Scandinavia Series- Part 3: Särkänniemi, Finland

With the theme park season drawing to a close in many countries and people forced to stay home again, we thought we’d bring you a brand new article series. Expect regular updates from myself as we explore one of the most beautiful, cultural and historical regions of Europe: Scandinavia!

We’ll be taking you from Norway across to Finland, through Sweden and then down to Denmark. We’ll be providing you with detailed insights and top tips into the theme parks each of these countries has to offer. We will also be diving into which rollercoasters and attractions you aren’t going to want to miss out on. So grab a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and enjoy!

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Welcome back! Today we’ll be continuing our tour exploring Scandinavia, where we’re continuing to discover the beautiful Finland. If the previous episode didn’t entice you enough to explore Finland, we hope this one will provide even more insight into what Finland’s got to offer. We’re taking a high speed direct train today for a day trip. We’re getting the train from Helsinki central station to the beautiful city of Tampere. This is a Southern city in Finland which is surrounded by various different lakes and the city itself is full of wonderful architecture, including churches and cathedrals, as well as museums to explore.

You might have been reading along so far and thinking you’d really like to get out to Finland but have been worrying about the language barrier. I won’t lie, Finnish is an extremely complicated language, not one I can speak or understand myself. However, luckily enough, most people in Finland are able to speak English and are very well-spoken, meaning communication shouldn’t be too much of a problem for travelers. At Helsinki central station we stopped for breakfast which we took on the train. The Finnish cinnamon pastries, Korvapuusti, are absolutely delicious, although the pistachio buns are my absolute favourite and ones I highly recommend.

So how come we’ve chosen Tampere for a day trip away from the capital? Well, we’re heading to Särkänniemi for the day. Särkänniemi consists of many different areas and things to discover and explore, including a planetarium, an aquarium, a fairytale farm, a giant observation tower and an amusement park. There’s so much to do to fill up an entire day out. Särkänniemi is a direct bus ride from Tampere’s main train station, or if you’re feeling energetic it’s a half an hour walk. Särkänniemi is situated overlooking the beautiful lake Näsijärvi. Therefore, on your walk towards the entrance, you will come across various harbours with boats parked up against pontoons and various lake side restaurants for visitors to enjoy.

Särkänniemi is free entry to wonder around although various parts of the complex require individual ticketed entry, such as the amusement park or the fairytale farm. We bought a wristband which allowed us entry into all the different areas of the resort. If I remember correctly it cost around 40 euros which we thought was extremely good value for the entire day out. One of the most well known attractions at Särkänniemi is the Näsinneula Observation Tower. This is one of the most well known and iconic landmarks of Tampere and stands in all it’s glory over the surrounding lake. It’s about 8 euros just to go up the tower, but we recommend the all-access wristband.

The Näsinneula Observation Tower was built during the years of 1970 and 1971 and was built upwards at a rate of 13ft (4m) per day, meaning the total height of the tower was built in just 33 days! It took over 2500 cubic metres of concrete to construct the tower, which is pretty impressive.  Guests take an elevator up to the top of the tower which travels at 13mph (6m/s). There are also 700 steps which climb to the top of the tower, but due to new safety regulations the public are not allowed to climb the stairs anymore. Below you can see a beautiful view across the lake from the top viewing deck of the tower.

The Näsinneula Observation Tower stands at a staggering height of 551 ft (168m). This makes it the tallest observation tower in any of the Nordic countries. We think this is incredibly impressive and it was even more exciting to know that the design of the tower was inspired by the Space Needle in Seattle. There is also a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower at a height of 407 ft (127m) above the ground, where guests can dine and take in the magnificent views. One revolution of the restaurant takes 45 minutes and gives guests fascinating views across the city of Tampere.

From the observation deck of the tower you can also look through various telescopes and read facts about different landmarks in the city of Tampere. The observation tower also provides views down below onto the amusement park located at Särkänniemi. We’ll go into more detail about the amusement park itself later, as it wasn’t open to the public until the late afternoon, meaning we had time to explore the rest of the resort in the morning and early afternoon. However, below you can see some of the major attractions in the amusement park, such as the Zamperla Disk’o, named Surge, which glides over the water’s edge. The amusement park is also home to Trombi, a Zamperla Volare, which you can see on the right hand side with the orange track and light blue supports. Safe to say this is one of the most terrifying, uncomfortable and insane contraptions I have ever experienced in my lifetime.

We then descended down the 551 ft (168m) observation tower in the high-speed elevator and made our way over to the next section of the park which we were extremely excited to explore. This was actually one of our favourite parts of Särkänniemi. It’s not got any rides or attractions in it, but it’s the most well themed experience in the park and there’s lots to explore and loads of fun to be had. It’s called the Doghill Fairytale Farm and invites visitors to step into a 19th century fairytale village full of handcrafted wooden buildings, farmyard animals, playgrounds, dressed up characters and a charming atmosphere.

