we had a sauna in our room with those same city views. It’s absolutely the best!
Where to eat in Rovaniemi
Food in Finland is next level. It’s super fresh, healthy and very tasty. No matter where we went for dinner, the food was always out of this world. We enjoyed some of the best food while in Rovaniemi. So it’s a pleasure to share our favorite places with you.
Santamus is so much more than just a restaurant. It’s a full experience. On their website they welcome you to the mysterious Santamus, and that is exactly what it is. A mysterious place, but once you go in and experience it, you want to keep going back.
We had lunch here in Summer, but that was all outside with an outside bar, kitchen and seating area. In Winter they offer buffet lunch and dinner inside. I was mind blown and simply speechless when I walked into this place. In the middle of the restaurant there is a pond with salmon in it and a bridge crossing the water. They have their own sauna’s, so if you fancy a sauna after dinner, it’s possible here. You can also do gold panning here and find some real Finnish gold. A full on experience.
The food here is super fresh and super delicious. It’s buffet style so you can go as often as you want. They mostly use local and organic products and seasonal ingredients.
It might sound strange that I’m actually recommending this place as some of the best places to eat. Because the Arktikum is the science center and museum of Rovaniemi. But they also have a very good café where they offer buffet lunch. Here you can taste and feel the north. The food is delicious and buffet style is the best. I bet you want to visit the Arktikum anyway to learn more about Rovaniemi and Lapland. Take this opportunity to have lunch there too.
What applies to Arktikum also applies to Korundi. Korundi is Rovaniemi’s House of Culture in the first place. But their kitchen and café are so good. People visit this place just to enjoy their great buffet lunch. Korundi Kitchen & Café is a fresh lunch restaurant, an atmospheric art café and an enchanting meeting spot. They offer northern ingredients with warm spices of the world. And while you’re here having lunch, make sure to check out the Rovaniemi Art Museum as well.
This one is for on your bucket list! And the good thing is, Rovaniemi has not one but two Ice Restaurants. They are both owned by the same owner, so the food will be equally as good. We enjoyed the Ice Restaurant at the Arctic SnowHotel.
The experience of going out for dinner in an Ice Restaurant is something special. The food is fresh, local and very tasty.
They also have an Ice Restaurant at Santa Claus Village at Snowman World. This one is probably your preferable choice if you don’t stay at the Arctic SnowHotel.
In the ice bar you get your drinks served in glasses made of ice! So after you finish your drink you can smash it against the wall.
Traveltomtom’s Rovaniemi travel tip
One of the best things we brought on our trip to Lapland were warm socks. It can get extremely cold in Rovaniemi, so decent winter clothing is absolutely recommended. For our stay at the Arctic SnowHotel we were advised basically just one thing: good and warm socks.
In our search for warm socks we ended up with Soxs. A small, local Dutch company with a very special story. They make the best woolen socks. We took their ‘extreme outdoor’ socks with us to Lapland and to the Arctic SnowHotel. They are the best. Warm feet throughout the night with -5 temperatures. These socks are so comfortable and lovely to wear, it’s addictive. We now wear them all the time at home as well.
If you have a trip to Lapland on your bucket or wish list, now is the time to make it happen. When it comes to bucket list worthy activities and travel experiences, Rovaniemi really is the place to visit.
Meeting Santa Claus is an experience you won’t ever forget about again. And what about crossing the Arctic Circle, seeing the Northern Lights and having fun with huskies and reindeer. Everything is possible when visiting Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland.
A massive thank you is in order here for Visit Rovaniemi for inviting us to Rovaniemi and organizing an amazing trip in Winter paradise.
This blog was written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She was invited to experience Rovaniemi in Winter. She wrote this blog about her adventures and experiences in Santa’s Hometown.