Vaasa was an important place of governance when Finland was part of Sweden. It started in the 14th century when Korsholm castle was built near the village of Korsholm (Finnish: Mustasaari). In 1606 the village was granted city status and five years later it was renamed Wasa in honor of the Swedish royal lineage. The old names live on in the municipality that surrounds Vaasa.
The old town of Vaasa burned to the ground in 1852, and when it was rebuilt it was relocated closer to the sea some six kilometers northwest from its original location. In the same process the town was renamed Nikolainkaupunki (Sw: Nikolaistad) in honor of Russian Czar Nikolai I, as Finland at that time was a Grand Duchy under Russian rule (1809–1917). In its new location the town became an important sea-faring city and a local businessman named Carl Gustaf Wolff (1800–1868) was at one point the biggest shipowner in the Nordic countries. When Finland proclaimed its independence in 1917 the name of the town was again reverted to Vaasa. The town was made capital of the white side (conservative, bourgeois) during the civil war (1918), when Helsinki was occupied by the red side (socialist, communist). It has since then been known as The White City; the support for the whites was very strong in the area.
Around 25 percent of the city's population is Swedish-speaking and even more are bilingual (Finnish and Swedish) and the ties to Sweden are strong in the area. In the area surrounding Vaasa the majority of people are Swedish-speaking. Vaasa is shielded from the open sea by the many islands in the archipelago. The nature of this area is nearly unique in the world as it continuously rises from the sea as the sea level due to post-glacial rebound. The Kvarken Archipelago, which is a UNESCO world nature heritage site, is just around the corner.
Highway 3 (also E12) from Helsinki through Tampere to Vaasa (419 km). The coastal main road 8 (E8) goes from Turku through Rauma and Pori to Vaasa (332 km) and continues through Kokkola to Oulu (318 km).
All trains from Helsinki to Oulu and Rovaniemi via Tampere stop at Seinäjoki. From there you can take connection trains, which head to Vaasa. There are also trains that go straight to Vaasa via Seinäjoki. Three of these trains also go from Vaasa to Jyväskylä via Seinäjoki. Check timetables at VR's web site.
There are west coast bus connections from Oulu to Turku, which go through Vaasa. Buses connect Vaasa also to Helsinki, Tampere, Pori, Kokkola and Hämeenlinna. Check Matkahuolto and Onnibus for timetables and such.
A ferry line called Wasaline crosses daily between Vaasa and Umeå, Sweden (with the port in Holmsund at the mouth of the river). One way tickets are 350–390/270–300/150 kr (children 6–17). Normal cars add an extra 550–570 kr to the price, a booked seat 70–120 kr, a cabin 330–480 kr. You can also do a day cruise (6 days a week from Vaasa and once from Umeå) which is 410–440 kr return. There are also campaign prices, at least off season. There is a transfer bus from Holmsund to Umeå (15 km; 70/30 kr, children 7–19)
People arriving with their own motor- or sailboat can make use of Wasa Segelförening (one of Finland's oldest yacht clubs) on the island of Vaskiluoto (Swedish: Vasklot). They run the official guest harbour of Vaasa and offer good services for the occasional boat captain. There's a good view over town from the harbour and it's a two kilometer walk into the centre.
- 2 Vaasa Airport (VAA IATA). There are daily regular flights from Vaasa airport to Helsinki (Finnair) and Stockholm, Sweden (SAS).
Local bus lines 4, 10 and 40 operated by Vaasan paikallisliikenne go to the city center; a one-way ticket on these buses cost €2.50. Local bus lines to airport operate only during weekdays of school-year, but not on weekends or summer time.
The city is quite compact and most things to see are within walking distance. The commercial centre and nightlife are concentrated in the area around the market square.
The local bus traffic to other parts of the city and the surrounding municipalities leaves mainly from the southern end of the market square or from the western side of the Rewell Center shopping mall. Bus lines typically have intervals of one hour or half an hour per line. The office for the city buses, Vaasan Paikallisliikenne, is situated on the second floor of the Rewell Center.
