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?
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.