Your inside guide to Jyväskylä from the locals! AIESEP 2024

Depending on when you are reading this, we are about 70 days from the launch of the AIESEP 2024 conference in Finland! If you have not yet read the first two blogs about booking travel to Finland and some highlights of Finland you can find blog one here and blog 2 here. You can also listen to a summary of blog one here and blog 2 here on my podcast that discusses research in health and physical education.


Personally, when I am gearing up for travel to a new place I turn on a playlist from that country. So, if you want to get into a Finnish mood you can turn on a playlist that has the Finnish Songs Everyone Should Know! It’s what I listen to when I am feelin’ some Finnish music. It’s almost ALL in Finnish but you get a feel for the type of music that is iconic in the country. If you want to hear what Finnish people listen to in general, here is a TOP 50 Finland list. You’ll hear a lot of ballads and Finnish rap! If you want to listen to the biggest snub in Eurovision history it is here!


So, let’s dive into the host city. Jyväskylä is going to be a fantastic place to be! I’ve already listed several things to do around there in my past blogs (including sauna boats, hiking, and national parks).


The format of this blog is actually to ask for local Jyväskylä region residents about their favorite places. BUT before we get there, let me fill you in on one additional activity in Jyväskylä.

Finnish Baseball: On Friday, May 17th, there is a women’s championship series match of Pesäpallo at the Hippos baseball stadium with Kirittäret playing. So, for Friday evening, there is a great Finnish event if you spend the evening in town. More details to come. Interested in what the sport is? Here is a video summary.


Ok, on to the Jyväskylä suggestions. I asked each JYU scholar to answer the following prompts:

  • If you want a quiet coffee shop
  • If you want to drink beer and wine with a colleague
  • If you want to dance
  • If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner
  • If you need a quick bite in a casual restaurant
  • If you have 2hrs to go for a walk where would you go?
  • What is one “hidden secret” of Jyväskylä?

There will be a range of suggestions, and I am sure you’ll find something in here that clicks for you.


This part is optional: When I plan, I open my GoogleMaps app and “star” or “flag” each of these places. Then download an off-line map for Jyväskylä on the app and when you are in the city and one of our AIESEP family asks if you want to grab some food/drink/coffee you have the local recommendations right in the palm of your hand! Once you do it for a while you end up having spots everywhere!



The first JYU scholar to highlight is Donna, not yet 40 yrs, postdoctoral researcher


  • If you want a quiet coffee shop – Wilhelmiinan konditorio ( The building ‘Nikolainkulma’ provides a splendid setting for a cosy café. In addition to the spacious café area, they have several beautiful private rooms. One of these rooms is a piano room, where customers may come to play the piano. The building has an interesting history predating the café. The building opened its doors as early as 1899. The establishment was constructed by restaurateur Nikolai Wahlgren. The Walhlgren Hotel quickly became the social hub of Jyväskylä. Besides hotel and restaurant operations, the building has housed various businesses over the years. Perhaps the most famous tenant was Alvar Aalto, whose first office, the “Office of Architecture and Monumental Art by Alvar Aalto,” was located in the building from autumn 1923 to spring 1924.

If you are a tea lover, I suggest you visit Teeleidi ( in Lutakko (harbour area nearby)




  • If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner – Harmooni ( ). Harmooni has a laid back atmosphere and it was originally built to be an organ factory. The building is one of Jyväskylä’s landmarks, and a regional conservation site in the art nouveau style. It was renovated with love and respect for traditions for use as a restaurant and accommodation. The Cellar Restaurant serves lunch and, in the evenings, an à la carte menu in a rustic setting unlike any other, with its brick walls, art nouveau colour scheme, and unique art. Harmooni’s world of flavours draws inspiration from the four seasons. The à la carte menu changes throughout the year, featuring the best ingredients from our local producers, offering wild, organic and forest-sourced dishes. Choose from a 5- or 7-course tasting menu, or order dishes from the menu if you wish.


