Have 48 hours in Finland? Get ready for a cool capital, creative coastal towns and nature adventures of a lifetime. Words by Milla Visuri.
So you have landed in Finland, the land of the thousand lakes. It is also the land of the thousand islands (according to one count there are 179 584 of them) and forests that spread as far as your eyes can reach. Let’s put it this way – Finland is a country with a lot of water and trees.
In Helsinki there are 130 kilometers of waterfront that is open to all and no matter where you live in the city, you are never more than 10 kilometers from the shore. The waterside is dotted by houses, city cottages, parks, restaurants and public saunas to sailing clubs, sights, culture hubs and shore routes right by the Baltic Sea.
Also The Helsinki Baltic Herring Market, one of the oldest ongoing traditions in Finland since 1743, has to do with water (or think Helsinki as the city of the thousand herrings). For a full week in early October, the Helsinki Market Square moorings fill with fishing boats from all around the coastal Finland selling thousands of kilos of Baltic herring.
Visit the little islands a 15 minute ferryride from Helsinki Market Square. The summer island Vallisaari will open for public in May 2016 offering hiking paths, endless horizons and a band of butterflies. Lonna is open from May until October with a cozy archipelago restaurant and a mini-museum halfway between the Market Square and Suomenlinna.
Suomenlinna Unesco World Heritage Site has a longer history since 1748 and also the best services from restaurants, picture perfect cafés and island brewery to guided gastronomy walks, museums, visitor centre and popular summer events. There are also 800 lucky people living and working year-round scattered around the four main islands in unique homes and studios.
SPEND A DAY WITH A LOCAL GUIDE
Happy Guide and Day with a Local Helsinki host various walks and tours whether you are a foodie, a sportie or a lover of design, nature and architecture. Or head out for adventures on a SUP (stand up paddle board) along the Helsinki coast, islands and skerries for unforgettable picnics and sundowners with 20 Knots!
EASY DAY TRIPS FROM HELSINKI
The charming little town of Porvoo and the village of Fiskars are both historical gems of art, design and architecture blended with good local food, soothing nature and rural landscape of Southern Finland. Porvoo is located 45 minutes East from Helsinki while a journey to Fiskars in the West takes double the time.
GET COZY IN PORVOO
Porvoo is the second oldest town in Finland and it has a lovely Old Town with excellent restaurants, handcraft shops and galleries. The Art Factory is a new culture center housing exhibitions, concerts and working space for artists. Bistro Sinne offers a local menu in an artsy setting or book a table at Johans, a summer restaurant of seasonal dishes. Cozy on with a cup of hot chocolate and treats at The Little Chocolate Factory. Spend the night in the lovely Hotel Pariisin Ville or Boutique Hotel Onni.
FISKARS VILLAGE IS A GREEN OASIS AND HOME TO MORE THAN 200 ARTISTS
Nature paths, paddling along the Fiskars river or simply strolling in the quiet village will make you relax in no time. Stop by at Kantti, a lifestyle shop with wooden interiors and products from Monkey skateboars to Nathalie Lähdenmäki’s ceramics, and Onoma, a showroom of the local talent such as Kim Simonsson whose playful sculptures will seriously put a smile on your face.
Thirsty? Head to the local brewery called Rekolan Panimo for some rye juniper beer or spruce shoot ale, to the tap room of community crowdfunded Ägräs Craft Distillery (to be opened in the summer of 2016) or Laundry Café Bar for juice, tea or coffee and cake of the day. If you wish to spend the night there is a room for you right upstairs.
NATURE ADVENTURES IN NUUKSIO
And then there are the lakes and the forests. Finland has 39 national parks of which one of them, Nuuksio, lies just on the outskirts of Helsinki, a 30-minute bus trip from the city. Here you can enter the nature of Finland at Haltia, The Finnish Nature Center or head for a guided walk in the woods or take a hike by following the marked routes.
In Finland the freedom to roam means everyone may walk, ski or cycle freely in the coutryside. You can stay or set up a camp temporarily, pick mineral samples, wild berries, mushrooms and flowers. You can also fish with rod or line, row a boat, canoe or kayak on waterways, and swim or bathe in lakes and in the sea. In the winter wonderland you can walk, ski and ice fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea.
Feel the Nature is your guide for tours from canoeing trips to unforgettable winter moonlight snow-shoe walks in the forest. Or try a Finnish version of a wild food safari with Sami Tallberg, a local guru, who takes you out to his colourful world of wild herbs and berry picking to mushroom hunting in the middle of Helsinki.
The article was published for Visit Finland in June 2016:
Image by Harri Tarvainen, in the archipelago of Inkoo.