Kemi is a town in Finnish Lapland, at the northernmost tip of the Gulf of Bothnia. Most tourists are drawn by two wintry sights: its world famous Lumilinna Snow Castle & Hotel and the unusual chance to have an icebreaker cruise. The city also boasts an array of shops, restaurants and bars. In its character, rather than having a Lappish ambiance, it strongly resembles an ordinary Finnish town.
The surrounding countryside is a separate municipality, Keminmaa.
Kemi is an industrial town dominated by a Metsä Group 1 pulp mill and Veitsiluoto 2 paper mill. The 3 Kemi mine in Keminmaa is the only chromium mine in Europe. The chromium is used in Tornio's stainless steel mill, which was established for this particular reason, 30 km away.
The area surrounding the mouth of the river Kemi (Finnish: Kemijoki) has been subject to agriculture at least since the 13th century. The Kemi parish was mentioned in 1329, but it was only in 1856 that Emperor Alexander II of Russia established the town. It was built according to a strict grid plan, which still makes finding places in downtown Kemi fairly simple.
A sawmill on the Laitakari island began operating in 1863; the economy of the reborn Kemi was heavily based on logging. The railway connected the town to southern Finland in 1903, and in 1939 the harbor moved from downtown to Ajos, about 10 km off-town. Today Kemi has one of the few deep-water harbours in Finland. During the World War II aftermath known as the Lapland War, retreating German troops devastated public buildings, and all the bridges over the Kemijoki river, but left private houses untouched.
In July 1949 the government wanted to cut the wages of lumber workers, who went into a strike against the plans. In August 18th 1949 the strike ended up into a bloody conflict between the police and over 3,000 lumber workers and harbour dockers. This "Bloody Thursday" is so far the last fatal political protest in Finland.
Due to its labour activist past Kemi has got fame as a "red town". The Left Alliance and the Social Democratic Party still have more than half of the city council seats, making Kemi a political curiosity in Finland.
Modern-day Kemi has slightly over 20,000 inhabitants. The population trend is declining.
There are no passenger services across from Sweden, as the rail gauge is different. Within Finland, trains from Rovaniemi take about 1½ hours, while a trip all the way from Helsinki, fairly comfortable if done in a sleeper overnight, is 9 hours.
2 Kemi train station (Kemin rautatieasema). There are a few lockers available inside the station. A sign also mentions luggage storage at the nearby cafe Hertta for (a more expensive) €5.
Buses head over the Swedish border at Tornio/Haparanda (30 min), coming from Luleå (2½ hr), to where there are trains from the south (and from Narvik in Norway). Buses from Luleå are free with most rail passes. A direct bus connection to Kemi is available from Helsinki, Oulu and Rovaniemi.
3 Kemi bus station (Kemin linja-autoasema) (100 m up the street from the railway station). Tickets can be bought online from Matkahuolto.
4 Kemi Yachting Club, Luulajantie 11, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest marina at local sailing clubs: depth 2.4 m; electricity, water supply, WC, shower, laundry, waste bin, fuel. Restaurants nearby with sauna and Wi-Fi. €10/night, third night €5.
Kemi is a little north of the mid-point of highway 4 (part of E75) connecting Helsinki to Utsjoki (near Nuorgam at the northernmost point of the country); from either of these it's about 9 hours of driving depending on the road conditions. Oulu and Rovaniemi are both a little over an hour away along the same highway.
Easily by walking. Kemin Taksipalvelu Oy operates local bus lines in Kemi with just a few departures a day. There is a route planner for local transport trips. Aside from these your options for getting around without walking (or biking) are driving or taking a taxi.
- Kemin taksipalvelu Oy, ☏ , email@example.com.
- Menevä Kemi, ☏ (head of office), toll-free: 0800-02120 (booking). Also bookable by app or web. Fixed price based on calculated route and time if destination address given when booking by app or web. Flag fall M–Sa 06:00–18:00: €7, other times and holidays: €7; 1–4 persons €1.00/km + €0.90/min, 5–8 persons minimum €20, €1.60/km + €0.90/min (March 2021).
- Smartphone apps: Valopilkku, 02 Taksi
- 1 Kemi Snow Castle (Lumilinna), Lumilinnankatu 15. 18 Jan–15 Apr. The biggest snow castle in the world, built yearly in Kemi since 1996. About 300,000 people visited the first snow castle. The area covered by the castle has varied from 13,000 to over 20,000 m². The highest towers have been over 20 m high and longest walls over 1,000 m long, and the castle has had up to three stories. The snow restaurant has ice tables, seats covered with reindeer fur, and ice sculptures. The ecumenical snow chapel with 50–100 seats has seen numerous weddings, of couples from as far as Japan and Hong Kong. There is also a snow hotel in the snow castle, with double rooms and a honeymoon suite. The snow castle has an adventure land for kids, theatre, and ice art exhibitions with lights and sound effects. Many opera singers and dancers have performed in the snow castle. €29.
- 2 Kemi Church (Kemin kirkko). Gothic revival church completed in 1902.
- 3 Keminmaa old church, Mikaelintie. Open during the summer season. One of the northernmost medieval churches in the world and the northernmost one in Finland. Although said to be built around 1520 the church is probably built between 1530 and 1550, in the very end of the catholic era. This church is one of the most popular attractions in Lapland. The main reason is the undecomposed body of priest Nicolaus Rungius, who died in 1629. Taking photos of the mummy is forbidden. The new Keminmaa church, built in 1827, is across the road.
