Mikkeli, Sankt Michel, Exploring Finland

Mikkeli (S:t Michel) – Exploring Finland

Mikkeli is a town in the region of South Savo, or Southern Savonia, in southeastern Finland. The town is also known by its Swedish name S:t Michel, but almost all of the municipality’s around 52.000 inhabitants have Finnish as their native language. The town is at the center of what is known as the Finnish Lakeland. This is a larger non-administrative region with lakes scattered all over with an estimate that there are at least 55.000 lakes here.

A Short History of Mikkeli

The first known written records of the area that we today know as Mikkeli date back to the peace treaty of Nöteborg in 1323. This treaty saw the transfer of the areas of Äyräpää, Jäskis, and Savolax to Sweden from Novgorod. Savolahti was the church parish for the whole of Savolax and had by 1329 gone from Orthodox to Catholic.

Mikkeli had already received its current name in the early parts of the 16th century. The settlement was the church village in the parish and it was named after the Archangel Michael. The village and the rest of Finland became a part of Russia in 1809. It was during the years within the Russian Empire that Mikkeli received its town rights from Tzar Nicholaus I in 1838.

Mikkeli has played an important role in many military conflicts after Finland’s independence in 1917. During the civil war shortly after independence, the headquarter of the White Army was located here. The Red Army had only limited support from the locals in the area. The town was once more used for headquarters during the Winter War and the Continuation War against Russia.

Things to Do and See

Mikkeli is a city that has experienced wars in the past and it has had close connections with the armed forces. So it might not be a surprise that there are many museums here dedicated to the military and the stories of war. But there is even more to explore. The city center has shops and restaurants, there are towers to explore and a railway to admire.

Muisti Centre of War and Peace

Muisti Centre of War and Peace tries to promote peace by letting its visitors experience the horror stories of war. How did the war affect women and children, the war headquarters, and the soldiers on the battlefield? The museum has nine exhibitions telling and showing the stories of war.

Infantry Museum

In barracks from the late 19th century, you will find the Infantry Museum. The museum tells the story of the Finnish infantry and the work and life of its soldiers.

Mannerheim’s Carriage

Right next to the train station, there is an old train carriage. This is the saloon car that once housed the Finnish Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim during World War II. Visiting the inside of the carriage is only possible once each year, on the birthday of Mannerheim on June 4th.

Naisvuori Observation Tower

Naisvuori Observation Tower is a 27-meter-high tower. It was built in 1911 as a water tower with an additional observation deck to be able to act as a fire tower. Today the tower offers a 360-degree view of Mikkeli.

Mikkelipuisto Park

Mikkelipuisto is a garden to the southeast of the city center. It is between two lakes and contains several exhibitions where companies and organizations showcase their ideas for a garden.

Visulahti Theme Park

Visulahti is an amusement park that opened in 1980. It has a dinosaur theme and includes three main areas. The water attractions of Dinosauria, the indoor playground of Hyperdino, and the wax museum known as the Wax Cabinet.

How to Get to Mikkeli

  • Flights: Lappeenranta Airport (LPP) is 107 kilometers to the south.
  • Car: Mikkeli is at the intersection of several major roads in central Finland, one of these is Road 5 to the northeast of Lahti.
  • Train: There are trains to Mikkeli from Helsinki, Kajaani, Kuopio, and Oulu.

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

  • Helsinki – 231 kilometers (2 h 35 min)
  • Turku – 366 kilometers (3 h 58 min)
  • Vaasa – 386 kilometers (4 h 43 min)
  • Oulu – 446 kilometers (5 h 9 min)
  • Joensuu – 211 kilometers (2 h 32 min)

Looking to Explore more of Finland and Europe?

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