Naantali is a small coastal town near Turku in Finland. The name is a fennicisation of Sw. Nådendal, which in turn stems from the name of a Bridgetine abbey founded there in the 15th century. Vallis Gratia, “Valley of Grace”.
Naantali is best known as a picturesque summer resort of the Turku bourgeoisie in the late 19th century. But increasingly, it has also become associated with the Moomins, Tove Jansson’s magical fantasy characters. A sizeable island right outside town is home to the Moominworld theme park. Today I visited it with my wife and kids.
The kids were reasonably entertained by the park, both the 5-y-o and the 10-y-o pointing out the chipboard labyrinth as the best part. So the visit was far from wasted. But I was disappointed. You see, the Naantali theme park is not designed to recreate the books and their author’s many lovely and quirky illustrations. It doesn’t even go for the comic strip version of the Moomins created by Tove’s brother Lars. We were treated to a homegrown theme-park version of the recent Japanese TV cartoon. What a let-down.
Also, there is not very much to do in the park. No rides. Little interactivity. It’s more a question of walking around and looking at buildings and dioramas, many of them kind of tacky and sad. You can also meet and talk to actors dressed up as Moomin characters, and see them perform short plays every hour.
Good points were the food, which was nice though expensive, and a corner in one shop with Tove Jansson’s books in Swedish plus Finnish and English translations. But the shop was pretty big, and apart from that corner, it was filled with Moomin cartoon merchandise.
Moomin Valley is most emphatically not located in Naantali.