|Administrative Province||Province of Lapland|
|Ranked 5th (municipalities), and 1st (cities)|
- Total (01/2006)
7.6 / km²
Rovaniemi (, Roavenjárga and Roavvenjárga, ) is the administrative capital and the centre of commerce of Finland's northernmost Province, Lapland. It is situated close to the Arctic Circle and between the hills of Ounasvaara and Korkalovaara, at the confluence of the Kemijoki River and its tributary, the Ounasjoki River. The city and the surrounding Rovaniemen maalaiskunta (Rural municipality of Rovaniemi) were merged into one on January 1, 2006. The new municipality has an area of 8,016 km² and an approximate population of 60,000. It is one of the largest cities in the world by area - though much of it is covered by forests.
The word Rovaniemi has often been considered to be of Lappish origin, as "roavve" in Sami denotes a forested ridge or hill or the site of an old forest fire. In the dialects of southern Lapland, however, "rova" means a heap of stones, a rock or a group of rocks in a stretch of rapids, or even a sauna stove.
The exploitation of Lapland's natural resources in the 1800s boosted Rovaniemi's growth. Extensive logging sites and gold fever attracted thousands of people to Lapland. As the mining of natural resources was increased, Rovaniemi became the business centre of the Province of Lapland.
In the Lapland War, during the Second World War, approximately 90% of the total property in the town was destroyed by German troops. The rebuilding of Rovaniemi began in 1946. Several public and private buildings designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto have been erected in the town. One example is the Administrative and Cultural Centre, which comprises the City Hall, the Lappia Hall (housing the City Theatre, Orchestra and Congress Hall), and the Provincial Library.
Since Rovaniemi represents the capital of the Province of Lapland, many government institutions have their offices there. About 10,000 of the inhabitants are students. Rovaniemi is home to not only the University of Lapland but also the Rovaniemi Polytechnic (also known as the Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences), which comprises institutes of information and traditional technology, business, health and social care, culinary studies, forestry, rural studies and sports. Local newspapers include the Lapin Kansa, Uusi Rovaniemi and ROI-press.
Rovaniemi is the northernmost point of VR's electric railway system, with direct daytime and overnight passenger trains from Rovaniemi station to Oulu, Tampere, Helsinki and Turku. Diesel-powered passenger trains operate north-east of Rovaniemi to Kemijärvi.
Rovaniemi's most prominent landmarks include the Jätkänkynttilä bridge with its eternal flame over the Kemijoki river, the Arktikum House which rises out of the bank of the Ounasjoki river, the Rovaniemi Town Hall, the Lappia House which serves as a theatre, concert hall and congress centre, and the library. The last three mentioned buildings are by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Claimed to be the residence of Santa Claus, Santa Claus Village and Santapark, is located 8 km north of the centre. Rovaniemi is also home to the world's most northern branch of McDonald's. The Arktikum is a very comprehensive museum of Finland's Arctic region.
Directly across the river from the town is the Ounasvaara ski center. The top of the Ounasvaara hill bears the site of some of the earliest known human settlements in the area.
A phenomenon also attracting numerous tourists is the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. In Finnish Lapland the number of auroral displays can be as high as 200 a year whereas in southern Finland the number is usually fewer than 20.
(figures December 31, 2005)