- 4 Arctic Gems & Comics (Kemin jalokivigalleria), Rantabulevardi 2, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The largest collection of gemstones in Europe. The gem stone gallery was established in 1986 by goldsmith Teuvo Ypyä. The well known speciality is the crown designed for the King of Finland in 1918. Since 2019 the Kemi comics centre has got their comics exhibition in the same building. Tickets €10/6, children 4–11.
- 5 City hall (Kaupungintalo). The most visible building in the town and an excellent landmark. It has 13 storeys and is 51 meters tall. Built in 1940 it was so steady that even German troops failed to explode it during the Lapland War! There is a cafeteria and a viewing platform on the top floor.
- 6 Pohjanranta church, Pohjantie 23. A modern wood shingle church, built in 2010.
- 1 Bothnian Bay National Park (Perämeren kansallispuisto). The sea off Kemi and Tornio, with scattered islands. Birds and seals. Only reachable by boat or, parts of it in winter, over the ice. A few tour companies offer cruises, paddling or skiing tours etc.
- 2 Icebreaker cruise (Ajos, 11 km from Kemi). approx Dec-Apr. In the winter, there are cruises of either 3 or 4 hours on board Sampo out into the Gulf of Bothnia. Depending on the ice conditions the cruise includes either walking on the sea ice or floating in the water wearing a survival suit. There's a restaurant on board the ship. In the summer the ship is anchored and open to visitors. A fun fact is that Sampo is the only Arctic icebreaker in the world solely used for tourist cruises. You can get to Ajos, where the ship departs from, by your own car or by the cruise company's bus from Kemi (an outrageous €39/return and has to be reserved at the same time you reserve your cruise). From €200.
- 3 Watch a football game. Summer. PS Kemi Kings football team plays their home games in the city centre football stadium.
- 4 Martimoaapa-Lumiaapa-Penikat Mire Reserve. Very important mire protection and bird area, old-growth forests. The mires are in Simo but the northernmost forested part, the Penikat hills, extends to Keminmaa.
- Pohjanranta dances (in Pohjanranta, see below). In summer: F 20:00–, karaoke 18:00–. Social dancing with live music. €15.
- Satama Open Air: Annual, early August. A rock festival.
Reindeer skin rugs are available year round in speciality stores from around €60.
The city centre has a number of shops, including supermarkets, clothes, sports and photography shops.
In the city centre of Kemi within 5 minutes walk from the railway station and all hotels:
- 1 Ravintola Pursiseura, Luulajantie 11.
- 2 Hoa Phong Lan-Orkidean kukka (Vietnamese), Valtakatu 5.
- 3 Ravintola Samaani, Valtakatu 1. x.
Kemi has a varied selection of bars, pubs and nightclubs with students often filling them midweek, and locals each weekend.
The most popular bars in Kemi include:
- 1 Punainen Kukko, Valtakatu.
Nightclub choice is reasonably good:
- 2 Corner Inn, Kauppakatu 10. 4 bars within one, with the rooms including Suomi Pop, Karaoke, Pub and Club. Entrance is free with beer typically costing €4 per glass (0.4 L) although in some karaoke bars it is available for as little as €2.50. Cider is around €5 while alcopops and spirit based drinks will cost from €7.
- 1 Cumulus Hotel, Hahtisaarenkatu.
- 2 Merihovi Hotel, Keskuspuistokatu 6. Basic hotel. Breakfast, Wi-Fi and sauna (17:00–21:00) included. €115; breakfast buffet for non-guests €16.
- 3 [dead link] Palomestari Hotel, Valtakatu.
- 4 Motel Käpylä, Torniontie 7 (Keminmaa, 7 km from Kemi centre), ☏ , email@example.com. Hotel aiming for 1970s nostalgia. Wi-Fi, breakfast and sauna included. Bistro (about 15:00–22:00, varying by day of week). Occasional programme evenings. Check reception hours. single €80, double €95, family room €150, pets +€10.
- 5 Pohjanranta, Pohjantie 23 (Pohjanranta, upstream, 12 km from Kemi centre), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Reception 08:00–20:00; camping and cottages Jun–Sep, later if weather permits. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Spa hotel, cottages and camping. Beach. Sauna. Social dancing in summer (F 20:00–). Wine from currants (own produce for sale). Caravan €28, electricity +€7, tent €15; breakfast €10 (included with rooms); kayak hire €20/4 hr; dances €15.
- 6 [formerly dead link] Törmä Camping. Approximately 15 km outside of the city centre.
- 4 Länsi-Pohja Central Hospital (Länsi-Pohjan keskussairaala), Kauppakatu 25, ☏ . The general emergency clinic is open 24 hr daily.
- Rovaniemi, the regional centre of Finnish Lapland. Its world-famous Santa Claus Village is a 80 minutes drive north of Kemi, using Highway 4.
- Tornio, a nearby city in the same region, near the border with Sweden
- Bothnian Bay National Park is a maritime national park out to sea. It is accessible only by boat.
|Routes through Kemi|
|Sundsvall / Kilpisjärvi ← Tornio ←||NW SE||→ Simo → Oulu|
|Rovaniemi ← Tervola ←||N S||→ merges with (S)|