We´ve prepared a bucket list for you consisting of things you should experience during your time in Lappeenranta. To give a clear image of what´s happening in this lovely city we devided the bucket list into 10 section which help you to familiarize yourself with Lappeenranta.
1. Get to know the basics of your new home town
Lappeenranta´s harbour - the hub of the city with different events through out the year. There are concerts, different markets and terraces during the summer as well as cruises that leave from the port. In the winter, you can rent ice skates and go ice skating on the lake.
Another main place where people gather is the Myllysaari beach. In addition to the beach, there are fields for playing volleyball and basketball. You can try a very Finnish thing - the public sauna. If that´s not enough extreme - try ice swimming.
The city´s biggest shopping mall located near the center. Different retail shops, cafes, restaurants and a movie theatre. You can also find the city´s tourist information here.
Lappeenranta Sandcastle - our beloved landmark actually for the 15th year already. Every year new sculptures are made of 3 million kilograms of sand carrying new themes.
Public transportation here is easy. Bus lines 1, 3 and 5 travel between LUT/Saimia and the city center almost every 15 minutes. You can pay by either cash or get a bus card that you can top up.
2. Learn about the local history
The City´s history is actually pretty interesting. We´ve been under both Swedish and Russian influence. Sweden and the Russian empire actually fought in Lappeenranta during the Russo-Swedish war in the 18th century which resulted in Russian victory. The city was however founded by Swedish queen Christina in 1614. She named the city Vilmanstrand which means wild man´s shore in Swedish. As at the time we were a small village and the people were considered somewhat barbaric hence the city´s emblem.
Why we call the Fortress the gate between East & West? Swedes and Russians were fighting here against each other. Lappeenranta was located in turns in either side of the border . Lappeenranta called also as border town.
We have collected pictures and summed up main things of the Fortress. Along Kristiina Street you will find cafes, ateliers and museums.
At the Lappeenranta Fortress, you will find the oldest Orthodox church in Finland, the Protection of the Theotokos Church (Pokrova), dating from 1785.
In Lappeenranta, you can visit Karelia Aviation Museum, Saimaa Canal Museum, Wolkoff House Museum, South Karelia Museum and Lappeenranta Art Museum.
3. Meet the locals
We don´t know what stereotypes you might have of Finnish people but generally speaking we are considered as reserved, introverted shy and modest people that respect personal space.
You can notice from the picture on the right where Finns have decided to keep about a meters distant to the next despite the ongoing snow blizzard and the abundance of a bus stop that provides shelter. However when it comes to the Finns favourite pass time, going to sauna, they will go naked with you.
A Finn avoid the small talk to the last point. And actually when he would like to stop the bus and get off he just makes weird sounds. But to break stereotypes of Finns, the karelian people are usually quite talkative.
4. Try to learn the language
We don´t know if you´ve heard this but Finnish is considered the second hardest language to learn after mandarin Chinese.
Here´s an example of how confusing Finnish can be. The same phrase "Kuusi palaa" which is by the way spelled and pronounced the same way can mean all of these different things in English.
As you can see Finnish is simple or as we say "yksinkertainen". By the way, there is no common origin between any of these languages and Finnish.
Another fun fact about Finnish, we have 40 words for snow but no word for please. The closest word is "ole kiltti" which literally means be nice. So you can hear Finns say please will they speak Finnish at times. Just like any other language Finnish has different dialects, this local dialect is called the karelian dialect.
The best way to learn it is by checking out the Finnish police crime drama series called Bordertown. Its plot actually takes place in Lappeenranta. It has been distributed to 40 different countries and is available on Netflix. Here are a few examples of the dialect.
5. Lose your Lake Saimaa “virginity”
Lake Saimaa is actually Europe´s 4th biggest lake, it starts from Lappeenranta and goes up to central Finland.
If you don´t feel like getting wet and taking a dip there are dryer ways to experience the lake for example by taking a Cruise to the canal and archipelago. We also have visa free cruises to Russia.
Another way to enjoy the lake Saimaa is kayaking. You can rent a kayak, canoe or try this very traditional almost national romantic rowing boat. Take time for yourself and go to listen to the silence.
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has become lately very popular here too.
Something a bit more extreme, ice swimming. Finns like to make a hole into the frozen lake and take dips or swims during the winter sometimes with sauna or without. It might sound crazy but it´s definitely something you should try if you´re brave enough, the feeling you get afterwards is almost euphoric.
Actually this is the same lake in the winter time. The frozen ice cover makes it possible to ice skate long distances from island to island. And why not try ice fishing and prepare your own Finnish style dish.
Don´t worry summers don´t actually look like this. They´re actually very nice and the long lasting daylight is a big plus.
Our city is bicycle friendly and the streets are very safe to ride. There are plenty of walking and bicycle trails, which lead you to explore small camping places.
