There has probably been continuous settlement in the Rovaniemi area since the Stone Age. Periodic clearance of new land for agriculture and the practice of slash-and-burn cultivation began around 750–530 B.C. Artifacts found in the area suggest that an increasing number of travelers from Karelia in the east, Häme in the south and the Arctic Ocean coast in the north. The Sami are considered to be Lapland's own indigenous population.
It is first mentioned by name in official documents in 1453, existing effectively as a set of small villages whose inhabitants earned their living mainly in agriculture and animal husbandry - with fishing and hunting.
The exploitation of Lapland's natural resources in the 1800s boosted Rovaniemi's growth. Extensive logging sites attracted thousands of people to Lapland. Rovaniemi became the business center of the province of Lapland.
In the past few decades Rovaniemi has grown into a busy and active town. The population of Rovaniemi is over 61 000. Three percent of the population earn their living from primary production, 13 percent from processing and construction. The vast majority of more than 80 percent is employed by service sector.
Rovaniemi is the educational centre of Lapland and there are two universities located in Rovaniemi. The University of Lapland is the northernmost university in Finland and in the European Union. Lapland University for Applied Sciences has its home base in Rovaniemi.
Rovaniemi forms a unique combination of town services and surrounding Lappish nature. The main attractions in Rovaniemi are the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus, Santa Claus Village, Santapark, Ounasvaara Sports and Skiing Centre, science centres Arktikum and Pilke and Korundi – House of Culture.
Tourism has grown strongly in Rovaniemi region since the nineties. Approximately 400 000 tourists visit Rovaniemi each year. The unique location of Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle has attracted visitors from all over the world and almost 60 percent of the visitors come from abroad.
Welcome to Rovaniemi!