Just on the fringe of the Arctic Circle, the Finnish city of Rovaniemi is an idyllic setting for the “home” of one of the world’s most universally beloved figures: Santa Claus himself. Surrounded by rolling hillsides and crisp, clean air, Rovaniemi seems to have leaped straight off the cover of a postcard.
As the capital city of Lapland, Rovaniemi is also the largest city in Europe by surface area. Its bustling tourism industry draws visitors all year long, but never more than in the winter season when the Northern Lights offer the perfect backdrop for sledding, sleigh rides, caroling, or a cozy stay in an authentic igloo.
The city was nearly destroyed by bombings during World War II, as the Germans sought to take control of Lapland. Refusing defeat, the Finnish people rallied to rebuild the city, enlisting the help of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. He designed the city streets in the shape of reindeer antlers – setting the stage for the Christmas haven that Rovaniemi is today.
Rovaniemi earned the title of “Santa Claus’ Official Hometown” in 2010, and the city’s famous Santa Claus Village attracts over 500,000 visitors each year. Open every day, the Village features visits with the elf himself, as well as dog sledding, sleigh rides, and a whole host of other winter activities.
One month before Christmas each year, the whole world watches as Santa Claus declares the Christmas season officially open. On December 23rd, Santa leaves his post in Rovaniemi to deliver presents to the world’s children.
The Santa Claus Main Post Office inside the Village is a hub of activity in December, receiving over 18 million letters from nearly 200 countries around the world. Each letter, just like each visitor to Rovaniemi, is treated with special care, for an experience that is sure to keep the magic of Christmas alive for people of all ages.