Hämeenlinna, Tavastehus, Exploring Finland

Hämeenlinna (Tavastehus) – Exploring Finland

Hämeenlina, or Tavastehus which is its Swedish name, is a town that once was at the center of the historical province of Tavastia in southern Finland. The city is today the capital of the Kanta-Häme Region and is the seat of the Hämeenlinna Municipality. With a population of around 68.000 inhabitants, it is the 14th largest municipality in Finland.

Famous people who have lived in Hämeenlinna include the composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) who was born here in 1865 and the seventh president of Finland, Juho Kusti Paasikivi (1870-1956), who went to school in Hämeenlinna.

A Short History of Hämeenlinna

The Häme Castle, or Tavastehus Slott, is believed to have been built on an island in Lake Vanajavesi in the 13th century. It is disputed if it was this castle or the castle in Hakoinen that is mentioned in the old documents. The original settlement here was known as Vanaja and dated back to the Viking Age.

The Häme Castle was a way for Sweden to gain control of the Finnish inland. The construction of the castle also meant the establishment of a village in its vicinity. This village developed and gained town rights in 1639 as the first inland town in what is today Finland.

During the Russian rule in Finland in the 19th century Hämeenlinna developed as an administrative center with an additional focus on the military and education. The governing power over Finland would change again in the 20th century and when the civil war in Finland broke out in 1918 Hämeenlinna was controlled by “the Reds”. “The Whites” captured the city with the help of the Germans and Hämeenlinna came to house a large prison camp for people who had fought for the red side and who had been captured in the war.

It was during the 1960s and 1970s that the city developed into what it is today. This was when the road infrastructure improved and residential housing increased in the city.

Things to Do and See

Finding something to do in Hämeenlinna should not be a problem. There is, for example, never a long distance to nature with lakes right at the city’s doorstep. If you, instead, look for shopping? Then there is the Kauppakeskus Goodman Shopping Mall. There are also a few shops in the center of the city. In the end, most visitors will probably end up at the castle to see this impressive structure.

Häme Castle

Häme Castle is the main attraction in the city. Its name in the local languages is Hämeen Linna and Tavastehus Slott. The castle has a long history that has included being an administrative center, a military fortification, a prison, and now a tourist attraction as a museum.

Museo Militaria

Museo Militaria is a museum exhibiting the history of artillery, engineering, and signaling in Finland. The museum is a merger between three different museums from different parts of Finland.

The Artillery Museum of Finland, or Suomen Tykistömuseo, was established in 1977 in Niinisalo and moved to Hämeenlinna in 1997. It was a military museum dedicated to the history of artillery. The Engineers Museum had an even longer history. It was established for the first time in 1945 in Koria and re-established in 2007 in Miehikkälä. Exhibitions from the museum opened at Museo Militaria in 2013. The National Signals Museum opened in 1974 in Riihimäki but has also been moved to Hämeenlinna with its collection of military communication equipment.


The Castle Park is a green area separating the castle from the city center. Its location along the shores of Lake Vanajavesi offers both green nature and also a view of the lake. For visitors, this is a place for outdoor activities but also a perfect start when wanting to explore the impressive Häme Castle.

Sibelius Childhood Home

The Sibelius Childhood Home is a part of the Hämeenlinna City Museum and shows a part of the life of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He was born in Hämeenlinna in 1865 and became the most famous composer in Finland.

Hämeenlinna Church

Hämeenlinna Church, or the Hämeenlinnan kirkko as it is known in Finnish, is the local church that was built at the end of the 18th century. It was inaugurated in 1798 and is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

Sports in Hämeenlinna

There are several sports teams from Hämeenlinna. The most famous team is probably the ice hockey team HPK, but there is also the football team HJS and the floorball team Steelers Hämeenlinna.

Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho & Hämeenlinnan Jäähalli

Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho, best known by its abbreviation HPK, is the local ice hockey team. The team was founded in 1929 and is playing in Liiga, the first-tier league in Finland. The team has become Finnish champions twice, first in 2006 and then the last time in 2019.

HPK plays its home games in Hämeenlinnan Jäähalli, which is also known by its sponsor name Pohjantähti Areena. The arena was built in 1979 and has today a capacity of 5.360 spectators.

HPK Kiekkonaiset

HPK Kiekkonaiset is the local women’s ice hockey team. They are playing in the top-tier league of women’s ice hockey in Finland, the Naisten Liiga. The team became Finnish champions in 2011.

FC Hämeenlinna

FC Hämeenlinna is or was a local football team. The team played in the top-tier league Veikkausliiga for three seasons between 2002 and 2004. It has since gone downhill and the team was relegated several times falling through the leagues until the team found itself in financial difficulties in 2015. It is unclear if the team still plays in the lower-tier leagues.

HJS & Pulleri

HJS is a local football team that was founded in 1999. It is currently playing in the third-tier league Kakkonen. HJS stands for Hämeenlinnan Jalkapalloseura. The team plays its home games at Pulleri, a complex with several football fields.

Steelers Hämeenlinna & Loimua Areena

Steelers Hämeenlinna is the local floorball team that was founded in 1996. The team plays as of the 2022/23 season in the Miesten Divari, the second-tier league in Finland. Steelers play their home games at Loimua Areena.

How to Get to Hämeenlinna

  • Flights: The closest major airport is Tampere–Pirkkala Airport (TMP), 86 kilometers away. There is also the larger Helsinki Airport (HEL), 94 kilometers away. Both airports have domestic and international flights.
  • Car: Hämeenlinna is a long road E12 between Helsinki and Tampere.
  • Train: Hämeenlinna is well-connected along the Finnish railway network. There are trains to many towns, including Helsinki, Oulu, Rovaniemi, and Tampere.

The driving distance from 5 major Finnish cities, according to Google Maps:

  • Helsinki – 101 kilometers (1 h 7 min)
  • Turku – 142 kilometers (1 h 50 min)
  • Vaasa – 320 kilometers (3 h 42 min)
  • Oulu – 528 kilometers (6 h 15 min)
  • Joensuu – 414 kilometers (4 h 40 min)

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