Articles Inside Finland Misc Travel

A new exhibition on tobacco opening at the Customs Museum

The Customs Museum will open to public again on 1 June 2021 in Susisaari, Suomenlinna. The new exhibition ‘Leaves of Desire – The History of Tobacco and Finnish Customs’ focuses on the more than 400 years of shared history of Finnish Customs and tobacco products. Throughout the years, the Finnish society’s approach to tobacco has varied significantly. This variation has also been evident in the work of Finnish Customs. 

Imported to Europe from the Americas, tobacco was initially an expensive luxury product and it was deemed that its import into Finland should be restricted. However, the government soon realised that tobacco could be made into a significant source of tax income for the state. To that end, the production and cultivation of tobacco in Finland was purposefully increased in the 18th century. An industry for the processing of raw tobacco was formed, and it was supported by the state in a variety of ways. 

Tobacco generated income

In the 19th century, the tobacco industry was a significant source of income in Finland as well. Production increased in the 20th century, but later the European integration and changes in consumer habits led to a decrease in the production of tobacco products. The last Finnish factories were closed in the early 2000s. After that, all ready-made tobacco products have been imported and the import of raw tobacco has stopped completely. 

In addition to customs duties, tobacco has been subject to other fees as well, such as consumption and excise taxes. Finnish Customs was often tasked with the collection and supervision of these taxes. 

Tobacco and crime

Since the 17th century, tobacco has been smuggled due to a high demand and a will to avoid paying taxes. A particularly large increase in smuggling was seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s – around the same time, the number of Finns who smoked started to decrease. The reason for this was the changes implemented at Finnish borders and the liberalisation of transport. Lately, smuggling snus has been more popular.

Attitudes toward tobacco changed in the late 20th century, when people became more aware of the significant health risks of tobacco. In the 1970s, the health risks became the primary grounds for tobacco’s taxation. 

The exhibition recounts the history of tobacco from the 17th century to current day. It showcases old smuggling methods and describes tobacco’s status in Finnish culture at different times. On display are also unique objects borrowed from other museums. 

Welcome – the exhibition is open until September in Suomenlinna

In addition to this thematic exhibition, the museum provides information on the general history of Finnish Customs. The Customs Museum is located in the Halmilton – Polhem Curtain in Suomenlinna, at the address Suomenlinna B 20 D, Helsinki The exhibition is open until September. Free admission. Due to the coronavirus situation, we will restrict the number of museum visitors if needed, and visitors must wear a facemask.

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Those cute animals symbols in the central streets of Helsinki

You might have just arrived to Helsinki or you might have lived here for many years and never realized about the animals that populate some of the main streets of the city. Next time you go for a stroll near Stockmann, for example along the famous shopping street Aleksanterinkatu, pay attention to the building walls and will not be difficult to discover some blue symbols on the corners of the streets representing animals, including mythological ones such as an unicorn.

From where this tradition comes? Digging into Helsinki history, it seems that this came into place after the big fire that destroyed most of downtown in 1808. Then, the architect Johan Albrecht Ehrenström had the idea to name many of the buildings blocks into animals.

This tradition was used until the beginning of the 20th century and then normal street names replaced it, but in 1994 Helsinki citizens decided to do a revival of this wonderful tradition and brought the signs back to the central streets of Helsinki.

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Things to do in Helsinki: A visit to Seurasaari island

Photos by: Antonio Diaz

While the good summer weather lasts, it can be tricky when you are visiting Helsinki for a few days or when you are hosting foreign guests to think about interesting places to see not far from the city centre.

The island of Seurasaari is a little jewel to walk around when the weather is nice. Very conveniently located just 20-30 minutes from central Kamppi area, you can easily reach it by bus (line 24 goes there), by using one of the easily accesible city bikes or even by ferry from the Market Square during summer. A perfect destination to spend half a day when weather allows to enjoy outside.

