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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 16 November, 2022

Built each winter, this icy architectural showcase has become one of Lapland’s – and indeed Finland’s – biggest draws. Designed by a different architect each year, it always includes the castle, a restaurant, wedding chapel and the infamous ‘SnowHotel’. Bedecked with dramatic ice sculpting enhanced by colourful lighting, it’s a unique visual spectacle that will captivate adults and children alike.

The castle contains bedrooms for guests to stay over in; beds made from of ice and room temperatures a chilly 0°C to -5°C. Thick furs and sleeping bags are provided, but one night is usually enough.

There’s also a restaurant (open to anyone) that serves up Finnish cuisine on tables made of ice; choose between a 3-course menu or a simpler menu of soups and pastries. Drinks include fresh juice from pressed local berries, mulled wine or hot chocolate if you need some warming up, and a fully licensed bar. It’s open for lunch and dinner.

While you're there

For a ‘bucket list triple-play’, pair the experience with a trip on the Sampo Icebreaker, getting there by snowmobile.

Also, stop in at the Gemstone Gallery next door, which holds a small but fascinating collection of three thousand rare stones and jewellery items – including King of Finland’s crown.

Price from: £350
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Book ahead for the 200-seat SnowRestaurant. Take warm, layered winter clothing including a hat, gloves and a neck warmer in the winter. The temperature inside is always a chilly -5°C.

You can do the SnowCastle (and the Sampo Icebreaker) in a day trip from Rovaniemi. Take an organised tour, or drive yourself. It’s about 140km (2-hour drive) along a well-maintained highway, and there is plentiful parking on site. Rental cars come with the appropriate tyres – though if the temperature is hovering near zero roads can get icy.

When to do it

The Snow Hotel and restaurant are open from the last week of January to the first week of April. Non-guests can dine daily 10am-6pm.

If you go outside of these months, the resort includes a ‘SnowExperience365’ – an indoor wintry wonderful of ice sculptures and slides that also has an ice restaurant.

Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Sampo Icebreaker

Kemi, Lapland, Finland[1.3 miles]

This retired, 3,500 icebreaker carries guests as it ploughs through the Bothnian icefields. During the tour, daredevils can don a bright-orange puffy rubber survival suit for a float in the icy waters. Complete the experience by snowmobiling back to Kemi for dinner or sleep-over at the Ice Castle.

Best for ages: 6+ | £280 | 3 hours

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