As you enter the Doghill Fairytale Farm through the yellow and white picket fence gates, you are greeted by a member of staff dressed up in an animal costume who will scan your ticket and grant your entry into the fairytale farm. The first adventure to be had and challenge to be completed is to traverse across a small lake by getting onto a wobbly floating platform and pulling yourself across to the other side using the guide ropes. Try not to fall into the water!

Around the Fairytale Farm there are loads of different farmyard animals to see, from Mangalitza pigs to puppies. We were lucky enough to catch a rabbit feeding just in time, where we were allowed to feed these adorable bunnies!

There’s also loads of other animals to visit around the charming little town. This includes goats, like you can see below, as well as chicken, cows, donkeys and sheep. If you are visiting with young children, there are also pony rides available for them to take part in at a small up charge, and the children can ride the ponies around the village.

There’s lots to see and explore for both young and old around the Fairytale Farm. For the younger ones, there are regular live shows throughout the day for the kids to watch, as well as a large Dracula’s castle playground. For both young and old, there are loads of little walkthroughs to explore, some of which are interactive. There’s also quaint little shops for you to discover as well. This includes a themed book store in the village, which sells books, accessories, toys and games and a themed pharmacy shop, which is actually a candy-lovers paradise selling chocolate lollipops and Finnish salty liquorice. There’s also various cafe’s and kiosks around the village, such as the windmill kiosk you can see below.

The Fairytale Farm is also home to one of my personal favourite animals- the alpaca! I was delighted to see these South American animals enjoying the sunlight and the heat and it was an awesome surprise for me as I wasn’t expecting to see them at Särkänniemi.

We had a lovely time continuing to explore the rest of the Fairytale Farm, navigating the various different walkthroughs, discovering the shops and cafes and seeing all the different farmyard animals. We absolutely loved the atmosphere and charm that Särkäniemmi has put into this section of the resort and you can really tell that so much love and care has been put into the design and the upkeep of this area. We love the decorations, statues and props placed around the village, such as beautiful flowers in pots, wagons and different animal character statues, all of which you can see in the photo below. Even though the main amusement park in Särkänniemi is closed in the winter season, the observation tower and aquarium remain open, as well as the Fairytale Farm, where guests can enjoy a Finnish Christmas holiday with Santa Claus and his reindeer.

Once we had finished exploring the Fairytale Farm, we headed back to the centre of the resort to try and find somewhere to stop and relax for lunch, as we were feeling hungry. The base of the structure of the Näsinneula Observation Tower contains a couple of gift shops, the aquarium and planetarium and a couple of different places to get a bite to eat. We ate in the restaurant in the bottom of the tower which had a buffet lunch on offer, with various different types of meatballs and vegetarian meatballs to choose from as well as various side dishes. We were very hungry but it was absolutely delicious!

There was also various different fruit and vegetable options to choose from to go with the main course at the buffet. I don’t remember the exact price for the buffet, but it was very reasonable for unlimited food, drinks and tea and coffee and the buffet really satisfied our appetites! Would definitely recommend as a slightly cheaper alternative to the rotating restaurant in the top of the tower.

Over lunch we also planned out our schedule for the rest of the day. After lunch we explored the aquarium, which is situated underground the observation tower structure. The aquarium was lovely but reasonably small, so we would definitely recommend buying the all-inclusive package at the park to experience the aquarium as well, because the individual admission price of almost 13 euros is quite expensive for the size of it. Following our trip to the aquarium, we then made our way to the planetarium, where we were expecting some sort of immersive film experience taking us into outer space. We were wrong however, and instead they played a film about catching viruses! Certainly quite ironic given everything going on at the moment and not what we expected at all in a planetarium- so unfortunately we had to get up and leave halfway through the film. Nonetheless, here is the stunning view we mulled over from the Restaurant Välke as we enjoyed our buffet lunch.

After our relaxing lunch, a leisurely walk through the aquarium and our quite frankly odd experience in the planetarium, it was time for the amusement park section to open. The park itself has been open since 1966 and has a wide selection of rides and attractions for guests to enjoy. It’s more of an amusement park as even though rides have individual themes and there are a couple of themed zones, there’s not much cohesion between different themes. Nonetheless the park works really well and is beautiful and scenic over the lake. My memory of the opening times of the amusement section itself is a bit hazy, but I think the rides were maybe open from 2pm until 7pm or so. First ride of the day; Half Pipe.