Local transport to surrounding localities around Vaasa is provided by Wiik & Ström.
By electric kick scooter
German Tier rents electric kick scooters for use in the centre. Install the smartphone app, check where the nearest scooter is, check price, unlock with the app, drive, park it in some sensible location in the allowed area (mind the vision impaired) and release it with the app. The companies aim to keep the scooters available also in winter, conditions permitting, but the vehicles are not ideal in snowy or slippery conditions. Minimum age, imposed by the companies, is 18.
The scooters are legally regarded as bikes and should follow rules for bikes, even though people usually drive them on the pavement where bike lanes are missing (which is allowed only for smaller children). They have a top speed of 20 km/h (12 mph), which is plenty; acquaint yourself with the scooter and its controls somewhere safe. In some areas the scooters enforce a lower speed (5–6 km/h).
- Taxi station, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 10 and Hovioikeudenpuistikko 23, ☏ (domestic phones; €1.25+€2.50/min+pvm), (non-domestic; same fee?). Go to either taxi station or call to get a taxi to any address.
- Taksi Vaasa, ☏ (€1.25+€2.50/min+pvm), firstname.lastname@example.org. €6.50/9 + €1.69–2.36/km; advance booking €7.10, waiting time €50/hr.
- Smartphone apps: Valopilkku, 02 Taksi
- 1 Market place and Finland's Statue of freedom. The market place is the center of the city life in Vaasa. Finlands Statue of Freedom, unveiled in the summer of 1938 is in the northern end of the market square.
- 2 Old Vaasa (Vanha Vaasa, Gamla Vasa) (about 6 km south east of the today's town). Ruins from the first town of Vaasa that burned down in 1852 and an 18th-century court building that survived the destruction but was redone into the Church of Korsholm when the town was rebuilt at a new location closer to the sea. The banks of the 14th-century Korsholm castle are still visible and can be found west of the Church of Korsholm.
- The campuses of Vaasa. Vaasa has three university-level educational institutions with campuses that make use of Vaasa's industrial past. 3 The University of Vaasa has a unique campus that combines modern architectural elements with an old Cotton Mill in the neighborhood of Palosaari. The campus is on the waterfront and has park areas all around. Some say it is the most beautiful campus in Finland. South from that campus, closer to the city centre but still along the waterfront is 4 Academill, a former grain mill that houses two faculties of Åbo Akademi university in Vaasa. In the northern end of Kauppapuistikko you will find the 5 campus of the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, also known as Hanken, which is housed in a former clothing factory.
- 6 Söderfjärden. 10 km south of Vaasa in the rural area of Sundom is a big cultivated area called Söderfjärden. When you climb up Öjberget, a hill right beside the big flat area, you see that the whole area is round. This is because it is an old crater which was caused by impact of a meteorite 520 millions of years ago. A visitor centre Meteoria (Meteoriihi) is located in the middle of the crater.
- 7 Waterfront. Take a walk in the park areas along the waterfront. Many sights are along the way, like the neo-gothic Court of Appeals and the 19th-century Vaasa prison, which is still in use (though extensively modernized on the inside) and has a shop which sells crafts made by the prisoners.
- 8 Trinity Church and surroundings. In the vicinity of the neogothic Trinity Church you will find City Hall, which also houses the Tourist office on the bottom floor. Along Vaasanpuistikko on the south side of the Church is the City Council and close by is Vaasan Lyseon Lukio, which is a Finnish-speaking upper secondary school. West of the church is another school building with the text Lyceum. This is Vasa Övningsskolas Gymnasium, which is a Swedish-speaking upper secondary school.
- 9 Vaasa City Library, Kirjastonkatu 13. Check out what is happening in your corner of the world in the international papers provided in the City Library. If you can't find a suitable paper then try the internet on one of the computers. It's free. And while you are there, breathe in some of the cultural history involved. The first lending library in Finland was established in Vaasa 2.8.1794. The current city library was built in 1936 and in 2001 a extensive renovation and enlargement of the library was complete taking both old and new elements into account.
