Kemi Snow Castle - Atlas Obscura

Kemi Snow Castle

Kemi, Finland

This fantastical icy castle is built anew every winter. 


Less than 100 miles below the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, beauty is fleeting.

Each year, the massive Snow Castle in Kemi is reconstructed in January, only to melt into muddy sludge in the spring sunlight.

The castle was first created in 1995 as a gift from UNICEF, and the tradition has been going strong in the community ever since. In total, it takes over five weeks to build the castle complex, due in large part to the amount of structures that comprise it. Although Finland gets its fair share of snow, builders actually use seawater-converting snow machines to create the powerful material for their snowy medieval fortifications.

Along with the castle walls, which are over twelve feet high, the area also features a hotel, art gallery, and chapel, where some people even come from across the globe to get married. Each portion of the castle is lit with colorful lights that add splendor to the naturally ethereal ice walls. Many artists come to lend their talents to the castle by creating ice sculptures throughout the waterside structure as well.

Situated right on the Bothnian Bay, the castle rises up like a majestic fairytale world in the cold Finnish winter. In many ways, the Snow Castle makes the long, dark northern winters a bit more bearable for the small town of Kemi.

Although the main components of the castle are consistent each winter, the Snow Castle melts in the spring and is constantly built in a new configuration. During the last 15 years, the castle has been anywhere from 13,000-20,000 square meters and has even reached three stories high. Every year is a wonderful and chilly surprise for visitors, even those who have come in the past.

Whether visitors come for an icy wedding reception or a stay in a below-freezing honeymoon suite, the Snow Castle is a fantasy experience that could bring out the inner child in the most cynical of travelers. Just make sure and see it before it melts.

Know Before You Go

Located less than one kilometer from the Kemi city center.

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June 29, 2011

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