1. A rustle in the reeds
The Vanhankaupunginlahti bay area is especially popular amongst birdwatchers. Helsinki’s biggest nature reserve zone is home to a great number of different bird species and one can also trek through a grove of black alder trees, or relax one’s eyes among the gently swaying beds of reed. Six bird towers rise up from different points of the bay, as do four barrier-free birdwatching platforms. The area is easily reachable via public transport or by foot. You can start your walk from Arabianranta, heading towards the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapids and taking a turn towards the barrier-free duckboards of Lammassaari.
The bay area is also a historical setting, as Helsinki was first founded in this location. In the present day, the Kuninkaankartanonsaari Islet between the river beds hosts the Museum of Technology and a restaurant. In the summertime, a chain of food stands serving lunch and dinner dot the bank by the rapids. A great place to finish off an evening walk is the pedestrian bridge of Matinkaari; turning the gaze towards the bay and taking in the sun-drenched view.
2. The hidden pearl of the city centre
Lapinlahti is a beautiful oasis just a stone’s throw from the city centre. The former hospital area hosts plenty of activities nowadays – such as a beach for swimming, the café operated by Lapinlahden Lähde, and a public sauna.
The Lapinlahti hospital was the first psychiatric hospital in Finland. The building has been decommissioned as a hospital; the Mental Museum now found on the top floor presents the history of treating mental health ruptures. There are sometimes guided tours through the building.
The hospital area has easy access to the Töölö district by way of the shore. This route travels through the Hietaniemi Cemetery, the Sibelius Park and Monument, and the Rowing Stadium. A carpet-washing dock and the atmospheric Café Regatta offer spots for relaxing along the way.
3. An ice-age ridge and sandy banks
Kallahdenniemi is an East Helsinki treasure with plenty to offer to nature and history buffs alike. The bay reaches out towards the sea and is dotted with oldtime villas, rugged pine trees, a nature path, beaches, and various nature reserve zones.
Visitors to Kallahdenniemi can enjoy a scenery of ridges formed in the late Ice Age, a rare treat in the Helsinki region. Tall pines fence the path leading to the tip of the bay. Protected beach meadows greet visitors farther in, as do the sandbanks fit for ankle-deep barefoot wandering in the shallow waters to examine little fish.
The tip of the bay is called the Queen. The little islands visible from the shore also have fun names like Prince, Princess — and Butter Tub. The shallow bank of the tip of the bay is Helsinki’s first underwater natural reserve.
Kallahdenniemi can be reached from the city centre by metro or bus. The bus 816 connects the Vuosaari metro station directly to the destination. There is also a carpark and a bike park by the Kallahdenniemi beach. The main routes to the area are easy-to-navigate sand roads, or wide paths. There are no sudden ascents in the area, but not all paths and routes are accessible for all.
4. History and monuments
Seurasaari has been a Helsinki favourite since the 19th century. Nowadays the island hosts a campfire site, restaurant, café, kiosks, and an open-air museum exhibiting the history of life and work in rural Finland. Some 88 buildings have been transplanted to the island, from a two-storey house from Ostrobothnia to a 17th century church. The buildings have been restored using traditional methods.
In the summertime, visitors can walk around the whole island alongside the water. The overall length of the seashore stroll is three kilometres, and offers plenty of opportunities to see birds and squirrels from a close distance.
The island also has two protected natural monuments: a giant’s kettle, and the second thickest monopodial pine tree in Helsinki — with an anthill that has spread into the crevices in the tree.
Seurasaari Island can be reached in 20 minutes by bus from the city centre. The route is fairly easy to navigate year-round, and is accessible but demanding.
5. Wild animals and summer huts
The outdoor recreation island of Mustikkamaa can nowadays be easily reached via the Isoisänsilta bridge from the direction of Kalasatama and Kallio. You can start the walking route in Kalasatama, and finish up at the Kulosaari metro station.
Mustikkamaa has a beach, climbing park, kiosk, restaurant, summertime theatre and tennis courts. The rocks facing Kalasatama are a perfect location for a quick pitstop with a wonderful view of the metro track heading east.
It is worthwhile to keep all senses open when walking through Mustikkamaa. You may well hear the roar of lions, or at least the honking of peacocks from the adjacent Korkeasaari Zoo.
A stroll on Mustikkamaa can naturally be followed by an architectural tour of Kulosaari, a maritime district with old villas and embassies. If you want to stretch out your walk, you can finish up amongst the allotments and summer huts in Kivinokka.