Timeless Hämeenlinna: where history intertwines with nature

Pauliina Flam | Live the World

November 23, 2022

A hundred kilometers north of Helsinki,  halfway to the charming city of Tampere, is a pretty town of Hämeenlinna. The oldest cities in Finland are usually situated on the seashore, like Turku and Porvoo. But Hämeenlinna is the oldest one out of the inland cities, and there is history to discover and beautiful nature to wonder about. Let's explore timeless Hämeenlinna, where history intertwines with nature.

© istock/TanyaSv

The name of Hämeenlinna is translated as "the castle of Häme". No wonder the biggest attraction in the town is a castle. It stands on the peaceful shore of Vanajavesi Lake and hides many stories behind the medieval walls. You can learn them inside the museum of Häme Castle or just walk by the walls outside the building and see a small historical exhibition. Häme Castle is also known for its renaissance fair, Häme Medieval Festival. That is when the park around the castle looks like a medieval movie scene. You can spot Viking combats, fire tournaments, taverns, and performances. Everything fits extremely well with the Middle Age towers and walls of the Häme Castle

Häme Castle is not the only castle in the area. There are hidden castle ruins on the other shore of the lake, in the forest. You can find pieces of the gate and rise on the ruined castle wall towers. The place is a true hidden gem! Its origin is a mystery, and tourists usually overlook it, so it is a great spot to be in peace. 

Further in the forest, you can find Aulanko, my favorite place in Hämeenlinna. It is an area with parks, lakes, beautiful pavilions, and a watching tower. Here, just 33 meters up the granite tower, you can find the traditional Finnish sceneries. There is a cafe opposite the tower and many walking trails leading here and out. No doubt, these trails are my favorite walks in the whole country, they pass by the lakes, swans, hidden structures, and a luminous forest. To me, visiting Hämeenlinna is not accomplished if there is no time for Aulanko. 

© istock/Riekkinen

An honorable mention of places to visit in Hämeenlinna is a prison museum. It is the largest prison museum in Europe, which actually served as a prison until 1993. Being the only prison museum in Finland, it introduces the history of prisons in the country, showcases the everyday life of prisoners, and raises questions about humanity. 

Besides the nature and history of Hämeenlinna, there is one more place just 15 minutes drive from the city - the Iittala Village. It is interesting to visit if it is on your way. Iittala is known for handcraft, design, and art. The famous glasswork of Iittala is something to learn about, you can do that in the Design Museum. You can get inspired by peculiar paintings in the Naive Art center or attend workshops and learn the techniques yourself. Second-hand places are a big deal in the Nordics, no wonder the rural second-hand is another attraction of the Iittala Village.  Few old houses are filled with second-hand designs. I think it is the best place to find environment-friendly souvenirs from the Nordics. 

© flickr/kanta-hämeen_kuvapankki

Hämeenlinna, where history intertwines with nature, is a gem of the Kanta-Häme region. It can be visited for museums, special events like a Medieval Festival, design shopping in nearby Iittala Village, or just scenic walks among the nature paths in Aulanko. In any case, it is hard to find a traveler that timeless Hämeenlinna could disappoint. 

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