- Contemporary architecture. There are some interesting buildings to see if you are an architecture buff of the modern sort. One interesting area is the Campus of Vaasa university already mentioned above, another is the city's Center City Block, also called 10 Rewell Center, which was designed by architect Viljo Revell and finished in 1963. In the neighbourhood of Huutoniemi (sw: Roparnäs) you'll find 11 Huutoniemi Church, a modernist building finished in 1964 and designed by Aarno Ruusuvuori. Significant industral architecture is well represented in 12 Strömberg Industrial Park and the City Library, also mentioned above, is an interesting meld of old and new.
- 13 Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Sisäsatama. A museum for contemporary art opened to the public in 2007 in a former customs warehouse in the Inner Harbour of Vaasa.
- 14 Ostrobothnian Museum and Terranova Kvarken Nature Center (Pohjanmaan Museo), Museokatu 3. If you are interested in the region's history then you should visit this place. The Terranova Kvarken Nature Centre displays the uniqueness of the nature in the area (something that should be experienced first hand out in the open air of the archipelago).
- 15 [dead link] The Tikanoja Art Museum (Tikanojan taidekoti), Hovioikeudenpuistikko 4. A traditional art museum in the former home of local businessman Frithjof Tikanoja (1877-1964). The museum was started when he donated his private collection to the city. The collection includes works by Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, but also works by Finnish masters like Albert Edelfelt, Axel Gallen-Kallela, Maria Wiik and Tyko Sallinen. The museum also has touring exhibitions.
- 16 Vaasa Maritime museum, Pikitehtaankatu 1 (Palosaaren salmi). Get to know the seafaring past of Vaasa in this museum which is housed in an old storage building which was built by the great shipowner C.G. Wolff in the 19th century.
- 17 Brage Open Air Museum (Bragen ulkomuseo) (Hietalahti). The museum consists of a complete 19th-century farm with interesting buildings and interiors from the Swedish-speaking part of Ostrobotnia. Within walking distance from the city centre.
- 1 Tropiclandia. A tropical spa with various slides, saunas and Jacuzzis. Includes also an outside area in the summer. Located on the Vaskiluoto island just outside the city centre.
- 2 The Water Tower. Inside the tower there is a challenging indoor climbing wall. On Wednesdays and Sundays the walls are open to the public for an entrance fee of €5.
- 3 Zip Adventure Park, Niemeläntie 15. Climbing park, which also offers a 5-match, bungee trampoline and archery wars. €25 for adults.
If you want to experience live music on a regular basis in Vaasa then there are two venues to keep in mind.
- 4 Doo-Bop Club, Kauppapuistikko 12. A jazz club under McDonald's in the northern end of the Market Square. Here you mainly hear jazz, soul and funk. The main principle is that the music is live.
- 5 Skafferiet (also known as Ritz), Kirkkopuistikko 22. A place that tries to combine all forms of local and international culture on to one scene. The performers vary from artists that have travelled all over the world to those who are taking their first tumbling steps.
- 6 VPS (Vaasan Palloseura). Go watch a football game with a team that plays in the top league in Finland. The standard isn't as high as in England, Germany or even Sweden, but still. The games are played at Hietalahti Stadium, which holds 4,600 people.
- VIFK (Vasa Idrottföreningen Kamraterna). This is another local football team that used to play in the Finnish major league back in the 1940s and -50s. In 2011 the team finished in fifth place in division 2.
- 7 Vaasan Sport. Check out a hockey game during the winter with Vaasa's own Hockey Team Sport that plays in the Finnish ice hockey league "Liiga". The games are played in Vaasa Arena in Kuparisaari.
- Night of the Arts. in August. Once a year the whole city is out witnessing different cultural events. There are free concerts, theater, exhibitions and other happenings all over the city. Excellent night and should be experienced if you are in the neighborhood.