A charming Open-Air Museum

If you want to travel back on time and imagine how was the rural landscape in different areas of Finland, the Open-Air Museum is certainly the highlight of the visit to the island. It has a great array of buildings from different eras, manors, farms, smoke houses, etc scattered around the beautiful landscape that the closeness to the sea gives to the sorroundings. There are many cafeterias where to stop by while taking stroll to have a coffee or a snack, activities for children like going for a ride on a pony and also local sellers have handcrafts on display for purchase.

TIP: The entrance of the museum is 10e per adult, but honestly, unless you are deeply interested in visiting the houses and see the utensils inside, you could skip that and just walk around the buildings on the island for free. So if you are on a low budget, you can skip buying a ticket to allow entrance inside the museum buildings.

Sunbathing and swimming

Seurasaari is also famous as a place for sunbathing and swimming. Just when you cross the bridge, walking to the right, there is a small beach where local citizens like to enjoy the sun and have a picnic. For the lovers of enjoying nature wearing nothing, there are also 2 nudists beach, separated from men and women. Entrance there requires a fee.

Among other amenities, the island also counts with barbecuing area, and it is specially popular to visit there during the Midsummer celebrations, where big bonfires are torched.

For more information:

Inside Finland Travel

Porvoo, the perfect 1 day excursion in Finland

Many tourists I talked to this last summer who were visiting Helsinki for just a few hours during their cruises were asking me if during their visit to the Finnish capital, they would have time to visit Porvoo. Unfortunately no, Porvoo is not just a neighborhood more in Helsinki, but a city apart, in fact, the second oldest city in Finland after Turku, 50 Kms from Helsinki.


The good news is that for the visitors in Helsinki who have more than a few hours, Porvoo is very easy to reach. Or it can be also people under my case, who have lived in Finland for a few years and never had visited it before. One way or another, Porvoo is the perfect destination for 1 day excursion if you want to see something new or different from Helsinki.

Obviously the easiest way to go to Porvoo is by car, but if you want to use public transportation, it is also fast and comfortable. Unfortunately there is no train line linking Helsinki and Porvoo (only one special summer line from Heinola), but buses run very often from Kamppi station, where you can also buy the tickets at Matkahuolto office. If you buy a return ticket for the same day, there is no discount due to the short distance, but it is still affordable, and of course students can get discount if presenting their student cards. If you visit the area on summer time, other great option is to go by boat in an organized cruise from the capital´s harbour.

In fact, there are two kinds of buses that go to Porvoo. If you do not want to miss time, you can take the direct one that will be there in a bit more than 1 hour. The other option stops quite often, so it will take double the time, but it is also worthy if you want to enjoy the landscape between both cities during daylight.


While on summer time the streets of Porvoo are quite crowded with tourists, I visited there one Monday in autumn, so everything was quiet. I liked the atmosphere; Porvoo has a special charm with many quaint little streets that look like the landscape in a postcard and nice little boutiques, art galleries and second hand shops (that had very interesting items, but pricey).

A city with a nice bohemian touch

Porvoo is bilingual with one quarter of its citizens speaking Swedish, and you can really notice the little higher touch of sophistication in every corner around. For culture lovers, there are a few highlighted points that you cannot miss like the house-museum of the poet Runerberg. Besides, the colors of the autumn were giving the city special magical tones.

If you want to make a pause on your way, I recommend Café Pahtimo, a very cozy place with a great selection of beverages and cakes, just located in and old storage building by the river, so you can also enjoy a cigarette outside in the terrace with a great sight. The atmosphere of its 2 floors reminded me of Telakka in Tampere, one of my favorite places to hang around when I lived and studied there.

Visit Porvoo and discover one of the most special places in Finland, now even more magical while enjoying the amazing array of colors of the autumn season. You will not feel disappointed!

Photos: Antonio Diaz


Inside Finland Travel

Crazy Finnish summer

The Finnish summer is light, especially at the beginning: all the leaves on the trees are light green, the air is warm, but not yet the water. The whole landscape looks untouched. Then comes July: hot and long days with melting ice cream. At the end of August, the sun is still hot, but the colours have changed: the trees are all deep green. Maybe you will see the first yellow leaf. But even if there are signs of the next season, we still usually have an Indian summer. 

