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Porvoo – The second oldest city in Finland

The small town of Porvoo near the Finnish capital Helsinki, is picturesquely nestled between forests and water on the river Porvoonjoki and is one of the most beautiful cities in Finland.

The river location as well as the colorful wooden houses and narrow cobblestone streets with pretty cafes and small stores give Porvoo a special atmosphere. The city is suitable both for a day trip from Helsinki and as a vacation resort to explore the surrounding area and the capital from there.

Porvoo in Finland
Porvoo in Finland, source: ElenaNoeva/bigstockphoto.com

General information about Porvoo

Porvoo was founded about 800 years ago and is the second oldest city in Finland after Turku. It is located 50 kilometers east of Helsinki and is also known as a summer city, because it is at this time of year that the place exudes its unique charm.

Everywhere there is a hustle and bustle in the narrow streets. People sit in the small, cozy cafes or marvel at the pretty interior stores, always looking for that special interior that this area is known for.

Porvoo is not a direct coastal city, but it is connected to the Gulf of Finland via the Porvoonjoki River. Popular in the summer are the steamer trips on the river from Helsinki to Poorvo or vice versa.

Porvoonjoki river in Porvoo
Porvoonjoki river in Porvoo, source: ElenaNoeva/bigstockphoto.com

The long history of Porvoo can be seen especially well during a walk through the historical quarter of the city . It is no coincidence that Porvoo has been the home and source of inspiration for various Finnish artists for centuries.

By the way, both Finnish and Swedish are spoken in Porvoo.

The best sights in Porvoo

If you are traveling to Porvoo in Finland, the sights below should definitely be on your to-do list.

The historic quarter

The historic district of Porvoo is like a very special open-air museum. While walking on the original cobblestones through the narrow streets, you can admire the original architectural style of the village along the way. The historic district is not a real museum, of course, because about 800 Finns actually live and work here.

What makes the historic district special are its red-painted wooden houses by the river, which are known as Porvoo’s landmarks. They owe their red color to King Gustav III, in whose honor they were painted at the time. At that time Porvoo was considered an important trade center and the red wooden houses served as warehouses for, for example, exotic specialties from faraway countries.

Red wooden houses in Porvoo
Red wooden houses in Porvoo, source: ElenaNoeva/bigstockphoto.com

Porvoo Cathedral

One of the most famous buildings of Porvoo is the cathedral with its imposing bell tower, which is located in the middle of the old town. It was built in the 14th century and has had to survive five fires since then. The last fire was caused by arson in 2006. In 2008, after two years of renovation, the public was allowed to enter the church again.

The house Holm

Holm House, built in 1763, is located in the center of Porvoo and offers visitors a glimpse into the life of a well-off merchant family at the end of the 18th century. On the first floor of the building there are changing exhibitions and a museum store.

The Runeberg Museum

Johan Ludvig Runeberg was once Finland’s national poet and lived in Porvoo with his wife and two sons. Their home has been turned into a museum and you can admire the family’s artwork, as well as the fox-skin room with Runeberg’s hunting weapons and cabinets with the finest porcelain. It is especially beautiful here in summer, when the air in the garden smells of fruit trees and roses.

The culinary Porvoo

Porvoo is considered one of the best addresses in Southern Finland when it comes to delicacies. The Finns already knew this in the 19th century and therefore traveled especially from the capital to Porvoo to visit the local cafés and restaurants.

In Porvoo, modern culinary art meets Finnish tradition, so guests can enjoy Scandinavian and Finnish delicacies as well as international flavors on their plates. Much emphasis is placed on carefully selected beer and wine, in addition to local specialties and organic products.

If you need a break while walking through the old town of Porvoo, we recommend the nice Café Fanny. Here you can get delicious coffee and pastries.

A popular restaurant is Porvoon Paahtimo with beautiful river location. Here is a very good selection of wine and beer.

Café in Porvoo
Café in Porvoo, source: encrier/bigstockphoto.com

The culinary highlight is the annual SMAKU Gourmet Festival in Porvoo, which takes place in August. Here, participating restaurants offer small specialty bites for little money. This is a great way to chow down on Porvoo’s old town.

Nice activities in Porvoo

Besides tourist attractions, Porvoo also offers its visitors some worthwhile activities.

The Old Station

For lovers of art and culinary delights, a visit to the Old Station is a must. The building houses a hardware store, an upholstery store, an art gallery and a summer café.

It’s worth browsing in the warehouse next door, where you can buy local handicrafts as well as organic baked goods and delicacies.

The Archipelago

Archipelago is the name given to the archipelago sea off the coast of Finland, which is characterized by its thousands of small islands, cliffs and rocks. Along the rugged Baltic coast you can find beautiful long sandy beaches and bays.

During a tour along the coast, a visit to the 150-year-old Söderskär lighthouse in the Porvoo archipelago near Helsinki is highly recommended.

Archipelago sea off Porvoo
Archipelago sea off Porvoo, source: MarVassma/bigstockphoto.com

Boat trips on the river Porvoonjoki

Boat trips on the Porvoonjoki River are very popular. For example, you can take themed trips on the steam ferry or take a boat from Porvoo to Helsinki or vice versa.

