Things to do in Tampere, Finland

Stuart Forster heads to the Nordic region’s largest inland city and reports on things to do in Tampere, Finland.

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Tampere may not be the obvious choice of destination for first time visitors to Finland.

The nation’s capital, Helsinki, 170 kilometres (106 miles) to the southeast, attracts many more direct international arrivals. Yet Tampere, founded in 1779 and the Nordic region’s largest inland city, makes a pleasant starting point for insights into the cultural soul of Finland.

A man in a hat bearing the flag of Finland winter swimming in Lake Pyhäjärvi.
A man in a hat bearing the flag of Finland winter swimming in Lake Pyhäjärvi.

Forget stereotypes about bone-chilling temperatures, even colder people and wincingly expensive beer. Tampere and its residents proved such a fun place to visit that I chose to return.

Coloured illuminations at the Finlayson Complex reflect in the water of the River Tammerkoski in Tampere, Finland.
Coloured illuminations at the Finlayson Mill complex reflect in the water of the River Tammerkoski in Tampere, Finland.

The Manchester of Finland

The city is clean, orderly and makes a positive first impression. Home to nearly 240,000 people, Tampere is Finland’s third most populous city.

Shepherd Boy sculpture by Yrjo Liipola, in front of the Tako factory in central Tampere, Finland.
Shepherd Boy sculpture by Yrjo Liipola, in front of the Tako factory in central Tampere, Finland.

“You’d have to do something really stupid not to make it back to your hotel safely, even if you’re a woman and alone,” commented my taxi driver in clipped but excellent English as he dropped me at my city centre hotel from the airport.

Dusk view of the River Tammerkoski running through the city centre of Tampere, Finland's largest inland city
River Tammerkoski runs through the city centre of Tampere, Finland’s largest inland city.

Even deep into the night I felt safe on the streets.

Former industrial buildings in central Tampere, which is nicknamed the Manchester of Finland.
Former industrial buildings in central Tampere, which is nicknamed the Manchester of Finland.



Tammerkoski rapids national heritage site

The next morning I woke early to take an orientation walk. Anglers were already out and active, casting lines into the Tammerkoski River, the waterway running through central Tampere.

Water fizzing through the Tammerkoski rapids once powered red brick mills and factories. Those buildings earned Tampere a reputation for industriousness and its nickname of  ‘the Manchester of Finland’.

A kayaker practises kayaking skills in the white water rapids of the River Tammerkoski in central Tampere.
A kayaker practises kayaking skills in the white water rapids of the River Tammerkoski in central Tampere.

James Finlayson, a Scots industrialist and entrepreneur, recognised the industrial potential of the region. The Finlayson Complex still bears his name.

The Tampella factory, which was established as a foundry in 1850 and one of the red brick buildings that give Tampere its nickname of 'the Manchester of Finland'.
The Tampella factory, which was established as a foundry in 1850 and is one of the red brick buildings that caused Tampere to be given its nickname of ‘the Manchester of Finland’.

These days the former industrial buildings and riverside area are part of a national heritage site.

When the mills went into decline in the second-half of the 20th century, steps were taken to revitalise the economy and clean up the local environment. Tampere pivoted away from heavy industry to a knowledge-based economy.

Yellow flowers adorn the Tammerkoski riverside in the city of Tampere, where the Finlayson Mill complex has been converted into a cultural and entertainment hub.
Yellow flowers adorn the Tammerkoski riverside in the city of Tampere, where the Finlayson Mill complex has been converted into a cultural and entertainment hub.

The Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi lakes are immediately north and south of the isthmus on which the city is built. Those bodies of water provide habitat for freshwater fish, including trout, pike and perch. They are clean enough to support crayfish, regarded as the most sensitive of crustaceans.

Crayfish caught with traps left overnight on Tampere's Näsijärvi Lake
Crayfish caught with traps that were left overnight on Tampere’s Näsijärvi Lake.

Pine forest surrounds the lakes. Bountiful fish, blue summer skies and the sense of solitude while fishing on the region’s lakes attracts anglers from Russia, Germany and elsewhere.



Nordic walking and berry picking

The Finns also enjoy making the most of their natural heritage. Around three-quarters of the nation’s land is forest and Finnish law guarantees people access to the countryside.

Clouds gather over St Olav's Church in the village of Tyrvää, close to Tampere.
Clouds gather over St Olav’s Church in the village of Tyrvää, close to Tampere.

Everyman’s Right permits people to walk and camp in the forest. Collecting wild berries and mushrooms is permitted without the need for a license. You don’t have to go far from town to see people of all ages enjoying activities such as mushrooming and Nordic walking.

A red Fly Agraric (Fly Aminata) toadstool grows in a forest close to the Finnish city of Tampere. Walking is a great way of exploring the countryside around the city.
Knowing what to pick is important. A red Fly Agraric (Fly Aminata) toadstool grows in a forest close to the Finnish city of Tampere. Walking is a great way of exploring the countryside around the city.

