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Jyväskylä is a major city in the Lakeland area, 3 hours north of Helsinki.
If you are exploring southern and middle Finland, visiting Jyväskylä will be one of the highlights of your trip! It’s a city that all Finns love.
Jyväskylä is even more special to me as it is my old hometown. It’s where I met my best friend on the first day of high school, became (somewhat) adult, started dating… This city gave me the confidence to be me!
From the bottom of my heart, I’ve written this guide to give you the best pieces and a local’s view of Jyväskylä. I’ll tell you the little inside things and show 10 charming Jyväskylä things to do, self-guided.
Now, about budgeting your time: spending two days in this city allows you to have an active but calm itinerary.
Might be just me, but I love leaving a little bit of space to do exciting things extempore or just taking a nap. That’s the perfect holiday mode for me.
If you are in a hurry, you can squeeze visiting Jyväskylä in one day.
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Here’s what this post will cover! I’ll introduce you to three areas: the buzzing city center, cool Lutakko harbor, and cultural uptown. Each plays an essential role in Jyväskylä’s identity and I’ll tell you my best tips about what to do, where to stay and where to eat! Let’s go!
Table of Contents
Every city has its vibe. Here are the things that stand out in Jyväskylä:
- People with smiles. Okay, now I sound like an Asia tourist pamphlet but hear me out. The customer service in this town is phenomenal (dare I say probably the best in Finland!).
- There are a lot of cyclists. Jyväskylä is kind of like the Amsterdam of Finland. Without the canals. Oh, and without the window shopping!
- The young energy is everywhere. There are vegan places, young entrepreneurs, a part of the main street (Kauppakatu) is an urban container garden, etc. Actually, out of the city’s population of 140 000, every third person is here to study. One reason for this is the prominent Jyväskylä University.
- Lastly, the touch of Alvar Aalto, the world-famous Finnish architect and designer, is everywhere. Aalto has designed many buildings in Jyväskylä. Read my detailed itinerary for the enchanting Alvar Aalto sites here.
Lutakko Harbor in Jyväskylä
The lake harbor is a five-minute walk away from the city center, situated just before the Kuokkala Bridge. This bridge is a symbol of Jyväskylä and beautifully illuminated. Stroll the beach walk all the way to see the hanging art below the bridge.
- A local’s tip: The small parking lot near the Kuokkala bridge offers two hours of parking time free of charge with the parking disc while the big parking area at the harbor comes with a fee.
The summer restaurant Morton is a lovely Scandi chic oasis made of containers. The bubbly clientele clearly enjoys their burger dishes while having fun and watching the view over the Jyväsjärvi lake.
I have eaten here a couple of times now and their burgers have never failed me. The menu is compact and includes a lot of vegetarian options too. Morton is open until late autumn but closed during the winter months.
There’s a lakeshore path called Rantaraitti circulating the beautiful Jyväsjävi lake. The full circle is around 13 km.
- A quick workout: I often run a smaller loop which starts and ends at the harbor. If you’d like to try it, start your run from restaurant Morton, going away from the harbor, just following the lakefront walking path. You’ll run towards the university buildings of Mattilanniemi and Ylistönrinne, crossing a tiny bridge and continuing your way on the other side of the lake. Lastly, you’ll run over the Kuokkala bridge. This route is 6 km.
If you’d like to stay near the harbor, Sokos hotel Paviljonki is an awesome, award-winning hotel near-by.
Jyväskylä City Center
Jyväskylä city center is hilly. It’s uphill from the shopping centers of the city to the university.
Harbor is just a short stroll away from Jyväskylä city center. Explore the center by walking criss-cross.
The heart of the downtown is the Compass-square. We Finns are literal, so yes, there’s a large compass on the street. That is a popular meeting point.
In downtown, you’ll see a yellow Jugend building with the Finnish words “Jyväskylän Lyseon Lukio.” That’s the oldest Finnish language grammar school in the world (‘in Finland’ doesn’t sound quite dramatic enough). Its pupils include Alvar Aalto and, errr, me.
