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Lappeenranta, that’s my home city! If you’re not from Finland, I freaking dare you to pronounce the city’s name! Here is a quick guide to pronunciation: La – ppeen – ran – ta. The first and last parts are quite simple, right? Well, that’s the Finnish language, hardest or second hardest language in the world depending on what scale you examine. Anyway, I would love to give you insights into this great city. It’s my place of birth where I have grown up since day 1. Let’s start through a small introductory part!
So, like in some previous posts I have mentioned, the city is located in South-Eastern Finland, close to the Russian border. Check the location out from the Google Earth map below, its the one with the orange cross over it! And some of you might think that being close to Russia is a bad thing, but no way. Being so close is great, but more about that below where I list the positives of Lappeenranta.
Interesting statistics time! The land area is about 1,700 square kilometers, or about 18,500 football fields, making it the 47th largest city by area in Finland. Then we have almost 73,000 people here.
So when we divide 73,000 with 18,500 we get about 4 people per football field.
We got room for you here too.
Are you aged between 15 to 64? Well then you belong into the biggest two thirds within Lappeenranta. About 15% of the population is under 14 years old, 67% is between 15 to 64 and almost 18% are over 65 years old.
And I know that history is a topic that makes other people super excited and others fall asleep, so lets just take a quick dip into the city’s past. First mentions of the city are found from 1542, but the town was officially chartered in 1649 by Queen Christina of Sweden. The only big drastic event in the city’s history was in 1741, when “battle of Villmanstrand” happened. Oh yes! So as Finland is a bilingual country, our cities have a Swedish name also, so Lappeenranta is Villmanstrand in Swedish, which when translated to English means wild man’s beach. This is why we have such a weird city seal with a wild man in the middle, which is on the right! But, back to the battle. So it was a clash between the Swedish and Russian armies, that ended in a Russian victory.
The whole city was pillaged, burnt and damaged.
Why I Love Lappeenranta
During my 23 years here, minus the one year when I was living in Shanghai, I have found plenty of things to appreciate in this Finnish city. I want to tell you about the things I find most positive about living, studying and working here at the South-Eastern border. First here is a brief list of the positives, which are opened up in detail below!
- Amazing location
- Peaceful nature
- Great education
- Plenty of sports opportunities
- Intense growth and development
Seriously, the city is located almost exactly in the middle of two big cities: Helsinki and Saint-Petersburg. Actually even closer to the Russian metropolis of 5 million people than to the Finnish capital, check the picture out below! It’s a true commercial center and a meeting point between the European Union and Russia. Finland also is known as the country of a thousand lakes, well actually we have 188 000 lakes, and Lappeenranta is located perfectly on the southern shore of the biggest, Lake Saimaa. This makes the city perfect for tourism, as you can enjoy the amazing nature and beaches. In fact, the city is the second most visited city by Russian tourists after Helsinki. Also it’s always competing for the largest share of tax-free sales in Finland! Recently since my return from Shanghai, I’ve personally realized that there’s a lot more of German and Chinese tourists also!
If you watch the weather forecast, this area in Finland always tends to be one of the warmest and “most summery”. Lappeenranta itself is listed as only the 71st of the “most summery” cities in Finland, but the criteria were pretty weird in this “research”, at least in my opinion. I mean, I understand the second and third ones, but why the first and last ones? Take a look:
- The number of summer weddings
- Average temperature
- Amount of rain
- Amount of children born between March & April
I already mentioned Lake Saimaa in the previous positive, but there’s a lot more besides that. The Finnish nature in general is amazingly peaceful and since there are almost zero dangers there regarding insects, plants and animals, its also safe. If you are having a hectic day, you can easily go for a relaxing, therapeutic walk in Lappeenranta, since nature is easily accessible almost anywhere. You could either choose from a selection of maintained nature walking paths, or go a little extreme and make your own path. Just remember to pack a phone with you just in case you get lost!
Lappeenranta is also surrounded by amazing other summer locations. As we the Finnish love our summer cottages, we have two and my girlfriend’s family has one cottage just a 30 minute drive away. For example, Savitaipale and Luumäki, surrounding cities around Lappeenranta, are perfect for enjoying the Finnish summer to the max. Sauna, swimming, birds singing, never ending sunshine, barbecue and a peaceful nature. Damn I almost forgot a fun bar fact for you! Lappeenranta was also the only Finnish city among 14 other finalists in international Earth Hour City Challenge 2014, which was organized by the World Wildlife Foundation!
The city has simply amazing education all the way from early years to being a university graduate! I’ve had all my education here with just a few negative memories. These mostly because of some teachers that I didn’t like and for sure they didn’t like me! There’s plenty of great kindergartens, a good selection of elementary schools and a couple well-established high schools. Then we also have Lappeenranta University of Technology and Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, which when combined have about 13 000 students from 68 different countries from around the world! You remember that the total population is 73 000? This means that almost a whopping 18% of the whole city is made up of just university students!
Our university, called simply just LUT, was also recently selected as the 31st best young university in the world. And one year ago we got a pretty unique honorary doctorate to join us, Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters!
Plenty of Sports Opportunities
The city is not really known for its excellence in almost any sport, but the opportunities for enjoying both indoors and outdoors activities are amazing. All year round. Be it spring, summer, fall or winter! I personally have “seriously” played baseball, thrown javelin and then started weightlifting so I have some personal experience! Also I love to relax over some american football, frisbee golf and cycling!
Yeah, I’m really a summer person.
That’s what you call a weird Finn by the way, one that hates the winter and coldness! I personally hate skiing, downhill, ice skating, hockey and all that, but the opportunities to do those things are great here in Lappeenranta! Lets try to throw in some numbers from the city’s official web-page to prove the opportunities to you!
- About 24 sports fields
- About 23 skiing routes in winter
- 5 Tennis fields
- 4 Frisbee golf fields
- About 20 beaches of which almost all have grass fields where you can play anything
- About 15 gyms, of which about 5 are seriously big ones. Like Syke Training Center where I go, 3000 square meters and three floors! Fun fact that I just found out while doing some research, the gym is also the biggest gym in the whole of Finland!
- 2 Swimming halls
- About 7 indoor sports halls
- Lots and lots of different teams for all sports ranging from Archery to Wrestling and anything in between
Intense Growth & Development
The city has experienced amazing growth and development at least during my lifetime from 1995 all the way to this year. As a kid I remember how there was pretty much just two big supermarkets and a couple quiet malls around and that was it! Throughout the years a lot has changed, thanks to all the previously listed things I love about this city. The location is amazing, the area brings tourists, the education is tempting to young families and there is plenty of stuff to do around here. I would say that a great majority of the development is thanks to the Russian tourism and proximity to Saint-Petersburg though. That’s why I don’t understand some people’s negative attitude towards the Russians, because together we have built this amazing city.
Sure, the history is dark. But get over it.
Now we have amazing and active shopping malls, a number of huge supermarkets, all the other stores you would ever need and a great variety of services. The main highway to Helsinki was just upgraded and new commercial and residential buildings are popping up constantly! A couple weeks ago in an event I heard that between the years 2014 and 2017 a whopping 300 million euros was invested in the city’s development. Do you understand how much money that is? That’s about 60 million Big Mac burgers for gods sake!
Future looks bright for this amazing city!