Kemi (population 21,300) is a town on the Bothnian Bay in Finnish Lapland. Historically an industrial port city, it has also become a popular winter destination for activities such as snowmobiling, dog sledding, visits to reindeer farms, northern lights viewing, and overnights in snow hotels.
In fact, it’s here in Kemi that you’ll find the world’s largest hotel made of snow and ice. The SnowCastle has been a source of pride for the townspeople since its inception in 1996. As the structure is rebuilt each winter by specialized craftsmen, the SnowCastle is never the same size or with the same design from year to year.
In addition to suites decorated with beautiful ice art, the complex includes a snow restaurant and a snow chapel, as well as ice art exhibitions outside. Another unique highlight in Kemi is the Sampo Icebreaker, which was repurposed as a tourist ship in 1988 after nearly 30 years of clearing shipping lanes in the Baltic Sea.
During winter months, visitors can board the Sampo for day cruises through the icy waters and even experience an “arctic swim” in thermal flotation suits. Other town attractions include the Kemi Church with its beautiful Gothic-Revival architecture, and the Kemi Gemstone Gallery, which displays a large, diverse collection of gemstones and minerals.
The gallery also houses replicas of the Crown of Finland, the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain, the diamond necklace of Marie Antoinette, and the Sceptre of the Czar of Russia.