Half Pipe actually no longer exists at Särkänniemi. The Intamin half pipe rollercoaster only operated from 2003 until 2019, so we were lucky enough to ride it just in time before it got removed. Some of you may recognise this ride design from the likes of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3; it’s a U shuttle coaster with spinning cars. Specifically at Särkänniemi, it has a winter theme, with ski props and posters in the queue line, and the ride car itself is themed to a giant snowboard, aimed at giving riders the sensation of taking on the slopes.

The amusement section of Särkänniemi has a very strange design. On the left hand side of the park, there are only two attractions, Half pipe and the Rapids Ride, Koskiseikkailu. On the right hand side of the park, there’s a much higher volume of rides and attractions overlooking the water’s edge. This makes the amusement park section feel somewhat divided in a strange way, although it works well. However, with the removal of Half Pipe, we worry that Koskiseikkailu will be very isolated in its own section of the park with no other rides around it. The rapids itself is very fun and enjoyable, with various effects and lovely landscaping, although the layout itself isn’t particularly memorable.

To get from one side of the amusement section to the other, you can either walk back past the main entrance and the observation tower complex, or you can stroll through a haven of greenery and through various different sculpture gardens. We think Särkänniemi is one of the most special places we’ve ever been to, due to the vast range of things to do and its stunning setting overlooking the lake. As you stroll through the gardens you will also come across the Sara Hilden Art Museum, where you can look at a range of different sculptures and paintings. As you step out of the exit of the museum you’re greeted with this amazing view through the trees onto the lake…

The layout of Särkänniemi actually allows guests to follow a trail all the way down to the rocks which line the edge of the lake. You can climb up onto some of the rocks where you will have an amazing view out over the tranquil waters. We were lucky enough to have stunning weather on our trip to Särkänniemi and also got to see an amazing sunset later in the evening over the lake which was absolutely stunning.

We then followed the trail back up from the edge of the lake to the main pathway which took us to the right hand section of the amusement park, where most of the rides are located. The right hand side of the amusement park was extremely busy compared to the two attractions isolated over on the left side. There was some sort of kids football club trip taking place, meaning the park was packed full of groups of children. This meant that it was unfortunately a bit chaotic and the queues were very long. Unfortunately, the operations at Särkänniemi also left a bit to be desired, so we did have some longer waits, but tried our best to avoid the queues. Next up; Moto Gee.

First of all, I must say that Moto Gee and the surrounding area have awesome theming. There’s also a dodgems located in the same area. The whole area has a motor-racing style theme- the pathway is marked out like a race-track and the area is decorated with different props such as tyres. Moto Gee itself is a Zamperla Moto-Coaster with back support restraints and a flywheel launch from 0-37.3mph (60km/h) in 2.0 seconds. This coaster was actually great fun, the launch forceful and the layout really punchy. We also loved the soundtrack and sound effects in the area. The only major downside was the operations- as they were running 2 trains but the stacking was so bad they may as well have only been running 1 train.

Although the different themes of the rides and areas in the amusement park aren’t particularly coherent, all the attractions are done really nicely and the landscaping is consistently beautiful throughout the whole park. We love the different set pieces and props around the amusement park, such as this quirky floating tap you can see in the photo below. Located next to it, the park’s log flume, called Tukkijoki. We didn’t ride this attraction but thought it was really well landscaped through tall trees and over lakes. The trough is also decorated with beautiful lights hanging up above. This log flume has been operating since 1982, and from what we saw, the layout was very unique and featured a couple of drops.

It was now time for me to check out the main rollercoaster that the park has to offer. Perhaps one of the park’s staple attractions, this is an Intamin Suspended Coaster with a custom layout to Särkänniemi, so no- luckily it’s not an SLC. This rollercoaster is called Tornado and operates with two trains; a bright yellow train and a bright orange train. The operations on Tornado were actually pretty quick- unlike the rest of the park- which meant that I was able to take some re-rides on it later without queueing.

Tornado features many different elements, including a vertical loop and a cobra roll, and passes by lots of trees and through tunnels, creating near miss effects. Tornado also features two heart-line rolls- one to the left which takes place over the station and one to the right. The heart-line rolls are the most exhilarating part of the rollercoaster and provide lots of airtime out of your seat! The station of tornado itself is in a man-made cave which has been cut out of natural rock- which is pretty awesome too! Overall, we thought Tornado was a great coaster and definitely the best attraction at Särkänniemi, worthy of a lot of praise and multiple re-rides.

Below you can see a photo taken from one of the central plazas in the amusement park section. We love how clear the sky was and we were truly blessed with the weather as there were only a few clouds passing through the sky during the day and no rain. We love the landscaping of Särkänniemi, and think that the park looks so dramatic with so many different layers. From the carousel on the bottom layer, to Tornado and the surrounding woodland in the middle and the Observation Tower cascading over the rest of the park. The landscaping of the park and all the layers create awesome photos.

