Where does Santa live anyway?
From Finland to Norway to Alaska, the home of Santa Claus can make a fun family visit
By Molly Jones
So your little ones want to visit Santa—and not the one with the fake beard at the closest mall. But where exactly does he live? Is it the North Pole? Or Finland? Or maybe even Norway? It turns out that all of these destinations claim to be the home of Santa Claus—or Joulupukki or Julenissen, that is.
Which one you choose to visit (and there are others too!) will of course depend on how far you are willing to travel and how much time you have. For the most immersive and extravagant experience, the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, is likely the way to go. For a quick day trip while in Norway, Julehus in Drøbak, Norway, is a great choice. If your kids are adamant about visiting the “North Pole” or you want to stay a bit closer, be sure to look into the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. Whichever destination you choose, you can be sure you’ll add some magic to your child’s holiday experience!
Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland
The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, is easily the top Santa destination in Scandinavia, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. There’s no doubt that its location all the way north in the snowy Arctic Circle certainly adds to its charm!
At this magical village, you have the opportunity to meet Santa at the Santa Claus Office every day of the year. At the Santa Claus Main Post Office, you can either write your own letters to your friends or order special Santa Claus letters, which are sent before Christmas with a special postmark. At Christmas House you can have your picture taken with the man himself and take a look at a fascinating exhibit on the Christmas traditions of Finland and cultures around the world.
During the winter season, visitors are also invited to travel underneath the Arctic Circle, deep inside the ground, to visit Santa’s home cavern at SantaPark. Here families can spend the day with friendly elves, go to elf school, eat gingerbread cookies, and much more.
Rovaniemi is about 500 miles north of Helsinki, and there are many options to travel between the cities by car, train, or plane. For unique accommodations, check out Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, where you can either sleep in a real igloo made entirely of snow and ice or a luxury modern glass structure offering incredible views of the Arctic sky. Also located right by the village, the Santa Claus Holiday Village offers charming hotel-quality apartments.
Julehus in Drøbak, Norway
In Norway, the legend is that Julenissen was born in Drøbak several hundred years ago. The town, located about 20 miles south of Oslo, is therefore referred to as “The Christmas Town.” In fact, any mail addressed to Julenissen from Norway without any other address is automatically sent to Drøbak. An official nisse traffic sign in the city even warns travelers to “look up for nissen.”
Brought to life by Eva-Irene and Willy Johansen in 1988, Tregaarden’s Julehuset offers everything you could need for Christmas—decorations, candles and candlesticks, tablecloths and napkins, and more—and it is open year round. In the post office, you can buy Christmas cards to send to your friends and family and have them stamped with the special nisse stamp.
In November and December, Santa is available to visit at the tourist office in the main harbor. Here you will also find a permanent exhibit with around 250,000 letters sent to Julenissen from all around the world.
The best part about Norway’s Christmas Town? It’s easy to get to. Just take the Route 500 bus from Oslo and you’ll be there in an hour, making the visit to Julenissen a simple day trip from the capital.Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska
Okay, so it’s not the actual North Pole, but it’s probably as close as you’ll get! In Alaska’s own North Pole, you can visit Santa, meet his team of reindeer, and see the world’s largest Santa—standing proud at 50 feet tall. You can also send personalized postmarked letters from Santa here and shop for all kinds of goodies, from gifts and collectibles to fudge, classic toys, and exclusive merchandise.
The Santa Claus House originally opened as a trading post by Con and Nellie Miller in 1952 and served as the town’s first post office for almost two decades. Over time, canned goods and other necessities were gradually replaced with Christmas merchandise as the destination grew in popularity. Millions of visitors from around the world have visited Santa Claus House, one of the top attractions in Interior Alaska.
Just 15 miles east of Fairbanks, you won’t have any trouble getting to Santa Claus House. Note that while the attraction is normally open all year round, it will be closed from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2018, due to expansion and remodeling. Sounds like next year’s holiday season may be just the right time to check it out!
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784.4617.