Opening ceremony of the Saimaa Food and Culture Tourism Jubilee invites everyone to Lappeenranta, Finland in the beginning of February

PUBLISHED 1/30/2024, 13:59

Karelian pastries and small pine tree branches on a wooden plate.

The Saimaa Gastronomy Jubilee will be celebrated throughout this year in South Savo, North Karelia and South Karelia, Finland. The opening weekend of the Taste Saimaa Jubilee will be from the 2nd until the 4th of February 2024 in Lappeenranta, Finland. All over the city you will find great experiences and events combining culture and food, welcoming you to experience Saimaa with all your senses. 

– The Saimaa Food and Culture Jubilee kicks off with a wide range of events in Lappeenranta, South Carelia. Alongside the international guests, I hope we will all head out to the open events and explore the interesting range of seminars and events offered, such as the local food history tour. Combining food with an event or visitor experience brings added value to both the visitor and the destination and, above all, to businesses in the area, says Mirka Rahman, Director of Tourism, Marketing and Customer Services in the City of Lappeenranta.

A Seminar and an award gala open to everyone on Friday the 2nd

The weekend kicks off on Friday with an open seminar at the Kehruuhuone (at the Fortress of Lappeenranta) featuring speakers such as the Saimaa ERG Project Director Sari Kaasinen, Ambassador Paula Parviainen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IGCAT President Diane Dodd, Professor of Working Life Sami Sykkö from LUT University and food tourism expert Kristiina Adamsson from Haaga-Helia. There will also be international speakers from Catalonia and Sicily.

The opening Finnish section of the seminar will focus on Saimaa with all senses: a delicious union of food, culture and traditions. The theme of the English session is the Power of International Cooperation. The seminar is open to all interested parties and registration is required via the Taste Saimaa website in Finnish: https://www.tastesaimaa.fi/avajaisseminaari

Friday evening will end with the IGCAT International Top Websites for Foodie Travelers 2024 Awards Gala, starting at 18:00. The International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT) annually awards the best websites that offer unique creative, cultural and gastronomic experiences around the world. Due to the limited number of seats, registration for this event is required on the Taste Saimaa website in Finnish: https://www.tastesaimaa.fi/top-websites

A wide range of events across the city

On Saturday the 3rd, restaurants and cafés in Lappeenranta will offer a variety of tastings and Taste Saimaa delicacies. The Talvisatama (the Winter Harbour) event in Lappeenranta harbour offers activities for the whole family, including for instance a snow slide, a dog sled slide and equipment hire. The full Winter Harbour programme is available online in English: https://lappeenranta.fi/en/news/winter-harbour-open-from-27-january-to-2-march-come-and-enjoy-the-snow-slide-dog-sled-rides-ring-sledge-ice-path-and-many-other-activities

Discover Lappeenranta and the city's food history in "A journey through time in the world of flavours" -tour on Sat 3rd of February at 12–13. The tour starts in Lappeenranta harbour and ends at Kauppatori. Tickets (15 euros/person) are sold at the Lappeenranta Tourist Information Centre in IsoKristiina shopping center.

In the afternoon, at 14:00, there will be a concert by the Saimaa Saxophone Collective at Gallery Pihato. The concert is organised by the Dream Year of Culture 2024 which has just started in Lappeenranta and will be celebrated during the Taste Saimaa opening ceremony. More information about the Dream Year of Culture in Lappeenranta can be found in: https://www.lappeenranta.fi/en/culture-and-sports/the-dream-year-of-culture

On Sunday the 4th of February everyone is welcome to join an All Saimaa Jigging event. Lappeenranta harbour will offer a programme from 12–14, with snowshoes and e-fatbikes available for hire. Warm mulled wine and Vyborg pretzels, as well as tasty borscht soup from Karelian chefs, will also be available for the outdoor enthusiasts and fishermen.  

Saimaa attracts international tourists

–  It's great to launch this celebration of all the senses in the Saimaa Region Food Tourism Jubilee together with the Dream Year of Culture in Lappeenranta. We welcome everyone to join us already on the opening weekend to experience and especially taste the flavours of the Jubilee, says Sari Kaasinen the Director of the Saimaa European Region of Gastronomy project.  

–  The food culture of Saimaa is now deservedly in the international spotlight. The food, tourism and cultural operators of the three provinces now have a great opportunity to showcase their skills and give their best to both domestic and foreign tourists – not forgetting the local people.  

This year, Saimaa will also serve as the venue for the international network of gastronomic regions, as guests from all over the world will come to the region for the IGCAT Platform Meeting. 

A jubilee year full of events

Events related to food and culture in the Saimaa region are listed in the dedicated Taste Saimaa events calendar, making it easy for tourists to find out what's offered throughout the year.

On the opening weekend 3rd of February Savonlinna will host a Pop Up restaurant event at the Wanha Station railway yard, including a flea market, various activities, a contemporary circus performance by Sirkus Supiainen and a performance by Jarkko Martikainen at the House of Olaf restaurant.

At the start of the year, for example, there will be a Speak about Pie seminar in Lappeenranta and the Karelian Pie Championship, organised in cooperation with the Karelian Union (from the 22nd to the 23rd of March).

In the summer, the Lappeenranta Art Museum will present the art exhibition Normal Drinks and Our Everyday Bread (from the 1st of June until the 1st of September) and in June the Koko Saimaa Saunoo (The Whole Saimaa goes Sauna) Day (8th of June) is celebrated. Food and culture are combined at the Black and White Theatre Festival in Imatra (from the 26th of July to the 3rd of August), and the autumn will bring sausage-making competitions at the Karelian Sausage Festival in Imatra (7th of September).  

In September, the culinary tradition of Saimaa is celebrated with foreign guests from the European Region of Gastronomy network (from the 9th until the 13th of September). There will also be smaller and more distinctive events throughout the year, such as the Eastern Villa Festival in Nurmes (from the 10th until the 11th of August), the Cranberry Festival in Uukuniemi (14th of October) and the indie music festival Ihmemaa in Sulkava (29th of June).  

Further information:

Sari Kaasinen, Project Director, The Saimaa European Region of Gastronomy Management Project 2023-2025,  040 636 1469,sari.kaasinen@esavo.fi
Rauno Jussila, Communications Specialist, The Saimaa European Region of Gastronomy Management Project 2023-2025, 040 516 3005, rauno.jussila@esavo.fi

For more information on the jubilee: www.tastesaimaa.fi

In 2024, the Saimaa region will be a European centre for food and cultural tourism. The European Region of Gastronomy is an internationally renowned recognition awarded to one or more European regions since 2016. The status is awarded by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Arts, Culture and Tourism. 

The Jubilee Year 2024 is being celebrated through extensive cross-regional cooperation between the regions of South Savo, South Karelia and North Karelia. The Jubilee project is also funded by the cities of the region, the chambers of commerce of all regions, Lake Saimaa Ry, Visit organisations and educational institutions. The Saimaa European Region of Gastronomy Management Project 2023-2025 is managed by the South Savo Regional Council. The aim of the cross-regional cooperation is to make the Saimaa region an internationally attractive tourist destination alongside Lapland and Helsinki, with food and culture as the focus. For more information on the Jubilee, the project and its activities: https://www.tastesaimaa.fi/en