Next, it’s time to try out some more of the exhilarating and thrilling attractions that Särkänniemi has to offer. On the left, you can see Hype, the park’s newest rollercoaster. On the right, you can see Boom, the park’s latest addition- a drop tower which was new for 2019. Boom reaches an impressive height of 223ft (68m) and is a Zamperla tower which pulls 4G! Unfortunately due to slow operations and a long queue, we didn’t ride, but it looked impressive and is something that we would gladly ride next time.

So more about Hype then, the park’s newest rollercoaster. Hype is a Premier Rides Skyrocket II. It was actually my first time trying out one of these models. They are becoming pretty standard across the globe now and this one was decorated with a vibrant colour scheme and had an upbeat tone, in dramatic contrast to the one at Holiday Park, for example. In all honesty, I don’t enjoy these much. I find the restraints quite uncomfortable and the whole experience gives me too much of a head-rush so I can’t enjoy it as much as I want to. Perhaps they are a bit too intense and compact for my liking.

Somewhat surprisingly, the park itself actually contains an Angry Birds Land. I was pretty shocked to find this out, as I wasn’t expecting to see it. However, in hindsight it actually makes a lot of sense, given Angry Birds was made by the Finnish company Rovio Entertainment. Angry Birds Land was first showcased at Särkänniemi in 2012, so for those wondering, Särkänniemi came up with the idea before Thorpe Park did…

That being said though, the area is pretty random. It contains a children’s coaster, which is a Zierer Tivoli and known as Vauhtimato. It also contains a variety of other different kids and family rides, as well as some playgrounds. As you can see below though, the theming for the rides in the angry birds area isn’t really that related to angry birds, and it’s just really the playgrounds themselves which are more integrated with the theme and look like sets from the game.

The area surrounding the Angry Birds Land is beautiful though, and contains various different plantings, and a little stream with dancing fountains. You can walk over various bridges crossing the stream, where you can also purchase fish food to feed the gold fish swimming in the pond below.

You can see an attraction below which is probably one of my favourite rides in the whole of Särkänniemi. This is called Järvikaruselli, or in English it is known as the “Lake Carousel”. This is one of the most relaxing rides in Särkanniemi and one of the most peaceful rides I have ever been on. The carousel lifts up and twirls around slowly whilst classical music plays softly in the background. This carousel provides stunning views over the lake and provides a perfect photo opportunity!

Below you can see a photo overlooking Lake Näsijärvi which I took from the Järvikaruselli, with the sun setting in the background providing a warming orange glow. Simply stunning.

Särkänniemi is home to a wide variety of family and thrilling flat rides. The wide range of unique flat rides is part of what makes the amusement park so special, as there’s a lot of ride types which are difficult to find elsewhere. However, this does have a negative effect on operations as most of them are quite low throughput, meaning when the park is busy, queues can be long. These include a Zamperla Giant Discovery, a Huss take off and a Huss Troika. Below you can see High Voltage, a Zamperla Power Surge. This was the flat ride I was most excited to try out at the park and it didn’t disappoint. It was running on a good program and provided spinning, flipping, hanging and whirling sensations. Really good fun and incredibly thrilling.

After trying out all the attractions on our bucket list and ones which didn’t have too long queues to wait in, it was time to head back towards Tampere train station, as we had a train to catch back to Helsinki to get back to our Airbnb for the night. On the way back to Tampere station, we came across a Mcdonalds, where we treated ourselves to mcflurries, one with a Daim flavour and other liquorice flavour. They were both delicious and certainly exciting to try out a liquorice mcflurry!

So, just to summarise my overall opinion of Särkänniemi amusement park. Visiting requires a whole day in my opinion, and if you want to do further sightseeing in the rest of Tampere I would recommend a second day in Tampere to give enough time to be able to see everything. There’s so much to do and see at Särkänniemi ;the views from the observation tower are absolutely stunning, the Fairytale Farm has so much charm and the amusement park is full of unique and fun attractions. The landscaping of the park is absolutely beautiful and whilst it’s akin to some of the other Scandinavian parks, it’s nothing like you’ve seen in the rest of Europe. The only thing the park could improve on really is operations- at times they were very slow meaning there were long queues as it was very busy. The park have also been investing heavily over recent years which is great to see. So, overall, I really recommend a day out at Särkänniemi, as it’s one of the nicest days out I’ve had at any amusement park.

Thanks for reading and joining us in Tampere! Next time, we will be flying from Helsinki Airport to Gothenburg in Sweden, where we will be having a look at five things to do in Liseberg!

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