I joined a guided walk, which started from one of the city’s former lakeside factories. The premises have been converted into the Holiday Club Tampere, which houses plush spa and sauna facilities.

In 2018 Tampere was proclaimed the official Sauna Capital of Finland. The city has more than 50 public saunas.

In 2020 the sauna culture in Finland was added by UNESCO to its list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. So spending time in a sauna means an opportunity for an authentic experience that is part of local life. It’s no sweat if you don’t fancy trying it.

Enjoy every minute of a city break in Tampere. The clock tower of the Old Church (Vanha kirkko) has only an hour hand and stands on the city's central square.
Enjoy every minute of a city break in Tampere. The clock tower of the Old Church (Vanha kirkko) has only an hour hand and stands on the city’s central square.

The sauna is an integral part of Finnish life and soaking in the Jacuzzi after a session in the steam room is the perfect way to relax after a long walk.



Tampere’s summer crayfish parties

The Tampere region is famed in Finland for seasonal crayfish parties. They are held as summer comes to an end.

A small mountain of crayfish was placed in the centre of the table for guests to demolish at the party I attended.

Lifebuoy by the shore of Nasijarvi Lake, a popular destination for anglers in summer and autumn.
Lifebuoy by the shore of Nasijarvi Lake, a popular destination for anglers in summer and autumn.

“For every crayfish we eat, we must salute it with a glass of schnapps,” said Ismo, a hospitable local fishing expert with whom I spent a day angling. At first I thought he was joking. We did indeed salute each of the crayfish.

People angling from a boat near Tampere. Fishing is one of the key reasons to visit Tampere for many travellers.
People angling from a boat near Tampere. Fishing is one of the key reasons to visit Tampere for many travellers.

The next day I needed a lie in and a couple of paracetamol tablets before heading out to explore the city.

Illuminated facade of the Tampere Theatre, one of the many places that art and culture aficionados may enjoy visiting while in the Finnish city.
Illuminated facade of the Tampere Theatre, one of the many places that art and culture aficionados may enjoy visiting while in the Finnish city.

Museums in Tampere

Tampere hosts a handful of museums that warrant a visit:

The Lenin Museum

The Lenin Museum (Hämeenpuisto 28, Tampere) provides an overview of the life of the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the Russian revolutionary and former leader of the Soviet Union. Lenin was based in Tampere in 1905 and 1906. At that time, Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire.

It was under Lenin that Finland was granted independence after the October Revolution of 1917 and subsequent Civil War.

The compact Lenin Museum is in the building that Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin first met in December 1905. Due to the significance of their discussions, the museum is nicknamed ‘the birthplace of the Soviet Union’.

Plaque outside of the Lenin Museum in Tampere, Finland, in the building where Lenin and Stalin first met.
Plaque outside of the Lenin Museum in Tampere, Finland, in the building where Lenin and Stalin first met.

Tampere’s Spy Museum

The proximity of the two nations helps explain both Russian and Western interest in Finland during the Cold War.

Fittingly, the world’s first dedicated espionage museum was founded in Tampere. The Spy Museum (Satakunnankatu 18 in the Finlayson Complex) displays an array of cunning gadgets and weaponry plus stories about spies and spying. Visitors can take lie detector and special agent tests.

The museum shop sells espionage-inspired souvenirs.

Sign for the world's first Spy Museum (Vakoilumuseo), an attraction in the Finlayson complex that counts among the popular things to do in Tampere for visitors to the city.
Sign for the world’s first Spy Museum (Vakoilumuseo), an attraction in the Finlayson complex that counts among the popular things to do in Tampere for visitors to the city.

Moomin Museum

The Moomin Museum (Yliopistonkatu 55) introduces the origins of the Moomins and the fictional world in which they live. Finnish author, illustrator and artist Tove Jansson created the Moomins.

The books have an underlying philosophy that makes them popular with adults as well as children.

Bronze Moomin statue. The Moomins have their story told in a museum that counts among one of the top things to do in Tampere for lovers of art and literature.own museum in Tampere
The Moomins have their story told in a museum that counts among one of the top things to do in Tampere for lovers of art and literature.

Vaprikki Museum centre

The Vaprikki museum centre hosts the Tampere Museum of Natural History, Postal Museum and the Pirkanmaa Regional Museum. It’s also the location of the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame.

Korvapuusti, a type of cinnamon whirl and a popular Finnish pastry, served in Tampere
Break up sightseeing with breaks to refesh. This is korvapuusti, the popular Finnish pastry, is served in Tampere, Finland. Korvapuusti is a type of cinnamon whirl and widely regarded as a national pastry.