- Korsholm Music Festival. towards the end of the summer. One of the most acknowledged chamber music festivals in Finland, brings its own mood to this coastal region as music resounds in concert halls, restaurants, museums and idyllic church buildings.
- Vaasa Choir Festival. arranged at the weekend of the Ascension Day. An international large-scale choir music happening.
- Wasa By Night. arranged one dark autumn night every fall. An annual pub crawl arranged by most pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs in town.
There are three shopping malls in Vaasa of which two are found by the market square. On the western side of the square is 1 Rewell Center (named after architect Viljo Revell who planned the modern city block that was built in 1962) and on the eastern side is the smaller 2 HS center. A big 3 Citymarket mall can be found on the northern end of the market square. In 4 Kivihaka, eastwards from the city center, you'll find a big area with various big shops, a smaller shopping mall and two big supermarkets. Best reached by car.
- 5 Loftet, Raastuvankatu 28. Local handcraft shop not far from the city center. There is also a nice café here where you can have lunch.
- 6 Market Hall. The gothic style Market Hall (built in 1902) offers meat, fish, cheese, sweets, art and souvenirs. It is on the southern end of the market square. It is one of very few Market halls still in use in Finland.
There are numerous cheap hamburger, kebab and pizza joints. At lunch time there is a huge variety of places to eat for around 7-10€. For the cheapest lunches head to a student lunch restaurant. A finnish student card is required for the subsidised price, but even without it the price is affordable at around €5.
- 1 Hesburger, Kauppapuistikko 11.
- 2 Kotipizza, Rewell Center + six other places around town.. This nationwide pizza franchise was founded in Vaasa which is one of the reasons for there being so many of these here.
- 3 Thai House, Vaasanpuistikko 17 (second floor in the small shopping mall). Lunch buffet (weekdays 11:₩₩-15:00) €7.50.
- 4 Shanghai, Vaasanpuistikko 17.
- 5 Tian Long Restaurant, Vaasanpuistikko 18.
- 6 Bistro A W Stenfors (in the Vaasa Market Hall). Excellent food and service. Open during lunch.
- 7 Cafe Leison, Wolffintie 36. serves lunch between 11:00 and 15:00. Leison offers a great variety of meals, the under-€9 price includes salad buffet and coffee.
- 8 Magokoro (2nd level in Rewel Center). Sushi and other Asian foods.
- 9 Illyrians Restaurant & Coffeebar (Illy's), Rauhankatu 16, 65100 Vaasa (One block away from square), ☏ , email@example.com. 11:00-20:00. Fredsgatan (Rauhankatu) 16 (One block from the square). Arguably one of the best pizza/kebab places. They also offer salads, specialties and different coffees. €7-21.
- 10 Rosso, Vaasanpuistikko 18 C.
- 11 Amarillo, Rewell Center 101 (second floor).
- 12 Restaurant Chili Lime, Kauppapuistikko 16. Vietnamese food
- 13 Pizzeria Marco Polo, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 11. The oldest independent pizzeria in town, with authentic Italian pizzas.
- 14 Dallas Pizza Palazzo, Västervikintie 1. Find this place if you have a car. Fridays and Saturdays customers get a free limo ride to the town center at half past twelve.
- 15 Rax Pizza Buffet, Kauppapuistikko 13. Pizza buffet.
- 16 Janne's Saloon, Kuusisaari. Located on an island in the Vaasa Archipelago. Accessible only by cruise boat from the Inner Harbour of Vaasa during summer. During winter it is possible to walk here over the ice (provided you have someone local with you to guide you).
- 17 Strampen, Rantakatu 6. Situated near the Inner Harbour of Vaasa. Strampen is short for "Strandpaviljongen" which is Swedish for "waterfront pavilion". Has a popular beer terrace. Only open during summers.
- 18 Faros, Kalaranta. Faros is the name of a boat in Kalaranta (Fish harbour). On deck and partly on land there is a terrace for beer and drinks and on board under deck there is a good restaurant. Only open during summers.
