City of Lappeenranta (population 70,000) is the economic and cultural center of southeast Finland situated near the border of Russia and at the southern edge of the Saimaa, the largest lake (system) of Finland. Its culture and dialects are strongly part of Eastern Finland, although it administratively belongs to the Province of Southern Finland. Also known as Villmanstrand (its Swedish name and previous English name), Lappeenranta has a colourful, 360-year history influenced by its location in the border dividing western and eastern cultures.
Two highways, 6 and 13 pass through Lappeenranta. Bus companies operate frequently to Helsinki and other cities, even Saint Petersburg in Russia. Highway 13 extends to the Russian border, some 25 km from the city center, where the Nuijamaa border station is the second busiest border crossing in Finland. Russian tourists usually use this pathway to come to the city either by bus or a car.
The main railway station of Lappeenranta connects the city to the rest of Finland with fairly modern trains, operated by VR. The travel time to Helsinki is currently 2 - 2½ hours (€41.30 as of end-2011). Trains to Saint Petersburg and Moscow stop at a smaller station in Vainikkala, located near the Russian border, about 30 km from the city center. There are connection buses from Lappeenranta City to Vainikkala railway station.
Lappeenranta travel centre offers connections to other parts of Finland and to Russia. There are direct connections by bus to Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kouvola, Joensuu, Kotka, Mikkeli, Porvoo and Imatra. Foreign lines extend to Saint Petersburg and Vyborg. More information about bus connections from Matkahuolto.
The airport is located perfectly only 2 km from the center. It is the oldest in Finland established in 1918. Air Baltic flies to Riga, Ryanair has routes to Weeze near Düsseldorf, Charleroi and Bergamo. Currently there are no domestic flights to Lappeenranta airport.
There is a local bus connection number 4 from center of Lappeenranta to the airport. It serves once an hour. Timetables are available from Lappeenranta city website.
Lappeenranta is a popular destination for boaters within the Saimaa lake area. Some cruise boats operate from Lappeenranta to other destinations within the lake area. Lappeenranta is connected to the Gulf of Finland through the Saimaa canal. Visa free (remember to always check the current situation) cruise boats operate from Lappeenranta to Vyborg, Russia through the canal. The canal is also popular among boaters, and private boats occasionally come from as far as Southern Europe.
Everything is within walking distance at the center. Even the airport is within walking range if you do not have much luggage, but taxi or local bus is probably preferable.
Getting further to the suburbs is easy by bus. There is a graphical route planner to find timetables, however it seems not to be working as of June 2014.
- Visit the historical fortress, the original city center which was established in mid-17th century. The old buildings include artist workshops, the oldest orthodox church in Finland, completed in 1785, as well as the Museum of South Carelia and the Art Museum of South Carelia.
- Sandcastle. The biggest one in Scandinavia. Each summer an ever larger sandcastle is built by artists on the northern end of the harbour area. Each year they have a different theme and make sculptures on the walls of the castle accordingly. There is a small theatre inside the castle playing acts intended mainly to children and families.
- Harbour area. The harbour, the parks nearby, the fortress and Myllysaari beach are a perfect place to chill out in summertime, sitting on the terraces, drinking, eating and watching the boats and things that happen. Live music played on many summer days. Early in August there is a popular festival called "Linnoituksen yö" (Engl. The Night of the Fortress) in the harbour and fortress area.
- Lake Saimaa and the Saimaa Canal. Take a cruise from Lappeenranta to the Saimaa, Saimaa canal or Vyborg, Russiathrough the canal! This canal was build to connect the Saimaa to the Baltic Sea at the dawn of industrialisation. The canal was modernized in the 1960s. Finland pays rent for the Russian parts of the canal. The current hire contract expires on 2013, and Finland is currently trying to start negotiating extension to the contract. The canal itself connects to the Bay of Finland, on Russian territory, close to Vyborg (Finn. Viipuri). The canal is mostly used by cargo ships, but there are also passenger boats operating from Lappeenranta to Vyborg. It is also used by private boats from Finland and abroad.
- In winter, the city seems to quiet down a little. The main attractions during winter are the city theatre and major league ice hockey and basketball games. Also many possibilities exist for practising winter sports. There are tens of kilometres worth of cross-country skiing tracks (a popular stage circles around the airport), and also a small downhill skiing slope. Many outdoor and indoor ice-rinks are available for skating. The city bay becomes a skating track during winter.
