We took an inter-city train from Helsinki to Tampere. VR Finnish trains are very comfortable and smooth, run on a wider gauge than English trains and have an upper deck. We booked seats upstairs so that we could enjoy the best views along the 90 minute journey.
Tampere is Finland’s third largest city and is located 100 miles north of Helsinki. It is often referred to as the ‘Manchester of Finland’ due to its industrial past as the former centre of the Finnish cotton trade.
On leaving the station we strolled along Tampere’s broad main shopping thoroughfare until we reached the river. Here you will find the former Finlayson cotton mill which was established in 1820 by a Scottish engineer called James Finlayson. He originally produced woven wool but realising the climate was cool and damp and perfect for cotton spinning as the thread would not snap, he transformed the building into a cotton mill in 1828. The Finlayson company still exists today and is a noted Finnish textile manufacturer producing high quality linens, towels and bedding.
Since production ceased in the mill in the 1970’s and industrial use of the buildings ended in the 1990’s it has been redeveloped into a cultural centre housing museums, restaurants, bars, a cinema and art gallery. We enjoyed a delicious lunch buffet in the mill overlooking the Tammerkoski Rapids. Tampere is located between two lakes Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. These two lakes differ in level by 18 metres and the Tammerkoski Rapids which link the lakes has been an important power source for the surrounding mills, producing energy to drive the machinery.
Going through the ornate entrance way, pictured above we arrived at Vapriikki – a museum centre in what used to be the engineering works of Tampella Ltd. It’s home to the Natural History Museum of Tampere, the Media Museum, Mineral Museum, Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame and the Finnish Postal Museum, which relocated from Helsinki. The museums are housed in the vast factory hall which produced a wide range of goods including locomotives, turbines and linens. The name of the museum Vapriikki means ‘fabric’ relating to the history of the former mill building.
Leaving the cultural landmarks of the city behind we took a 20 minute uphill walk through a pine tree forest to the Pyynikki Observation Tower located at the top of the world’s highest gravel ridge Pyynikinharju. The old tower stands 26 metres high and a small lift takes visitors to the observation deck for €2. There are splendid views from the top looking down on Lake Pyhäjärvi. On the ground floor there’s a pretty little cafe which has a good range of homemade cakes and buns and is very popular with locals and visitors to the area.
Moving on, we walked down some steep wooden steps and followed a path to the edge of Lake Pyhäjärvi which looked crystal clear in the bright sunshine. The path continued past an attractive beach before heading back through the forest towards the town centre.
Next, it was time to stroll across the town to the Näsinneula Observation Tower which is located on the edge of the Särkänniemi Amusement Park. The tower is the second tallest in the Nordic Region and the most famous symbol of Tampere. It costs €5 to take the lift to the top and we were rewarded with far reaching views of around 20 kilometres in every direction. The two lifts take only 32 seconds to ascend the 130 metre tower, rising at a rate of six metres per second.
From the top we could see a panorama of the city and of the beautiful ridges and lakes surrounding it. The views were breathtaking and we couldn’t have wished for a more perfect day to view the city from here. From the photograph below you can see part of the Särkänniemi Amusement Park which looks like a toy town from such a great height.
After all this walking we were ready for some tea and cinnamon buns and we found the perfect cafe for our afternoon tea, sitting on a sunny terrace overlooking a small marina on the lakeside.
Afterwards, there was still enough time to take a look in the attractive old market hall with its wooden stalls painted an attractive shade of grey. We then glanced in some of the high street shops before heading back to the station for our early evening train back to Helsinki. After so much walking and sightseeing we were soon asleep on the train after such a splendid day out in this most beautiful of Finnish cities.
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