A large city in Eastern Finland and the provincial capital of North Karelia, Joensuu is packed full of intriguing sights and attractions. The bustling, jovial town market is a must-see and the ideal place to experience North Karelia’s mouth-watering cuisine. When flying to Joensuu, be sure to admire the view from above: seeing Finland from the window of an aeroplane will help you understand where the nickname “The Land of a Thousand Lakes” comes from. Start planning your trip with this Finnair travel guide to Joensuu.
Sights in Joensuu
Joensuu’s large student population gives the rapidly growing city a youthful atmosphere and there are plentiful bars to enjoy after dark. There’s no shortage of great places to eat out in the evenings, too—check out Teatteriravintola (Theatre Restaurant) in the town hall, which was designed by world-famous art nouveau architect Eliel Saarinen. There are also plenty of things to see and do in the daytimes. Wander around the centre of Keskusta and admire the charming traditional wooden homes near the Pielisjoki River. The wide streets were specifically designed to prevent fire from being able to easily spread through a wood-built town. Stroll along Kirkkokatu, pausing to visit the churches that sit at either end of the street. One is a wooden Orthodox church while the other is a large cathedral built in a Gothic style. Other interesting buildings in the city include the Art Nouveau City Hall, Joensuu Arena, which is the largest wooden building in all of Finland, and the modern Metla building within the university. Joensuu Art Museum offers a broad range of collections, as well as temporary exhibitions. Carelicum provides a peek into local customs, folklore, traditions and life, and the Bunker Museum gives interesting insights into the country’s defence systems during World War II. The old bunkers still contain weapons and wartime items. For a relaxing time in nature, visit Botania; the colourful botanical gardens also have a lovely butterfly house. Alternatively, the riverside beaches are nice places to unwind on a warm summer’s day.
Things to See and Do Near Joensuu
- Kolvananuuro – A natural retreat just 15 km (nine miles) outside the city, this nature reserve is celebrated for its ancient gorge and diverse flora. Nature trails cross the rocky landscapes and lead past scenic brooks.
- Koli Ski Resort – In the winter, the fast alpine runs appeal to experienced skiers.
- Kitee – Another city in North Karelia, this is a great day trip destination for families, with a large zoo and Pajarinhovi Aquapark, the biggest water park in Finland. The picturesque Stone Church of Kitee and the historic mills are also well worth visiting.
- Saimaa – The biggest lake in Finland, admire the views with a pleasure cruise or relax on one of the sandy beaches alongside the water.
Shopping in Joensuu
Joensuu’s shopping scene is similar to that in other major Finnish cities, with a mix of stores selling a wide range of items and bustling markets.
- Tori – Found at the heart of the city, this large and lively market is a great place to pick up souvenirs and fresh produce.
- Taitokortteli Arts and Crafts Centre – Showcasing locally-made handicrafts and art, you can find unique gifts and souvenirs here.
- Iso Myy – Situated in the city centre, this mall has a mixture of well-known international brands and Finnish names. The medium-sized shopping centre features many chain stores and a few independent outlets.
Transport in Joensuu
The city centre is generally easy to navigate on foot and there are public buses to explore more of the wider area.
- By foot – The wide streets in the city centre are ideal for pedestrians and there are also walking paths that are separate from the main roads. Many major sights are just a short walk from each other.
- By bicycle – One of the main ways in which local residents travel around the city, cycling is very popular in Joensuu. There are dedicated cycle lanes and paths, many of which are separated from the roads providing a safe cycling experience. You can not only cycle through the city and along the river, but also outside the city limits into the surrounding countryside.
- Buses – Ten bus lines operate around the city, with services generally running every hour throughout the daytime. Do note that there are fewer services at the weekends. In addition to single-journey tickets, there are also cards for ten and 40 journeys. Tickets and travel cards can be bought from the bus driver.
- Taxis – Several taxi companies can be found in Joensuu, operating under the national fare schemes.