Discover Finland’s diverse culture, cuisine and natural beauty in the charming city of Porvoo | Finnair France
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Discover Finland’s diverse culture, cuisine and natural beauty in the charming city of Porvoo

Porvoo is a small Finnish city less than an hour away from Helsinki that has all the ingredients for the perfect day trip from the capital of Finland: rich history, art, and delicious local food in the middle of stunning natural scenery. As you stroll along the cobbled streets, you’ll be surrounded by colourful old wooden houses. Step inside to find handmade chocolate, local art, and a range of organic products. Meanwhile, the narrow river flows alongside Old Porvoo, creating a serene atmosphere that changes with the seasons.

Text: Yonshil Lee

Immerse yourself in the medieval town of Finland

Porvoo Old Town is a stunning part of Porvoo where you’ll encounter pastel-coloured wooden buildings along with medieval red warehouses lining the riverbank. This creates a picturesque view and attracts photographers from all over the world. Most of the buildings there date back to the 18th- 19th centuries, making it the country’s second oldest town. 

Today, the old buildings have been transformed into residences, lovely boutiques, art galleries, and cosy restaurants and cafés. Each place still carries the charm of its old architecture, infusing a unique and enchanting atmosphere. You can browse through a range of items here, from antiques and handmade local products to Scandinavian-style Christmas decorations and Finnish sweets.

Photo: Yonshil Lee

On the top of the hill, you’ll find the white Porvoo Cathedral – a gem from the late 15th century and a must-see when exploring the old town. The Old Town Hall, built in 1764, is Finland’s oldest town hall and home to the Porvoo Museum. Next door is the Holm House, where you can get a glimpse of how a wealthy merchant family lived in the late 18th century.

Experience Finnish art

If you are interested in local art, the Gallery Vanha Kappalaisentalo is a fascinating place to visit. Situated in the heart of Old Porvoo, this small gallery offers a bright and inviting ambiance that contrasts with its rustic 18th-century exterior. The house displays carefully selected high-quality art, and there is no admission fee. Continue your wander through the Old Town for an extra dose of inspiration, as there are many small galleries and design shops to be discovered.

Photo: Yonshil Lee

An old factory converted into a modern art hall, Porvoo Art Factory, exhibits monthly changing contemporary art. Not only does it offer a great opportunity to see local art, but also accommodates a cinema, a concert venue, a well-reputed lunch restaurant, and even a chocolate manufacturer, all under one roof. 

From artisanal chocolates to Michelin-starred dining 

Finland has a fondness for sweets, and chocolate is a tasty element of Finnish cultural heritage. In Porvoo, you will find the country’s oldest chocolate factory, Brundberg. What started as a small bakery back in 1871 is now one of Finland’s finest sweet manufacturers. The Old Porvoo store brims with artisanal chocolates, fresh liquorice and mouthwatering caramel toffees. Larger cravings can be satisfied at the flagship store located next to the Brunberg factory where you can see how their handmade chocolate is produced and purchase the sweets in bigger packages. 

Every year on the 5 February, Finland celebrates the anniversary of Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), the country’s national poet who lived in Porvoo from 1837. On this day, Finns enjoy a tasty cake called Runebergintorttu. Believed to have been created by the poet’s wife, the cake is flavoured with almonds and arrack or rum and decorated with raspberry jam and a ring of icing. While it’s typically available in Finland from January to February, in Porvoo, you can savour it year-round. Café Helmi serves Runeberg’s cake in a charming antique-filled wooden building, and Café Fanny provides a lovely summer terrace with colourful surroundings.

Photo: Yonshil Lee

Porvoo is also a treat for those who appreciate organic ingredients. Local restaurants serve up a mix of Finnish, Scandinavian, and global flavours paired with fine wine and beer selections. With its Michelin Green Star, Vår represents modern Finnish cuisine by sourcing raw materials directly from producers, including herbs from their garden and fish from the nearby lake. Just like Vår, SicaPelle is a trending restaurant and is also listed among the top 50 restaurants in Finland. Fryysarinranta, known for its snails, is in one of Porvoo's iconic red wooden houses and offers a beautiful riverside summer terrace. To complete your culinary journey, try natural-flavoured ice cream from the Old Porvoo Ice Cream Factory, made with local ingredients.

Photo: Yonshil Lee

There’s beauty in every season

Summer brings lush greenery and blooming flowers while winter transforms Porvoo and its surroundings into a magical wonderland under a sparkling blanket of snow. Porvoo has several year-round nature trails for hiking and some cycling routes. Ekudden and Virvik nature trails which begin near the city centre, are particularly popular. In the autumn, especially, when the leaves turn vivid red, yellow, and brown hues, you can witness the breathtaking Nordic autumn, known as Ruska in Finnish. 

In winter, this small medieval town looks like something out of a fairy tale. Twinkle lights hang above the cobbled streets, old houses are coated in a layer of snow, and merchants dressed in traditional costumes sell regional handicrafts and homemade treats. You can also find one of the closest ski resorts to Helsinki, Kokonniemi ski resort, in Porvoo.

Photo: Yonshil Lee

In the spring and summer, you can rent a Kayak or SUP board to experience the Porvoo river that runs through the city. Alternatively, you can relax with a drink or freshly roasted coffee and soak in the sunlight by the riverside, just like the locals do. In winter, as the Porvoonjoki River freezes, you can experience the joy of ice-skating with the panoramic view of the red houses on the riverbanks. 

Porvoo is situated 55 kilometres to the east of Helsinki city centre and is 25 kilometres away from Helsinki Airport. Buses depart hourly from Helsinki Bus Station (Kamppi), with the journey taking less than an hour.

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