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A Day in Santa Claus Village, Lapland

Santa Claus Village

©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

***Warning this post contains lots of details and info for moms & dads who want to visit Santa Claus Village, Lapland- all the boring details aren’t meant for kids****

If you’ve been following along on our Lapland posts, today is all about what many consider the MAIN attraction…Santa Claus Village, Lapland.

Want to catch up?  Start here to see how we booked and then read about how we found our travel to Rovaniemi here.

Santa Clause Village

Getting around the Finnish way

After dropping our luggage at our AirBnB we had a quick lunch and headed off to Santa Claus Village. When we dropped our luggage our AirBnB hostess gave us plastic sleds for the kids.  The kids spent their time being pulled around and pulling each other.

If your accommodation doesn’t provide sleds for the kids they’re a great investment during your stay.

***If you’re worried about how the kids will do with Finnish food have no fear.  There are enough chain restaurants in Rovaniemi that the kids won’t go hungry.  We had lunch at Subway (located in Lordi Square behind the Visit Rovaniemi office) before we went to Santa Claus Village. Not at all adventurous but it was quick, cheap and the kids ate.  We all get hangry in this family so being fed before we headed off was the priority.

The #8 bus leaves from the city centre and travels to all the Santa attractions.

The bus comes approximately every hour. There are bus timetables available at the Visit Rovaniemi office and on each bus stop.  Since we just missed the bus by about 10 minutes we opted for a taxi to rather than waiting.  The taxi to Santa Claus Village cost €20 and we were there in 8 minutes.

In early December the sun rose around 10:30 and set between 2:30/3:00.


reindeer ride Santa Claus Village

December 2017 prices

With limited daylight we wanted to do as many outside activities we could. At Santa Claus Village there were a few small hills around and plenty of open space to play in the snow. We spent the first half hour or more sledding, throwing snow balls and making snow angels.  Growing up in Upstate NY snow was a way of life. So many memories were made with the kids in the snow that afternoon.

Thanks to the kind people at Visit Rovaniemi  we were provided with a reindeer sleigh ride of   With two of us in each sleigh covered with a cosy reindeer hide we were pulled out into the snow. The sleigh ride took us over the Arctic Circle and into the pristine white forest.  Even within 1km we were soon surrounded by peace and snow.  It was perfect for the kids. I could have stayed for longer.

Snowman World

©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

On the 2nd of December Snowman World was just opening.  If this is a main attraction for you, you may want to consider coming later in the season.  Nonetheless we enjoyed exploring the still under construction igloos, ice bar and ice sculpture.  (**The ice bar, hotel and restaurant  did not open fully until just before Christmas 2017).

Slipping down ice slides and tobogganing on three different paths kept us entertained for quite some time.  Tobbagan trails were small, medium and large. There was a size just Snowman World, Santa Claus Villageright for all of us.

With the sun setting it was time to head to Santa’s Post office where you can send postcards from around the world and learn how many letters Santa gets each year.

It was packed! It’s clear when the sun goes down the inside activities get busier.  After sending some postcards we headed back outside and the kids enjoyed more time on the sled and running around the trees and snow. There was also plenty of time for exploring all the rest of the village.

Getting a bit hungry we headed for snacks at the Reindeer Cafe.  We can’t comment on the price of food in the restaurants at Santa Claus Village but we did get 2 coffees, 2 hot chocolates, 3 donuts (which were amazing) and 1 slice of apple cake for €21 at the Reindeer Cafe.  It kept us going and we thought the price was good value.

Seeing Santa in his office

By 5:00 the queue had quieted down and we finally went to see Santa.

Inside Santa’s Office you cross the Arctic Circle again and see some displays as you walk to Santa. You can peek through a key hole and see the elves at work. There are a few ‘elves’ to help out along the way (if its elves you’re after stay tuned for our post on Santa Park).

The kids were well and truly star struck upon meeting Santa.  They couldn’t even speak!  It was pure magic really and they smiled and giggled about it for days!

Visiting Santa is free but gifts and photos will cost. While in the queue elves were on hand to give more information on this to moms and dads.

Thanks to Visit Rovaniemi we received a VIP visit with Santa which included the photo and video package. The photos are high-definition and available to download to your computer, your phone and anywhere else you want. We were delighted when we realised our entire visit was recorded with sound for us to treasure forever.

Don’t forget Santa is live streamed over the internet.

We text our family and friends and let them know when we were headed in to see Santa. They all watched us give them a big wave from Lapland.

After visiting Santa we spent the remainder of our time in Santa Claus Village exploring and taking photos at the Arctic Circle.  Don’t forget you can check out huskies, snowmobiles and exhibits on the history of Christmas all at Santa Claus Village.

