Welcome to the home of Moomin! This is Naantali, in Swedish Nådendal, in south-western Finland. This seaside resort town has become famous worldwide due to the Moomin World theme park. With a population of around 20.000 inhabitants, it is a quiet small town, but the temporary population of both the town and the surrounding archipelago explodes during the summer months.
A Short History of Naantali
The history of Naantali begins with the foundation of the Birgittine convent Vallis Gratiae in the 15th century. The name means the “Valley of Mercy”, which has given the town the Swedish name Nådendal, earlier spelled Nadhendaal. The charter for the convent was signed by King Christopher on the 23rd of August 1443, which is by most considered the birth of Naantali. Christopher of Bavaria was at the time king of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The establishment of the convent has resulted in one of the oldest towns in today’s Finland.
The Nådendal Abbey saw an end of its wealth and importance in the 16th century during the Swedish Reformation. It lost many of its assets, members were allowed to leave and no new members were accepted. The estate and final assets were finally confiscated in 1556. The last abbess died in 1577 and the last nun died in 1591, marking a definitive end of the Nådendal Abbey.
It took until the 18th century before Naantali started to recover from the closing of the convent. It was during the mid-18th century that a customs chamber was established in Naantali, ending almost two years of economic stagnation. Until the establishment of the customs chamber, knitted stockings had been the main production in the town. The development continued and turned the place into a seaside resort and spa town during the second half of the 19th century.
Things to Do and See
There is a lot to explore in Naantali and not everything is about the Moomins.
Who hasn’t heard of these white creatures and their friends? The blue Moomin House has become one of the landmarks for Naantali and the theme park is one of the most visited in the northern part of Europe. The whole park centers around the Moomin books by the Swedish-speaking Finnish author Tove Jansson. It is hard to visit Finland without encountering references to the Moomins. They are literally everywhere and have become one of the main trademarks of the country.
There is not much left of the old medieval convent in Naantali. It is only the church that is still standing. The Naantali Church was built in the second half of the 15th century and still towers over the town. It has since been modified, with for example the large baroque-style tower being completed at the end of the 18th century.
Naantali Old Town
The old town in Naantali consists of old colorful wooden buildings, right next to the seaside promenade and local marina. Here you will find small boutiques, as well as cafés and restaurants. The wide streets date back to the orders of Governor-General Per Brahe in the 17th century.
Right outside of Naantali and on the island of Luonnonmaa is the summer residence of the president of Finland. This place, Kultaranta in Finnish or Gullranda in Swedish, includes a manor house built in granite and a lot of surrounding land. The property was acquired by the Finnish state in 1922 to be used as the summer residence for the president, but so far only Gustaf Mannerheim has used it.
The cliffs of Kuparivuori Hill are famous for their view and they are a popular lookout point over Naantali. From here it is possible to see both central Naantali and the Moomin World.
Nunnalahden Uimaranta is a sandy beach right next to the old church. This is the place to go for anyone looking to swim in the Baltic Sea during a hot summer day or for any local who is brave enough to swim no matter what time of the year it is.
The Näkötorni, or Watch Tower, stands on the same hill as the church and offers a view of the beach below and the Moomin World on the island across the water.
How to Get to Naantali
Flights: The closest major airport is Turku Airport (TKU), 20 kilometers drive away with mostly domestic flights as well as a few charter airlines. Helsinki Airport (HEL) is 184 kilometers away and it is the main airport in Finland with both domestic and international flights.
Car: Naantali is on the Finnish western end of the road E18, right before it crosses the Baltic Sea and continues from Kapellskär in Sweden. This is just a few kilometers west of the city of Turku.
Train: The closest active train station with passenger service is in nearby Turku, with trains to and from Helsinki and Tampere. There is a regular bus service from Turku to Naantali.
The driving distance from 5 major Finnish cities, according to Google Maps:
Helsinki – 183 kilometers (2 h 1 min) Turku – 16 kilometers (17 min) Vaasa – 329 kilometers (3 h 55 min) Oulu – 658 kilometers (7 h 35 min) Joensuu – 589 kilometers (6 h 51 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Finland by visiting our page Exploring Finland