The Midsummer holiday, Juhannus, is the year's shortest night and most important occasion for drunkenness and revelry. It is time to escape the city. Most of Finns go to their summer cottages in the countryside and have bonfires (called kokko) by the lake. If this doesn’t appeal to you, there are lots of festivals, where you can find loud music, new friends and bonfires too. A lot of Finns start their summer holidays on Midsummer Day and after that much partying, a few days off would do some good for pretty much anyone.  

Finnish Summer

Juhannus used to be more serious affair than it is in these days. During pagan times, midsummer was a very potent night for rituals, which concerned future marriages and fortune. Many of these rituals were made naked. Will o wisps (ghostly lights sometimes seen at night or twilight that hover over damp ground in still air, often over bogs) were believed to be seen on midsummer night, marking treasure. 

I also remember one midsummer ritual that I used to do when I was a kid: I collected seven different kinds of flowers and ran around our well. I slept with the flowers under my pillow and hoped to see the man of my life in my dreams. And I remember how disappointed I always was the next morning when I couldn’t remember my dreams!  

Summer happenings 

There are lot of festivals and smaller summer happenings going on every week all around the country. Music festivals are especially popular here, and Finnish artists hardly have time to take their own holidays! Whatever kind of music you like, there will be a festival where you will hear your very favourite tunes. Just pick your melody. For example, you can hear rock in Turku, jazz in Pori and tango in Seinäjoki. 

In addition to music festivals there are other happenings for everyone. Do you like sailing? Then sail to Kotka in July. Are you big fan of eating small herrings? Visit the Fish Market in Turku. 

Do you think that Finns and their ways are odd sometimes? You are right and if you like that weirdness, you will love the Finnish summer, because Finland is an empire of weird summer happenings. The top 5 strangest happenings to mention are: the wife carrying competition, football played in a swamp, the mosquito killing competition, and the contests for who can sit in sauna or on top of an ant’s nest for longest!

Already internationally known, wife carrying is the sport of carrying woman; a wife usually. Several types of carrying are allowed: piggyback, fireman's lift, or Estonian-style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband's shoulders, holding onto his waist). The major wife-carrying competition is held in Sonkajärvi, where the prize is the wife's weight in beer! Yes, that is really something to see!



Summer in the city 

Are you too busy to leave the city this summer? Don’t worry; there is lots going on in the city as well! There are hundreds of terraces, great beaches and islands to visit: all just right here, in the heart of Helsinki! 

Suomenlinna is an island in front of Helsinki. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a very popular picnic site among tourists and the locals. The ferry that leaves from Kauppatori will take you there in only 15 minutes. There are other islands to visit as well: Uunisaari, Korkeasaari (the zoo) and Seurasaari. Or you can visit another lovely town, Porvoo, from Helsinki by boat as well. The most popular beach in Helsinki is Hietaranta, where you can see all the white Finns burning themselves all summer long. Other good beaches are in Munkkiniemi and on most of the islands mentioned above. 


In summertime the place to party is Kaivohuone, where you can fine the trendiest people in town and a very large terrace, big dance floor, and on Wednesday nights, the pool is open too! One of the biggest terraces is on Mikonkatu and is a combination of several bars’ terraces. You will find the best views on the terraces on top of the tallest buildings in Helsinki, such as Torni and Palace. 

Northern lightness 

If you get sick of city life, I strongly recommend you to take a hike! Literally! Lapland is well known for its ski resorts, but it is a unique place to visit in summertime as well. The landscape and wildlife are well worth seeing. You can do different kind of activities: river rafting, fishing, hiking and hunting. And what makes Lapland such a magical place to visit is the white light around the clock: the sun doesn’t set at all. At its longest, the nightless night in the north can last up to three months.

Aurora Borealis

When you leave the city and its noises you will discover the real Finland: its lakes, forests and peace. The best way to travel is slowly and by bike, although public transportation is good in Finland as well. There are too many nice places all over the country to mention here, so the best you can do is to explore as much of it as possible and find your own favourite spot.

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It’s winter again!

