The city of Rovaniemi is one of the most popular Finnish areas for families visiting Lapland with kids. And with so many winter activities—including Santa experiences—it’s no wonder why so many people visit the city each and every year.
During our trip to Finland, Rovaniemi was our first stop after arriving in the capital Helsinki. And although it wasn’t our absolute favourite place in the entire country—Levi definitely won our hearts—Rovaniemi is a convenient and fun option with plenty of festive and Christmassy things to see and do!
So, if you’re planning a trip to Rovaniemi with kids, here is everything you need to know in order to make it a trip to remember.
How to Get to Rovaniemi
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Essentially, there are three ways to get to Rovaniemi: by plane, car, or train. Rovaniemi has its own international airport, meaning you can fly directly in from the UK or fly internally from Helsinki.
Or you can stop in Helsinki, explore the city, and then fly the 1 hour and 20-minute flight to Rovaniemi.
For those driving their way through Finland, then getting to Rovaniemi is fairly straightforward as there are plenty of main roads that lead their way into the city. You can rent cars all over the country for extremely fair prices, giving you the freedom to explore wherever and whenever you want.
Santa Claus Express Night Train
The final—and most festive—way to get into Rovaniemi is by train. And the Santa Claus Express Night Train is the train we took to get us from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.
The train takes just under 12 hours and has a few different seat/cabin options to choose from. We personally booked two double sleeper cabins with private bathrooms. For full details about the Night Train see here.
But you can also get cabins without en-suites slightly cheaper. For those heading to Rovaniemi with kids on a budget, then the train even has seats that cost just over £20.
On the train, you’ll also find a buffet car for dinner, and you’ll be dropped off in Rovaniemi at around 7:30 am, giving you the whole day to explore!
Where to Stay in Rovaniemi
There are a few different areas in Rovaniemi that I recommend staying, with the city centre, Santa Claus Village, and Ounasvaara being the top choices.
Rovaniemi City Centre
Rovaniemi’s city centre is a great option for those who want to be close to everything. Not only does the city centre have the highest concentration of hotels—all in different price ranges—but there are also plenty of restaurants and shops.
Plus, its location means you can easily access all the nearby attractions.
Budget hotels in the Rovaniemi City Centre
Mid-range hotels in the Rovaniemi City Centre
Luxury hotels in the Rovaniemi City Centre
Santa Claus’ Village
Santa Claus’ Village is the most family-friendly area in Rovaniemi—a true winter wonderland and the official home of Santa Claus. As the village has its own apartments and cottages that you can rent, you can stay as close to the action as possible.
Or there are hotels—and even igloos—just outside of Santa Claus’ Village that are also great options.
Hotel Options In and Around Santa Claus’ Village
And finally the village of Ounasvaara—just 3 kilometres from the city centre—is one of the best places to stay if you want to see the Northern Lights. Ounasvaara is also a ski resort. So if skiing, sledging, and snowboarding are on your itinerary, then Ounasvaara may just be the place for you.
Hotel Options In Ounasvaara
Attractions in Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi has so many winter activites that you’ll have trouble fitting them all in. From reindeer sleigh rides and snowshoeing to Northern Lights sightings and the Ranua Wildlife Park, here are some of the city’s top attractions that kids of all ages can enjoy!
Santa Claus’ Village
The main attraction—and the reason why so many people visit Rovaniemi with kids—is Santa Claus’ Village. Aside from meeting the big man himself, Santa Claus’ Village has a ton of Christmas-themed attractions that will make even teenagers believe in the magic of Christmas.
In the village, you can cross the border into the Arctic Circle, send postcards from the Main Post Office with a special Arctic Circle postmark, head out on a reindeer ride, and listen to stories from Mrs Claus, before heading to meet Santa and his trusty elves.
Reindeer Sleigh Rides
A reindeer safari Rovaniemi is a must-do for all families visiting Finland. And as there are just as many reindeer as there are people in Lapland, reindeer sleigh rides are in abundance.
During our time in Rovaniemi, we booked into a reindeer ride in the Santa Claus’ Village. However, it was fairly short.
So, I recommend booking a longer reindeer tour if you have the budget. We ended up booking another tour once we got to Levi, and having more time in the sleighs really was a magical experience.
Husky Sledge Rides
Another must-do attraction is a Rovaniemi husky safari, where a pack of huskies take you through the Finnish forests. These husky rides do require a parent to steer and direct the Huskies. But the excitement as you speed through the snow will definitely be a highlight of your trip.
You can also do husky rides that take you to see the Northern Lights, so if you’re short on time, that could be a good way to do two activities at once!
Snowshoeing is such a fun activity that takes you along snow trails through the beautiful Finnish Lapland scenery. Once you’ve strapped on a pair of lightweight aluminium snowshoes, you can head out on your guided—or self-guided—snowshoeing tour to see arctic animals and the wilderness that surrounds you.
