From Helsinki’s waterfront views and breezy streets to its gorgeous archipelago and fresh seafood, this urban center is in constant movement. But its location also provides plenty of chances to explore outside the city too, including short day-trips to neighboring cities, quaint villages, and incredible national parks. Though there are countless ways to enjoy the city’s proximity to nearby intrigue, here are some suggestions to get you started!
The medieval town of Pervoo is only an hour bus ride from Helsinki, making it an ideal day-trip for visitors on a tight schedule. Buses leave the downtown core every 15 to 30 minutes, and the cost of a one-way ticket is just €9.
With a population of roughly 50,000, Porvoo moves at a slower pace than Finland’s capital, but it is still full of activities and intrigue. The town is named after its location on the Porvoonjoki river, which is the perfect place for a scenic stroll no matter the season. Other points of interests include the historic Old Town, Iso Linnamäki (an ancient hill castle), the Art Factory, and Porvoo’s National Urban Park.
Located 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Helsinki is Espoo — the country’s second-largest city. Without a traditional city center, so-to-speak, Espoo is a neighborhood-oriented city filled with artists and trendy residential areas. The streets bustle with energy and are lined with coffee shops, museums, and cultural centers. You might also want to consider planning your trip around big events like the Espoo Ciné International Film Festival and Vocalespoo Festival.
To navigate your way from Helsinki, head to the Hki linja-autoasema station and grab a seat (either on a bus or train). The ride is only 20 minutes or so and costs roughly €9.
Turku lies at the mouth of the winding Aura River and is known for its cobbled quarters and medieval roots. The commute from Helsinki takes roughly 90 minutes and can be completed by hopping on the Turku Express train at Central Station, for anywhere between €23 and €51 (depending on the day and how far in advance you buy your ticket). Once you’ve arrived in southwestern Finland, there will be plenty to do. Some of the city’s highlights include the Turku Castle (built in the 13th century), Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum, and the nearby Archipelago Sea National Park, which can be explored by kayak.
The small village of Fiskars is full of picturesque charm and a feeling of quaintness that dates back to the 17th century. The rich cultural tradition of ironwork, wood carving, and local design is preserved in Fiskar’s quiet streets. Summer is undeniably the best time to visit, as restaurants, cafés, and cideries are operating in full swing — not to mention the annual antique fair that takes place in July. To help guide? your way from Helsinki to Fiskars, there is a daily bus that makes the two-hour journey west, costing €20 or so each way!
Nuuksio National Park
Nuuksio National Park is the perfect location if you need a quick nature fix during your time in Helsinki. The park — just 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast from the city — is a sprawling scene of natural beauty, its rich forests and crisp lakes a fitting tribute to Finland’s untouched landscapes. Popular activities in the park include hiking, camping, kayaking, and berry-picking — and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the infamous flying squirrel!
Though renting a car might make the trip easier, reaching the park via public transport isn’t impossible. For the latter option, hop on the 280 bus at the Hki linja-autoasema station toward Veikkola, and then switch over to the 908 for the rest of the way. This excursion shouldn’t cost more than €25 roundtrip.
Helsinki is a special place for many reasons. One of those is its proximity to other cities, both in Finland and beyond. Across the Baltic Sea lies Tallinn, the storied capital of Estonia. Just a short ferry ride from Helsinki, the city is a unique and plausible destination for daytrippers. If you’re worried about the hassle of visas, most nationalities aren’t required to apply for one, but you can peruse the full list here.
Once that’s settled, you can focus on the beauty of Tallinn, a city woven with cobbled alleys and walled with medieval fortresses. The city’s Old Town was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and blends tastefully with the surrounding area, which is filled with museums, monuments, and cathedrals.
Header photo by Joakim Honkasalo