What we mean with connecting with mother nature is that - go as close to the nature as you can by walking the trail in a swamp. Or take your friends and go out to the woods, find a camping place and sleep beneath the clear sky with stars.
7. Indulge yourself in sports and recreation
Here you can see Lappeenranta´s pride and glory, our ice hockey team SaiPa. Unlike other countries where the most popular sport is football in Finland its ice hockey. SaiPa plays in the top division and this city is crazy about ice hockey so watching a game the following season which starts in September is definitely a must.
Go and have fun at the Fortress slopes or go skiing around the airport.
Ice hockey is popular but so is ice skating so you´ll see plenty of outdoor rinks in the winter giving an option to ice skating on the lake.
If you´re interested in downhill skiing, we´ve found a place for you - in Myllymäki there are six slopes available from beginner to advanced.
Like we stated earlier Lappeenranta is a student friendly city - you get discount from the swimming pool as well.
Kimpinen´s sport center is located near the center and provides tennis, a free outdoor gym and a track field arena.
You´ve might have since this picture on the internet about a Finnish breakfast consisting of coffee vodka and a cigarette but thankfully this isn´t the case despite us being heavy drinkers.
You cannot leave the city without tasting our specialty Vety & Atomy - translated as hydrogen and atom. Meat pie filled with egg or ham or both. You can try it at Lappeenranta Market Square (Kauppatori). Another our specialty is Karelian pie with egg butter paste.
Other delicacies like smoked salmon, Marianne candies, liquorice and berries. We love to eat them. The picking of berries and mushrooms belongs to Everyman's Rights. In the forest, you can go without any restriction until you stay out someone´s Private property.
We´ve listed the best fine dining restaurant here in our opinion which is Wanha Makasiini. They use organic ingredients supplied from local producers. The fish for example are from Lake Saimaa. (So this is a place to take your parents if they´re visiting).
Don´t worry we know you guys are on a student budgets so we have fast food too. McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and Turkish done kebab which has become relatively popular here.
9. Get out and visit our best cafes and bars
As you can see Finns are Europe´s top coffee consumers. When you hear someone asking you to come over for a coffee, it literally means it. Actually Finns take others sayings quite seriously.
In Lappeenranta we have our very own roastery LEHMUS and the rewarded cafe Satamatie 6. Come and check out this very modern cafe.
We said earlier how Finns are perceived as shy and reserved will this changes after a few drinks and when Finns plan to drink they normally drink a lot. There is even a word for drinking at home in your own underpants called "Kalsarikännit". The word for cheers is also quite amusing "Hölökynkölökyn" there is however, an easier used alternative "kippis".
Summer terraces are a big thing during the Summer as people like to go outside to enjoy a drink or two. Here for example is Princess Armada and roof terrace in the harbour.
On to partying. You´ll probably have a lot if different parties near campus but I´ll just go through the main night clubs quickly. There´s Gigling Marlin which has dance music and a DJ - popular among teenagers and young adult. Las Palmas a karaoke bar which is more for older people. And finally Amarillo which is something in between the two mentioned ones.
10. Don’t miss the events
On the 6th December we celebrate our Independence. Festivities are organized around the city to respect veterans and people who died in the Independence war.
During December there is Christmas fair in the city center. Consisting of a Christmas market, decorations, ice sculptures and even a visit from Santa Claus and Russia´s grandfather Frost.
New Years eve is the time for big celebration like anywhere else. Usually that means music and big firework at the harbour. Almost the whole city gathers together to welcome the New Year.
Bench press day is an event in February where high school seniors celebrate the end of their school By dressing up and throwing Candy to people from trucks. Sounds kind of weird but it´s a fun event to watch. It´s called bench press day because it´s their last push as high school students.
Labor day is a pretty beloved and awaited holiday. Actually so awaited that the festivities take place for three weeks here in Lappeenranta. People gather to the Fortress slopes for a picnic and here you can see students dressed up and getting wild.
Lappee Fest is a music festival that takes Place in the city center in the end of June.
Midsummer festivities take place at the end of June. It celebrates the longest day at the year. The party actually takes the whole night as the sun goes down as late as 11 pm and rises at 3.30 am. Every year the bonfire, which has become the trade mark of Midsummer, will be set fire near Myllysaari beach.
As we come to an end with our bucket list the 10th segment is actually a bonus one as the following will be very rare to experience.
The Saimaa ringed seal is one of the most endangered seal species in the world. They only habit Lake Saimaa and there are only roughly 400 of them left.
If you´re lucky you could see an elk, which is one of our biggest wildlife animals. You probably have already noticed some warnings signs along the highways.
Finally seeing the Northern Lights which is a natural light phenomenon (caused by solar winds and different particles. They are most common near the poles during winter.) This video was actually taken near the Lappeenranta Campus 3 years ago.
So that was it! Start crossing off things from this bucket list today!
By Darius Rahman and Josefina Uggelberg.