Tornio – Gateway to Lapland
Nestled on the Swedish border, Tornio (and its Swedish twin-city Haparanda across the river) uniquely blends two cultures in an exciting mixture of art, handicrafts and history. Tornio was given its city rights by King Gustav II Adolf in 1621, with the current border between Finland and Sweden existing there since 1809. Today, Tornio and Haparanda in Sweden make up an international twin city that all together has 32 500 inhabitants. The aim of this unique border cooperation is to “enjoy the benefits of two countries but address the obligations of one country”.
During the summer months visitors are attracted to the region by the white-water rivers and spectacular Bothnian Bay National Park archipelago, which provide a wealth of opportunities for fishing, river rafting and sailing.
Tornion Panimo, Tornio Brewery, was founded in 1873. It closed in 2010, having been bought by an international giant two years earlier who moved production to the south. In 2016 it reopened as a smaller brewery, and today it produces Arctic Stout, Arctic Lager, a Czech style Pilsner, Arctic Pale Ale, and their original 1964 Lager. There is a brewery store on site, with local handicrafts, beer glasses and accessories, and their range of beers all available. Guided tours can be arranged.
Duudson Activity Park is a new mega cool adventure park offering one of Finland’s largest and best trampoline and skateboard arenas. The indoor activity park has a huge choice of winter-themed activities, including the Icebreaker and Lighthouse, snowboarding for children, a snowball fighting game and two extensive climbing worlds. There is also the Bag Jump, Air Track, a foam pit, a games arena, a Find Your Sport area and much more.
In Tornio, the Church of Alatornio dates from 1797 but there has been a church on this site since medieval times. In 1842, Georg Wilhelm von Struve was using triangulation to define the shape of the earth and measured one triangle from the church of Alatornio, and today the Struve Geodetic Arc is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tornio also boasts a lovely Orthodox church, which was founded at the beginning of the 1800s for the Russian troops stationed by the Swedish border. The cruciform Church of Karungi was built between 1815 and 1817 by A. W. Arppe, and is made of logs. However, the true masterpiece is the Church of Tornio, which was completed in 1686, is supported by pillars, and is the largest remaining of its kind. Other cultural attractions here include the Aine Art Museum, and the Provincial Museum of Tornio Valley.
Also known as the Torne or Tornio River, also known as the Tornio River, is the largest river in the Baltic Sea region, and a natural salmon spawning river; in fact it is one of the largest Atlantic salmon spawning rivers in the world. Rising from Lake Torne in Sweden near the border with Norway, the river flows for 522 km into the Gulf of Bothnia, with the last half forming the border between Finland and Sweden. Anglers from across the globe come to the Torniojoki every year to fish for salmon, trout, and along the upper reaches to catch big grayling.
Activities & Adventures
The city of Kemi is less than 30 minutes away, so all of the activities available there are also available to visitors to Tornio. These include snowmobile safaris – at night, to reindeer farms, to go ice-fishing, or through winter forests; Aurora Borealis hunts – with Arctic Snow Dogs, or by car; Visits to the Arkadia reindeer farm and sleigh rides; Guided tour of the Kemi SnowCastle, or dinner in the Ice Restaurant; Day trips to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, or to Ranua Wildlife Park; Rides on the frozen sea in the luxurious Olokolo aurora wagons; Nature tours by snowshoes; Visits to Troll’s Land; Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding; Hovercraft rides; and Fatbike safaris.
Accommodation in Tornio
Park Hotel Tornio has rooms for one, two or three people, as well as different size suites ideal for families. All rooms have a TV, own bathroom, and free WiFi. Prices include use of the hotel’s sauna in the evening and a buffet breakfast buffet. There is a swimming pool in the sauna department. Park Hotel Tornio has three restaurants: the a la carte Aino Restaurant; the Sports Corner Bar & Grill; and Music Restaurant Park Arena which is open on event weekends.
Olof Hotel Tornio opened as recently as November 2014 in what used to be a bank. Located in the heart of Tornio, the rooms of the Olof Hotel have been decorated with exclusive photo wallpapers from the photography of Reino Kainulainen, and acquired from the Tornionlaakso Museum. A nordic inspired breakfast is served Monday to Friday.
The Boutique Hotel Mustaparta offers accommodation in double and single rooms, a superior room, and two suites. Air-conditioning, WiFi, TV, armchair, desk, and bathroom with a shower and hairdryer. The suites additionally have electric kettles, with one having a French balcony.
Across the river in Sweden, the Haparanda Stadshotel has been fully restored to its former glory. With 92 rooms and several restaurants, this early 20th century hotel offers class and comfort in a classical setting. The game cellar with its cellar-vault forms a suitable background for a meal of local specialities such as reindeer, elk, ptarmigan, whitefish, or arctic char. The largest rooms feature a private sauna or jacuzzi, while the sauna facility offers panoramic views over the river to Tornio, and of the GreenZone golf course, the only golf course in the world that straddles the border of two countries.
Getting to Tornio
The Kemi-Tornio airport is connected to the rest of the world through Helsinki and other Finnish airports. If you fly into either the Rovaniemi or Oulu international airports, there are connecting buses, trains, and taxis. Alternatively, Finnish Railways (VR) operates a train from Helsinki to Kemi 3 times a day.