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Kuopio, Savo, Finland

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Kuopio is the capital of Savo province in Finland and according to local mythology it is also the centre of the Universe. To be more exact, the centre is in the market place. The city was founded in 1775 and currently has about 86,500 inhabitants. Kuopio is located on a beautiful peninsula in lake Kallavesi and the tourist information office next to city hall has plenty of information on the town and the surrounding area.

Kuopio can be reached by train (5-6 hours from Helsinki), by car, bus or plane. If you are not in a hurry, a good way to get there is by boat from Savonlinna. It takes all day, but the scenery is well worth it. M/S Puijo, a liner, makes the trip three times a week and the sailing season lasts from early June to mid-August.

Accommodation and food are not the cheapest in the world and seem reasonably priced only to people that live in, or have just visited, Norway1. Accommodation can be found through the Kuopio Tourist Board. The Hermannin salit (hostel) is within walking distance from city centre, the Rauhalahti hostel is 10-15 minutes by bus and Puijon maja (hostel) is 10 minutes by bus from the city centre. Rauhalahti has a well-equipped camping area.

The food question can be answered with pizza, but avoid the overpriced Kotipitsa and Rosso. Instead, step into one of the smaller establishments operated by immigrants where for 4-5 Euros you can fill your stomach nicely. Another option is to go to the university and use the student restaurants. Lunch costs around 4-5 Euros, but the quality varies. If you're curious enough, try kalakukko which is dark bread with small fish (muikku) and fat. Kalakukko can be obtained from the market place every day of the week. The Restaurant Sampo on Kauppakatu specialises in different dishes made out of muikku and is not too expensive and well worth a visit.

Must-visit places in Kuopio include Korttelimuseo, Puijo hill, Matkustajasatama and Väinölänniemi. Korttelimuseo is in the city centre and showcases typical buildings and interiors from days gone by and has very nice café, too.

Puijo hill rises 150 metres from Kallavesi and has a very nice view from its 80-metre high tower. The distance from the market place to the hill is two kilometres and it is mostly uphill, so take the bus or be prepared to sweat.

Matkustajasatama (passenger harbour) has a few old warehouses transformed into restaurants/pubs and, of course, it's the place where boats depart. Two-hour cruises take you for a small tour of Finnish lakeland at its best. There is no Duty Free or disco, but it's a pleasure nonetheless.

Väinölänniemi has the city's best beach and can be crowded if the weather is good, but there is always room for one or two more. Other places of interest? Just walk around and take in the beautiful wooden houses here and there and compare them with the horrors designed by architects of later times.

1Norway has the reputation for seeming exceptionally expensive to tourists!

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