Ski Resorts and other fun activities!
The biggest resorts are in northern and central Finland.For example, near to Kittilä there are a number of ski resorts near to eachother: Ylläs, Olos and Levi. Other well-known ski resorts such as Saariselkä, Luosto,Pyhä and Ruka are in Lapland.

In central Finlandthere are a few excellent ski resorts, including Tahko and Himos. The slopesare kept in excellent condition throughout the season, which begins in Novemberand lasts until May in Lapland and is little bit shorter in southern Finland.

Winter is fun in Finland

You will find most slopes – and the longest one with lights,at almost 3 kilometres long – in (sometimes very windy) Ylläs. Almost all of the biggest ski resorts say that they have the steepest slope, and while it is difficult to say where the steepest slope is actually located, in the biggest resorts you will find both steep and gently sloping hills. Ruka is said to be good place to start skiing because there are long and easy slopes in addition to a few steeper ones. According
the rumours the best after ski parties will be found in Levi, Ylläs and Ruka. The essential thing, when you choose where to go, is what you want to do: ski, snowboard or do other activities.

All of the ski resorts mentioned here offer different kind of activities in addition to downhill skiing. These activities may be, for example, reindeer safaris, snowmobile excursions and snowshoe hiking. All visitors will find something fun to do and there are activities for kids as well, including smaller hillsides just for smaller skiers and rooms where they can play games. No matter how old you are, you can take lessons in skiing and you can also hire equipment. And when you once learn to ski (and believe me it is like riding a bike: once you learn, you will never forget how to do it!) you can just buy a ski pass and go!

Reindeer safaris are also a lot of fun. Usually, the master harnesses the reindeers while you sit in the sleighs under warm reindeer fur and head for a route through a snowy landscape. After a while the reindeer are given a break, and you will enjoy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate while sitting by the campfire. During the day you will get lot of information about reindeer and the master is happy to answer to any questions you may have.

If you don’t feel like rolling in the snow you can always spend a day at the gym or have a massage. And of course you will find several saunas in all of the resorts. What would be better than a hot sauna after a day in the snow? It doesn’t get more Finnish than that!

You can wine and dine in the restaurants and if you feel like dancing there are several bars and nightclubs in the area. As a rule you can find a supermarket, souvenir shop, pharmacy, doctor, post office and liquor shop in the ski resorts and most of the staff are used to serving foreign guests in different languages, especially English. In spite of the long distance from Helsinki the transportation to these resorts is very well organized; you can catch a bus or a train to get there, or to savesome time, you can catch a flight to a nearby airport.

When you choose the ski resort you should pay attention to the location, the length of the slopes, and other activities provided. And don’t wait too long when you want to make a reservation for flights and accommodation, because the resorts are often quite busy especially during high season. And you may want to consider the cost of your holiday as well. The price level in the high seasons (during the school holidays) and weekends is relatively high. In general the resorts have good deals for the first snow at the beginning of the season.


Winter is fun in Finland

In addition to downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is a very popular sport all over the country. There are lots of excellent trails from which to choose. There are many places in Helsinki where you can ski and you don’t even have to own your own gear. For example in Paloheinä, which is the most poplar place to ski in Helsinki, the average skiing season runs from November to April and the tracks are anywhere from a few to ten kilometres long. And if you think that the skis are too slippery and you are afraid of losing your balance, you can always do some snowshoe walking!

Country skiing is a brilliant way to explore the winter landscape and a very good way to exercise your muscles, or just take it slow and enjoy the white landscape. After the trip into the nature (and making a few snow angels), you may want to warm yourself up with hot chocolate with a hint of mint liqueur.

The best thing about cross-country skiing is that you don’t even have to go to the ski resorts to do that, because there are trails everywhere. And more good news: the ski trails are free for everyone. The peak season for skiing is from January to March.

And after all of that white stuff, the most magical sights of Finnish winter are the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. They are very common in northern Finland and occasionally you can even see them in Helsinki. Imagine a silent, dark night, the sky full of green and yellow colour. It is an amazing phenomenon that you should see at least once in your lifetime!