Arktikum: Finland’s extraordinary Arctic museum

Rovaniemi is one of the world’s most northerly cities. Located just a few kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, it is the biggest city in Finland at its latitude, with a population of 60,000. There are bigger cities at more northerly latitudes in Norway and Russia, to be sure, but Rovaniemi is indisputably pretty far north, all things considered.

Rovaniemi lures visitors in with the promise of proximity to Santa Claus. In fact, the city bills itself as Santa’s hometown. A big draw is the Santa Claus Village shopping center, built around an Arctic Circle marking, which boasts a Santa Claus in residence 365 days of the year. During the run-up to Christmas, charter flights from around Europe ferry in tourists interested in seeing Santa in his natural geographical habitat. Under feet of snow, Santa Claus Village is now doubt charming. In the off-season, however, before snow has fallen, the shopping center seems misplaced.

Rovaniemi is also home to the Arktikum, an excellent museum that surveys Arctic life. The two permanent exhibits, one titled The Arctic in Change and the other called Northern Ways, are both very good. All sorts of subjects are covered within these two exhibits: climate change, cooperation between the Arctic nations, the evolution of cultural life in Finnish Lapland and the material culture of the Sami people.The museum is notable for its depth and its scope. Itls exciting to gain a deeper impression of this remote and inhospitable region from the toasty confines of this museum. Its architecture, which include a 172-meter long glass-ceilinged atrium that affords views of the sky and the surrounding area, is also extraordinary.

Admission to the Arktikum is €12 for adults. A combination ticket that also allows access to the Korundi House of Culture is €15. Additionally on offer is a combination ticket (also €15) that offers access to Arktikum plus the Pilke Science Centre, which focuses on northern forests. Kids 7-15 pay €5 for a single ticket and €6 for a combination ticket.