Situated close to the border, Lappeenranta is one of the most popular destinations for Russian shopping travelers. The two major shopping mall chains Prisma and Citymarket are located at the outskirts of the city.
- Citymarket, Toikansuontie 4 (At the crossing of highway 6 and regional road 390).
- Prisma, Puhakankatu 9 (At the eastern end of the airport).
- Iso Kristiina, Brahenkatu 3-7. The largest mall in the city center, Iso-Kristiina hosts an Anttila department store and a variety of smaller shops, mostly selling clothing.
- Small coffee booths at the harbour and the market square (Kauppatori) offer traditional meat pies called vety (Eng. "hydrogen") and atomi (Eng. "atom"). Vety consists of a meat pie, ham, boiled egg and condiments. Atomi has either ham or egg, but not both. Also other snack food is offered by the booths.
- Many pizzerias, fast food places and ethnic restaurants are available in the city.
- Wolkoff, Kauppakatu 26, ☎ . Mon-Fri 11AM-11PM, Sat 4:30PM-11PM, Sundays closed.. A nice, cozy 50-seat restaurant in a historical 150-year-old house. Non-smoking. In the summertime, seats also available on the courtyard. Main dishes €14-28..
- Majurska, Kristiinankatu 1, ☎ . Open M-Sa 10AM–5PM, Su 11AM–5PM, an hour longer in summer. A romantic café in the historical old Fortress. Delicious homebaked cakes and tarts
- Coffee House, Kauppiaskatu 29-31 (In the shopping mall Amanda), ☎ . Mo-Th 8AM-10PM, Fr 8AM-Midnight, Sa 9AM-Midnight, Su Noon-8PM. A nice, modern cafe.
- Café Galleria, Koulukatu 15 (In the Galleria shopping mall), ☎ . Mo-Fr 7:30AM-5PM Sa 9AM-3PM. A small cafe.
- Prinsessa Armaada, ☎ . Harbour. 10AM-2AM daily in summer (subject to weather). A popular hangout place in the summer, this restaurant is built on an old parked steamboat. Most people come here for drinks, although they also serve food (main dishes €9-17). Another similar boat restaurant, S/S Suvi-Saimaa, is located next to Prinsessa Armaada.
- Lappeenrannan Kasino, Ainonkatu 10. An old, classy restaurant, Kasino, has also a separate terrace docked on the water at the harbour.
- Most of the other popular bars are located in the city centre.
Some mid-range and budget hotels are present.
- Local student housing foundation, LOAS, offers affordable accommodation during the summer months for tourists.
- Pitotalo Miekkala, Partalantie 136, ☎ . A typical Bed and Breakfast hotel, 10 kilometers from Lappeenranta towards Joensuu. B&B 25 €/person.
- Matkustajakoti Turisti-Lappee, Kauppakatu 52, ☎ . Centrally located. The shower facilities are shared, the double rooms have private toilets but the single rooms do not. Prices include breakfast and the use of the sauna facilities. double 51 €, single 31€.
- Finnhostel Lappeenranta (Huhtiniemen matkailukeskus), Kuusimäenkatu 18, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. About 2 km west of the city center. The prices include breakfast and the use of the swimming pool. triple room 102 €, double 82 €, single 68 €.
- Lahtelan maatilamatkailu, Lahtelantie 120, ☎ 05-4578034. Bed and Breakfast in Ylämaa, south of Lappeenranta.
- Sokos Hotel Lappee, Brahenkatu 1 (next to Galleria shopping mall), ☎ . A comfortable chain hotel in the middle of the city overlooking a desolate square with the town hall's blocky architecture and a fountain.
- Hotel Cumulus Lappeenranta, Valtakatu 31, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 95 rooms with TV, radio, pay-channel, hair dryer and free broadband connection."
Lappeenranta is a safe city very accustomed to foreigners. Lappeenranta is the second most popular destination in Finland, mainly due to Russian shopping tourists, but also many other nationalities visit during summer months.
- Imatra - 40 km northeast. See the Imatrankoski and other attractions that the Russian czars used to visit in the 19th century.
- Punkaharju - drive through Finland's national landscape on a road on the top of a ridge that partially divides Lake Saimaa.
- Savonlinna - 120 km north, home to a well preserved medieval castle where an opera festival is held each summer.
- Vyborg - take a one, two or three day visa free cruise to Russia through the Saimaa canal. These cruises run in the summer only.