Home to one of the tallest ski jumps in Finland, Lahti is a small town where everyday Finnish life can be really enjoyed. The city has about 103,200 inhabitants and the downtown city area is quite small.
Most of the people who inhabit this town live on the outer rim of the city, which is called Hollola. Public transportation is very effective, making Hollola and Lahti well communicated cities. I spent a beautiful year as a Rotary International exchange student in Lahti, I managed to learn Finnish and made many great friends from all over the world while being there.
The lake area:
Lahti is a difficult city to write about, mainly because it lacks mayor touristic attractions as other cities in the world do. The first and to me the most attractive place in the city is Vesijärvi, which is the lake located right next to the city downtow area. This is a great place to spend not only summer days cruising around the harbor, but also relaxing winter days. In summer there are many food trucks and restaurants located around and in the lake. Depending on your budget you can either have a snack in one of the lovely cafes at the bay or a fancy dinner on a boat, anyway you choose, the view is amazing.
On the other hand, in winter the lake freezes and there are plenty of activities that can be done. Having a snack at the bay is still an option, but freezing on the terrace of a cafe is not very lovely. Find a pair of skates and have some fun skating on the lake. If you are into fishing, Finland is a great place to do it. When the lakes freeze, many people organize fishing excursions, where you carve a hole into the ice, place a chair next to it and spend the day talking and enjoying a beer or two while waiting for the fish to bite.
Right next to Vesijärvi Lake, the magnificent Sibelius Hall or Sibeliustalo as it is called by the locals, holds a great variety of musical shows during the year and was named after the most famous Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. If you are visiting Finland I would recommend seeing a famous Finnish artist, only for the sake of discovering new music and to experience a concert in a different country than your own. The Hall is pretty impressive by itself, so if you want to focus on the architecture you can always just admire it from the outside. By night, the facade of the concert hall gets illuminated, and having the lake right behind, it provides a very romantic view.
Moving on from the lake area, there are two museums that are very nice to visit. Lahti’s Art and Poster Museums is a modern art museum that is very attractive to college students of the area, there are different fees for students, so it is always important to have an international student card (If you are still a student) available at hand to get a discount.
On the other hand, a fun museum to visit, especially if you are travelling with children, is the Radio and TV Museum. This museum is very interactive and the exhibitions take you through communication media history by teaching how many technological devices work. You can also recreate your own TV show and learn about the process of recording a live show. It is very fun for small as well as for older kids. This museum has gone through some renovations and is due to reopen in a few months.
There are many other museums to visit if you have the time to. The Historical museum of Lahti, the National Motorcycle Museum and the Ski Museum are great choices too, just keep in mind that on Mondays most of them are closed. Read more about all of the museums here.
Finnish people love to do outdoor activities without going outside the city, and Huovila Park is one of the most perfect spots to have a picnic with friends. Do as the locals do, and head to the nearest S-Market and buy berries, cheese, ruisleipä (rye bread) and some Lonkero (gin and tonic) and head out to the park. Picnics are very popular among the Finns and sometimes it’s something we don’t usually do in our own countries.
If you can’t spend time outside, because of the weather, spend some time at a local café. Sinuhe cafes are quite popular in this region, they have nice coffee and delicious pastries. There are two of them in the city center, one at the local mall and the other one at Mariankatu Street, very near Downtown Square. But be aware, it is more on the expensive side. There are other cafes that can be less fancy but equally as good.
To finish you day at this small city you can spend the night at a local bar or club. Lahti is a small city but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. There are a few bars to visit and one of them is Torvi a famous place in the underground scene of the city. If you want to go clubbing then you must visit Tivoli, a two story disco that features Finnish pop hits as well as international party hits. The place is fabulous and it is located very near Downtown Square, where you can take the bus until 3 am (on the weekends) or a cab at any time.
Parting in Finland is a unique experience, people may seem shy at first but after a few shots they become the friendliest people on earth. Depending on what time of the year you are visiting, leaving the party in the early morning can be very different; in winter, you enter and leave the club while it’s dark and cold outside and in the summer you arrive and leave with the sun bright in the sky.
As you may have guessed by now, Finland is a country that changes constantly, weather it may be because of its extreme weather or because of the creativity of its people to overcome living in a cold country. Whatever the case it may be, Finns will undoubtfully surprise you while visiting their country. There are many things that can be done not only in Helsinki, but in every other town, for example the typical sauna experience. Almost everyone has a sauna at their place, and those who don’t can use the public sauna installations.
Living in Lahti has taught me a lot. I learned much more than just the language or the places to visit, for me the real richness of the Finnish people is their view on life. They are sincere and humble people, that have one of the highest living standards in the world, mostly by respecting their environment and other people. It may sound very simple, but you cannot fully grasp that feeling until you spend some time in the beautifully frozen cities of Finland.