The old city of Hameenlinna, Finland, 65 mi/100 km north of Helsinki, is the birthplace of Jean Sibelius, the great Finnish composer. Its star attraction is Hame Castle (built in the 13th century and used as a prison until 1953), where puppet shows, music and fairy tales are presented for children every August (open year-round). The observation tower at the nearby Aulanko landscaped park offers a glorious, classic Finnish lakeland view: If you do not have time to explore Finland's endless lakes, this panorama provides a good sampler.

Other attractions in town include a historical museum (displays of peasant culture), a tank museum (displays of World War II military vehicles) and an art museum (rather mediocre). Sibelius' childhood home is interesting—even to those who are not music buffs. In the nearby rural district of Hattula, you'll find the Hattula Church (circa 1320), a good example of Gothic brick architecture, with frescoes, wooden statues and paintings from the early 16th century. Skiers will find good cross-country terrain and ski lodges in the area in winter.

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