A 4 days getaway in Saariselkä, the northernmost ski resort in Finland is an utmost relaxing experience. Saariselkä is known especially for Urho Kekkonen National Park and the skiing tracks in the breathtaking scenery of Finland Lapland. The location is 250 km / 155 mi […]
London is a perfect destination for a long weekend city break: museums, parks, musicals, sightseeing… there are abundant options on what to see and do when you visit London with kids. Plan your family trip to London well in advance to make the best out […]
Stockholm and Junibacken, the theme park based on Astrid Lindgren’s books such as Pippi Långstocking, had been in our travel plans for ages. Traveling from Helsinki to Stockholm with kids by ferry or by air is super easy with numerous daily connections between the two capitals. A long weekend in the end of May was the perfect timing for a mini-break – crossing the Baltic sea on an overnight Silja Line cruise and arriving in the morning for a 2 days in Stockholm was a fun and relaxing experience that exceeded our expectations.
Day 1: Gamla Stan Old Town and the Royal Palace
The Stockholm Gamla Stan Old Town has charming atmosphere created by the narrow streets and old buildings. It’s nice to just walk around or visit the shops and cafes in the area.
The girls loved the visit to the Royal Palace and didn’t get bored even though it was quite a lot of walking to go through it. We admired the royal dresses and outfits across centuries on display. The palace rooms are beautifully decorated.
Check tickets costs and opening hours (typically 10 am to 4 pm in the winter and 9 am to 5 pm in the summer) here.
After touring the Royal Palace we were hungry and needed a break. Since the weather was lovely we absolutely wanted to find a table outdoors. We stumbled upon Restaurang Misteln Bar & Café and although a bit pricey, the location in the heart of Stortorget and the lovely old town ambience were unbeatable.
Day 2: Junibacken
We took the metro to Karlaplan and walked through the park with a fountain in the middle of a large water pool. It looked so nice that it would have been fun to just hang out in the park for a while enjoying the sunshine. There was also an outdoor flea market but we realized we hadn’t exchanged any Swedish krone so (luckily) it wasn’t possible to make any unplanned purchases.
Crossing the bridge to Östermalm where Skansen open air museum is located. It would be easy to spend at least two or three days here especially if the weather is nice. There’s Grönalund amusement park, Abba museum and the Wasamuseum, home of the infamous Wasa ship that we had to skip due to the tight schedule but for sure will be on our agenda on our next visit to Stockholm.
Junibacken charmed us completely. At first glance, it seemed very small and we were wondering if it would be worth the entrance fee, yet the kids loved everything about it. The ticket includes a ride on the “train” that goes through different meticulously constructed scenes that are in Lindgren’s books. Then you arrive at Pippi’s house where the kids can climb upstairs and take the slide down. There’s even a wooden version of Pippi’s horse to ride!
The circus-like café looks awesome – I could imagine it would be a wonderful place to have a birthday party! It has a great balcony with great sea views towards Stockholm center. In the backyard there’s a play area for especially the smaller kids. Don’t miss out on the other side of Junibacken that is accessed by going through the gift store – there’s lots of fun exploration including staging your own picture of hanging from the chandelier!
Check tickets costs and opening hours (typically 10 am to 5 pm) here.
Silja Line Helsinki to Stockholm Ferry
The Silja Line ships Serenade and Symphony cruise between Helsinki and Stockholm on alternating days. As we were staying overnight in Stockholm, we took Symphony to Stockholm and returned abroad Serenade. One of the best things about traveling with kids by Helsinki to Stockholm ferry is how convenient it is to move around – there is so much to do and see to keep the little ones happy and yet everything is close by.
Arrival to the Ferry and Checking-in to the Cabin
It’s a good idea to arrive early to the terminal, so that you can board the ship about an hour before the departure. If you’re lucky with the weather like we were, go to the sun deck for the departure and you have the chance to take some amazing photos of Helsinki. It’s often very windy and cold and warm clothes would be a must, but we were very lucky as it was the first warm days of spring.
We liked the Promenade cabin very much – the kids loved sitting on the windowsill with views down to the buzzling Promenade with restaurants and shops. The compact cabin is furnished with foldable bunk beds for four persons, a dressing table and a bathroom. Other similar cabin options include A-class cabin that has windows to the sea and B-class without windows. C-class cabins offer a budget option on the lowest decks. Additionally, there is a small number of specialty cabins such as Moomin family cabin (we would have loved it but only a few of these specialties onboard so book early if you want to secure one for your family!).
Fun Entertainment Onboard
The eight-year-olds enjoyed the Moomin music and dance show and activities for kids. They thought that the Kids playroom would be just for the very little kids and didn’t want to go there. Later my daughter saw photos about all the fun stuff there (legos, drawing, computer games, etc.) and now she wants to go again to Stockholm by ferry!
We also enjoyed the acrobatics show on Promenade and did some shopping. We also got our photos taken by the professional photographer on-board and got the prints in the morning (they also emailed the digital files at a small extra fee). Time goes too quickly to do all the fun things – we didn’t even make it to the spa so there’s plenty of things to do also on our next cruise.
The buffet is a classic and has a wide selection of starters, mains and desserts. Drinks (water, juice, soda, beer, or wine from the tap are included) in the price. There’s also a children’s buffet table with the kids favorites like meatballs, sausages, French fries…. And ice cream for dessert! It’s best to reserve the buffet in advance especially if you’d like to get a table in the first seating.
