Rovaniemi is unique in many ways. It is the administrative center of Lapland, home to the University of Lapland, is located just below the Arctic Circle, marks the northernmost reach of an icon of American poplar culture and is reputed to be the home of Santa Claus.
Other towns that make the same claim of Santa citizenship are dismissed as poseurs by Rovaniemians. An assertion that is bolstered by the tremendous amount of mail addressed to Mr. Claus that finds its way here (remember Miracle on 34th Street?) and a steady flow of visitors to the jolly old fellow. Although Santa's Village is only 8 km north of the city center a rental car is advised, it's in the Arctic Circle after all!
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Artifacts suggest that there have been people in the Rovaniemi area since the Stone Age. The actual date of the founding of the town is lost to history and the first mention of the town by name was on a deed dated 7 September 1453. Rovaniemi was destroyed by the Germans at the end of World War II and as a result there are almost no buildings older than 1947. In planning the new design of the city Alvar Aalto included a bizarre tribute to reindeer by laying out the roads in the shape of antlers, touching but impractical.
Recreational options can be a bit different in a city where there's snow on the ground for almost half the year and Santa's your next door neighbor. Snowmobiling is popular, of course but why not try dogsledding or a reindeer powered sleigh ride? For a real thrill, head to the Arctic Wheels driving school and learn how to drive really fast on snow and ice. You don't even have to rent a car, they provide real rally cars and the instructors are real rally drivers.