Nature is good for you: being in nature has a positive influence on your physical and mental health, lowering your blood pressure, reducing stress and soothing your mind. Helsinki is one of the few capital cities in the world where the real nature is so close to its inhabitants.
You can easily move around the city by bike but the metro is also a great way to get from the city centre out into the nature, for example:
- From the Kulosaari metro station you can get to Kivinokka and Mustikkamaa,
- From the Vuosaari metro station there is about 1 km walking distance to the Uutela recreational area,
- From the Herttoniemi metro station you can get to the Viikki nature reserve,
- From the Rastila metro station you can get to Kallahdenniemi.
Here are three different ways of experiencing nature on your visit.
Central Park: nature's calm in the middle of the city
Considering Helsinki’s breathtaking architecture and the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, it’s quite understandable if you don’t immediately notice that another world awaits you right in the heart of the city. Just to the north of the Töölönlahti bay lies Keskuspuisto, Helsinki’s very own “Central Park” stretching northwards from the Töölönlahti bay to Haltiala and the Vantaanjoki river on the city limits. Covering an area of a thousand hectares, around 1360 football fields, the park is ten kilometres long and features rich and diverse nature typical of the southern coastal region of Finland.
The thick forest provides an abundance of hiding places for the wildlife. Squirrels and hares are the most common inhabitants, but Keskuspuisto is also home to elks with their giant antlers. Among the quiet trees you may also hear the clopping of a woodpecker from far away.
The park is home to no less than four unique nature protection areas:
- In the Pitkäkoski deciduous forest you can admire the natural rapids and lush forest.
- In the Haltiala primeval forest you can view the entire lifecycle of trees, from young saplings to ancient deadwood.
- At the Ruutinkoski rapids you can find a European white elm that is around 200 years old and has been declared a natural monument.
- At the Niskala arboretum you can learn more about traditional Finnish species, as well as exotic trees from abroad. The arboretum is also a favourite spot for birds.
Old Town Bay and Viikki: birdlife and sheep
The Old Town Bay (Vanhankaupunginlahti) is the largest nature reserve in Helsinki. It is particularly popular among birdwatchers, who have identified around 300 different species there. Especially in springtime it is worth climbing the steps of the bird watching tower to see all the migratory birds as they fly in formation across the skies.
From the Old Town Rapids you can access the Pornaistenniemi nature trail and then walk across the duckboards to Lammassaari, a protected island in Viikki. From Lammassaari you can get to Kuusiluoto, a public recreational island where sheep graze in summertime.
In Viikki, the geographic centre of Helsinki you can also see more pastoral scenes, such as cows grazing.
Nuuksio National Park: perfect for hiking
Nuuksio National Park in Espoo covers around 33 kilometres of marked hiking trails, as well as lean-to shelters and camping sites. You can also fish, cycle, swim, ride horses, climb, pick berries and mushrooms and ski in the wintertime.
The most popular hiking trails in the park start from the Haukkalampi nature hut. The main loops cover varied terrain and range from 2 to 7 kilometres in length. Nuuksio is also ideal for longer hikes lasting a day or two as there are lean-to-shelters, camping sites and rental huts.
You can rent hiking gear from The Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, located in Nuuksio, or visit the main exhibition that provides a genuine experience of the Finnish nature.
Remember Everyman's Rights
While cleansing your mind with the fresh forest air, you can also nourish your body with fresh berries and mushrooms just waiting to be picked. Familiarise yourself with Finland’s Everyman’s Rights and make the most of your time in the forest!
Everyman's Rights refers to the right to enjoy the countryside freely regardless of who owns or manages the land.
Everyman's Rights allows you to:
- walk, ski or cycle freely in nature, for example in forests, natural meadows and on frozen lakes
- ride horses
- pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers, as long as they are not protected species
- fish with a rod and line
- use boats, swim or bathe in inland waters and the sea.
Please note that nature, wildlife and plants must be respected and not disturbed, damaged or harmed in any way.
To find out more about Helsinki's gorgeous nature click here!