The sister cities Haparanda and Tornio on each side of Torne River, one in Sweden and one in Finland and in two different time zones constitute a historical trading site. It is still a place of trade and shopping, with the world’s northernmost IKEA and a shopping mall situated right on the border. The locals live with one foot in each country and most of them speak Swedish, Finnish and the minority language Meänkieli. Talk about borderless experiences!
HaparandaTornio is made up of the two sister cities Haparanda and Tornio, on each side of Torne River, one in Sweden and one in Finland, and in two different time zones. They are located strategically in the Bothnian Bay, where Torne River flows into the sea, and constitute a historical trading site. People have met here since the Middle Ages, trading food, cattle, fabrics, handicrafts and much more. It is still a place of trade and shopping, with the world’s northernmost IKEA and a shopping mall situated right on the border. It is a place where east and west meet, where the cultures are strong, yet beautifully mixed. Finland has belonged to Russia and Sweden in the past, and the Sami people who are indigenous to northern Scandinavia and Russia have contributed with their culture and lifestyle over the years. Today the locals live with one foot in each country and most of them are trilingual and speak Swedish, Finnish and the minority language Meänkieli.
Besides the great shopping opportunities and a trip to IKEA, you can roam around the old town in Haparanda that is filled with neat wooden houses, some a couple of decades old. Visit the little café and art shop Tornedal&Co where you can get a nice cup of coffee and homemade Swedish Fika and at the same time shop for unique art, handicraft, jewelry, clothes and books made by local artists and designers. Take the opportunity to visit Haparanda Stadshotell, the historic hotel from the turn of last century. Get a nice bite to eat at their bistro Gulaschbaronen amongst hatboxes, antique luggage and décor that transport you to the early 1900’s. Or opt for a tasting menu a few stairs down, underneath the hotel, where you can savour local delicacies and game. You can of course spend the night and immerse yourself in the royal atmosphere.
The locals live with one foot in each country and most of them are trilingual and speak Swedish, Finnish and the minority language Meänkieli.
Did you know that Haparanda Church is named Sweden’s ugliest church? The odd building that replaced the classic wooden church that burned down in the 1960s is made in a contemporary style and clad with copperplates. The exterior in black contrasts against the white and airy interior, all designed by Bengt Larsson. Loved by many and heavily discussed, this church has to be seen in real life. Visit the church during summer for daily guided tours and create your own opinion of it — ugly or beautiful?
And if you’re into bucketlist-activities, you should swing by Green Zone Golf Course, an outstanding and unique golf course in the golfing world. This international course is situated on the border of Finland and Sweden, surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Torne River. You have the possibility to make “the longest hole-in-one in the world” across the border on the sixth hole. The border is in the middle of the sixth green and the time difference between the countries is one hour. Given this fact, your tee shot takes an hour to hit the green. On the return you put back the lost hour. The sun is up 24 hours a day during summer, which means you can play all night long.
A visit to HaparandaTornio is not complete without a sauna session at Kukkolaforsen, situated a 15-minute drive from the city. With 15 saunas in the area and home of the Swedish Sauna Academy, Kukkola is the best place for a sauna experience. The wood-fired sauna and the traditional smoke-sauna are both a most-try and ending your night in the outdoor hot tub under a starry sky is absolutely magical. The sauna activity is available year-round, but it is something special with the combination between the hot steam and the cold air. We dare you to roll in the snow in-between sauna sessions!
What better way to start the New Year than to do it twice? Join the unique New Year’s celebration at Victoria Square with the local people on the border between Finland and Sweden. Live music, shows, entertainment and fireworks twice — first at midnight Finnish time and one hour later at midnight Swedish time.
Talk about borderless experiences!