Lahti is an unusual place to visit. With its mentality, local people, and its own city-ways, Lahti is not Finn's favorite place to visit. Some even consider that Lahti has a rough street culture and impolite people. At the same time, Lahti beholds many cultural spots of interest and some of the best museums in the country, as well as atmospheric hidden gems. It appears that everything about this city is discrepant, and different facts about Lahti conflict with each other. Well, what else can you expect from a city that is the youngest of the oldest towns in Finland? Either way, the contradictory nature of Lahti is worth discovering.
Lahti is situated on a lake, and its waterfront is something to see. From one side, you will find a beautiful park with cute small fountains and flowers. Walking through the park, the waterfront meets you with a Lokki restaurant that has a beautiful terrace over the lake. Take a hint - this is the best place in Lahti to catch a sunset.
On the way to another shore, you can walk through Lanu-puisto, a forested park with many interesting statues. There is a road through the hill past the huge artworks, but do not forget to wander around smaller paths since some monuments are well hidden. All the sculptures in Lanu-puisto have an interesting history, many of the original works have been exhibited in Venice and the USA. Also, some of the monuments took inspiration from local people, whose faces and body features are now captured by sculptors in a mighty stone.
On the other shore of the lake, you will find a famous Sibelius Hall, which is an attraction on its own. Its brick walls combined with a modern glass construction share the controversial nature of Lahti. Architecturally Sibelius Hall is worth seeing, and if you can visit some concerts there - you will notice how great the acoustics are.
Right by the Sibelius Hall is the waterfront with many cafes, bars, and restaurants, most of which are on the boats. I like to stroll past them, admiring the views on the distant shores, and take a break in a cafe called Kariranta. Its crystal chandeliers, old-time pictures on the walls, and homelike decor make it a wonderful alternative for boat cafes.
Now that we are talking about cafes, a couple of kilometers north of Sibelius Hall is Ace Cafe. Yes, the one we know from London, a famous place for motorbikers and rockers. If you are also wondering how come the first place to host an Ace Cafe outside Great Britain was Lahti, the owner Riku will tell you the story. If he happens to be in the cafe, he will tell you many fascinating stories about countless celebrity friends of his. I am still thinking of starting motorbiking after hearing from him about his motorcycle tours to visit Che Guevara's son - Ernesto.
Ace Cafe also hosts the only Motorcycle Museum in Finland. It presents an impressive number of motorcycles, including well-known ones and rear exhibits, like an Indian motorcycle you will not see often. The place has a colorful interior and a rock-n-roll spirit and will surely cheer you up even if you are not into motorbikes.
Besides that, Lahti has few other museums that are worth mentioning. The thing about them is that they are not the boring museums you are used to, there are no silent halls with similar paintings. These museums are interactive places where you can take action. For example, you can try a ski jump on a simulator in the Ski Museum or make your own video in the Radio and TV Museum. The last one is my favorite museum in the country: you can discover a room which changes interior as soon as you step from one decade to another. Also, there is a vast video and audio collection where you can watch a beauty contest of 1960 or listen to a conversation between Hitler and Mannerheim that happened in the 1940s. It is one of those rare tapes that captured a natural voice of Hitler, without all the harsh and loud accents in the name of propaganda. And there are tons of valuable recordings like this to discover!
Last but not least, on the way from the city, right by the highway, you can find one more hidden gem of the town: a small Apulandia. It is a cafe and a museum dedicated to the long-famous band Apulanta. Breathing the atmosphere of the 1990's punk-rock, it is a cozy small place where you can learn about the band's history and drink their own coffee blend from an Apulanta cup.
I must admit, Lahti has a contradictory nature. You might meet street gangs, be irritated by noisy drunken culture, and the signs on the streets will ironically remind you not to irritate strangers with your smile. On the other hand, Lahti beholds a romantic waterfront, interactive museums, and beautiful parks, not even mentioning the tons of cultural events held in the Sibelius Hall. However, I would suggest you to visit Lahti, discover all its sides, and make up your mind about the city.
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