Hunt for the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are one of nature’s most impressive shows. And if you’re in Rovaniemi, then hunting for Aurora borealis should be at the top of your bucket list.
For the best chances to see the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi, I suggest booking a tour as the guides will know all the best places to see the nighttime spectacular.
If you don’t want to pay for a tour, then the best chance to see the Northern Lights is from September to March, 10 PM onwards. During your trip, wait for a clear, starry night and head to a location that is away from streetlights and buildings.
Ideally, you want to be somewhere with an elevation that is free from trees. The top of a hill would be a great option, for example.
See Polar Bears At The Ranua Wildlife Park
Slightly further out from Rovaniemi—roughly an hour’s drive—is the Ranua Wildlife Park. The Ranua Wildlife Park is home to more than 200 animals—including Finland’s only polar bears, Manse and Venus.
The park also houses reindeer, brown bears, moose, lynx, and wolves, amongst many other animals and bird species. If you’re from the UK, then it’s very likely that you’ve never seen a polar bear up close.
So, I personally think the Wildlife Park is a must-do for families spending time in Rovaniemi.
Inside Santa Claus’ Village is Snowman World—a giant ice park with indoor and outdoor ice slides. The outdoor slides, in particular, see you launching down the slopes in giant tubes.
And as I’m sure you can imagine, this is a big hit for little ones. There is also ice skating, an ice bar, and snow art, so everyone in the family can enjoy the experience.
Stay in an Ice Hotel or a Glass Igloo
You can actually stay in a glass igloo in Rovaniemi. And if you have the budget, then it’s by far one of the best things you can do when visiting Finland.
For families staying in Rovaniemi, then the Arctic Snow Hotel & Glass Igloos has both igloos with glass roofs and hotel rooms carved into the snow.
The glass igloos have heated floors, private bathrooms, and the chance to see the Northern Lights while lying down in bed. And the SnowHotel rooms have temperatures of 0 to -5 degrees Celsius with shared bathroom and shower facilities.
You do get high-quality sleeping bags in the Snow Hotel. However, I wouldn’t recommend it with young kids.
Skiing and Sledging
If Rovaniemi is your only stop in Finland, then you can find skiing opportunities at the Ounasvaaran Hiihtokeskus Oy. The resort has ski and snowboard lessons, sledging, and even tobogganing, which the entire family can get involved with.
For families travelling further up Lapland, however, then I suggest leaving your skiing until you get to Levi or Yllas.
And the final activity that families can get involved with in Rovaniemi is a snowmobile tour. Snowmobile tours can last from one hour all the way to five hours. And some even take you to see the Northern Lights, Reindeer farms, or ice fishing.
With kids in tow, however, then a two-hour snowmobile tour will be more than enough as it can get quite cold travelling at relatively fast speeds.
Best Santa Experience in Rovaniemi with Kids
There are a few different Santa experiences in Rovaniemi. But there are three that stand out above the rest: Santa Claus Secret Forest of Joulukka, Santa Claus in the Main Office at Santa Claus Village, and Santa Park Santa.
Santa Claus Secret Forest of Joulukka
The Santa Claus Secret Forest of Joulukka experience is called The Santa’s Toy Factory tour. On this tour, you’ll sing, dance, and play with the elves, toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate, and meet Santa at the end of the tour in Santa’s Toy Factory.
Santa Claus in the Main Office at Santa Claus’ Village
The main Santa Experience that most people head for when staying in Rovaniemi with kids is in the Main Office at Santa Claus’ Village. At the Main Office, you can send postcards stamped with an Arctic Circle postmark and send your letter to Santa before meeting Mrs Claus, the elves, and Santa himself.
And finally, the Rovaniemi Santa Park has a Santa experience where you meet Santa in his own little cottage. There you can talk to Santa and tell him all your Christmas wishes while taking as many photos as you like on your own devices—something not many other Santa Experiences let you do.
The Santa Park Rovaniemi Finland also has the following attractions:
- Elf school
- Post office
- Elf show
- Elf workshop
- Underground crossing of the Arctic Circle
- A gingerbread bakery
- Magic TrainToy Factory Shopping Area
How to Get Around Rovaniemi with Kids
One of the best ways to get around Rovaniemi with kids is to hire a car. Hiring a car gives you the freedom to travel around at your leisure.
Plus, if you plan on doing various activities or travelling to other parts of Finland, hiring a car can save you a lot of money.
Taxis in Finland are somewhat expensive. So I don’t recommend relying on them too much. Instead, make use of the buses that run throughout the city as they’re affordable, punctual, and convenient.
Walking is also a great form of transport as you can stroll between some of Rovaniemi’s attractions fairly easily.
Alternatively, if you book onto organised tours, then you’ll find that many offer hotel pick-up and drop-off. Booking tours with transfers ultimately cuts out the need for transportation. So that’s something to keep in mind when comparing different tour companies.
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