East or west? Tampere is divided by the 18-metre high rapids of Tammerkoski that run from north to south between lakes Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. Many locals never actually change sides: if you were born on the east side, you might never move across the river. The same is true for the two leading ice hockey teams: if you were born into a family of Tappara supporters, you might never cheer on Ilves. In addition, there are also two slightly competing outdoor grocery markets to choose between – we will return to them a bit later.
The city centre is compact and easy to get to: hundreds of restaurants and special shops, large department stores, hotels, music venues, concert halls, theatres and cinemas are all within walking distance. More than just a commercial centre, the heart of Tampere is also home to tens of thousands of people, while several beautiful parks, restored old factory areas, the banks of the rapids and the many bridges crossing it join together to form a beautiful place. One of the biggest tourist attractions, Särkänniemi fun park with its 168-metre high Näsinneula observation tower, is also located right on the side of the city centre.
In the heart of the old town, massive red brick factory buildings rise directly from the foaming rapids on both sides of Tammerkoski. The renovated Finlayson textiles factory today houses various restaurants, cinemas, businesses and the editorial department of a local newspaper. New blocks of flats complement the area. On the eastern bank of the river, the large Tampella factory area has been converted to create a modern and extremely popular residential area with central boulevards, new blocks of flats and loft flats within renovated factory buildings.
If you like a lake or riverside view, you can choose from many of Tampere’s residential areas. The red brick blocks of flats near the Koskikeskus shopping centre provide one option and the brand-new Ratina area offers a view both to Lake Pyhäjärvi and to the backwaters of lower Tammerkoski. The Laukontori market place is right here and so are several restaurant boats that serve refreshments on the river banks on warm summer evenings. The city’s Central Square is just two blocks away from Laukontori. Most of the local traffic bus lines pass by the square which becomes the venue for a Central European style Christmas market during December.
The railway station used to mark the eastern city limits but times have changed: the emphasis is moving eastwards, partly because the east end of the main Hämeenkatu street has been converted to create a public transport lane and partly because of the increasing appeal of the Tulli commercial area to the east of the railway. Tullintori shopping centre can be found here, along with a new, 88-metre high hotel that combines locomotive halls from the 1870’s with a modern, black skyscraper. The campus of the University of Tampere and conference and concert hall Tampere-talo are right on the side of the Tulli area.
And the other marketplace? That’s called Tammelantori and it is considered by many to be the one and only: here you can still sense the old time marketplace atmosphere. Take a look at the massive red brick Aaltonen shoe factory on one side of the market square; it is a reminder of the times when Tampere was the shoemaking centre of Finland. Once you have bought all the vegetables and flowers you need, why not pull up a chair in the popular market cafe to catch up on gossip, or visit one of the many ethnic restaurants in the vicinity.