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Espoo – where Finland’s culture and nature combine

Espoo is the second largest city in Finland and is framed by the Baltic Sea with its archipelago and Nuuksio National Park. Thus, the city offers the best of Finland’s culture and landscapes in one place.

Profile

  • Population: 292,796 (Dec. 31, 2020)
  • Area: 528.16 km2
  • Location: in southern Finland in the Uusimaa landscape on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, west of the capital Helsinki
  • Settlement structure: agglomeration (capital region) of the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, politically independent

Espoo’s story – transformation in a short time

The urban area of today’s Espoos has been inhabited since about 7,000 BC. The first mention of the town by name can be dated to 1431.

Until the 20th century Espoo was very rural. In 1929, 70% of the approximately 9,000 inhabitants were still Swedish-speaking. The population and demographics of the residents did not change until the 1950s with the expansion of the neighboring city of Helsinki. It was not until 1972 that Espoo was elevated to the status of a city.

Espoo – a city between sea and forest

Espoo can be called a small image of Finland. In the south, an unspoiled coastline with an archipelago of 165 islands enchants. To the north, Nuuksio National Park extends into the city area and invites nature lovers to enjoy sports activities and relax all year round.

Espoo is a versatile destination and offers the possibility to combine city and nature vacations.

“By the way”: there are a total of 95 lakes on the territory of the city!

The TOP activities in Espoo

While the population of Espoo is mainly distributed in the southern part of the city area, the north is rural and occupied by Nuuksio National Park. At will, everyone can thus choose between numerous cultural activities and excursions into nature.

Haltia Nature Centre

Haltia Nature Centre is an excellent starting point for hikes in Nuuksio National Park. The visitor center offers exhibitions about Finland’s natural landscapes – and the hiking trails start right outside the front door.

You can find out about events, opening hours and tickets on the center’s website.

Haltia Nature Centre in Espoo, Finland
Source: Lev Karavanov / bigstockphoto.com

Serena Water Park

Serena Water Park is the largest water park in Scandinavia. Families can enjoy themselves here all year round on water slides, in whirlpools and wave pools. There is also a ski school in the water park, which is a wonderful change from the pools. Those who prefer it warm can relax on a sun terrace or discover the sauna carved into the rock face.

Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA)

EMMA is a museum of modern art and the largest museum in all of Finland. It is housed in a renovated old print shop, the WeeGee House. The building also houses the Espoo City Museum, the Finnish Clock Museum, the Finnish Toy Museum, a café and several other cultural facilities.

Espoo Cultural Center

Espoon kulttuurikeskus is a cultural center in the Tapiola district. It houses the Tapiola Library, the Espoo Music Academy, the municipal orchestra, the cultural office and the city’s adult education center. It also hosts a wide variety of art and cultural events.

Espoo Cultural Center, Finland
Source: karavanov / depositphotos.com

Suvisaaristo – the archipelago in the south of Espoo

Suvisaaristo is a district in the southwest of Espoo and a group of islands in the Gulf of Finland. The islands serve as a summer retreat for locals and tourists. So if you spontaneously feel the need to leave the big city, it’s not far to hiking, sailing, fishing or just relaxing in the sun.

Gulf of Finland
Source: MarVassma / bigstockphoto.com

The archipelago can be reached by bus line 145. Those traveling from Helsinki can take the metro to Matinkylä and change to the said bus there.

Afterwards, the larger islands such as Pentala or Iso Vasikkasaari can be reached by public boats from June to August. You can even get to the following islands by car:

  • Furuholm
  • Maisö
  • Ramsö
  • Skataholmen
  • Svartholm

Culturally particularly interesting is the museum island Pentala. Here, in 15 wooden houses, the life of the former fishermen is depicted.

Nuuksio National Park – where city and nature blur

If you like lakes, forests and hiking, it is not far from Espoo to the north. Nuuksio National Park is a nature recreation spot close to the big city for tourists and locals alike.

