Finland doesn’t feature high up among the world’s most visited countries. With the excessive glorification of the tropics as the ultimate place to go for a vacation, nations like Finland are pretty hard done. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a double whammy for places like Rauma because they often aren’t on the radar of the relatively low number of tourists who do go to Finland.
Actually, expect bewildered stares from some Finns if you signal your intention to visit Rauma. But perhaps the low visitor traffic is part of the allure for people who don’t fancy overcrowded tourist traps.
Rauma is a bit of a hidden gem. For starters, it is home to not one but two World Heritage Sites. With 600 buildings, Old Rauma is the largest unified old wooden town in Scandinavia and one of the best preserved in Europe. The other heritage site is the Samallahdenmaki, a 3,000-year-old burial site. However, Rauma offers a lot more.
Old Rauma’s very existence has always revolved around the sea. Its location in the Gulf of Bothnia made it an excellent launching pad for voyages to Sweden and greater northern Europe. By the end of the 19th century, Rauma had the largest fleet of merchant sailing boats in all of Finland.
This marine history and influence is visible everywhere in Rauma to this day. From the dominant theme of items in home décor stores to churches with huge ships positioned at the entrance. One of the best places to understand this history is the Rauma Maritime Museum. There are plenty of insightful artifacts and interactive exhibits in the museum that are brought to life by tablets and other technology-oriented devices. Admission is $12 for adults.
Explore the Waters
With such a rich past as a sea town, it would be a shame if you left Rauma without spending some time in the water. At the minimum, you should take a guided boat ride. If you envisage a longer term stay in Rauma and already own a boat back home, consider bringing it over (you can find resources here). You will have more options and of course more fun.
As you would expect, summer is the best time for being in the water. The warmer weather brings out the more athletic, outdoorsy Finns and tourists. You can get on a kayak or boat during the day and then calm your nerves with a swim or sauna in the evening. Try and visit one of the islands and even stay overnight (Kylmapihlaja island can be particularly unforgettable).
Arts and Cuisine
All over Rauma, you’ll run into enchanting wooden sculptures. The best known is the lady of Rauma where a woman sits on a bench right next to her purse. But the three ladies fleeing a frog prince on the town’s outskirts is a strong contender for second place. Kerttu Horila is the artist behind the sculptures. If you want to see more of her work or what else she has in the pipeline, you could visit her studio at the heart of the old town.
Don’t leave old Rauma before you have a taste of the popular sailor food lapskoussi. It’s a delicious mix of beef, onions, carrots, potatoes and other tubers boiled, mashed together then with a topping of melted butter.
You’ll see it all around you. The beautiful handmade lace is one of Rauma’s most defining traits. If you really want to see the depth of diversity in the town’s lacemaking, you should visit in the summer during the Lace Week. Local and international lacemakers showcase their best work.
You could even get inspired to take up lace-making for fun. It’s a time-consuming hobby but can be a great way to relax while creating something beautiful in the process.
Rauma is a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Helsinki which means a day trip is quite feasible. Of course the longer you can stay, the more memorable your experience is likely to be. Beyond the places to go and things to do, Rauma has that typical friendly charm of a small rural town. That attractive vibe can make you want to extend your visit for much longer than you intended.