Lake Saimaa Purest Finland

Saimaa & South Savo

Living in Mikkeli and spending summers on the shores of Lake Saimaa offer a completely different way of life compared to the capital region.

Picture a jetty for swimming, a summer cabin, a sauna with a wood burning stove, a barbecue, a boat and a fishing rod.

Mikkeli is a part of the Finnish Lake District, and when thinking of the Lake District, the first thing to come to mind is, well, lakes. Mikkeli is located between a few big lakes – Lake Puula, Lake Kyyvesi, and of course, Lake Saimaa.

Lake Saimaa is the largest lake in Finland, and the fourth largest in Europe. It spreads accross Eastern Finland in small, crooked straits and larger open water areas. It’s unique shape makes for a fascinating landscape of rocky islands and hills. It is also the home of the Ringed Saimaa Seal, an endangered species of freshwater seal that doesn’t appear anywhere else. You can explore Lake Saimaa e.g. by paddling, cruises, boat, or SUP boarding in summertime, and by skiing, skating, or snowshoeing in wintertime.

Holiday villas and sauna

Holiday cottages and sauna are a vital part of Finnish culture and leisure time. During the best holiday seasons you can see city centres deserted, as all the Finnish holiday-makers have retreated to their cottages and second homes in the countryside. A cottage is preferably by a lake, and it always has its own sauna, where Finns can enjoy their hot and steamy löyly (it’s impossible to live without!). Mikkeli is one of the biggest second home regions in Finland, and aside from private cottage-owners, there is also a wide selection of rental cottages available.


Finns tend to have a strong bond with nature, and it plays a big part in the Finnish culture. Recreational activities like fishing work as a tool for relaxation, and many Finns make berry and mushroom picking trips to the forest every year. You can find berries and mushrooms almost everywhere, and picking them is also permitted to everyone according to the Finnish Every Man’s Rights. Just make sure to leave some for others as well! Hiking and camping are also great ways to enjoy and explore the wonderful Finnish nature, so why not make a trip to Neitvuori Hill or Repovesi National Park, for example, or go visit the ancient rockpaintings of Astuvansalmi?

Local food

As fishing, berry picking and mushroom picking are an important part of the local lifestyle, it is of course natural that you can see it also in the local cuisine. Local food is one of Mikkeli’s fortés, and especially recently many new restaurants specialising in local ingredients and natural flavours have opened their doors in the region. Places you have to absolutely try are for example restaurant Vino, Bistro Holvi and Sahanlahti Resort’s restaurant Koskivahti.

Headquarters City and Marshal Mannerheim

During the Second World War, Mikkeli operated as the headquarters city of Finland, and so all the war operations, led by Marshal Mannerheim, were issued from here. Having the headquarters left its mark on the city landscape and cultural life. Besides museums and landmarks, you can explore Mikkeli’s history on guided tours.

Manors and gardens

Manor houses have long traditions in Finland. Many of them date back to 16th century, and some as far as the 14th century. In Mikkeli region, many authentic manor houses still remain, such as Tertti Manor, Kyyhkylä Manor, and Kenkävero in Mikkeli, Löytö Manor in Ristiina and Kuninkaankartano Manor in Juva. Nowadays the manor houses offer many different services, such as local food, celebration services, accommodation, local products and handicrafts and different activities. Gardens are an important part of a manor’s milieu, but Mikkeli region offers also many other possibilities for a traveler interested in gardening. Visit for example Vanha Kilkkilä and Linkkumylly for a garden experience.

Ice sports and trotting races

Finland is famous for being good at winter sports, and the sport in the country is of course ice hockey. Mikkeli has very succesful teams in both ice hockey and bandy, and games are organised throughout the winter season. In summertime, the biggest sports events are the trotting races, and the largest of those races is the St. Michel trotting race, which is also the biggest annual event in Mikkeli. Come and see yourself what all the bustle is about!

Dance, classical music and metal

Open air dances are an exclusively Finnish phenomenon. Summer nights are the best time to head for a dance pavilion and have a try on classical dances such as valse, tango, foxtrot and Finnish humppa, as well as rock ‘n swing dances, such as jive or boogie. Almost every town or village has their own dance pavilion, so you can try it wherever you’re staying. Another great music event in Mikkeli is the Mikkeli Music Festival, also known as the Gergiev Festival. It takes place in late June or early July, and features almost a full week of concerts by St. Petersburg’s famous Mariinsky Theater’s orchestra. Local bands have gigs in pubs and bars around the year, so do go and check them out, and if you want to experience a wilder atmosphere, join the Jurassic Rock festival in early august in Kenkävero’s fields.

MikseiMikkeli ryhmäkuva

Eight Strengths of Mikkeli

Significant strengths of the Mikkeli region are its forest resources and Finland’s long industrial history in the forest industry. South Savo is Finland’s most forested region and eastern Finland has the fastest forest growth in Europe. The region has a significant cluster of forest industries, which also attracts forest technology companies.

