Helsinki is a city which has plenty to offer for every type of traveller. However, if you find yourself with plenty of time to spare at the capital, or you simply desire to spice things up a little during your trip, here you can have the best one-day excursions that you can do in a 2-hour radius from Helsinki.
When visiting Finland one of the main points of arrival is Helsinki. The capital has a superb international airport which connects to many main cities in countries all around the globe. Even thought lots of travellers continue their journey to other parts of Finland, a big percentage of them choose to stay in Helsinki, at lest for a part of their trip.
However, staying in the capital does not imply giving up the possibility to discover other parts of the country. Thanks to its comprehensive network of public transportations, it is very easily to make one-day excursions to other cities in Finland by coach, train, or even by boat.
Here we have compiled a list of superb one-day excursion destinations, which between 30 minutes and two hours away from the capital.
Nuuksio National Park, Espoo
Finland has a comprehensive network of 39 National Parks among which you can find Nuuksio. Located barely 30-minute away by bus or train tfrom Helsinki, we could say that it is the capital’s back yard.
Finland’s “everyman’s right” means that everyone has the freedom to roam, walk, ski or cycle in the coutryside and access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreation and exercise. Such freedom includes the possibility to camp temporarily; pick mineral samples; forage wild berries, mushrooms and flowers; fish with a rod or line; row a boat, canoe or kayak on waterways; and swim or bathe in lakes and in the sea.
In Nuuksio you can escape the city life and relax in a pristine natural setting surrounded by cristal-clear lakes, lush green forests and rugged crags. Here you can choose among different distance hikes along well-marked accessible trails on your own or with a guide and enjoy a well-deserved picnic in one of the many camping designed places equipped with open campfires, firewood and dry toilets.
At the entrance of the park visitors can find the Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, which showcases the country’s most relevant natural treasures. In Haltia’s cafe you can also enjoy a locally sourced, organic buffet lunch to refuel yourself before or after your hike.
Located in the most southern part of Finland, Hanko is the perfect summer destination for travellers seeking sandy beaches and secret corners. Hanko is an historial spa city, with a vibrant atmosphere full of colourful events by the sea, which make it a great one-day excursion destination.
As a summer destination, Hanko is privileged with 30 km of white sandy beaches and 130 km of coastline. From the centrally located water tower, distinguishable by its bright red color, visitors can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline and the old wooden villas of the city.
The city also has a rich array of restaurants where the archipelago and the sea play a major role in the menu. From fried flounder, perch, and crabs to lamb and wild game, seasonal vegetables or the traditional archipelago style bread, every season has its own delicacies to offer.
From Hanko you can also take a trip to the nearby Bengtskär lighthouse. Located in a rocky and rugged island 30 km southwest of Hanko, the light house serves as a visitors centre with cafeteria and restaurant service, as well as a small hotel with 6 rooms and 24 beds. All of the rooms were previously part of the lighthouse keepers’ homes and have views of the sea.
Porvoo, founded nearly 800 years ago, is the second oldest city in Finland. Famous for its iconic view of little red wooden houses sitting by the river bank, Porvoo is only one-hour coach ride away from Helsinki. In summer, it is also possible to reach the city by a scenic steamboat trip.
The city boasts with little charming cafés, art fairs and exhibitions, flea markets, music festivals and concerts. Porvoo is the perfect place to get lost strolling around the cobblestoned streets stepping into sweet little cafes and boutiques.
Summer is also the time for lively events like the SMAKU food festival, an award-winning event taking place in August, or the Tirmo Blues festival, a music celebration taking place in the Porvoo archipelago by the end of July.
Naantali is a tiny spa village, located just about two hours away from Helsinki, officially considered as the sunniest city in Finland. As a result, it is not extrange that this lovely seaside town is one of the favourite destinations for Finns in their summer trips, so much that even the President of the Republic has his summer residence in Kultaranta, which you can visit during the summer months in one of the many guided tours of the beautiful garden.
Naantali is also a perfect destination for families, as it hosts the magical Moomin world, an enchanted mixture of archipelago nature beauty and the characters of Tove Jansson’s books that reside in Kailo island.
Located just a couple hours of train away from Helsinki, Turku is a lively town full of history. With its lovely location by the riverside and as a doorway to the Finnish Archipelago, locals gather at the shore to eat, drink and listen to music. The old sailing ships docked at the river host bars, restaurants and night clubs and from the nearby ports daily cruises depart towards the archipelago, to nearby Naantali or across the Baltic to Sweden.
Turku is also a perfect destination to indulge yourself, with excellent restaurants, boutiques and museums to visit.
During the summer months Turku hosts all types of events suitable for all tastes: from the gourmet-minded Turku Food & Wine festival, to the young and lively Ruisrock festival, the sportive Paavo Nurmi Games, to the history recreation event of the Turku Medieval festival, just to name a few.
One and a half hours away from Helsinki by train you can find Tampere, a large city with a friendly small town feel. The city centre is compact in size, and the atmosphere is friendly and casual.
Tampere is a vibrant urbe full of industrial vintage charm, culture, and fine gastronomy offer. For instance, you can try the “best doughnut in Finland’ at the Pyynikki observation tower, after you climb up to the top the enjoy the views. Or perhaps you prefer to spend your day enjoying one of the many concert venues, quirky museums, and theatres of the city.
With more than 20 public saunas in the region, Tampere is considered the Sauna Capital of Finland. Some of them offer you a traditional sauna experience, like Rajaportti sauna in Pispala, which has been opened for more than a century. Others, like the recently opened Kuuma, offer you a hip atmosphere in the city center.
Turku is also an ideal destination for families, thanks to Särkänniemi amusement park, situated very nearby the city centre by the northern lake Näsijärvi. The
Lappeenranta is a charming city, two hours away by train from Helsinki. Located by the southern shore of Lake Saimaa and just about 40 km away from the Russian border. In summer you can travel visa free to the neighbour country by boat, and combine the natural beauty of the lakeland with the cosmopolitan city of St. Petersburg.
In Lappeenranta you should try the local specialties Vety and Atomi, which have been served for more than 40 years in the Harbour Square, and consist of meat pies filled why ham and/or eggs and various sauces.
In the summer months, make sure not to miss the giant sandcastle competition nor the various free concerts and theatre representations that take place at the city’s 300-years-old fortress.