City of Raahe - Finland's Hidden Gem
Updated: Feb 17
There are many towns and cities which excel at only one thing, whether that one thing is industry, preservation of history, or the creation of a hospitable community, but the town of Raahe manages to excel in numerous areas. Located in Northwestern Finland, Raahe is one of only a few "wooden towns" located in Finland, which are municipalities which have managed to maintain their old-style wooden architecture over the centuries.
With a vibrant economy, flourishing civic life, and interesting sights to see, Raahe is a one-of-a-kind place.
A Fascinating History
Founded in 1649 by Per Brahe the Younger, the town of Raahe was designed to be a major trading port in northern Finland and was inhabited by a wide variety of different people, but mostly consisted of ethnic Swedes and Finns. Over the years, the town suffered numerous hardships, such as war, famine, and natural disasters, but managed to persevere through it all, nonetheless.
Many of the buildings were originally designed with novel architectural additions, such as chimneys and weather boarding, which weren't common in Finland at the time. Much of this architecture did not survive, however, as in 1810, a giant fire broke out that destroyed much of the town.
Raahe was then rebuilt according to Renaissance-style grided street plan designed by Gustaf Odenwall. The new plan involved the creation of a new market square, housing that was set far apart for the sake of fire safety, and multi-story buildings were to be eliminated. Many of these buildinated in early 19th Century still stand today and are very well-preserved.
Over time, the town's character changed, with it initially acting as an exceptionally important seaside port, the advent of steam engine technology transformed much of how the town worked. While sea trade still remained a significant part of Raahe's identity, education and industry, specifically steal manufacturing, became a front and center priority for the town's residents, which is a trend that exists to this day.
Abundant Nature and Picturesque Seaside Locales
Located next to the Gulf of Bothnia, Raahe is an incredibly beautiful and stunning place which has largely remained untouched from human civilization. The waters are pure, the air is fresh, and lush, vibrant, yet nonetheless solemn forest can be found in the surrounding countryside. One monument to nature which catches people's attention in particular is the Raahe Archipelago.
A part of the Natura 2000 network, which is a series of nature sights protected by the European Union, the Raahe Archipelago is a unique place with a lot to offer visitors, including fishing and ice-skating, but its most popular feature is birdwatching. Home to a multitude of endangered species, the Raahe archipelago allows visitors to see wildlife they could scarcely see elsewhere.
Visitors can spend several nights on the islands if they want, either by camping or staying in specialized accommodations, or they have the option of seeing the archipelago through chartered boat rides.
Although the islands tend to wow visitors, the Gulf of Bothnia is also quite scenic with its vast open waters. For those looking to take a gander, they can take a ride on the Fiia, one of Raahe's most well-reputed schooners.
Of course, Raahe's reputation as a great place to visit has a lot to do with the town's wooden town status. As there are more than 350 18th Century buildings preserved by the town, there's a lot of history to explore.
Raahe has numerous museums and historical sights to see, with the Sovelius House, Raahe Museum, and Saloinen Museum providing invaluable information on the cultural achievements Raahe's residents have made over the Centuries. For people interested in the more everyday life of Raahe's past townsfolk, the Ojala residence gives insight into the life of the average person. Additionally, there is the Old Pharmacy, where visitors can take a look at the evolution of medical practices and technology.
Raahe also has quite a few iconic works of art and architectural wonders available to see, with a statue of the town's founder, Per Brahe, found in Pekkatori Square, as well as the Pattijoki Stone Bridge, Raahe Church, and Kari Juva Sculpture Park.
Nature and history aren't the only things on offer though, as major events take place in Raahe as well, with music and farmer's markets playing a pivotal role in the town's civic life. In particular, the town hosts a Jazz festival every summer and, in the autumn, there is the Brahe Classica, which hosts classical and folk musicians from across Finland.
A Great Place to Live
Raahe isn't just a great tourist destination, however, it has a lot to offer the people who reside there long-term. With over 25,000 residents, Raahe has both the character of a small town and a little bit of excitement that goes along with living in a busy place. Residents are especially invested in providing the town's children quality resources, with numerous educational projects and public resources being available for them to thrive.
The town's economy is quite diverse and healthy, boating a relatively low unemployment rate, with most activity relating to manufacturing, the service industry, agriculture, and construction.
While not as abundant as it used to be, Raahe also experiences quite a bit of ship traffic every year, to the point where it is Finland's 6th busiest port, so it a good choice for those invested in maritime trade.
Public life is considered incredibly stable, steady, and easy to manage, making it a premier place to avoid the hassle of more tumultuous places, but without feeling too lonely or isolated.
Stopping By for A Visit
Raahe is an incredibly unique place with a lot to offer people who either come to visit or are interested in settling down someplace that doesn't provide too many challenges to everyday living.
Whether it's the rich history, stunning nature, open waters, or decent work life, Raahe has something almost everyone would like, making it a good destination for a diverse panel of people open to new experiences and going on exciting, albeit modest adventures.