Recreation park Virvik

Virvik Recreation Park is located close to Porvoo city center and has some beautiful hiking trails in varied surroundings. In addition, here you can find a golf course on a manor house, a small boat harbor, a beach for swimming in the sea and a nature trail.

In Virvik Recreation Park there are both easy hiking trails and more challenging ones such as the trail to Holken Lean To. The way there also includes steep climbs and descents to the rocky terrain, which is slippery in the rain.

The surroundings of Porvoo

Porvoo’s surrounding area also has beautiful destinations to offer, so there is guaranteed to be something to suit everyone’s taste.

Hiking trail in Finland
Hiking trail in Finland, source: mazzzur/bigstockphoto.com

Nature trails – hiking trails with learning effect

Ekudden nature trail is located only 3 kilometers from the center of Porvoo and has a length of about 1.5 kilometers. The trail takes about 1 to 2 hours to complete because there is so much to experience on it.

The one kilometer long nature trail Gammelbacka is located in a forest area between Gammelbacka and Hamar and is connected with the tree species trail. On panels you can learn about the tree and plant species there.

Just a few kilometers south of Porvoo’s city center lies the Sikosaari nature trail. The trail leads through rocky pine forests and along shore reeds. At the edge of the reeds there is a viewing platform from which you can watch birds.

The Malmgård Brewery

Malmgård Brewery is located in the middle of a beautiful landscape and is housed in a cowshed. Brewmaster Tuomas Markkula has been brewing his beer here since 2009 using organically grown Finnish oat malt grown on the farm. Even the water comes from Malmgår’s own spring.

Different types of beer are brewed, which can be tasted on site. In summer, a café invites you to spelt pancakes with coffee or beer on the terrace.

Malmgård Manor
Malmgård Manor, source: ElenaNoeva/bigstockphoto.com

The Malmgård Manor

Malmgård Manor is the manor house of the Creutz family and impressively shows visitors how wealthy Finns lived there in the past centuries. Guided tours are available and are especially impressive when conducted by family members.

Although the interiors and not least the ballroom with its lavish wall and ceiling paintings are virtually inviting, photos are taboo. The two-story building was built between 1882 and 1885 and displays elements of the Northern French Renaissance. Building was mainly done with uncovered bricks.

The glacial pots of Askola

The twenty cylindrical glacial pots (also called glacial mills) are located in Askola municipality in the eastern part of the southern Finnish province of Uusimaa and were formed by a vortex of meltwater and rocks towards the end of the last ice age.

The largest glacier pot is 4.2 meters wide and a proud 10.3 meters deep. If you are brave, you can climb down a steep ladder into the glacier pots.

The glacier pot area consists of natural forest and meadow area and is open all year round. Since the actual glacier mill area is a steep rocky slope, stairs with railings were built for safety. Therefore, a visit with wheelchair or stroller is unfortunately not possible. Entering the glacier pot area costs admission.

Glacier pot from below
Glacier pot from below, source: johnsroad7/bigstockphoto.com

The journey to Porvoo

  • Airplane: By airplane you will travel from Germany to Helsinki in Finland. Then continue by cab, bus or rental car to Porvoo.

Accommodation in Porvoo

Depending on budget and preferences, tourists in Porvoo stay either in one of the many hotels, apartment, bed & breakfast or in a cozy cottage.

Conclusion

Whether as a day trip or a vacation resort, Porvoo is one of the most beautiful cities in Southern Finland near Helsinki.

With its few, but therefore no less interesting sights, such as the historic district with its red wooden houses or the old town, as well as its beautiful location on the river Porvoonjoki and the associated opportunities for activities, Porvoo in Finland is definitely worth a trip.

Porvoo in Finland
Porvoo in Finland, source: ElenaNoeva/bigstockphoto.com

Frequently asked questions

Where is Porvoo located?

Porvoo is located about 50 kilometers east of the Finnish capital Helsinki. In front of Porvoo lies the Archipelago Sea, which separates the city somewhat from the Gulf of Finland.

How old is Porvoo?

Porvoo is considered the second oldest city in Finland and according to records was founded about 800 years ago. The historic old town is well preserved and a popular destination for excursions.

Is Swedish also spoken in Porvoo?

Yes, in Porvoo they actually speak Swedish as well as Finnish. This is due to the fact that Provoo was granted city rights by the Swedish king in 1346 and therefore today about 30 percent of the inhabitants still speak Swedish.

What are the most popular sights in Porvoo?

Besides the historic old town, the red wooden houses along the river, which received their color in honor of King Gustav III, are especially famous. Porvoo Cathedral with its imposing bell tower is also worth a visit.

Are there any nice hiking trails near Porvoo?

On the one hand, there is Virvik Recreation Park, which is located not far from the city center and offers varied hiking trails. Just outside Porvoo there are also the nature trails Ekudden, Gammelbacka and Sikosaari, which promise fun and adventure for the whole family.

What are the travel options?

The journey to Porvoo is recommended once by plane to Helsinki and from there continue by rental car, bus or a cab to Porvoo. Arrival by own car is also possible. Here you take the ferry from Travemünde to Helsinki and continue to Porvoo.

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