A Magical Journey Through Rauma, Finland

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Rauma Finland

“Rauma? Why are you going there?” Again and again, Finns asked me this question. Rauma is a nice place, surely, but would you go out of your way to go there?

“Two World Heritage Sites,” I’d reply with a smile. Rauma’s old town is famous for being the largest wooden old town in the Nordic countries and one of the most immaculately preserved wooden old towns in Europe. Besides Old Rauma, just outside town, there’s the burial site of Samallahdenmäki.

Since I was visiting Finland for the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, I decided to extend my time and visit a few other areas. Helsinki was a given, and Rauma seemed like it would be nice to visit as well.

The World Heritage Sites may have brought me there — but Rauma blew me away. It was the biggest surprise of the summer and one of my favorite destinations in recent memory.

These photos are why you should come to Rauma.

Rauma Finland

Beautiful Old Rauma

The more I’ve gotten into photography over the past few years, the more I’ve become concerned about light. Bad light can now ruin my day; good light can leave me rapturous.

I woke up to a rainstorm in Rauma, but by the time I headed out with my camera, the sun had come out, veiled behind thin clouds, and the light was absolutely PERFECT.

And the subject matter couldn’t be any better. Look at these incredible wooden houses.

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These porcelain dogs are something that you see throughout Rauma. As symbols of loyalty, they were placed facing the outside whenever a sailor in the house was away at sea. When he returned, they would face inward.

Rauma Finland

Life in Rauma revolved around the sea. Its position on the Gulf of Bothnia left it in a prime environment for sailing to Sweden and throughout northern Europe.

You see the influence to this day — everything in Rauma seems to have a nautical theme. From items in home decoration stores like Kodinonni in the old town to ships in bottles to churches with giant ships perched at the entrance, there’s no doubt that this town was built for and by its hardy sailors.

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Rauma’s Maritime Museum was a highlight. It’s filled with incredible artifacts and they’re making it increasingly technology-oriented, with tablets and interactive exhibits.

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They also have a restaurant where you can try a popular food for sailors back in the dy: lapskoussi. Lapskoussi is a mixture of beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and other root vegetables, boiled and mashed together into a blob, served with melted butter on top.

“Don’t worry — it doesn’t look good, but it tastes wonderful,” the Finns assured me again and again. “You’ll like it.”

Rauma Finland

Well, they were right. It didn’t look good — but it tasted fantastic. I ate every last bite and scooped up the remainder with my bread. I need to learn how to make this!

Rauma Finland

Arts and Culture

Throughout Rauma, you see wooden sculptures of people peeking up in different locations in the old town and beyond. Most famous is the lady of Rauma, pictured above, sitting on a bench next to her purse.

These sculptures are the work of Kerttu Horila, who has a studio in the old town. You can visit her studio and see her latest works. She also has a beautiful back garden filled with more sculptures.

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On the way out of town, you’ll see three ladies in the water running from a frog prince!

Rauma Finland

I loved this one.

Rauma Finland

Beautiful Lace

Rauma is famous for its handmade lace, and you see it on display throughout the town.

Every summer, Rauma celebrates Lace Week, showcasing their latest handmade work, and each year, they host representatives from a different European city famous for lace. You might recall that I visited lace-loving Idrija in Slovenia back in July. Well, they hosted lacemakers from Idrija not too long ago!

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After visiting both Idrija and Rauma this summer, I’m wondering if I could pick up lace-making as a hobby.

A time-consuming hobby, that is. See the work this lady is doing?

Rauma Finland

Each of those starbursts takes eight hours to make. Eight hours on a single starburst. And her hands fly.

Rauma Finland

On the Water

After a day of exploring maritime Rauma, it was time to get out on the water.

Here I was invited to go on a boat ride with my guide Irene and her husband Tuomo — and Nekku, the world’s most adorable dog.

Rauma Finland

POMERANIAN IN A LIFE JACKET. I NEED NOTHING ELSE TODAY.

One nice thing about experiencing Finland in the summer was seeing how much the outdoorsy, athletic Finns celebrate the warmer months. It’s all about getting out on a boat, or kayak, or on a bike, getting your blood pumping all day, then hitting up the sauna and swimming as the sun goes down.

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You don’t need a friend with a boat in order to explore the archipelago. My suggestion? Take a boat to one of the islands! Visit Finland did a beautiful photo essay on Kylmäpihlaja, where you can visit for a day trip or stay overnight in a lighthouse.

As for our group — me, Dylan, Irene, Tuomo and adorable Nekku — we returned to a house on the water, swam and saunaed, ate, and watched the sun go down.

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My day in Rauma was filled with beauty and surprises, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

Rauma Finland

The Takeaway

Beyond the lace, beyond the maritime themes, beyond the sculptures and the archipelago and the outstanding architecture, Rauma is just a small city with a really great, friendly vibe.

I’m always on the lookout for cities that are just nice places to stop for a while and relax, hang out, and take long walks. Rauma has that wonderful quality to it, and I wish I could have stayed longer than a day and a half.

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When I experience places like these, my mission to visit more UNESCO World Heritage Sites is absolutely worth it. I never would have discovered this wonderful city otherwise.

Essential Info: Rauma is a 3.5-hour bus journey from Helsinki. You can take express buses either from downtown Helsinki or Helsinki Airport.

I stayed at the Hotel Vanha Rauma, a very nice three-star hotel in the heart of the old town. Rates start at 99 EUR ($128 USD). You can find other hotels in Rauma here.

