Linnanmäki

Linnanmäki

Helsinki, Finland

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“Wonderful Scandinavian amusement park, home to one of Europe’s best roller coasters”

Northern Europe has a rich tradition when it comes to urban amusement parks. Copenhagen is home to the famous Tivoli Gardens, in Göteborg you’ll find the widely acclaimed Liseberg and Stockholm is the place to be for ultra-compact amusement park perfection. The phenomenon also exists in Finland: Tampere is home to Särkänniemi and a visit to Linnanmäki shouldn’t be missed if you’re travelling to Helsinki. The fact that Linnanmäki is home to one the continent’s best roller coasters, makes things even more interesting.


ROLLER COASTERS

The park’s highlight is undoubtedly Taiga, an Intamin Blitz Coaster. It replaced a water roller coaster called Vonkaputous and it premiered on 18 June 2019. With its track length of 1,100 metres, its top speed of 110 km/h and its four inversions, Taiga looks nothing less than impressive. And the ride does not disappoint… at all! This really is coaster perfection from the highest level. Taiga feels like it’s the looping version of Phantasialand’s famous Taron, which is a huge compliment. My favorite elements are a perfectly executed stall (a moment where I experience total weightlessness), a powerful airtime hill and the final inversion: a very surprising in-line twist. There’s a noticeable vibration towards the back of the train, but my ride in the third row is close to perfection. According to a United Nations research, Finns are the happiest people in the world. And thanks to Taiga, I’m starting to understand why.

Taiga is the best roller coaster at Linnanmäki. Yet, this Finnish amusement park offers a lot more: there are many family attractions, a large number of flat rides and a total of eight roller coasters. Unfortunately, not all of them are equally fascinating. Taiga’s neighbour, for example, is one of Europe’s most uninteresting coasters. I’m talking about Kirnu, an Intamin ZacSpin. It looks like a funfair ride and honestly… it also feels like one. I rode it in 2015 and I found the experience so meaningless that I’m definitely not riding it today. Thank you, next.

I shouldn’t look too far to find that next roller coaster. Indoor coaster Linnunrata eXtra is located just a few steps further. It’s integrated in a circular brick building right in the middle of the park. That structure is quite big, but please don’t expect a big coaster on the inside. With a track length of 300 metres and a height of 7 metres, it’s nothing more than a simple family ride. Still, I love the queue’s retro space theme and it’s possible to make the ride experience more intense with VR glasses. I’m not a fan of virtual reality in amusement parks, but in this case it’s okay.

It’s a beautiful summer day in Southern Finland. The sky is blue and the temperature of 22°C is just perfect for an amusement park visit. That’s a huge difference compared to my previous visit, which was dominated by cool and rainy weather. Besides, it was so windy that the 46-metre tall Ukko had to be closed during the afternoon. As a result, this SkyLoop was still missing on my coaster counter, but that’s about to change today. The wait time is less than ten minutes and I’m happy about that. After all, I wouldn’t want to spend a longer wait on this ride. Although Ukko is a little less shaky than the version I did at Dreamworld, it remains a very moderate experience. This is actually just a giant swing that happens to contain an unpleasant vertical lift hill and two inversions. Not worth a 60-minute queue, that’s for sure.

Let’s continue with a ride on Vuoristorata. The name sounds exotic, but actually it’s just the Finnish translation of the word roller coaster. It has been there since 1951, making it the oldest coaster at Linnanmäki by a large margin. Besides, Vuoristorata is one of the few remaining coasters on this planet where the brakes are not installed on the rails, but underneath the train. That is why there’s a staff member seated in every train (the brake-man) to operate the brakes manually. Therefore, no ride is completely the same. I remember a quite boring ride in 2015, but today I experience great airtime in the back row. Vuoristorata may not be the world’s most spectacular roller coaster, but I enjoyed this ride with my whole heart. Historical coaster rides are fantastic.

Tivoli Gröna Lund and Phantasialand are known as the most compact amusement parks in Europe, but Linnanmäki also makes perfect use of its limited surface. Many attractions were built above one another. A good example is Salama, which is entirely built above the park’s rapid river. Salama is a spinning coaster and I remember that I loved it back in 2015. That’s why I defy the wait time of 20 minutes (the longest of the whole day, except for Taiga) and take a seat in a bright pink vehicle. I then realize that my memory hasn’t fooled me: what a nice roller coaster! Salama is not super tall or fast, but it runs incredibly smoothly and it’s surprisingly disorienting.

Vuoristorata and Salama are undoubtedly the best family roller coasters at Linnanmäki. The two remaining coasters are a whole lot less fascinating. Pikajuna is a slow, simple powered coaster and the nearby Tulireki performs even worse. This ride has a similar colour scheme as Taiga, which is right next to it. This makes it somewhat difficult to see which blue tracks belong to which coaster. During the ride, however, it is very simple to feel the difference. Are you riding a fast and smooth roller coaster? Then you’re riding Taiga. But do you find yourself in a shaky, terribly unpleasant experience? Then you’re probably riding Tulireki. I have no idea what went wrong when Mack invented this roller coaster type, but the designer should be fired immediately.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The skyline of Linnanmäki isn’t only filled with roller coasters, but also with flat rides and towers. The most striking examples are a panorama tower (this one can be visited completely free of charge, by the way), a 75-metre tall free fall tower, a classic Enterprise and the Ferris wheel, which offers impressive views of Taiga. Water ride lovers should’t miss the rapid river, but you’d better be warned: it’s a soaking wet experience.

TICKET OPTIONS

You can enter the park for free (that’s not exceptional in Scandinavia) and a few small-scaled family rides are free of charge, but you’ll have to pay for everything else. The cost for a Ranneke – a wristband that allows unlimited access to the rides for one day – was 42 euros in 2019. That’s normal by European standards and besides, it’s definitely the cheapest option if you want to ride multiple attractions. Single ride tickets are also available, but these are quite pricey.

By the way: Linnanmäki also offered a front-of-the-line option for Taiga during my visit. It was expensive, but it granted immediate access to the coaster and guests even got to choose their own seats.

WORTH A VISIT?

Linnanmäki has surprised me in a very pleasant way. During my previous visit, I found Linnanmäki an average park. The bad weather undoubtedly influenced that mediocre experience. However, under today’s bright summer sun, the park performed remarkably better. There is a wide array of attractions for every age group, the food and beverage department is doing a great job and I enjoy the overall atmosphere in the park. Besides, I’d like to give an extra compliment to the staff members, who are exceptionally sweet and helpful. This all plays an important role in my positive feeling, but Taiga remains the star of the day. If you asked me what attraction was still missing during my previous visit, I would’ve answered ‘a thrilling roller coaster’. The fact that this thrilling machine is actually there today, is absolutely amazing.

I’ve never considered Linnanmäki as a fascinating place, but times have changed. Nowadays, it’s right on par with those other urban amusement parks in Northern Europe. So tell me… when can I go back?

DEFUNCT EXPERIENCES

LINNANMÄKI

Is Taiga underrated? Or overrated? Am I the only one who gets ecstatic while riding a roller coaster classic like Vuoristorata? And what make Scandinavian city theme parks so unique? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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