Enjoy the summer by the sea
You can’t miss the sea when you’re in Helsinki, especially in summertime. It is the most visible part of the urban nature: the shoreline is over 130 kilometres long, and you’re never more than 10 kilometres away from it, whether you are in the city centre or the northern reaches of the capital. The sea stretches its fingers into the heart of the city in the form of various bays and inlets, and the view from the shore to the open sea is like being in the outer archipelago in places. It’s no wonder that maritime attractions are so popular among residents and visitors alike from one summer to the next.
Archipelago gems within your reach
On a summer morning head for the Market Square and soak up the authentic seaside market atmosphere! Purchase fresh or smoked fish from the local fishermen, who sell their catches straight from their boats. Other treats on sale in the market include fresh berries and vegetables.
From the seafront the view opens to the archipelago through which the ferries and cruise ships must pass. You too can explore the archipelago simply by hopping on one of the many smaller ferries and cruise vessels that depart from the Market Square. Take your seat and relax as you sail past idyllic fields, smooth granite cliffs and sheltered coves.
A great destination is the historic Suomenlinna sea fortress, an impressive and beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can explore the centuries-old ramparts, visit numerous museums and relax among the islands’ many cafés and restaurants. If you feel really adventurous, grab a flashlight and explore the tunnels inside the old fortress walls!
The newest attraction in the Helsinki archipelago is the island of Vallisaari, which opens to visitors in summer 2016. Like Suomenlinna it is part of the nation’s military history, but in addition to the old fortifications you can also enjoy almost unspoilt archipelago nature. Over the years nature has been given almost free rein on the island, as a result of which the island is now home to many endangered plant species.
Other island destinations that can be reached easily from the mainland include the quaint restaurant island of Lonna and the larger island of Pihlajasaari, whose sandy beaches, smooth rocks and peaceful groves provide lots of secluded places in which to unwind. If you want to feel more of the wind in your hair, board an island cruise and admire the city skyline from the sea.
You’ll never go hungry when you’re out at sea, as Helsinki is home to many amazing island restaurants. Try the traditional archipelago dishes or exquisite gourmet dishes. On the island of Uunisaari, just off the coast from the Kaivopuisto park, you can relax before or after your meal on the supervised swimming beach.
Back on terra firma
If you prefer to take in the summertime nature on solid ground, away from the waves, Helsinki’s shoreline is the perfect alternative. The shoreline is dotted with pretty parks that are ideal for picnics, as well as miles and miles of walking paths.
Stroll along the waterfront that circles around the Kaivopuisto park, sit awhile on one of the rug washing piers and watch all the people promenade by the sea. Continue westwards to the very tip of Hernesaari and admire the view to the Gulf of Finland. Alternatively, head for the popular recreational island of Seurasaari, which boasts beautiful nature and an extensive open-air museum.
Did you know that the Töölönlahti bay in the heart of the city is an inlet of the Baltic Sea? The bay is surrounded by a number of parks where you can soak up the sun, go jogging and even rent a stand-up paddle board. Circle the bay and enjoy the silhouette of the city reflected in the water. If you feel a need to escape the sea breeze, simply head northwards from Töölönlahti to Keskuspuisto, Helsinki’s own “Central Park”, where the deep forests offer shelter and silence.
Summer in Helsinki means island excursions, picnics in parks, swimming in the sea and the scent of pine trees in the forests. It means enjoying the Nordic nature in the heart of the city. Just head for the nearest shore and begin your summer adventure!