The forest industry directly employs 2,300 people in South Savo, which corresponds to 4.1% of the region’s employment. However, direct income from forestry accounts for 9% of the region’s economy and, taking into account the multiplier effects, accounts for 17% of the region’s total economy. In addition to the traditional forest industry, future fields of economy in Mikkeli include bioproduct production, bioenergy expertise and environmental technology.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Mikkeli also has strong security sector expertise. For example, Mikkeli is home to the Finnish Army Command and Information Management Unit. The South Savo Rescue Department is also a pioneer in developing national rescue work. Mipro Oy develops railway safety systems, while Environics Oy’s main products are CBRNe monitoring systems. Platom Oy focuses on process modeling, analysis, and life cycle services for nuclear facilities, while Profium Oy focuses on data monitoring, storage and discovery. There are also other security sector companies in the region.

Another strength of Mikkeli is its geographical location. Eastern Finland’s core traffic flows through Mikkeli both by road and along the railway line.

The region’s position as one of Finland’s leading leisure areas is also one of its strengths. Mikkeli is Finland’s second largest ‘cabin municipality’ with 10,349 holiday homes. The large number of holiday homes is reflected in the local scenery and the city’s purchasing power, especially during the summer

Relative to its size, Mikkeli has a large student population that provides an educated workforce and a solid foundation for increasing skills. Almost 10% of the city’s residents are students. Furthermore, it is studied that workforce commitment in Mikkeli is higher than national average.

City of Mikkeli is the southernmost city in Finland, where 40% EU regional development investment scheme is available. Comparing start-up costs for example new industrial operations, strong investment support significantly lowers the capital requirement for newly established operations.

Costs are in control in Mikkeli, as land values, rent costs and salary costs are lower compared to e.g. capital area in Finland. The cost of an office or production facilities in Mikkeli is sometimes only 40% of the cost in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Mikkeli offers quality of life for employers and employees alike. Simple things, such as owning your own home debt-free, having a summer cabin by the lake and having leisure time for family and hobbies, are achievable in Mikkeli.


Research and Education in Mikkeli

Mikkeli has traditionally been a strong student city. The city’s further education is organised by the South Savo Vocational College (Esedu), where some 3,000 young students and 5,000 adult students study annually. They offer 47 different undergraduate, 24 vocational and 8 specialist qualifications. Approximately 80% of graduates stay to work in the region.

The South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk) also operates in Mikkeli. The Xamk is the fifth largest university in Finland in terms of student numbers. Xamk offers higher education studies in 89 degree programmes to a total of 7,900 degree students. About half of the students study at the Mikkeli campus. The applied university also offers seven degree programmes in English.

Mikkeli University Centre is one of three educational units operating in the city and several different universities units are located on the campus of the University Centre. These include: Aalto University School of Business International Business Training Unit, University of Helsinki Ruralia Institute, National Library Digitisation and Conservation Centre, Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT) Entrepreneurship Research Unit and the Green Chemistry Laboratory training international postgraduate students.

Every year, about 250 undergraduate students at the campus study for the English-language Bachelor of Science in Economics programme and 320 in the Co-op Network Studies programme. Additionally, the University of Helsinki provides continuing education for approximately 1,150 students per year at the campus. The campus employs 130 permanent staff. Furthermore, the Natural Resource Centre, the Summer University and the campus’s Researcher Hotel offer facilities for about 150 experts and researchers.

According to surveys, Mikkeli, along with Kuopio, have the best cooperation between companies and educational institutions in Finland.

Mikkeli in Brief

Mikkeli (in Swedish St. Michel) is a city of 53,000 residents in eastern Finland. Based on its population numbers and purchasing power, the city is the regional centre of South Savo. Mikkeli is the 18th largest city in Finland. The eastern parts of the city are located on the shores of Lake Saimaa, Europe’s fourth largest freshwater area. In the west, the urban area of Otava borders the provincial lake Puula.

The city of Mikkeli covers an area of 3,230 m2, of which 681 m2 is water areas. In addition to the city centre, significant urban areas include Otava, Haukivuori, Anttola, Ristiina and Suomenniemi. 80% of the population live in built-up urban areas.

Founded in 1838, Mikkeli is one of Finland’s largest concentrated leisure areas. The city has 27,721 permanent households and 10,349 holiday homes. As 70% of holiday home owners live outside the economic area, second home ownership is a significant factor in the city’s service structure and purchasing power. On average, a holiday home is used for 85 days a year.

In 2022, the Mayor of Mikkeli is Mr. Timo Halonen and the Chairman of the City Board is Mrs. Pirjo Siiskonen.

73.6% of the population of Mikkeli have completed further education and 29.8% have a higher education degree. At the end of 2016, there were 22,500 jobs in the city with 21,700 people in the working population. 90% of the city’s workforce worked in Mikkeli. As a regional centre, Mikkeli also attracts workforce from the neighbouring municipalities, which in December 2018 had a total population of 24,600. The share of entrepreneurs in the workforce is 15%, which is one of the highest in the country.