This Irish Family’s Top Tips of Santa Claus Village:

  • The memories are what you make. Santa Claus Village is pure magic when you play along together as a family.
  • Get the kids sleds.
  • The queues for seeing Santa gets long just after dark (which will be in the middle of the afternoon).
  • Watch the entry ways they are slippery (we saw a lot of people slipping and falling as they entered and exited buildings).
  • Buggies- we did see some people with them.  To be honest if a child is old enough to sit independently and walk I think pulling them in the sleds would be easier.
  • Consider your travel date If you are dying for a drink in the Ice Bar go later in the season. Santa is there year-round and the winter season is only getting started in December.

Disclaimer: Visit Rovaniemi very kindly provided us with a free reindeer ride, family pass to Snowman World and a VIP visit to Santa. As always all thoughts and opinions are entirely ThisIrishFamily’s.

Planning a trip to Lapland? Check back for more posts on Santa Park, a day in Rovaniemi, a day in Helsinki, and what to pack for Lapland.

Family Travel

This Irish Family went to Lapland on a Budget

rovaniemi lapland on a budget

©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

In December we took a winter holiday to Lapland, Finland.  While there are plenty of agencies running chartered services from Ireland to Rovaniemi, Finland we were looking to do Lapland on a budget and stay for longer.

Before we set out  I wrote this post on our plans and costings.  All the details of how we got on will be covered in the next few posts.  Along with what we might consider doing when we go back ( because we do intend to go back).

In all my research before leaving and since returning I have come to realise there are a thousand different ways families can plan and book their own trip.

Our way is just one way to do Lapland on a budget.

In case you didn’t read our first post this is a quick recap of how we did it:

  • Dublin-Helsinki with Norwegian Friday 1 December – 6 December
  • overnight train Helsinki – Rovaniemi return with VR
  • 2 nights  self-catering Airbnb Rovaniemi
  • 1 night Helsinki hotel

Flying Norwegian

We flew Dublin to Helsinki and took the overnight train from Helsinki. This was in part to add some more adventure for the kids and also because it worked out the best option when we booked in late summer.

This was our first trip with Norwegian and I honestly can’t find fault with them. Several families on our flight from Dublin were on connecting flights to Rovaniemi from Helsinki airport.  Another option is also flying Norwegian  to Rovaneimi direct from Gatwick Airport.

Transfer to Helsinki

Arrival in Helsinki airport was easy and efficient.  There are a number of ways to transfer from the airport to the train station in the city centre. We chose the Finnair City bus.The Finnair bus was easy to find (right outside the terminal door) and dropped us directly into the central rail station in Helsinki.  Tickets were just over €6 per adult, children under 6 were free and children age 6-16 travel at a discount. There is free wifi on board. Our flight landed in Helsinki airport just after 5:00 pm and we were in the city by 6:30.

Killing Time in Helsinki

lapland on a budgetThere was an overnight train that departed around 9:00 however it arrived very early into Rovaniemi Saturday morning.  We opted to leave at 11:15 and arrive in Rovanieimi at 10:50 Saturday morning.

Finland is two hours ahead of Irish time so we didn’t think it would be overly exhausting for the kids.  The truth is you’re caught waiting around on either side really and that is something to consider if you are planning to take the overnight train.

The train station has left luggage lockers for €4 or €6 per 24 hours depending on size.  Having off loaded our luggage we headed off on foot into the city.  It was dark and wet so thankfully we had planned ahead and were heading for the Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki which was a short walk from the train station.

Unfortunately for us it was closed for a private function.  Having no plan B and with the kids getting hangry we had a bit of a harrowing walk trying to find food. We ended up at the Forum shopping centre   at O’Leary’s Bar & Restaurant nonetheless.

It was totally fine.  Free popcorn when you sat down which was a welcome sight especially to the kids.  Typical pub grub at a slightly higher expense than home but we were glad to be seated and fed.  The Forum has a number of restaurants and bars including fast-food chains.

By the time we had finished eating the shops were closed.  While we planned on walking around the city to kill time we hadn’t accounted for the weather and ended up back in the train station.

There is really nothing in the train station and no where to sit.  We did find a coffee shop for hot chocolate and coffees while we waited but even still it was a long wait. Well, what seemed like a long wait for ThisIrishDad and myself the kids didn’t mind one bit.  They were happy to sit on our suitcases and make up games while we waited.  When the train arrived around 11:00 we boarded easily and got our jammies on straight away.  I honestly believe both kids were asleep before we were outside the greater metropolitan area.

