Three easy and fun day trips from Helsinki!
Venture outside the capital and check out the many sides of Finland. Here are three options for easy day trips from Helsinki. Pick your favourite from a selection of a historical classic, an outdoors adventure, and a cultural hub.
Porvoo is a real day trip classic and can be reached in a little over an hour by bus, and in the summer even with a steamship! This quaint small town built around a river has all the makings of a great short stay. The old town is idyllic, with historic, pastel coloured wood houses lining the streets filled with independent boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. There is a pretty cobblestone square, Raatihuoneentori, and up a small hill, a medieval stone cathedral.
Some of the cultural sights you might want to add on your holiday list are Gallery Vanha Kappalaisentalo, a great art space with a lively exhibition schedule and Porvoo Museum showcasing local history and culture. You should also cross the bridge to the other side of the Porvoo river and check out Taidetehdas, a centre for culture with a cinema, several gallery spaces, shops, and restaurants.
Make sure you visit the home of Finland’s national poet J.L.Runeberg and his wife Fredrika Runeberg. The museum is a lovely depiction of 19th century life, in the summer Fredrika's garden is the cherry on the cake. And speaking of cake, you can't leave Porvoo without eating a Runeberg Torte, a pastry designed by Fredrika. The cylinder-shaped torte is laced with almonds and alcohol and topped with raspberry jam. You can find it in many of Porvoo's great cafés such as Café Cabriole or Café Fanny.
Nuuksio national park is your best bet if you want to catch a glimpse of Finnish nature in a few hours. The park can be reached easily with public transport or by car. By bus from central Helsinki the trip is about an hour or 90 minutes each way. Nuuksio has good variation of landscapes, from lakes to wetland and high rocky hills, and lots of wildlife making it the ideal day trip for nature lovers.
The trails are well marked and there are different levels of hikes available. If you are feeling adventurous you can venture deeper into the forests, but there are also easy trails to enjoy with kids. There are rest stops at regular intervals too.
Nuuksio is also known for its good level of service. The Finnish Nature Centre Haltia offers several exhibition spaces, events, and guided tours. The centre has a high-quality restaurant focused on local food in case you get hungry after your trek. If you want to stay the night, how about sleeping up on a tree? You can book a tentsile experience from Haltia and spend your night in a tent floating in the midst of tree tops.
Lahti has had a reputation of being a little rough around the edges but in the last couple of years this city is experiencing a new boom. You can reach Lahti easily in a little over an hour by train.
Lahti is now well-known as a student city with a strong emphasis on art and culture. A lot of the regeneration is driven by the city's new museum of visual arts Malva, opened in 2022. The museum is housed in an old factory building called Malski and the exhibition spaces are stunning, including a 15-metre-high Atrium space. You should stop for coffee at the resident café Kahiwa. They roast their own high-quality coffee, and their inhouse bakers create the superb French-inspired pastries.
The other cultural highlight is the Sibelius Hall concert and event venue. It is the homebase for the esteemed Sinfonia Lahti symphony orchestra, and one of the best places in Finland to hear the works of Sibelius or other classical and popular music. The Sibelius Hall is situated in a lovely setting in Lahti harbour, facing the huge Vesijärvi lake. In the summer the harbour comes alive with restaurant boats and outdoor cafés serving food and drink.
You cannot talk about Lahti without mentioning sports. The city has a huge reputation when it comes to skiing and especially ski jumping, with the cityscape dominated by the landmark ski jump towers. In the summer you can even visit the jump towers and enjoy the stunning views from an observation deck. There is even a Ski Museum, where you can learn more about the history of winter sports. The city is also the host for many important sporting events throughout the year.