Art museums in Tampere

Into art? The Heikka Art Museum (Pirkankatu 6) is named after a goldsmith who collected Finnish art and ethnographic items, silverwork and antique furniture.

One of four bronze statues inspired by the Pirkka legends depicting a merchant, a hunter, a tax collector and the maid of Finland, sculpted by Wäinö Aaltonen on the Hämeensilta Bridge in central Tampere.
One of four bronze statues inspired by the Pirkka legends depicting a merchant, a hunter, a tax collector and the maid of Finland, sculpted by Wäinö Aaltonen on the Hämeensilta Bridge in central Tampere.

Tampere Art Museum (Puutarhakatu 34) has a collection of more than 15,000 artworks.

The Sara Hildén Art Museum (Särkänniemi) displays modern art.

Visavuori, the studio of the Finnish sculptor Emil Wilkström, near Tampere, Finland
Looking for things to do near Tampere? Visavuori, the studio of the Finnish sculptor Emil Wilkström. Visavuori was built in 1894 and rebuilt between 1902 and 1912. Wilkström created monuments which became iconic in the Finnish Nationalism movement.

Särkänniemi amusement park

Looking for family-friendly attractions in Tampere? Särkänniemi amusement park features rides, an aquarium and a petting zoo. The park’s observation tower is the location of a fine-dining restaurant.

Hameenkatu Bridge crosses the River Tammerkoski by the Tampere Theatre in central Tampere, Finland
The Hameenkatu Bridge crosses the River Tammerkoski by the Tampere Theatre in central Tampere, Finland. The tower in Särkänniemi amusement park rises over the city in the background of this photo.

Architecture in Tampere

Back outside, I enjoyed viewing the Art Nouveau-inspired architecture around Central Square.

Tampere Town Hall (Raatihuone), a neo-renaissance style building designed by Georg Schreck and built 1890, stands on the city's central square and is seen here illuminated at night.
Tampere Town Hall (Raatihuone), a neo-renaissance style building designed by Georg Schreck and built 1890, stands on the city’s central square and is seen here illuminated at night.

Tampere Market Hall dates from 1901 and hosts 30 stalls selling food. On the first Friday of each month the hall hosts a late-night event with live music.

Pipe organ silhouetted by light flooding through the stained glass window in Tampere Cathedral.
Pipe organ silhouetted by light flooding through an arching stained glass window in Tampere Cathedral.

Beyond the Spy Museum, Tampere has plenty of secrets worth experiencing.



Travel to Tampere, Finland

Tampere–Pirkkala Airport is approximately 25 minutes’ drive south-west of the city centre. Finnair, Air Baltic and SAS Airways count among the airlines operating flights to Finland’s second busiest international airport.

A Volvo 2400 car races around a corner of the Motor Space racing circuit on the edge of Tampere, Finland.
A Volvo 2400 car races around a corner of the Motor Space racing circuit on the edge of Tampere, Finland.

Tampere is a 180-kilometre (112-mile) drive north-west of Helsinki. Driving on the E12 and Route 12 between the two cities takes two hours and 15 minutes. Train journeys between Helsinki and Tampere take approximately two hours.



See the UK Government website to see official Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advice about travel to Finland.



Map of Tampere

Zoom in or out of the map below to find points of interest in Tampere:

Google Map showing central Tampere, Finland

Tampere accommodation

Looking for a place to stay in Tampere? Search for hotels in Tampere via Booking.com:


Booking.com

Tampere restaurants

You’ll find a broad choice of places to eat in Tampere. The city has restaurants serving cuisines from around the world.

One of Finland’s best kept secrets has to be its excellent cuisine.

Chefs make liberal use of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients such as lingonberries and mushrooms to garnish dishes. Elk and reindeer numbers are kept in check by Finnish hunters, who supply local kitchens with lean and tasty game meat.

Places to dine in Tampere include:

Restaurant Näsinneula

Enjoy fine dining experiences? Restaurant Näsinneula serves artfully presented dishes with outstanding views over Tampere and the surrounding region. The revolving restaurant is in the tower at Särkänniemi amusement park.

The food is attractive enough to distract from the panoramic views of the city and nearby lakes and woodland.

Näsinneula’s Finlandia menu presents dishes made with Finnish ingredients such as arctic char and reindeer. In terms of cuisine and views, this dining establishment is right up there.

Vanilla parfait served with a covering of crumbled red currant at the Restaurant Näsinneula​ in Tampere's Särkänniemi amusement park.
Vanilla parfait served with a covering of crumbled red currant at the Restaurant Näsinneula​ in Tampere’s Särkänniemi amusement park.

Brewery Restaurant Plevna

This convivial dining establishment and brewpub stands within the Finlayson Complex. Known as Panimoravintola Plevna in Finnish, the Brewery Restaurant Plevna bears the name of the industrial complex’s Plevna weaving hall.