Travel by Train

Our two berth cabin was tight but comfortable with the 4 of us. The kids of course debated over who slept where.  We managed to cram most of our luggage under the bed and I was thankful I had packed our clothes and outdoor gear for Saturday all in the same bag.  There was a small sink in our cabin and the shared toilets in each car. 3/4 of us slept well all night long.  ThisIrishDad not so much – but he did sleep soundly on the return journey.

We read previously that the breakfast on board was much to be desired. Instead of spending the money we brought with us miniature boxes of cereals, breakfast bars and bananas.  ThisIrishDad & the kids went to the restaurant car for milk, juice and coffees and we ate our cereal out of paper cups.  The kids loved it!  Ironically despite all his excitement at our sleeping arrangements, ThisIrishBoy was not impressed when he realised we could have sat in seats like they did on the Polar Express instead of in beds!!

(FYI- There are also closed in seats which looked to offer more privacy and possibly quiet, I imagine these were first class which might be an option too)

Arriving in Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi Lapland on a BudgetOn our arrival in Rovaneimi we were greeted with blankets of snow. The Rovaniemi train station is quite small (although they too have luggage lockers and even benches).

There were plenty of taxis and buses when the train arrived.

We hung around throwing snowballs for a few minutes before grabbing a taxi to our AirBnB in the city.  Our host graciously allowed us to dump our luggage and we had a quick bite to eat before heading off to Santa Village.  (Huge kudos to Laura and this service she provided us).

We all agree we are glad we did the overnight train experience.

None of us had travelled that distance by train before and it was an experience.  While it wasn’t the worst time in the world it is important to know there will probably be some hanging around.  When we arrived back in Helsinki it was 6:30 am. Early! We took in true Finnish cafe culture for the morning and the kids even fell asleep in a cafe.

The train worked out with our travel dates and allowed us to spend some time in Helsinki so we are glad for that.  It also ended up being fairly reasonable overnight accommodation for the 4 of us.  I wouldn’t rule out travelling by train next time but I also might consider flying too.  Check out our first post for all the details on how we booked our train with VR. 

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting all about our experience. Check back for more on:

Santa Village, Santa Park, Things to do in Rovaniemi, A Day in Helsinki

Are you booking interested in booking Lapland on a budget? Stay tuned to This Irish Family.

There are so many options. Check out these other posts on booking Lapland on a budget: 




Family Life

This Irish Family Goes to Lapland

We’ve told ThisIrishGirl and ThisIrishBoy and now we can share it without fear of ruining our big surprise…..

We’re going to Lapland!!!


It’s no secret how much we love the holidays in this house. For years now I’ve been dreaming of taking the kids to Lapland and we finally are.

Before we go any further I have to say a big thank you to Corrina for all her posts on how to DIY Lapland.   We booked our trip based on all of Corrina’s useful information. Corrina this is happening for us thanks to you!  If you are even considering booking Lapland on your own you need to check out Corrina’s posts!

Also a big thanks to the friend who gave me the ‘gentle nudge’ to go for it over coffee one Friday afternoon in August

(this proves everyone needs good bloggers and great friends in their lives!)

I promise over the next few months to share all the details starting with what we’ve booked so far…


We’re flying with Norwegian air from Dublin to Helsinki.  We haven’t flown with Norwegian yet but I am hearing good reviews on their European services.  Flights for 4 of us with bags came to €599 from Dublin to Helsinki.

I totally could have done better on price but I panicked at booking.

I ended up booking the LowFare+ tickets. In hindsight we definitely didn’t need to.  The LowFare price was closer to €300 so learn from my mistake and don’t panic. Do your homework and only pay for what you need (we will all have free checked baggage and probably won’t use it).

“The Polar Express”

Ok it’s not REALLY the Polar Express but it might as well be!!

An overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi

At this point I still have romantic notions of the 4 of us sleeping soundly in our two berth cabin but I’ll let you know!

Follow Corrina’s advice on how best to book the train from VR.  She was spot on and we booked out train for €236 return for two adults. Kids under 10 go free with a paying adult but you can’t book it online.

You must ring VR to add the kids to your tickets after – customer service at VR was fantastic and English speaking (00358 203 32033).

©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.).

The train is basically two nights accommodation too.  I have heard that the overnight special price isn’t available for all dates in December but we lucked out.  Train tickets can only be booked 60 days in advance. Having booked flights & accommodation in early September I was worried about the train but there was no reason to be.  Also there was really no reason to get up in the middle of the night to book train tickets as soon as possible – plenty of cabins were available.

I’m told breakfast on the train leaves much to be desired so my master plan is to pack us each breakfast packs with cereal, juice cartons and fruit to get us through the morning.