Breakfast buffet was worth the investment and especially ideal for early risers – we not being early birds struggled to get up early enough to fully enjoy a long, relaxed brekkie but it was a great way to wake up and get going.
On the way back, we opted for a la carte dinner at Tavolata, the Italian restaurant – we took the menu and it was delicious. They offered a children’s buffet that the kids savored.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
We booked the Silja Line family package that included one night in Scandic Ariadne in the harbor as it was the only available option that had family rooms for four people. It was super easy to get there from the ferry, to check-in and leave the luggage there before heading to explore the city. Scandic Ariadne’s penthouse bar was a great place to end the day and the breakfast outdoors on the deck was the best part of our stay.
However, it is a bit further away from city center and the main attractions, requiring taking the metro or other form of transport and if we visit Stockholm again we’ll probably go for a hotel in the center. Though the metro was very convenient to use and, in the weekends (from noon on Friday onwards) and public holidays children go free!
Have you been to Stockholm? Anything you would recommend? We’d love to hear about your experiences!
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I wish I would have done a bit of research in advance and known about the Fastpass system to beat the lines! Here’s insights to Disney World Fastpass Secrets – I imagine it would have been a similar system in Hong Kong as well.
Hello Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto! Nice to meet you Winnie-the-Pooh! The Disney Princesses were my daughter’s favorite and we couldn’t exit the park without visiting the gift store and purchasing some Palace Pets figures.
There were also some live music performances that we enjoyed very much.
As it was November the park had lots of Christmas decorations, a huge Xmas tree and we could hear some Christmas carols. It was quite a different experience in the hot and humid weather from what we’re used to for Christmas in our home country Finland 🙂
Eventually the sun started to set and it was time to say good-bye to Mickey and friends. Looking forward to return one day!
Are you a Disney fan and do you have any tips for visiting Disneyland with kids? Would love to hear your insights!
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It was Easter holiday when we packed our skiing gear and set off for my daughter’s first skiing holiday. Last year I spent Easter in Finnish Lapland for the first time in my life and it was an amazing experience to be surrounded with snow, yet enjoy sunshine late till the evening and to top it all off, on our last night I could see the northern lights for the first time in my life! I was convinced that I should be back.
We were a bit worried if we’d find enough snow in Salla as Easter was quite late this year, after mid-April. Already at approaching our destination, our worries were gone: there was lots and lots of snow and more was falling down from the sky.
Salla is a less popular than many other places in Finnish Lapland, maybe because it’s not so easy to access it without a car. The closest airports are Kuusamo and Rovaniemi, from where it’s possible to take a bus. However, it is about 10 kilometers from Sallatunturi village to the nearest grocery store, and there’s only a few restaurants, so it would not be the most convenient solution to travel there without a car. Other excellent options in Lapland include Saariselkä and Urho Kekkonen National Park, and Ylläs-Pallastunturi National Park with Pallas in the northern and Ylläs in the southern end of the national park. Ruka in Kuusamo is another great skiing destination in Northern Finland if you prefer to stay south from the Arctic Circle.
Top 5 tips to Salla
- Peacefulness and lots of space
- Cross-country skiing in pristine winter wilderness
- Seeing reindeer and husky dogs
- Downhill skiing slopes close to the cabins
- Ice swimming with the locals
1. Peacefulness and lots of space
We found the best part about Salla to be its peacefulness. It is about as far from crowds as you can get with still having some services around. Easter is probably the busiest time of the year yet when I went cross-country skiing in around 9am in the mornings I was the first person on the tracks and met only a few persons over a couple of hours.
The quietness in the wide wilderness is amazing – you really feel close to nature and appreciate the opportunity to exchange a few words with people you do come across. People tend to be very friendly and helpful to share tips.
2. Cross-country skiing in pristine winter wilderness
Salla has a good range of ski tracks that are well maintained. My favorite was the ~22km track across Ruuhitunturi. The climb is reasonable and at the top there’s a cafe to buy some refreshments and re-gain energy with hand-made fresh donuts.
3. Seeing reindeer and husky dogs
The way down towards the Reindeerpark (Poropuisto) is really nice. The kids enjoyed the shorter tracks to the Reindeer park and meeting Rudolf and his friends as well as the close encounter with husky dogs. Next time we’ll need to go on a husky or reindeer ride.
4. Downhill skiing slopes close to the cabins
The downhill skiing slopes were located right next to the Holiday Club cabins where we were staying which was very convenient. On the down side, the lifts are quite basic, mainly anchor lifts and some telescope lifts – no nice gondolas or chair lifts. The front slope is quite steep and the easier blue slopes are at the back on the east and north side, which makes it more challenging for beginners. However, my 7-year-old was skiing for the second time in her life and after practicing for a while in the kids slope we were ready to go to the bigger slopes on the east side.
It was amazing to see the little one’s progress – soon I was barely keeping up with her speed! Just as important as the skiing are the breaks and the log restaurant ‘Keloravintola‘ by the front slopes was a nice cozy place to have lunch and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.
5. Ice swimming with the locals
From my previous visit to Salla a couple of years back I still remember the unforgettable winter swimming experience with Sallan Latu arctic swimmers (Jäämeren uimarit). Highly recommend to try it if you’re up for an authentic wood sauna and dip in the icy lake experience with locals.
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