  • If you need a quick bite in a casual restaurant – I would head to Lake Jyväsjärvi and go to Morton (  ) Legendary burgers, salads and for example lovely pancakes served in an actual shipping container!


  • If you have 2hrs to go for a walk where would you go? -A great walk is Harju and Nero stairs ( ). In the summer, local joggers and tourists who come to admire the views meet on the top and the slopes of the Harju. From Harju you can also see physical education lessons from nearby schools, strenuous exercise on the wooden stairs on the Nisula side of the ridge, and in wintertime, even skiing and sledding. On May Day, students have traditionally gathered on the Harju slopes to welcome in the spring. The Nero Stairs that ascend to the top of the ridge are one of Jyväskylä’s more picturesque sights. The robust stairs, whose foot is at the edge of the city centre, were built as an unemployment relief project in 1925. The name of the stairs derives from the municipal engineer of the day, Oskar Nero. Alvar Aalto, Finland’s most internationally renowned architect with a tremendous number of design projects in Jyväskylä, had little appreciation for the Nero Stairs. Aalto was insistent a public sauna of his design should be built at the top. But with or without the sauna, Harju with its clock and its stairs is an important part of the Jyväskylä cityscape.


  • What is one “hidden secret” of Jyväskylä? – Koski ‘whitewater place’ (address: Korkeakoskentie 2-4). It is one of my favourite places; you have water and trees around you, and the sound of white-water is so relaxing. About 15 minutes’ walk from Liikunta building on JYU campus. You are close to everything, but it feels like you are in a secret place.



Arja, 50+, associate professor in sport pedagogy


  • If you want a quiet coffee shop

Valkoinen puu (means: White Tree), it’s a nice and relaxing atmosphere : Jyväskylä | Valkoinen Puu

  • If you want to drink beer and wine with colleagues 

I prefer wine and that’s the reason why I would recommend Venn on Kauppakatu. VENN Jyväskylä |

However, I know my colleagues who are real beer lovers go to Hiisi (this is about 7km from the city center): Etusivu – HIISI

  • If you want to dance… London (in Jyväskylä ) would be THE place
  • If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner
  • Bistro Kirkkopuisto would be my choice, easy access and in heart of the city

Bistro Kirkkopuisto

  • If you need a quick bite in a casual restaurant

I agree with Donna, In the Jyväskylä harbour there is konttiravintola (container restaurant) Morton, the food is great!

  • If you have 2hrs to go for a walk where would you go?

If I would be the city center, I would go the harbour and start my walk around the lake Jyväsjärvi. If I was in Laajavuori, I definitely would walk up to the hill to look the overview of the city.

  • What is one “hidden secret” of Jyväskylä?

Kuokkalan kartano, beautiful environment and a little bit exclusive, this is an old manor that has a restaurant that is a great spot to stop in for a nice dinner or a glass of wine Kuokkalan Kartano – Unique events and dining


Iiris Kolunsarka, 30 yrs, Doctoral researcher


  • If you want a quiet coffee shop – Miriam’s ( Nestled in the heart of Jyväskylä, this enchanting coffee shop is a destination not to be missed. Immerse yourself in a delightful experience where delectable cakes and exceptional savory treats harmonize seamlessly with the rich aroma of high-quality coffee.


  • If you want to drink beer and wine with colleagues – Teerenpeli ( For those in search of a cozy spot to unwind or a delightful treat for the taste buds, Teerenpeli is my go-to recommendation. Dive into the world of brewing, where each craft beer is a masterpiece crafted from local barley and pure Salpausselkä groundwater. This brewery/gastropub has locations in other cities around Finland.


  • If you want to dance – London ( My preferred destination for a sophisticated night out, tailored for an adult experience. Open from Thursday to Sunday, revel in the pleasures of karaoke, live music, and a vibrant dance floor.


  • If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner – Green Egg ( My preferred spot for a nice and casual dinner, fearlessly blends global flavors with their adventurous menu, featuring savory buns, tasty wings, and juicy ribs, all complemented by homemade sauces and side dishes.