Also – Consider train arrival times in Rovaniemi.

Some trains arrive quite early in the morning.  I didn’t want to book a train that would leave us standing in the cold waiting for things to open. I imagine the kids would be cranky and cold and not the romantic Christmas welcome to the Arctic Circle I’m envisioning.

Rovaniemi Accommodation

We booked in September and by that time many hotels that were in our price range were booked out.  Visit Rovaniemi has some pretty cool looking accommodation that is worth checking out.  We booked Airbnb which has its benefits when travelling with kids.  Check out my top tips on landing the best Airbnb for your family.

The Lapland Experience

This Irish Family Goes to Lapland

©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

As you can imagine we are in the thick of narrowing down and planning how we will spend our time in Rovaniemi.

We of course will see the main man himself at Santa Village and visit Santa Park as well.

The kids are looking forward to all the outdoor activities and getting up close with some reindeer.  Even though ThisIrishDog is a husky they have their heart set on a fast paced ride through a winter wonderland pulled by huskies.

ThisIrishDad and I nearly went for a Northern Lights Cruise for our honeymoon.  Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on our bucket list and we CANNOT WAIT!

The more I read about Rovaniemi the more and more I want to do.  I can’t wait to check out some of the local cultural activities on offer!

The kind people at Visit Rovaniemi have been helping us develop our itinerary and we are so appreciative of all they have offered us.  Full reviews on everything we do coming once we



A Day in Helsinki

The overnight train arrives in Helsinki too late to catch the flight back to Dublin that morning.  Perfect excuse to spend a day exploring!  I’ll let you know how we spend our time.  We used to find accommodation close to the airport with free shuttle service for our early flight.

Don’t want to visit Helsinki? Norwegian has direct flights to Rovaniemi from Gatwick Airport. The fights from Cork meant an overnight in London for little savings so we’re taking in Helsinki while we can!

This Irish Family goes to LaplandOther essentials..

Well, it is the Arctic Circle so it’s cold!!! I’ve been stocking up on thermals and tights and all kinds of layers for all of us.  Lidl, Aldi and all have offers on winter gear. The kids and I hit Lidl last week at opening time and got everything we needed for all of us.


After much debate we told the kids last week and I am so glad we did.  They are buzzing with excitement and the build up is exciting.  We’ve gone from episodes of Fuller House and RescueBots to the VisitRovaniemi YouTube Channel in the house!

Cost so far:

Total costs are for 2 adults & 2 kids (ages 7 and 4) for 5 nights.

  • Dublin-Helsinki flights €600
  • overnight train Helsinki – Rovaniemi return €236
  • 2 nights Airbnb Rovaniemi €320
  • 1 night Helsinki hotel €169

Total Spent so far: €1,325

*quoted price for 1 night trip for family of 4 from Dublin to Rovaniemi by local travel agent similar date : €2500 +


If you’ve been to Rovaniemi drop us a comment and tell us your best memory.  If you haven’t been and want to visit stay tuned and we’ll help you start planning!

Family Travel

40 Nights Before Turning 40

I turn 40 next July.

Technically since turning 39 I am in my 40th year already.  I haven’t decided how I feel about that.  I expect all those turning 40 emotions will come, but right now I’m feeling like it’s certainly time to embrace life.  So to help me with that, I’ve set a goal for myself.  Something that I hope is just the right amount of aspiration yet attainable.

Before my 40th birthday I aim to spend 40 nights away from home.

40 nights of travel, near, far, wherever but 40 nights.

As an expat, travel has long been a priority for me. Over the past few years  kids/house buy-ing/life put travel to the back burner  – and I’ve missed it.

Not only me –  the idea of spending more time travelling has been a hot topic in our house lately.

bucket list family Recently the kids have become obsessed inspired from watching The Bucket List Family on YouTube.  We’ve had several family discussions on why we are deciding to NOT sell the house and travel around the world.  Nevertheless, The Bucket List Family  travel videos are a family favourite.  The kids love the adventures they go on and we can 100% get behind the commitment to culture and service they stand for. If you want check them out go here.

(Just so you know- we have in no way benefited from recommending The Bucket List Family – they don’t even know us –  except for that one time they reposted our IG story – my kids most definitely thinks we’re all besties now though! )

While we’re not selling up anytime soon to travel the world we are trying to re-prioritize  and save to travel more.

During the past few trips I’ve noticed how easy it is to travel with ThisIrishGirl and ThisIrishBoy.  They are at a great age (5 and 7) and are travel pros. Seriously, they cope way better thanThisIrishDad and I do when travel doesn’t go as planned.  (I win the family award for hangriest when travelling.)

