Strong recommendation for day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo, a second oldest city in Finland. Porvoo has beautiful old town with narrow streets and picturesque wooden houses. Just perfect place to stroll around and enjoy feeling of old times. Many small shops around offering handicrafts, antiquities, cloths and toys. Also many pretty and tasty coffees shops, restaurants and bars. There is also a church to visit – old cathedral build in 15th century. Town is so lovely, I got marred there years ago and I always have this really special feeling when visiting!
A week ago I once again visited this lovely town. This time we had lunch in Fryysarinranta – lovely restaurant by the river. We enjoyed fresh summer buffet with different kind of fish and salads. I strongly recommend to taste their fish soup. In Fryysarinranta you can sit on a terrace by the river or inside in old wooden house (middle picture above from there). I also visited Cafe Paahtimo – I had glass of wine in their lovely terrace by the river.
I also recommend you to try Restaurant Meat District – newish restaurant in old lovely building in center of old town. There are many lovely places around and easily found when walking around old town.
How to get to Porvoo? Well, Porvoo is situated 50 kilometers from Helsinki and it is easily reachable by car, bus or even bike or boat. Buses to Porvoo leave in Helsinki from Kamppi terminal and it takes around one hour. Check bus schedule here. If you want to bike, it is good to know that there is biking path for most of the way. However, maybe 15-20 kilometers there is no special biking path but that part is easy and safe to bike as well. Finest way to travel is to take boat Runeberg. Boat takes 3.5 hours and you can enjoy Finnish archipelago while traveling. Finest day you’ll have if you take boat in the morning, then stay in Porvoo as long as you please and in the evening take bus back to Helsinki. Porvoo is a small town so no need to stay over for longer time – day is enough.
ps. There is maybe cutest toy store ever in Porvoo. It is called Riimikko (sign in below picture). Very strong recommendation! You can find Muumi postcards there as well as shown picture below.
Interested in knowing some more about Finnish history? Want to see some amazing frescos and interesting romantic style building? Wanting to buy some Finnish souvenirs? Rainy day and you don’t know what to do with kids? Answer for all these questions is: visit Finnish National Museum! This wonderful museum is located in centre of Helsinki, it is less than 1 kilometre from Railway Station. Address is Mannerheimintie 34. Trams 4, 7A, 7B and 10 goes past the museum if you don’t feel like walking. There are good English texts all over museum so it is understandable even not understanding Finnish! Building itself is really amazing. First thing to notice when entering from main doors are the bullet holes. They are also part of Finnish history since they were made during Finnish Civil War in 1918.
After bullet holes you see the amazing ceiling frescos by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. They present Kalevala theme (Kalevala is the Finnish national epic). Frescos were first made for Paris World Fair in 1900. These frescos you can see without paying entrance fee. In one fresco you can see many snakes disturbing the farmer when trying to start farming in rocky soil. I think that fresco presents Finnish history pretty well – it hasn’t been easy to start life here in north. But then – look how beautiful Finland is nowadays and how awesome city Helsinki is! But back to history – I have to mention that there is a pretty new prehistory section right in the first floor – very interesting to see how life started when first people arrived to Finland 10 000 years ago.
Of course there a many other exhibitions as well – you can learn a lot about Finnish history about the time Finland was part of Sweden and Russia. Right now (until 14.1.2018) there is also pretty interesting exhibition called The Public and the Hidden Finland presenting photos taken during Finnish 100 year old independency.
I promised also something for kids for rainy days. Answer for this is Vintti in the top floor. For my eyes there is nothing THAT special but all kids seem to love it! You can play with old shop, weave a mat, build a “log house” etc… many things kids love to play with!
Final thing I want to mention is the museum shop. You can buy good quality and quite stylish Finnish souvenirs there. Recommend to visit that as well. For visiting museum shop you don’t need to pay admission fee (so the final tip – if you don’t want to pay entrance fee or you are very busy, you get taste of the museum just admiring the ceiling frescos and visiting the museum shop).