  • If you need a quick bite in a casual restaurant – Grilli 21 ( Not just a legend, but a culinary staple in Jyväskylä, Grilli 21 is conveniently located in various spots around town, offering honestly the best fast food in the city. A must-try is the Finnish landmark Taksari, featuring fries with sausage.

Risto’s commentary: “Grilli” is a Finnish staple. The website for this says “life after last call” so, if you go to one of these places late at night, you will find fellow revellers. Be prepared to wait in line if you go late, but a well-timed visit is a great stop. My suggestion is to do a “lihapiirakka” and that is my geographical bias. If you’re feeling brave, just get everything in it and it’ll taste great!



  • What is one “hidden secret” of Jyväskylä? – Viilu ( While not exactly a hidden gem, Viilu is undeniably a place worth visiting. It offers one of the best sauna experiences in Finland, featuring a perfect blend of a hot tub and an ice bath in the lake that makes it truly unique. Remember to reserve your spot for an unforgettable experience! A 2hr pass is around 22Euros.


Kasper, 40+yrs, Associate professor, Sport Pedagogy


  • If you want a quiet coffee shop:

I would probably choose the Aalto2 café ( ), just nearby the university. The name comes from famous architect Alvar Aalto. Nice architecture and most likely it is quite quiet.

  • If you want to drink beer and wine with colleagues:

I would choose Sohwi . Near the university and has a long history almost in the middle of Campus. Also, a possibility to book a separate room from approx. 20 people. If you go on Friday, you most likely can meet many academics having after work beer. If you are hungry, there is good food as well. If it is nice weather, it could be also a good idea to head to harbour and have a beer in some of the boats. In the city, head to Harry’s with good selection of taps.

  • If you want to dance

I would just follow the students, they know the best places to party.


  • If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner

There are a couple of good options, restaurant Figaro , and Pöllöwaari . Also, Restaurant Vesilinna in the hill has good food and nice views as well.


  • If you need a quick bite in a casual restaurant

Finns love different kind of buffets, and one option could be some of the sushi buffets in the city. Quick and good options from sushi to warm foods as well. If you are keen to vegetarian food, head to KasvisKatriina , quite close to the university, but check the opening hours before you head out.

Before heading back home, you may take a sandwich to go from the train station (Picnic) or slice of Pizza (PizzaHut). If you are flying back home from Jyväskylä, it is good to acknowledge that the restaurant in the airport has very limited opening hours (8-14, closed on Saturdays & Sundays). Hence, you might want to take some snacks as well, if you are flying back from Jyväskylä airport.


  • If you have 2hrs to go for a walk where would you go?

Most likely to Laajavuori. Small hill (although it translates to wide mountain), with nice views over the city. Other option might be to go around the lake, there are a couple of options for a longer or shorter routes. Using Komoot App you can find some easy routes to walk.


  • What is one “hidden secret” of Jyväskylä?

Tourujoki Nature Reserve. Small route just nearby the city center. If you need to get some time to relax, this is truly hidden secret almost middle of the city. Good shoes are recommended.


I hope you’ve gotten something out of these recommendations. The next blog will do a similar scope but for Helsinki. I will get some local suggestions also!


See you in Finland!

Picture of Risto Marttinen

Risto Marttinen

Risto Marttinen is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. He earned an Ed.D. from Columbia University Teachers College in 2015. His research revolves around implementing sustainable and educational after-school physical education programs in elementary and middle schools. These programs specialize in sports and fitness in under-served communities while reinforcing character development and academics. Additionally, he conducts research on the integration of academic subjects and technology into PE. Risto also sits on the board of directors and is the Secretary General for AIESEP, the chair for the SIG 93 (the special interest group for PE) for AERA and a past facilitator for the PETE Collab

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AIESEP was founded in Lisbon in 1962, with the intent of bringing together scholars in the field of physical education and sport to share knowledge and engage in quality research.

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