The area is dominated by valleys and gorges formed during the Ice Age. The national park is located on the border of two vegetation zones – the zone of mixed deciduous and coniferous forests and the zone of boreal coniferous forest. That is why in the national park you are surrounded by a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees and barren rocky hills covered with lichen.

The national park is also home to a variety of animals, including the Siberian flying squirrel, the emblem of Nuuksio National Park.

Nuuksio National Park, Finland
Source: Hivaka / depositphotos.com

More than 80 small lakes and ponds, some surrounded by bogs and with brown water, others larger and dreamlike clear, invite for canoeing or kayaking as well as fishing. There are also numerous marked hiking trails with charming viewpoints.

Whether it’s a day trip, a camping vacation, or a longer stay in one of the many log cabins or hotels on the lake, there are activities for everyone in Nuuksio National Park.

Espoo – a car is not necessary! Connectivity and mobility

Espoo has good connections to Helsinki and the rest of Finland. The southern part of the city is connected to downtown Helsinki via the Länsiväylä fre eway, and the Helsinki region’s local rail service also runs through Espoo. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport can also be reached by public transport. Long-distance trains stop in the Espoon keskus district.

Espoo is good for cycling in the summer. City bikes can be rented at the 476 City Bike stations in the city.

Otherwise, the very well-developed public transportation system is ideally suited for getting from A to B. Especially streetcars are the main means of transport in the city and at the same time a good way to get a glimpse of the city from the train.

The best shopping centers in Espoo! Shopping and supplies in Espoo

There are numerous shopping opportunities in Espoo. In addition to the city’s seven shopping centers, there are plenty of small stores and boutiques in the Tapiola district, for example.

Examples are:

  • Iso Omena Shopping Centre
  • Sello Shopping Centre
  • Espoontori Shopping Centre
  • Lippulaiva Shopping Centre

Supermarkets such as Alepa, K-Supermarket or Lidl are located throughout the city and are easy to find.

Espoo center, Finland
Source: karavanov / depositphotos.com

Espoo: Restaurants and cafés that REALLY convince! Great restaurants and cafes in Espoo

Bistro Ranta – €€-€€

The restaurant offers Scandinavian and European cuisine in Otaniemi in Espoo.

A plus: the beautiful view of the bay.

A table can be conveniently reserved via the restaurant’s English-language website .

Rioni – €€-€€

The very popular Georgian restaurant is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans. If you want to try dishes from original Georgian recipes in a warm atmosphere, this is the place for you.

Bembolen Kahvitupa – €€-€€

The restaurant and café offers coffee and some snacks as well as hot local cuisine – for example moose in all variations!

Cafe Regatta – €

If you want to enjoy a warm cinnamon bun in a small idyllic café, this is the place for you. The small cottage on the water also captivates with its unusual charm.

Accommodation in Espoo – spoiled for choice!

Espoo doesn’t have a proper city center, but it does have several smaller hotspots, such as the garden city district of Tapiola. The neighborhood has become the cultural center of the city in recent decades.

If you are looking for accommodation in Espoo, you should consider whether it should be located near the capital, near the national park or rather on the coast.

The good thing is: the choice of hotels and apartments in Espoo is huge!

Good to know

In Finland you can get along without problems if you know English. Nevertheless, the locals are of course happy if you have learned a few words in Finnish!

  • Hello Hei!
  • Bye Heippa!
  • Yes kyllä
  • No ei
  • Thank you Kiitos!
  • Please Ole!
  • Cheers Kippis!
  • Sorry Anteeksi

Conclusion

Espoo is a fascinating city that offers numerous activities. The national park and coastal landscape offer a lot of variety, which can make a vacation in the Finnish capital region incredibly special!

The most frequent questions from travelers

When is the best time to travel to Espoo?

The best time to visit Espoo is between May and September. During this period there is little rain and temperate climate with a maximum of 26 ° C. The city has hot summers and very cold winters.

Where is Nuuksio National Park located?

Nuuksio National Park is located northwest of Helsinki and is about 50 km2 in size.

What are the largest cities in Finland?

The largest cities are Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere.

Other cities in Finland