Miriam’s at downtown, packed with locals, has mouth-watering lunch salads.
When you start your journey uphill towards university, you’ll pass the red-bricked Jyväskylä Town Church (address: Kirkkopuisto). The church park is a local’s hang out place on warm summer days.
This church a very popular wedding church and if you pass it by on a Saturday, you might get a sneak peek into a Finnish wedding.
If you are interested in Finnish cultural history and craftwork, you’ll love the Craft Museum of Finland (Suomen käsityön museo) and National Costume Centre (Suomen kansallispukukeskus) displaying amazing collection of Finnish and Karelian traditional dresses. Both museums are across the church at Kauppakatu 25.
As for unique and adorable shopping ideas, Toivola Old Courtyard is a must! Toivola is a collection of colorful wooden houses with cute cafes and artisan shops. You are bound to find a personal Finnish souvenir here!
Harjun Paperi is a sweet card & paper shop since 1954 that still looks pretty much the same as it was when it opened. This old-school paper shop is still the place to come to find the perfect card for any occasion.
Harmooni is one of my favorite places to have a romantic dinner with hubby. This restaurant specializes in local products they choose with love. The tasting plate is a must! Their cozy red-brick cellar is perfect for the wintertime and the beautiful summer terrace is a dream on a hot day.
There’s a clear uphill when you walk from the city center to the university.
That’s why things are referred to be uptown (in Finnish: yläkaupunki) or downtown (in Finnish: alakaupunki) in Jyväskylä. A local knows that uptown is somewhere close to the university. Downtown means the more commercial pedestrian district.
The Local Culture Hostel is a boutique hostel in an old crown granary built in 1851. The Local Culture lives up to its name and tells stories about Jyväskylä and Finland thus inviting the traveler to explore the Finnish lifestyle.
The two young owners are keen travelers and drew inspiration out of their hostel experiences to create the perfect hostel stay. The vibe of this hostel is incredibly fun and friendly. It feels like I’m visiting my best friend.
The practical details include firm beds, quality beddings, a shelf over the bed for small things and a wall plug next to it. The hostel also has private bedrooms for couples.
For me, the streets and parks below the university area are the prettiest in Jyväskylä. Especially the “Alvar Aallon katu”-street which allows pretty views to private gardens and homes.
There lies also the astonishing Teeleidi Tea Room, another must when you are in town!
This tea room takes up an entire wooden villa by Lars Sonck, a famous Finnish architect. His other works include President’s Summer Residence (in Finnish: Kultaranta) and famous churches in Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere.
The scones at Teeleidi are divine. And the tea, unbelievable! My favorite is the one with a taste of strawberries and cream. Come with a book and spend the whole afternoon in the garden.
How to Get to Jyväskylä?
Jyväskylä is easy to reach. It is a major city and has excellent bus, train and flight connections.
There are daily flights from Helsinki to Jyväskylä airport which is 25 minutes from the Jyväskylä city center. The bus from Helsinki to Jyväskylä takes around 3,5 hours to 4 hours. It is the cheapest option, often less than 20 euros per ticket.
The train from Helsinki to Jyväskylä takes roughly the same time. The ticket price is around 40 euros. The bus and train arrive and depart right at the city center in both cities, so they are very convenient.
By car, it is a three hours drive from Helsinki.
- Travel tip by car: Add an extra 20 minutes to your schedule, skip the motorway and drive the insanely gorgeous route from Korpilahti to Asiakkala. This scenic countryside road goes through bridges and ridges over Päijänne lake. You won’t believe how beautiful it is!
Finally, the question you have been wondering the whole post. How on earth should you pronounce ‘Jyväskylä’?
I know, the name looks like a Finnish lake monster. Fear not, here’s how to say it like a local.
Are you going to visit Jyväskylä? Is there something else you would like to know about this Finnish Lakeland pearl? Let me know and comment below!
Looking for more city destinations in Finland? Check these other posts:
Warm wishes from Finland,