Finland 1-day tours around Helsinki

Tours around Helsinki

Helsinki is a perfect hub for one-day excursions. Within a short drive (around 1.5 hours or 100 km), numerous captivating destinations offer natural beauty and leisure activities. During our recent explorations, we ventured to three distinct tours around Helsinki: Hanko, Porvoo, and Hämmeenlinna with its picturesque Aulanko area.

West of Helsinki – Hanko

Hanko sprawls across its eponymous peninsula, nestled midway between Turku (141 km) and Helsinki (127 km). Established in 1870, its inception coincided with the introduction of a railway link to the rest of the country in 1873. Being the southernmost city in Finland, Hanko enjoys a relatively mild climate, ensuring its seaport remains operational year-round. Unlike many ports elsewhere in the country, Hanko experiences mild winters, facilitating uninterrupted ship access regardless of weather conditions. With fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, Hanko boasts a serene atmosphere.

The city is renowned for its beautiful sandy beaches, spanning about 30 km, along with its scenic coastal boulevards and charming architecture.

We began our exploration of Hanko by visiting the water tower, located in the Kirkkopuisto church park near the railway station. The tower, towering at 65 meters, provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city and its surrounding archipelago.

Then we went along the Appelgrenintie and Pistovuoret streets, where you can find beautiful wooden villas and Spa Park.

A significant number of these architectural gems were crafted by renowned architects, earning them endearing nicknames from locals as “old ladies,” each bearing a feminine moniker. These elegant structures serve as poignant reminders of Hanko’s illustrious past, particularly its heyday in the late 19th century when the city flourished as a favoured retreat for the Russian aristocracy. Among the distinctive features adorning these homes are their magnificent verandas and expansive balconies, which continue to captivate visitors with their timeless allure.

Historical symbols of Hanko

Nestled at the edge of Bulevardi, as it gracefully descends toward the sea, stands the Freedom Monument—an intriguing testament to the manipulation of historical symbols. Erected in 1921, this monument is flanked by two imposing stone lions. It commemorates the efforts of the German expeditionary corps, whose arrival in Hanko on April 3rd, 1918, played a pivotal role in ending the civil war and liberating the city from Russian occupation.

Originally inscribed in Swedish, Finnish, and German, the monument bore the following message: “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.”Finland, Hanko,, Hanko - Freedom Monument

Upon their return following the Soviet occupation of 1940-41, the citizens of Hanko found the Monument of Liberty conspicuously absent. However, efforts were made to restore it: damaged sections were repaired, and in 1943, the monument was rebuilt, featuring a new inscription: “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 faced removal again, this time at the behest of the Russian Control Commission, prompting the state cabinet to issue an order for its dismantling, which was duly carried out by the city of Hanko. Nevertheless, the Monument of Liberty rose once more in 1960. Notably, the relief depicting the German soldier was omitted, along with all previous inscriptions. Instead, a new text was adopted: “For our liberty.”

President’s house

While exploring the vicinity, we stumbled upon a charming wooden pavilion with a surrounding veranda. Its architecture, reminiscent of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, immediately caught our attention with its timeless beauty. Learning that this structure had been home to a cafe since 1904 intrigued us. Particularly noteworthy was its ownership by the President of Finland, Gustaf Mannerheim, from 1927 to 1933.

Finland, Hanko,, Finland 1-day tours

Hanko Cape Tulliniemi

Our final stop in Hanko was Cape Tulliniemi, marking the southernmost tip of Finland. Here, we discovered the Tulliniemi Nature Trail Nature Reserve, renowned for its picturesque landscape featuring rounded cliffs, verdant forests, meadows, and captivating viewpoints.

The coastal area of Uddskatan, along with its pristine beaches, has been under protection since as early as 1933. In 1990, the Uddskatan Nature Reserve was established, forming an integral part of the Tulliniemi bird sanctuary, which, in turn, is designated as part of the Natura 2000 network in Finland.

As our leisurely walk concluded, we were greeted by two swans gracefully gliding across serene waters. Their elegant presence was the perfect finale to our exploration, leaving us with cherished memories of a tranquil afternoon in nature.