- 19 Seglis, Niemeläntie 14. Out on the island of Vaskiluoto in the club house of the Wasa Segelförening sailing society. Has a terrace with a great view into town over the bay. Only open during summers.
- 20 Martin Baari, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 20. Small bistro to have lunch in with great service. Get a beer while you're here.
- Restaurant HEJM, Sininen tie 1 B. Local home-made Nordic food.
- 21 Kaffehuset August, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 13. Popular eatery close to the main square, offers a specialist wine menu. Occasionally hosts live music from local musicians in the evenings.
- 22 Restaurant Gustav Wasa, Raastuvankatu 24.
- 23 Restaurant Bacchus, Rantakatu 4.
- 24 Restaurant Fondis, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 15.
- 25 Restaurant Fransmanni, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 18.
- 26 Bistro Ernst Café, Hietasaarenkatu 7. A small place in connection with Wasa Teater, a Swedish-language theatre.
There are several bars and nightclubs in Vaasa.
Bars & pubs
Most restaurants have bars or pubs in connection to them and especially the summer restaurants have popular terraces to start the evening on.
- 1 Oliver's Inn, Kauppapuistikko 8. Describes themselves as a "party pub", which is quite true during weekends. This is the place of choice for Swedish-speaking youth.
- 2 O'Malley's, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 21.
- 3 El Gringo Music Saloon, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 15 (entrance through the alley).
- 4 Amarillo Bar & Restaurant, Rewell Center 101.
- 5 Public Corner, Hallinkuja (around the corner fom the old market hall).
- 6 Office - The Sports Bar, Raastuvankatu 15. This bar used to be a legendary pub called Koti.
- 7 D.O.M Munkhaus, Hietasaarenkatu 14.
- 8 Kalarannan Laituri Bar & Terrace, Kalaranta. Only during summers.
- 9 Happy Barrel, Kauppapuistikko 15. A pub that serves greasy food when in need.
- 10 Fontana, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 15. Probably the most popular nightclub in town. On the second floor of the Hartman House in the northern end of the Market Square. There is a lounge available for private parties.
- 11 Leipätehdas, Hietasaarenkatu 14. Built into a former bread factory. Offers many club nights and concert nights with local bands.
- 12 [dead link] Waild, Kauppapuistikko 15. A nightclub for a more mature public compared with Hullu Pullo which is next door.
- 1 [dead link] Kenraali Wasa Hostel, Korsholmanpuistikko 6-8, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in a former military compund made up of charming wooden barracks with roots in the 19th century. Within walking distance from the city centre. Prices range from €40 (private room with one bed) to €60 (private room with four beds)..
- 2 Omena Hotel Vaasa, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 23. All hotel bookings and payments are done through the internet at www.omena.com through which you get a code for your room. The hotel is situated right next to the train station and a short walk from the city center. In this hotel you pay for the room and not the number of people staying in the room. All rooms can house four people. Prices start at €36 (room with four beds, €9 per person), and depend on the conditions of the booking and the stay.
- 3 EFÖ, Rantakatu 21-22, ☏ (only during summer), (during winter available rooms can be booked through the school), email@example.com. EFÖ is short for "Evangeliska Folkhögskolan i Österbotten", which is Swedish for the Evangelical Folk High School in Ostrobothnia. During the summer when the school is closed it becomes a summer hotel. Smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages are banned. A single room costs €47/night and a double room €52/night..
- 4 Hotel Tekla, Palosaarentie 58, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Located among student housing in the neighbourhood of Palosaari north of the city centre. Take bus line 1 from the market square to get to the location. Evening sauna (not on Sundays) and free passage to the gym is included in the price. Some rooms are used as student housing during winter. A single room costs €49 and a room with three beds costs €89.
- 5 Westbay Inn, Västervikintie 271, ☏ , email@example.com. A guesthouse 7 km north of the city centre in Västervik. €40/1 person/day, €60/2 persons/day.
