Varkaus – industrial history, Lake Saimaa waterways and caviar

Lake Saimaa waterways that extend to the city centre, a lush natural environment and many destinations offer holidaymakers many opportunities in the Varkaus region. Specialties include the city’s own caviar and sturgeon delicacies as well as the home of amazing instruments, the Museum of Mechanical Music.

Renowned building planners, including Ivar and Valter Thomé, Karl Lindahl and Alvar Aalto, were responsible for the urban landscape of the city of Varkaus in the first half of the twentieth century. The city built around industry has a unique architecture. This rich cultural history is presented by the museums of Varkaus and the online exhibits of the museums and by a walking tour of Vanha Varkaus (Old Varkaus).

If you want to admire the lakeland scenery, there are tours on an electric and steam ship or you can take a trip on a canoe. Fishing is possible in the middle of the city in Pirtinvirta waterway or in the extensive 3 000 hectare fishing area nearby. The Linnansaari and Kolovesi national parks nearby are paradises for boaters, and are also home to the famous Saimaa ringed seal. Watch the canal locks operating in the canal district of Taipale and learn stories about the construction of the canal in the Canal Museum.

Alvar Aalto’s industrial landscape in Varkaus

In Varkaus, you can get to know an old industrial town where Alvar Aalto’s influence is still vivid. He started as the designer of the Varkaus Mills in the mid-1930s and continued in this role for about 10 years. There were also a number of plans that never materialised. You will also see other old building history of Varkaus, enjoy the natural environment in the Lake Saimaa waterways and savour food indigenous of the Savo region.

Alvar Aalto, a trailblazer in functionalism, used his design to achieve a more progressive and equal society. In the 1940s, he assumed post-war reconstruction and its sensible implementation as his other key objectives. In Varkaus, Aalto drew up designs ranging from industrial buildings and town plans to the homes of ordinary people. The Varkaus house factory manufactured hundreds of standardised houses designed by him. These were erected in all parts of Finland.

The bicentennial industrial history of Varkaus is evident in the appearance of the town. Over the years, Varkaus has been the host of successful iron and engineering works, shipyards, sawmills, wood-processing plants and paper mills. The Varkaus of today is also renowned for its expertise in energy technology.

Part of the former industrial area has been converted into a modern fishery centre. Varkaus is able to offer rainbow trout, sturgeon and caviar grown in an environmentally benign manner in the waters of Lake Saimaa.

Industrial history is supplemented by the Museum of Mechanical Music, which presents the international history of mechanical music from the 19th century to the present day.

A.Ahlström Corporation Saw Mill designed by Aalto was built in 1948 and demolished in the 1970’s. Photo: Alvar Aalto Foundation

House factory in Varkaus produced houses designed by Alvar Aalto all over Finland. Photo: Alvar Aalto Foundation

In Varkaus, Aalto drew up designs ranging from industrial buildings and town plans to the homes of ordinary people. The Varkaus house factory manufactured hundreds of standardised houses designed by him. These were erected in all parts of Finland.
Varkaus Paper Mill photo Timo Heinonen
Different industrial buildings in Varkaus play a key part in the areas cultural heritage. Photo: Timo Heinonen
House factory in Varkaus produced houses all over Finland
House factory in Varkaus produced houses designed by Alvar Aalto all over Finland. Photo: Alvar Aalto Foundation
Carelian Caviar in Varkaus
Caviar is one of the local specialties in Varkaus.

Destination on the map

1. Varkaus – industrial history, Lake Saimaa waterways and caviar

Information for visitors

Good to know

Arriving to Varkaus

Varkaus is located approximately 320 kilometres away from Helsinki. From Helsinki you can either take a Matkahuolto bus, Onnibus or a train. When in Varkaus you can order a taxi from number +358 100 86 100.

Read more about Varkaus

Read more about the history of Varkaus