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The Finnish city of Tampere is one of Finland's main industrial centers. In the old days it was mainly metal and textile industries, nowadays it's about information technology and telecommunications. Do you really want to visit such a city? Absolutely, as Tampere has a lot to offer. Architectural masterpieces, ranging from a medieval church to ultra-modern Finnish design, a wide range of museums, a popular amusement park, dazzling surroundings and last but not least the Finnish saunas.
The Finlayson cotton mill is a good starting point for your visit to Tampere. In this area you'll find most museums, churches, stores and restaurants. In 1998, the world's first Spy Museum (Vakoilumuseo) was opened here. Because of Finland's position between the Western and the communist block, the country has been a junction for international espionage. The museum shows how spies worked and what equipment they used. There are different sections, each addressing different aspects of espionage, from old-fashioned and modern monitoring methods to hacking computers.
Tampere is situated along a waterway that connects two large lakes: The Näsijärvimeer north of the city and the Pyhäjärvimeer south of the city. This is the heart of the former working-class area. The textile-factory workers could build their houses on free land. So it used to be a poor neighborhood, but these days Pispala is a trendy residential neighborhood. Here you'll also find the Rajaportin Sauna, Finland's oldest public sauna. The Amurin työläismuseokortteli open-air museum consists of nineteenth-century working-class houses around a courtyard with only one central kitchen. Only open during summer months.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Tampere was a typical working-class city where the socialist and communist parties had a large following. A future leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Iljich Lenin, felt at home between the workers and lived in Tampere from 1905 until 1907. His apartment – where Lenin met Stalin for the first time – is now the Lenin Museum.
The Tampere Cathedral (Tampereen tuomiokirkko) dates back more than a century. The church is mainly known for the murals by the Finnish painter Hugo Simberg, a follower of symbolism. At the time his paintings were very much criticized, especially the image of a snake, would you believe it, on the highest point of the roof. The Garden of Death is a bizarre painting.
The medieval Messukylä Church is Tampere's oldest building. The oldest parts of the building date back to around 1400. It contrasts with the modern, minimalist building of the Kalevankerk. The local population also calls it 'the grain silo of the soul'. Reima Pietilä, who also built the city's remarkable public library, designed the church in the 1960s. This library houses the Muumilaakso, entirely dedicated to the Moomin family, the creation of the Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. The Moomins are a kind of trolls, who look more like hippopotamuses. The museum organizes performances for children on a regular basis.
In the Tampere Market Hall you can look for typical local specialties, such as black sausages or the aromatic and savory rievä bread.
The city's largest attraction – especially for children – is the Särkänniemi amusement park with seven rollercoasters, a planetarium and a dolphinarium. There is also a 168-meter-high observation tower (Näsinneula) with a revolving restaurant.
Tampere is situated in the western part of the Finnish Lake District and so you can make beautiful road trips in the city's surrounding area. For a bit more physical activity you can leave your rental car and take walks or hikes through this wetland and wooded area, for example in the forests of Pyynikki and Kauppi. From Hervanta there is a four-kilometer-long hiking route around Lake Suolijärvi. From the Laukontori Quay in the city, boats leave for Viikinsaari Island, a popular recreational area for swimming, fishing, rowing or playing miniature golf. In winter you can walk or use cross-country skis to cross the frozen lake to the island.
West of Tampere lies the town of Nokia. That's right, the birthplace of the Finnish telecom giant, however, except for the group's first factory, nothing reminds of those days. Nokia is, however, worth a visit because of the large spa of the Rantasipi Eden Spa Hotel.
In Tampere's center there are many one-way streets and it may not be easy to find a parking space out in the streets. This is, however, no problem as there is sufficient space to park your car in parking garages.
Tampere-Pirkkala Airport is located 17 kilometers southwest of the city center. You can easily reach the airport by rental car. From Tampere you take road 3495 and just south of the city you turn to the E-12 freeway. The exit to the airport (road 308) is clearly signposted.