Today we celebrate Runeberg day, commemorating the birth of our national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (born 5 Feb, 1804). He’s the guy behind the lyrics of the Finnish National Anthem — Maamme or Vårt Land (Our Land) — and poems like Farmer Paavo (Saarijärven Paavo), which can be considered as an ode to Finnish Sisu, and the epic Tales of Ensign Stål.
So Runeberg is actually quite an important character in shaping the Finnish mentality. However, to me, his biggest claim to fame is his wife, the novelist & journalist Fredrika Runeberg, the woman behind the Traditional Finnish pastry called Runeberg torte (Runebergin torttu in Finnish). Fredrika made the torte famous even though she didn’t actually invent the recipe.
Runeberg torte is a cylinder shaped sweet pastry made from almonds, flour, bread or gingerbread crumbs, arrack or rum. On top of this juicy torte is a raspberry jam topping with a white sugar ring. You can bake them yourself, but during January and February you can buy them from practically any grocery store or cafe – so pay attention if you’re visiting Helsinki in January!
If I had my way, we would have Runeberg tortes available all year round. Unfortunately that’s not the case and anyway maybe it is better to have something to look forward also after Christmas :).
Anne wrote some weeks ago about Christmas Bazaars here in Helsinki. I think the best bazaar is Tuomaan Markkinat, which is situated in Senaatintori (along the Aleksanterinkatu). It is very beautiful place – Helsinki Cathedral is just next as well as Helsinki University and other old picturesque buildings. At Tuomaan Markkinat I recommend to stroll around and admire all different handicrafts, Christmas foods and Finnish specialities. Many of them are very reasonably priced so you can also buy great gifts for Christmas. If you have kids, they should try carousel. And when feeling cold, try some warm drinks!
Tuomaan Markkinat will be open until 22nd of December so there are still some days left. This time I bought some woolen stockings – very warm and useful for those cold winter days we are still waiting for.
Merry Christmas for everyone!
I have been travelling around Europe for past three weeks. So I hope you understand I’ve been active with this blog during past weeks. When travelling I once again remembered how much I enjoy finding “the local places” of the towns I am visiting. I love to visit café which is a favourite place of somebody living nearby. Or tasting pizza which is somebody’s must have each Sunday. So you all can be sure that I am very motivated sharing my best (and sometimes just everyday) moments and ideas to do in Helsinki with you. I hope you can love this town doing same things me and the other writers of this blog do!
After three weeks travelling Helsinki-Naples-Paris-Athens-Helsinki first thing I did after arriving home was going running. When running I realized how clean the air felt, how few people there are around and how small Helsinki is. I guess these things are something you notice also when visiting Helsinki. I also think those things make Helsinki quite special – we can’t compete with Athens’s acropolis or the Parisian feeling. But we really have smallish unique town with a bit of Russian flavour here in Helsinki. So small you can easily walk from place to place. Or bike around with city bikes. And if you are not up to those, you can always take tram, metro or bus. It really is so easy and fast to move from place to place here in Helsinki!
One special thing I want to share with you today is old lighthouse boat (majakkalaiva in Finnish) called Relandersgrund (sometimes just called “Rellu”). Nowadays this boat isn’t anymore sailing around – it is parked in the end of Aleksanterinkatu (near President Castle) in central Helsinki. This lighthouse boat was built 1886-1888 in Finnish town called Turku. During the WWI Russians sank Relandersgrund. After war boat war repaired and it was used as a lighthouse boat. In 1991 it was found in very bad shape (before that it had been abandoned) and it was decided to be repaired by private person. However, since in very bad shape there was a lot to do. Currently Relandersgrund looks very nice, however, profit of the café is used for repairing the boat even more. You can read more of boat’s history here, unfortunately text is in Finnish.
You can buy drinks or coffee from boat. The boat has very nice views – you can see Uspenski Cathedral (Orthodox Church), some buildings belonging to President Castle as well as sailing boats and houses of Katajanokka and Kruununhaka districts. And of course – see is there to admire. I recommend this place for afternoons as well as for evenings. You see, in Finland sun is shining almost all night along so you can admire Helsinki views even in midnight!