When I first arrived in Joensuu, I had to admit that I was surprised by how small the city was. And because my flat was right in the middle of the town, between the university and the city center, my typical days would be just getting on my bike and going to the campus, studying, doing some groceries after school, and heading home. That’s it. As simple and boring as that.
But later on, I discovered that there were quite a few interesting things I could do in this small city. Apart from joining those occasional events, parties and trips held by student associations and other organizations, here I will introduce you to what else you can do once you are in Joensuu, even in the coldest days!
1. Have some coffee at Mokkamaa
This place is a hidden gem right in the center. They have a countless selection of coffee and tea you can choose from. The cozy vibes make Mokkamaa a perfect spot for relaxing and chatting (quietly) with friends. The drinks are also cheaper than many of the coffee shops in town, and they do have a special discount for students.
2. Have some more coffee (again!?) at Jokiasema
My friends once took me to Jokiasema on a sunny day during the springtime and I just fell in love with it. I would recommend you to check the forecast carefully before going so you don’t miss a chance to sit outside and enjoy the perfect weather. And of course, the price is affordable for us students.
3. Grab some drinks at Jetset
This old school bar, Jetset is one of my all-time favorite local bars in Joensuu. It’s normally packed on Fridays and Saturdays, when you may not be able to find empty tables after 11pm. Apart from student-priced beers and ciders they offer, you can also ask for a cup of free coffee and request for songs if you feel like Finnish metal music is a bit too heavy for you.
4. Ice-swimming at Polar Bears
Polar Bears is probably one of the most well-known sauna places among students in Joensuu. It is located quite far away from the center. When it’s too cold to bike, you can still easily travel there by bus. Pay 6 euros for the wristband and stay for the whole day. It is perfect for people who want to try ice-swimming. The basic rules are: warm your body up in the sauna and jump into the half-frozen lake. Just remember not to put your head in the water!
5. Picnic by the church in Papinkatu
Usually around the end of April or the beginning of May, the days get warmer and picnicing is a must. There is a big green area by the church at Papinkatu where everyone is welcome to gather and spend their slow days with family and friends. There is also a small river nearby where you can just sit on the bench and watch it flow. What a way to wash away the stress.
6. Try snowboarding at Mustavaara
(Here comes a Finnish name again, Mustavaara. Luckily, it is read how it is written.) This place is a small ski resort where you can try winter sports including skiing and snowboarding. You can either bring your own equipment or rent the whole set of gear on spot. The fee is quite student-friendly. For example, it is possible to rent the snowboarding gear all for 20 euros. Though not reachable by bus, it’s not a bad idea to share a taxi with friends.
To sum up, the cost of living in Finland might seem higher than some other countries, but there is surely a way to live pleasantly without having to spend much money in this amazing country. Apart from these places I have named above, you can also visit other public places like city libraries, which usually cost you nothing for using their service, and forests, where you can do cross-country skiing in winter, find mushrooms and pick berries in late summer or enjoy the fresh air and sceneries anytime you prefer.
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