Sturdy wooden tables and waitresses in Dirndl-style dresses give the brewpub a feel much like a Bavarian beer hall. The menu features schnitzel, burgers and currywurst. Keen to sample a local Finnish delicacy? Tamperelainen black pudding is served with lingonberry jam and pickled gherkins.

A broad range of beers are brewed on site, including seasonal specials such as bock beer. Kippis is Finnish ‘cheers’.

Sign for the Brewery Restaurant Plevna in Tampere's Finlayson Mill complex. The mill was named after Plevna as troops from the Grand Duchy of Finland served in the Russian Army that besieged the city in 1877 during the Russo-Turkish War.
Sign for the Brewery Restaurant Plevna in Tampere’s Finlayson Mill complex. The mill was named after Plevna as troops from the Grand Duchy of Finland served in the Russian Army that besieged the city in 1877 during the Russo-Turkish War.

Stefan’s Steakhouse

Stefan’s Steakhouse is part of the restaurant chain named after Stefan Richter. Richter was born in Tampere and was runner-up in the fifth series of the American cooking show, Top Chef.

The bistro-like restaurant occupies the ground floor of the red brick Kehräsaari complex. Designed by the Lambert Pettersson and built in 1897, the former mill was used to spin and dye wool.

This speciality steak restaurant overlooks the fast-flowing Tammerkoski River. Interested in trying a Nordic speciality rather than beef steak? Reindeer sirloin is a menu option.

Finnish entrecote served with a jug of Bearnaise Sauce at one of the restaurants in Tampere.
Finnish entrecote served with a jug of Bearnaise Sauce at one of the restaurants in Tampere.

Restaurant Harald

Part of a chain of Viking-themed dining establishments Restaurant Harald is a fun place to dine as part of a group.

Three-course menus with names such as The Voyage of Warrior Freydis and The King’s Feast are served along with a la carte choices. Choose Rautakylki’s Sword for a spectacular dish that features meats including reindeer tenderloin and venison sausage skewered on a sword.

Black pudding known as Mustamakkara, a regional delicacy, served with a lingonberry sauce in Tampere
Black pudding known as Mustamakkara, a regional delicacy, served with a lingonberry sauce in Tampere.

When to visit Tampere

Tampere experiences four distinct seasons. The summer season, from June until August, is a popular time to visit and enjoy Finland’s largest inland city at its warmest. Sub-zero winter temperatures transform the landscape and freeze local lakes.

Obelisk by the Neo-Byzantine-style Orthodox Church, designed by T.U. Jazykov, seen on a sunny winter's day in Tampere.
Obelisk by the Neo-Byzantine-style Orthodox Church, designed by T.U. Jazykov, seen on a sunny winter’s day in Tampere.

Ratinanniemi festival park hosts several open-air music festivals. They include the Sauna Open Air rock festival and Tammerfest in July plus the Blockfest in July.

The ceiling and lamp in the National Romantic style Tampere Cathedral, designed by Hugo Simberg.
Prefer quietude? Head into the Finnish countryside or to a church. This is a view of the ceiling in the National Romantic style Tampere Cathedral, designed by Hugo Simberg.

The annual Tampere Theatre Festival takes place over seven days during early August.

The Tampere Theatre (Tampereen Teatteri) on the central square is one of the venues of the annual Tampere Theatre Festival, which takes place in August.
The Tampere Theatre (Tampereen Teatteri) on the central square is one of the venues of the annual Tampere Theatre Festival, which takes place in August.

Weather in Tampere, Finland

See the BBC Weather and Finnish Meteorological Institute websites to check the weather in Tampere, Finland.

Winter sunset over the mainly frozen surface of Lake Pyhajarvi on the outskirts of Tampere in Finland.
A winter sunset over the mainly frozen surface of Lake Pyhajarvi on the outskirts of Tampere in Finland.

Books about Finland

Planning a trip to Tampere? You may find the following books about Finland informative and insightful:

Insight Guides’ Finland Travel Guide (with a free e-book):

Lonely Planet Finland:

Culture Smart’s Finland: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture:

A History of Finland by Henrik Meinander:

Tove Jansson’s The Moomins: The World of Moomin Valley:

Further information

Discover more about Tampere and the surrounding region on the Visit Tampere website.

Planning a holiday in Finland encompassing destinations across the country? Take a look at the Visit Finland website for inspiration and information from across the country.

The onion dome towers of the Russian Orthodox Church of St Alexander Nevski and St Nicholas, designed by T.U. Jazykov and built in the 1890s, one of the interesting examples of architecture in Tampere.
The onion dome towers of the Russian Orthodox Church of St Alexander Nevski and St Nicholas, designed by T.U. Jazykov and built in the 1890s, in Tampere.

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel writer. Stuart is based in North East England and available for travel and food commissions.

Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.

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A version of this post was originally posted on Go Eat Do on 13 April 2013.

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