Helsinki is an ideal starting point for 1-day trips. At a short driving distance (1,5h / 100 km) there are many places worth seeing or those that are ideal for close contact with nature and leisure.
We went in three different places.
West of Helsinki – Hanko
Hanko is a town on the peninsula of the same name, halfway between Turku (141 km) and Helsinki (127 km). The city was founded in the 1870, after opening railway connection with the rest of the country (in 1873). It is the southernmost city in Finland, so it has the warmest climate. As a result, the Hanko seaport is open all year round. In opposite to other ports in the country, winter is mild there, so ships can enter the harbor no matter the weather conditions are. There are less than 10 thousand inhabitants here. City is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, covering area of about 30 km, coastal boulevards and beautiful architecture.
We have started our Hanko tour from visiting the water tower, standing in the Kirkkopuisto church park, near the railway station. From the level of 65 meters there is a beautiful view of the city and the entire archipelago.
Then we went along the Appelgrenintie and Pistovuoret streets, where you can find beautiful wooden villas and the Spa Park.
Many of them were designed by excellent architects. Local residents called them “older ladies” so each house has a female name. Today, they are testimony to Hanko’s glory days when, at the end of the nineteenth century, the city gained popularity as a sanatorium for the Russian aristocracy. The most characteristic elements of all the houses are spectacular verandas and wide balconies, which even nowadays make a big impression.
At the edge of the Bulevardi, which descends to the sea, stands the Freedom Monument. This is an interesting example of the manipulation of historical symbols. The monument erected in 1921, is guarded by two stone lions. Committed to the German expeditionary corps which in 1918 contributed to the end of the civil war and the liberation of Hanko from the Russian occupation. The monument had had texts in Swedish, Finnish and German asfollows: German troops landed in Hanko on the 3rd of April, 1918 and assisted our country in the struggle for liberty. May this stone remind future generations of our gratitude.”
When the citizens of Hanko came back after the Soviet parenthesis of 1940-41, the Monument of Liberty had been removed. Damaged parts were repaired and in 1943 the monument was rebuilt with a new text added: “This stone was defiled and demolished by enemy hands during 1940-41, but re-erected in 1943 to bear witness for all future”.
In 1946, the monument was taken down, as the Russian Control Commission urged the state cabinet to order the city of Hanko to remove the monument and so was done. However, the Monument of Liberty was re-erected again in 1960. The relief of the German soldier was removed and so were all the earliest texts. A new text was accepted: “For our liberty”
Walking around the area of Hanko, we came across a very interesting wooden pavilion with a veranda around it. It aroused our interest because it was characterized by typical architecture from the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was simply beautiful. It turned out that since 1904 there was a cafe, but in 1927-1933 it was owned by the President of Finland – Gustaf Mannerheim.
The last place we visited in Hanko was the Cape Tulliniemi. It’s the southernmost point of Finland. The Tulliniemi Nature Trail Nature Reserve is located here. It is characterized by its rounded cliffs, forests, meadows and beautiful viewpoints.
The Uddskatan water area with its beaches was already protected in 1933. The current Uddskatan nature reserve was created in 1990 and is part of the Tulliniemi bird sanctuary, which is part of the Natura 2000 network in Finland.
The entire route is 6.7 km one way, but it is worth to plan one afternoon there: walking and spending time in close contact with nature. All the views, nature and allover around surrounded by silence – is a real attraction of this place. With a bit of luck, you can see many species of unusual birds that are abundant on this peninsula creating large colonies, such as cormorants, buzzards, jays or swans. At the end of our long walking trip there were two swans waiting for us.
East of Helisinki – Porvoo
Porvoo is the second oldest city in Finland, founded in 1346. It is about 50 km away from Helsinki. The city has less than 50 thousand inhabitants. The medieval shape of the city has survived here, and the wooden buildings of the late 18th century are considered as true treasures of Finnish architecture. The wooden architecture of the Old Town (Vanha Porvoo) impresses with its magnificent stone medieval cathedral. We liked a lot those low cottages painted in vibrant colors, charming courtyards and narrow streets. Porvoo is often referred to as a city of poets and painters, because the artists liked its sleepy atmosphere and picturesque views.
Numerous art galleries, antique shops and small charming cafes are in the area. It is worth to see the house J.L. Runeberg, the most outstanding Finnish poet, the author of the national anthem.
