The sunniest city in Finland is a popular summer destination for travellers, but the Vaasa region offers unique experiences for visitors every season.
Max Jansson, Managing Director of Visit Vaasa, shares his top 3 all-year activities in the region.
#1 The seafront promenade
Less than 900 metres from Vaasa’s market square lies the city’s waterfront with restaurants, museums, beaches, sports activities, and cultural events. A favourite pastime among locals is walking or running along the seafront promenade, which stretches for kilometres and connects many of the seaside neighbourhoods and attractions. While getting your daily dose of exercise, the promenade is also a great spot for people-watching.
You will see lots of people on Vaasa’s seafront promenade. In the summer months, you meet tourists from all over the world, and from September to April, there are plenty of students around. Did you know that during these months, every fifth person you meet in Vaasa is a student? And close to every tenth person you meet has a mother tongue other than Finnish or Swedish?
“Sometimes I entertain myself by trying to guess the backgrounds of the people I meet,” Jansson chuckles.
There are several historical sites along the seafront promenade, such as the wooden Empire style Villa Sandviken. It is now a restaurant, but it was built in 1845 as one of the earliest holiday houses in Finland.
Another interesting historical building is Vaasa Prison, which was inaugurated in 1863 and still houses around 70 inmates, who happen to have some of the best seaside views in all of Vaasa.
#2 The UNESCO World Heritage Site
The land area of the Kvarken Archipelago outside Vaasa grows by the size of more than 150 football fields every year. The ground here started rising from a depth of 800 metres when the massive continental ice sheet covering it started melting away at the end of the Ice Age, more than 10 000 years ago. This glacial retreat created a unique landscape of moraines, which today make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site – an exceptional place to witness one of the most rapid changes in scenery on earth.
The Kvarken Archipelago grows by more than 150 football fields every year.
The world heritage site can be visited by boat or by car. Jansson recommends the 45-minute drive from Vaasa city centre over Finland’s longest bridge (1045 metres) through Replot Island to Björkö Island, which offers some of the best trails in the region to experience the beautiful landscape.
“For a first-time visitor, I recommend walking the 4-kilometre long Bodvattnet trail,” says Max Jansson.
The trail starts at the old Svedjehamn fishing port, passes the Saltkaret observation tower and continues through land-locked sea bays, birch forest and beach meadows.
Use the hashtag #visitvaasa when you share pictures of the amazing views up there. Wear good shoes for the hike, as it varies from easy to more demanding patches, and be prepared to see some grazing Highland cows in the summertime.
#3 A Kvarken cruise with Wasaline
Jansson’s third all-year tip for a visit to Vaasa is experiencing the region from the sea. In the summer, smaller cruise ships offer archipelago tours here, and throughout the year, Wasaline traffics the 80-kilometre sea stretch from Vaasa to Umeå in Sweden.
Regular boat traffic over the Kvarken started as early as in the 1830s, and today passengers can enjoy the world’s northernmost all-year ferry route on board of a local icon, the Aurora Botnia ferry. The ferry is the most environmentally friendly passenger vessel on earth, built with state-of-the-art technology developed in the region.
On a Wasaline cruise, you visit two countries in one day while enjoying the beautiful Kvarken nature from the ferry’s enormous windows. In wintertime, I love seeing the colourful sunrises and sunsets at sea and witnessing Mother Nature shaping the landscape in different weather conditions. The last time I went, the wind was blasting at 26 m/s, but we barely noticed it from the comfort inside. When you go, also make sure you try the food, it is a perfect mix of flavours from Finland and Sweden.
A few links for Vaasa visitors
As recommended by Max Jansson:
“Check out Vaasa’s event calendar to see what is happening in the region. Many events take place on the seafront promenade.”
“Visit the Activities and nature site on Vaasa’s homepage to find new places to explore. This is a great site for locals too.”
“Book your cruise ticket to Umeå in Sweden with Wasaline. Umeå has lots of culture and shopping to offer.”
Image credits: Visit Vaasa, City of Vaasa, Wasaline
Photographers: Jaakko Salo, Katja Lösönen, Kimmo Makkonen