Admission to Rauma’s Maritime Museum is 9 EUR ($12 USD) for adults.

I had excellent 3G coverage throughout Finland thanks to Three‘s Feel At Home data plan, which includes unlimited data in 18 countries, Finland included. As someone who uses the internet as much as me, it simply rocks.

I never travel without travel insurance. I use and recommend World Nomads.

A Magical Journey Through Rauma, Finland

Many thanks to Visit Rauma for hosting me in Rauma. Special thanks to Irene for being a wonderful guide and Tuomo for taking us out for a boat ride. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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38 thoughts on “A Magical Journey Through Rauma, Finland”

  1. AHHH, THAT DOG! Sorry for the all-caps, but that was totally warranted, I think. Also: Rauma looks adorable! I hadn’t heard of it before, but it definitely seems worthy of a visit.

  2. Rauma looks like quite the quaint, quiet and charming little town in Finland! Reminds me a lot about Lund in Sweden when I studied there though that was a university town. Great shots!

  3. It’s so nice to read your posts about my home town! 🙂 And you got it right, even if us locals don’t always remember to appreciate all the amazing things around us (because they are always there), this is such a nice place and worth a visit. Even if Rauma is such a small town. I’m so happy to notice you have discovered it. And I love your pictures, by the way.

  4. Rauma is so gorgeous. The wooden houses look so dainty! And of course, the lacework is fantastic too! I wonder there is so much to explore… Thanks for introducing another gem of Europe!

  5. There’s something about the way you described this place that reminds me of Queenstown, New Zealand. Everyone there seems very relaxed… unless of course you’re about to bungy jump or sky dive that is! But for the most part, the tourists did the thrill seeking and the permanent residents seemed to be more in tune with nature and the beautiful scenery. I like that Rauma takes such great pride in showcasing their nautical foundations. Although I could see myself feeling lonely after a few days of visiting, I’d love to travel here, if only to feel that calm energy I imagine the people have based on your stories. Thanks for another great post!

  6. I love everything about this… I guess I need to visit Finland! Also, your description and the name of that dish sound just like the German dish Labskaus, so if you want to find a recipe in English, try searching for that!

  7. Hi Kate!
    Nice to hear that you had good time in Rauma.
    About the Lapskoussi…. It’s actually the sailors that made lapskoussi known in many harbour cities around the world. The name of the dish has remained more or less the same everywhere: Labskaus (in Germany), lapskojs (in Sweden), lobscouse (in English). Lapskoussi has become a dish that belongs to the every day life of the inhabitants of Rauma, but it also can also be served in special occasions when people want to celebrate something.

    Most certainly there are as many lapskoussi recipes as there are cooks. The main ingredients are beef, pork and root vegetables. The extraordinarily delicious taste is the outcome of a long cooking time. The basic spices such as salt and pepper are enough.

    A lapskoussi portion is crowned by melted butter, pickles and sliced beetroot.

    Every Friday people are welcome to taste lapskoussi in the theatre-restaurant Ankkuri, address: Alfredinkatu 2, Rauma.

  8. …and if you’re on the area, you might as well include Naantali for a shortie.
    If you want a longer tour, lets say you arrive to Helsinki first and want to see a bit more of Finland, well, go to Porvoo next and then perhaps Turku-Marihemn(Åland)-Turku-Naantali-Uusikaupunki-Rauma-Vaasa-Pietarsaari-…and feel free to ask more.

    ———————————————–
    WdeS
    Traveler Willem -project
    http://willemontraveling.blogspot.fi/

  9. I was an exchange student there many years ago and sadly I have not made it back yet. I am glad know you found it to be that wonderful place I remember. Great photos. Thank you for sharing this!

  10. Oh, that dog is the cutest! And houses are adorable, they’re exactly what I imagine a little Scandinavian town to be made of. I love the statues too, that man propped against the tree made me laugh out loud- his expression is classic!

  11. Hi Kate,

    Beyond awesome photos. The porcelain dog images and culture/cause behind the shifting is neat. That’s what I love about travel; so many customs around the world and I find it fascinating to learn about them, both through traveling and through reading fine blogs like yours. The Pomeranian is about the cutest dog too. The life jacket pic is adorable.

    Such a magical place. Rauma looks beautiful. I’m a sucker for any beach town, whether here in Fiji, or in Finland, or anywhere around the world.

    Being by the water moves me. Something about the sea, and the sky, and the wind makes me feel alive.

    Thanks so much Kate.

    I’ll tweet this in a bit.

    Ryan

  12. First off, that lapskoussi looks DELICIOUS. And I want to pet Nekku. And the Lady of Rauma kinda looks like a drag queen.

    Rauma seems like it’d be perfect for a day trip. I love visiting old towns with cobblestone streets and cute buildings, just snapping photos and enjoying the atmosphere.

  13. A very nice story and beautiful photos, indeed! Rauma is my hometown and defenitely one of the most beautiful cities in Finland. For the future, Naantali and Porvoo are also worth of seeing :)…
    Greetings from Finland!

    ♥ Susanna ♥

  14. I lived in Rauma for 18 years of my life. I never really appreciated the beauty when I lived there, but after a few years away I really started to get how special this place is…

    You definitely made the place look even more beautiful than it is with these amazing pics. I’m glad you visited Rauma and I’m really glad you had a great time!

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