ThisIrishGirl has been in more countries before here 8th birthday than I had been in on my 25th.

ThisIrishBoy took his first international flight before he was 10 weeks old.

Travelling has been a part of their lives from the beginning and there so many reasons why we love to travel –

  • Interacting with people of differing culture leads to learning to be more open-minded and tolerant. We definitely want to raise open-minded and tolerant kids.
  • Travelling pushes you outside your comfort zone. What better way is there to teach bravery to us all?
  • Quality family time – Being an expat means travel is required for family time.  If we want to see half the family  someone has to get on a plane. While it’s a different kind of travel going to visit family it in some ways is the best kind of travel.
  • Travel encourages the kids to grow together in their own relationships with each other. When we were in Lapland last year I found myself consciously aware of the need to nurture the relationship between ThisIrishBoy and ThisIrishGirl.  It is so important that  their relationship has a strong foundation before they become adults.  When we travel together they are have more unique shared experiences to help build that foundation.  They encourage each other to try new things and lean on each other during the unpredictable travel mishaps.  They are each other’s best friend.
  • Travelling teaches me about me.  I’ve discovered that learning how I react to new experiences and trying new things has taught me a lot about myself.  Sometimes I honestly think most of what I know about myself I learned when travelling.  Travel allows me to take a  break from ‘the business of life.’  I always find myself re-evaluating and reflecting when travelling whether it’s a car journey or a long haul flight away.

For all those reasons above and countless more I’m committing to traveling more in the final year of my 30s.

While we would certainly love to sell up and travel around the world that isn’t our goal; some of our travel may be small road trips and hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to include longer excursions, but for 40 nights this year I will be lying in bed away from home no doubt learning, reflecting, making memories and nourishing relationships.

Stay tuned and follow along over the next year.

Family Life

Making Magic in Rovanemi, Finland

matching christmas pyjamas

There are a few places on Earth that can be identified as truly magical!  Rovaenemi, Finland is most definitely one of those places.

Santa’s home town has to be the place where the most Christmas magic is found!!

Our first trip to Lapland was December 2017 and it was pure magic.   Between visits to Santa’s Village and Santa Park we discovered ways to make even more magical memories for our family.

Matching Christmas PJs

matching christmas pyjamas

Believe Christmas Pyjamas!

Before leaving Bruno (our Elf on the shelf)  left the entire family matching Christmas PJs!!!  Since we were taking the overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaeinimi these were perfect additions to our trip!  Being last minute as I usually am we ordered ours from Pat Pat but  if you plan ahead Ali Express definitely does family matching Christmas pyjamas and jumpers.

Sledding in Rovaniemi

Snow is such an important part of the magic  Rovaniemi has to offer.  Growing up in Upstate NY snow play was a huge part of my childhood.

Snowplay when in Lapland is an absolute must!!

We threw countless snowballs, made a choir of lapland sledssnow angels and the kids spent more time in sleds than walking.

One of our best Lapland experiences  was sledding in Rovaniemi.  No frills – nothing extravagant just sledding down a local hill In Rovaniemi.  Behind the Angry Birds Park (which we was covered in snow) there is a hill that goes down towards the river.  Grab some sleds (available cheaply at most shops) and spend a few hours racing down the hill and falling off sleds together.  Whether you plan to ski or not the entire family needs snow gear for Lapland or you won’t be able to truly enjoy the snow.  We got ALL of ours from Lidl and it was perfect!  We were actually too warm a few times so dress in layers!

Embrace the Magic

lapland magicIf you are looking for a laid back holiday where the kids entertain themselves while you lounge with a book or a beer I wouldn’t recommend Lapland.   Don’t get me wrong WE LOVE those types of holidays too but Lapland isn’t one of them.  Lapland is a holiday where the whole family can be a kid again.  Whether its skiing or sitting on Santa’s lap embrace it and participate….

 Throw snow balls –
Ask Santa for something special this year –
Whisper to reindeers and hug huskys.

One of our best Lapland memories was when ThisIrishGirl was sitting on the floor in Santa Park patiently waiting for ThisIrishBoy to get his snow gear on.  It wasn’t too long before two elves sat down on the floor next to her and we were all laughing together.  It’s not every day you get a casual conversation with one of Santa’s elves and its a memory that we all cherish.

Want to learn more about our trip to Lapland and how to do it yourself? Check out our posts here.

Disclaimer *** VisitRovaniemi kindly provided us with free entry into Santa Park and some.   We were was not asked to write this review.  As always all views are our own regardless of paid or gifted.