If you're planning a day trip from Helsinki, the small town of Porvoo should be on your list. Located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland and less than 50km away from the Finnish capital, this idyllic town full of history, beautiful architecture and galleries is the perfect short trip to explore the more traditional side of Finland!
How to get there
The most convenient way to get to Porvoo is by taking one of the frequent buses that depart from Helsinki bus station (Linja-autoasema). The journey takes about one hour and the tickets can be bought directly at the station or online on www.porvoonliikenne.fi or www.matkahuolto.fi/en. Return tickets cost around €10.
If you visit during the summer, a more scenic option is to take one of the daily cruises between Porvoo and Helsinki. The ship leaves Helsinki in the early morning and returns in the afternoon, navigating through the archipelago in a three hours journey. Timetables and tickets can be found on the m/s J.L. Runeberg and m/s RoyalCat websites.
If you decide to go by ship but want to spend more time exploring the town, it would be a good idea to do one of the journeys by bus, as doing the return trip by boat would give you very limited time in the town itself.
After getting off the bus, the first thing you should do is to head to the tourist information office located just next to the bus stop. They will give you for free a small leaflet with a map and information about Porvoo that will come up very handy during your visit.
The map includes a proposed 2km route to visit all the main highlights of the town that I followed during my visit and that I definitely recommend.
Due to its small size, there's nothing better than walking around and getting lost in the narrow streets of Porvoo, discovering the beautiful architecture and wooden houses.
I started my visit in the Vuorikatu, the area where the Great Fire of Porvoo started back in 1760. Over half of the town burned down due to this fire that was caused by fish soup being cooked in the early morning. After the fire, the inhabitants of Porvoo rebuilt all the houses using the old foundations.
While exploring the northern side of the town, I came across the Devil's Stairs. According to an old tale, this rock formation that resembles a set of stairs was created by the devil himself.
Next to the stairs, there is a small park surrounded by the beautiful wooden houses painted in the very characteristic red colour.
Leaving the narrow streets behind opens a little square dominated by the Bishop's house, the seat of the Swedish speaking diocese of Finland.
The diocese was established in Porvoo in 1923 and the current building dates from 1927.
In the heart of the square is Porvoo Cathedral, built on a hill in the late 13th and early 14th century.
The current church dates from the 1450s, but it has been destroyed and pillaged in multiple occasions over the centuries. The building was consecrated as a Cathedral in 1723.
The Diet of Porvoo, the legislative assembly that established the Grand Principality of Finland, opened and closed in this Cathedral in 1809. A statue of Czar Alexander I commemorates this important event in the history of Finland.
Porvoo is well know for the endless galleries and antique shops that can be found all over the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Antique hunters from all over Finland come to this little town to search for furniture and household items, the main specialisation of most stores.
Located inside what seem to be regular houses, don't forget to visit these shops while walking by the Old Town. Even if you're not interested in buying anything, many of the curious items are worth a quick peek inside.
If you want to enjoy the best views of Porvoo, you should definitely cross to the other side of the river, which offers a picturesque view of the traditional red-painted houses of the town.
You will most likely cross through the Old Bridge, which used to connect Porvoo with Vyborg, once a prominent Finnish town that now belongs to Russia. The bridge offers wonderful views of the waterfront storehouses, the Cathedral and the old town itself.
The promenade along the waterside, frequented by locals and tourist alike enjoying an afternoon stroll, is the perfect spot to finish your visit to this captivating town before heading back to Helsinki.
If something is certain is that this unique place won't leave you indifferent. Whether you're interested in art, history or traditional architecture, no other town in Finland beats Porvoo for a wonderful half-day visit!
All opinions are my own.
Like it? Pin It!