While walking along the Porvoonjuoki River, you can see the famous red ocher-shaped wooden warehouses in honor of King Gustav III of Sweden, who visited the city at the end of the 18th century. Historically, warehouses were used to store products transported by Hanseatic ships, today they serve as trendy residential buildings. Porvoo is an important center of Finnish tourism and is considered one of the prettiest cities in the country.
Hämmeenlina is located about 100 km north of Helsinki and traveling by car itself on the E-12 motorway is a true feast for the eyes and soul. Nothing else can be seen beyond the empty road and the dense green forests surrounding it.
Hämmeenlinna is inhabited by about 50 thousand people, but at the distance of 150 km from here there are nearly 2.5 million people leaving, which is half of the population of Finland. The town was founded in 1639 and it is the oldest town in Finland without access to the sea. It is best known for its majestic Häme Castle and the birthplace of the famous composer Jean Sibelius.
A few years ago, a Municipal National Park was created here.
The Häme Castle is located on the banks of Lake Vanejavesi. Thanks to the Kansallismuseo.fi, we can find the full story of the castle. There is no detailed information on when this building was erected, but it is estimated to be built in the mid of 13th century. That time serve as a military base in the border zone between Sweden and Novgord. The first mention of the castle in written records is from 1308.
The castle operated as a military base and as an administrative a castle, governed at the end of the Middle Ages by some of the most influential Swedish houses, the Tott, the Sture and the Posse. The main castle received the appearance it continues to bear to this day in, approximately, 1520.
During the Great Nother War (1700-21), the castle fell under Russian rule. In the 1770s, the castle was fortified with bastiones and a moat by order of Gistav III of Sweden.
During the Finnish War in 1808, the castle was taken over by the Russians, and in the 1830s, the main castle was converted into a prison. In 1956, the Finnish government began the castle’s renovation and it was open to the public on 1979.
When we visited the castle, there was a seasonal exhibition called: Heavy Metal, dedicated to the history of the armor from 1500s-1700s.
About a 10-minute drive from the castle, there is Aulanko National Park. We got there by accident, sitting on the grass at the foot of the castle we studied a map of the nearest area. We noticed that on the other side of the lake there is a National Park and several viewpoints, so we decided to go there. As for me, this is the biggest discovery in Finland, amazing surprise and wonderful memories. This place has so far been associated with the natural beauty of Finland, with the clear waters of the lakes and the boundless forests surrounding them.
From www.nationalparks.fi/aulanko we can learn more. Aulanko has been a popular destination with visitors for more than a hundred years. Nowadays, there is a lot to see in Aulanko Nature Reserve, in addition to the beautiful scenery. The forest park of Aulanko, its sights, and the view from the scenic lookout tower of Aulangonvuori Hill over the national landscape attract more than 400 000 visitors every year. The area is best suitable for day trips.
The English-style park, which forms a part of the nature reserve, was constructed in 1883 – 1938 and, with its buildings and cultural history, it is a nationally valuable site. To maintain the spacious park landscape, the forest park is actively managed. The nature reserve also includes forest landscape in its natural state.
The forest park of Aulanko has had a significant impact on the Finnish park culture. Nowadays, Aulanko area belongs to the first National Urban Park in Finland. More to read about you can find on the official web: www.hämeenlinna.fi
At the entrance to the Park we could find instructions on how to preserve the park and enjoy all its natural gifts. We learned, among other things, that in the park you can move around by foot or with skies. It is allowed picking berries and mushrooms, as well as go rowing and swimming. What is not allowed is to let the dog run loose, use any motored vehicles and start campfires or other open fires. The lake Aulanko is low in its nutrient value. The water is clear, you can see 3 meters deep. The lake has maximum of 12 meters depth. During the last few years, the lake has been mainly planted with grayling and rainbow trout. Fishing is permitted only after purchasing a license fee.
The Aulanko lodge was built of over 120 years old pine logs on the year 1991. Building with logs was very common in Finland few decades ago. Nowadays logs are used mainly on building holiday cabins.
What I recomned to visit during your Aulanko trip, is the Tower building, from which the views are breathtaking. The photo taken in this place is the showcase of my blog. If I were to suggest one of the places that impressed me the most, it was Aulanko Park.