The entire route spans 6.7 km one way, making it an ideal choice for a leisurely afternoon stroll immersed in nature’s embrace. The tranquillity and scenic beauty along the way make it a truly enchanting experience. Amidst the serene surroundings, the opportunity to observe a diverse array of bird species adds an extra layer of excitement to the journey. Keep an eye out for the distinctive presence of cormorants, buzzards, jays, and graceful swans, which are known to frequent this peninsula in abundance, often forming expansive colonies.

East of Helisinki – Porvoo

Porvoo, Finland’s second oldest city, founded in 1346, lies just 50 km from Helsinki. Despite its proximity to the bustling capital, Porvoo maintains a quaint charm. With fewer than 50 thousand inhabitants, it exudes a tranquil atmosphere. Preserving its medieval layout, the city boasts wooden buildings from the late 18th century, cherished treasures of Finnish architecture.

Exploring the Old Town (Vanha Porvoo), we were captivated by the enchanting wooden cottages adorned in vibrant hues, picturesque courtyards, and meandering cobblestone streets. The majestic stone medieval cathedral adds a touch of grandeur to the landscape, further enhancing the area’s allure.

Porvoo has earned its reputation as a haven for poets and painters, who are drawn to its serene ambience and scenic vistas. Numerous art galleries, antique shops, and quaint cafes dot the area, offering ample opportunities for leisurely exploration and artistic inspiration.

A highlight of our visit was the house of J.L. Runeberg, Finland’s most celebrated poet and the author of the national anthem. Entering his former abode offered a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of this literary icon. It enriched our experience in this culturally vibrant city.

Porvoonjuoki River

Finland, Porvoo,, Finland 1-day toursStrolling along the picturesque Porvoonjuoki River, one cannot miss the iconic sight of the red ochre-hued wooden warehouses, a tribute to King Gustav III of Sweden, who graced the city with his presence in the late 18th century. Originally used as storage facilities for goods transported by Hanseatic ships, these historic warehouses have undergone a remarkable transformation.

Today, they serve as trendy residential abodes.

Porvoo holds a special place in Finnish tourism, cherished as one of the nation’s most enchanting cities. Its enduring charm, defined by quaint cobblestone streets, delightful cafes, and captivating architecture, draws visitors from near and far. Immersing oneself in Porvoo’s serene ambience offers a journey into its rich cultural heritage. It leaves an indelible impression on all who wander its storied streets.

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North of Helsinki – Hämmeenlinna and Aulanko

Hämeenlinna, situated approximately 100 km north of Helsinki, offers a picturesque journey for travellers along the E-12 motorway. The scenic drive unfolds amidst vast expanses of lush green forests, providing a tranquil backdrop that soothes the eyes and soul.

Finland, Hämmeenlinna,, Finland 1-day tours

Home to around 50 thousand residents, Hämeenlinna stands out as Finland’s oldest inland town, established in 1639. Despite its modest population, the town’s strategic location puts it within a 150 km radius of nearly 2.5 million people. This is about half of Finland’s total population.

Hämeenlinna is renowned for its majestic Häme Castle, a historic landmark that adds to the town’s allure. Additionally, it is the birthplace of the famous composer Jean Sibelius, further enriching its cultural significance.

In recent years, Hämeenlinna has underscored its commitment to preserving its natural heritage. Establishing a Municipal National Park allows residents and visitors to connect with the surrounding landscape.

Häme Castle

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The imposing Häme Castle stands proudly on the shores of Lake Vanajavesi, with a rich history. While precise records of its construction date remain elusive, historians estimate its origins to the mid-13th century. Initially serving as a military stronghold, the castle is first mentioned in written records dating back to 1308.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Häme Castle played a pivotal role, serving as a military outpost and an administrative centre. Influential Swedish noble houses like the Tott, the Sture, and the Posse oversaw it. The castle assumed its current appearance around 1520, retaining its formidable presence today.

The Great Northern War led to the castle’s capture by Russia, prompting renovations and fortifications. During the 1770s, Gustav III of Sweden ordered the addition of bastions and a moat. Subsequent conflicts, like the Finnish War of 1808, changed the castle’s fate. In the 1830s, it was converted into a prison. However, in 1956, the Finnish government initiated a restoration project. The castle was opened to the public in 1979.

