Experience the forest in the city!
Gnawed fir cones beneath a pine tree tell of bushy tailed inhabitants up in the branches, a fairy-tale fox dashes across the path in front of you, and city rabbits scurry in the grass. Helsinki is one of the few capital cities in the world where the real nature is so close to its inhabitants.
Nature and the city are one
Considering Helsinki’s breathtaking architecture and the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, it’s quite understandable if you don’t immediately notice that another world awaits you right in the heart of the city. Just to the north of the Töölönlahti bay lies Keskuspuisto, Helsinki’s very own “Central Park”. Covering 1000 hectares, around 1360 football fields, the park is home to no less than four unique nature protection areas.
In the Pitkäkoski deciduous forest you can admire the natural rapids and lush forest. While listening to the sound of the rapids you may even catch a glimpse of one of the water’s inhabitants, an otter. In the Haltiala primeval forest you can view the entire lifecycle of trees, from young saplings to ancient deadwood. At the Ruutinkoski rapids you can find a European white elm that is around 200 years old and has been declared a natural monument. And at the Niskala arboretum you can learn more about traditional Finnish species, as well as exotic trees from abroad. The arboretum is also a favourite spot for birds. Can you pick out the song of the nightingale from all the others?
The thick forest provides an abundance of hiding places for the wildlife. Squirrels and hares are the most common inhabitants, but Keskuspuisto is also home to elks with their giant antlers. Among the quiet trees you may also hear the clopping of a woodpecker from far away.
For more tips about trails and activities in Keskuspuisto, check out the website for the My Dynamic Forest project!
Experiences for all the senses
If you want to see not only Finnish forests but also more pastoral scenes, such as cows grazing, head for Viikki, the geographic centre of Helsinki. If in turn you want to smell the scents of the swamp and wild rhododendrons, head for Jollas to the east of the city.
If you want to marvel at the birdlife, you should walk along the duckboards from Viikki to the island of Lammassaari. Especially in springtime it is worth climbing the steps of the bird watching tower to see all the migratory birds, such as the cranes, as they fly in formation across the skies.
Whether you find yourself surrounded by dark spruce trees, beneath tall pines or in a grove of humming hardwoods, the forest will take your mind off things. The fresh needles, decaying leaves and mossy mounds create together an earthy aroma that, when breathed in, help you forget the commotion of the world elsewhere.
While cleansing your mind with the fresh forest air, you can also nourish your body with fresh berries and mushrooms just waiting to be picked. Familiarise yourself with Finland’s Everyman’s Rights and make the most of your time in the forest!