Bed & Breakfast
- 6 Betel Bed & Breakfast, Pohjoismäki 54 (in the rural area of Sundom, a 10-minute drive from the city centre), ☏ , .
Camping & cabins
- 7 Top Camping Vaasa, Niemeläntie 1. The camping area is on the island of Vaskiluoto just outside the city centre. Besides places for tents and caravans, Top Camping also offers cabins (a four-bed cabin €60/day)..
- 8 Västerstrand Holiday Cabins, Utterö, Sundom (A long way from the city center in the Sundom archipelago). You need a car to get to this place. Bring your own bed linen. Camping is also possible. Cabins from €45/day.
- 9 Aijas Semesterstugor, Utterö, Sundom. This place offers very well equipped vacation cottages that can also be used during winter. During high season (17 Jun-5 Aug) the cottages can only be rented for a week at a time.. During low season prices start at €90/day.
- 10 Kerstins Stugor, Utterö, Sundom, ☏ . This place offers cabins a long way out of town.
- 11 Rantasipi Tropiclandia Spa Hotel, Lemmenpolku 3. A hotel in connection with the tropical spa next door out on the island of Tropiclandia. More value for the family with kids than the lone traveller. Prices start at €124 for a 1-bed room during summer.
- 12 Hotel Astor, Asemakatu 4. A small but elegant hotel close to the trainstation and a short walk from the town centre. Most of the rooms have their own Finnish style sauna. The price depends on which day you are staying. Weekends are cheaper as are some summer months. A room without sauna during a weekend costs €90/night, with sauna €111/night. Weekdays a room costs €120/night, with sauna €140/night. Single and double rooms have the same price.
- 13 Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Hovioikeudenpuistikko 18. Big hotel complex streching to both sides of the street. Good sauna and pool facilities, one on the top floor and another one underground. Free broadband in the rooms, and you can rent a tandem bike for €10/2 hours. There is a nightclub, a restaurant and a pub in the hotel complex. A standard room is €100/night.
- 14 Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna, Rewell Center 101. A hotel smack in the heart of town, right beside the Market Square. Free broadband and sauna for customers. A standard single room costs €101, and a double room is €120. Ask about cheap offers though..
- 15 Kantarellis Suites. All the rooms have their own saunas and most rooms also has Jacuzzis. Weekends from €115 for a single.
- Stundars, Stundarsvägen 5, Solf (fi: Sulva) is a large open-air museum in the next municipality of Korsholm (fi: Mustasaari) made up of about 60 buildings. It is a living centre for culture and art.
- Raippaluodon Silta or Replot Bro, Finland's longest bridge, can be reached when driving 10 km north-west toward the island Replot, which is a part of the municipality of Korsholm that surrounds Vaasa. Just a bit before the bridge is a lovely public beach where you can easily camp for a day or two. You can also continue your trip out to the islands where there are restaurants and other things to discover.
- Kvarken Archipelago (Merenkurkku, Kvarken). The archipelago outside Vaasa is a UNESCO world nature heritage site. The whole archipelago is a experience in itself but the parts under UNESCO protection are mainly in the neighbouring municipalities of Korsholm, Korsnäs, Malax and Vörå.
- The coastal towns of Ostrobothnia. Vaasa is the perfect base to go out on daytrips to the smaller towns of Kristinestad (fi: Kristiinankaupunki), Kaskinen (sw: Kaskö) and Närpes (fi: Närpiö) in the south or Nykarleby (fi: Uusikaarlepyy), Jakobstad (fi: Pietarsaari) and Kokkola (sw: Karleby) in the north.
- Provinssirock is a good rock festival in the city of Seinäjoki, some 80 km east of Vaasa. As most hotels are fully booked in the area during the festival, Vaasa could provide a comfortable base for a musical visit. The annual festival is organized in the middle of June.
- Or why not take the boat over to Umeå in Sweden.
|Routes through Vaasa|
|Oulu ← Jakobstad ←||N S||→ Närpes → Pori|
|Umeå ← ←||NW SE||→ Laihia → Helsinki|