Finland, AulankoDuring our visit, we were treated to a seasonal exhibition titled “Heavy Metal,” offering fascinating insights into the history of armour from the 1500s to the 1700s—a fitting tribute to Häme Castle’s enduring legacy as a bastion of history and culture.

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About a 10-minute drive from the castle lies the enchanting Aulanko National Park, a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. As we sat on the grass at the foot of the castle, poring over a map, we stumbled upon this natural wonder. We noticed the park across the lake, with promising viewpoints calling to us. Intrigued by the prospect of exploring this uncharted territory, we made the spontaneous decision to venture forth.

Aulanko National Park emerged as a revelation, an unexpected delight that left an indelible mark on my memory. This haven of natural beauty epitomized everything I had come to associate with Finland. The crystalline waters of its lakes and the majestic expanse of its forests stretched as far as the eye could see. Immersed in the tranquil surroundings of Aulanko, we couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer splendour of the Finnish landscape. We were grateful for the opportunity to experience its pristine beauty firsthand.

Finland, Aulanko, Finland 1-day tours

Aulanko has long been a favoured destination for visitors, captivating the hearts of nature enthusiasts for over a century.

Today, this scenic locale offers more than stunning vistas—a sanctuary with diverse attractions awaits exploration. The Aulanko Nature Reserve beckons with its serene forest park and captivating sights. The awe-inspiring panorama from the scenic lookout tower atop Aulangonvuori Hill provides sweeping views of the national landscape. With over 400,000 visitors annually, it’s no wonder that Aulanko ranks among Finland’s most beloved day trip destinations.

Nature reserve

One of the highlights of Aulanko is its English-style park, a cherished feature of the nature reserve. Constructed between 1883 and 1938, this meticulously crafted park, complete with its historic buildings and cultural heritage, holds national significance. Active forest management practices are employed to preserve the park’s expansive landscape. Moreover, the nature reserve encompasses forested areas in their natural state, providing a sanctuary for native flora and fauna.

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National Urban Park

The Aulanko forest park has made a lasting impact on Finnish park culture, its influence reaching beyond borders. Today, it’s Finland’s inaugural National Urban Park, symbolizing its role in conserving nature within urban settings.

Upon entering the park, visitors are greeted with instructions on how to respect and preserve its natural treasures.

Among the guidelines provided, visitors are encouraged to explore the park on foot or skis. They can also enjoy such activities as berry and mushroom picking, rowing, and swimming. To safeguard conservation efforts, specific activities are prohibited in the park. These include allowing dogs to roam freely, using motorized vehicles, and lighting campfires or open flames.

Lake Aulanko, while low in nutrient content, features crystal-clear waters with visibility extending up to 3 meters deep. It reaches a maximum depth of 12 meters. In recent years, efforts have been made to enrich the lake’s ecosystem. This includes stocking it with grayling and rainbow trout and permitting fishing with a purchased license fee.

The charming Aulanko Lodge, constructed in 1991 from over 120-year-old pine logs, pays homage to Finland’s rich architectural heritage. Log construction was once common in Finland but is now mainly used for holiday cabins. The lodge stands as a cherished example of traditional craftsmanship.

Finland, Aulanko,, Finland 1-day tours

The Tower

Finland, Aulanko,, Finland 1-day toursDuring your visit to Aulanko, I highly recommend stopping at the Tower building, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views that are sure to leave a lasting impression. This iconic structure offers a panoramic vista of the surrounding landscape, making it a must-see attraction for visitors. A photo from this viewpoint graces my blog, showcasing Aulanko’s stunning beauty for all to admire.

Of all the places I’ve had the pleasure of exploring, Aulanko Park stands out as a personal favourite. Its serene setting, scenic paths, and lush surroundings form a tranquil haven, beckoning visitors to relax and commune with nature. Whether you’re walking among trees, enjoying lake views, or relaxing in Aulanko’s tranquillity, the park promises memorable experiences.

Finland, Aulanko,, Finland 1-day tours
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