10 ways to enjoy the local nature in Helsinki

The Eira district in Helsinki.
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Now is the best time to get out into nature. We picked ten nature experiences in Helsinki, including some that even the locals may not know about. Try mindfulness in a forest, a nature singing tour or deep breathing in a garden!

Mindfulness among the pines

Walking through the forest and mindfulness are known to relieve stress, so what if you combined the two? The Haltiala old-growth forest and the neighbouring Niskala arboretum in northern Helsinki are magical places. The moss hanging from the branches reminds you of an elf’s beard. Here, Mindstone’s occupational health nurse and mindfulness instructor Jonna Märko organises forest exercises that focus on presence, breathing and peace.  Naturested’s sports advisor and meditation instructor Kaisa Koskinen in turn offers forest bathing experiences – relaxation and meditation exercises based on the Japanese shinrin-yoku technique – at the Uutela nature park. The three-hour tour ends with spruce tea and a snack from local producers. 

Wild herbs just waiting to be picked

It’s as if your eyes have been opened for the first time: all kinds of edible treats can be found growing along a familiar path. Wild garlic, nettles, ground elder… all kinds of wild herbs that you can use to make smoothies, spice up a pizza or prepare a refreshing skin treatment! You can easily get hooked on picking wild herbs and vegetables, as long as you know what to pick and why. Wild herb courses are available both in the forest and online. The Wildfoods Helsinki nature school organises basic and advanced courses in herb picking in the forests of Helsinki. Towards the autumn, the focus turns to mushrooms. If you prefer to pick by yourself, you can study online. Nuuksio’s Feel the Nature online course by expert guides also includes eight excellent recipes!

Let your voice lead you into nature 

Are you familiar with Ronia the Robber’s Daughter spring scream? It’s the kind of sound that can come out when you accompany jazz singer Sanni Orasmaa to the island of Pihlajasaari. She organises nature singing tours that help you find a connection to your own body. Creating sounds can begin by searching for the m-sound and progress through sighing to humming. During a two-hour Sound by Nature session, you surrender to the vibration of the sound and rid yourself of excessive analysis. Operating in the summer, morning nature singing tours depart daily by ferry from the Merisatama quay to Pihlajasaari. You can make a booking online.

A tourist in the forests of the Finnish capital

The expert wilderness guides from Taiga Times are usually busy taking foreign visitors to smoke saunas in national parks and introducing them to berry picking. When the corona crisis hit and foreign customers disappeared, Taiga Times wisely tailored their services to those already living in Finland. For families with children and those with little hiking experience, an overnight camping trip is most suitable. You will leave the centre of Helsinki for Porkkalanniemi at 5pm and return the next morning at 10.30am. The hiking distance is three kilometres and the trip is full board, including food, tents and sleeping bags. Each group can take up to six people.

Yoga in the woods

Lotta Leiwo is a yoga instructor who specialises in folklore and takes her students to the woods of western Herttoniemi. Her forest yoga courses encourage you to feel the moss on your bare feet and peel pine bark with your fingertips. The lessons help you sense both the environment and your inner space, do asanas on uneven surfaces and relax. According to Leiwo, there is no such thing as bad weather. For those living further away, Leiwo has made a recording that you can take with you into the woods. LottaJooga’s forest yoga course lasts 1.5 hours.

Looking upwards at 3 people stretching their arms above their heads in the middle of the forest while practicing yoga.
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Get your fingers dirty at Annala 

Annala Garden in the Arabia district of Helsinki is a treasure that deserves to be close to every home. The charming flower arrangements are a treat for outdoor enthusiasts and curious gardeners alike. As you breathe in the scents of the flowerbeds, you feel refreshed and calm at the same time. What a strange and fascinating experience! Here you can discover a traditional kitchen garden and identify herbs. There are also separate sections for plants used for dyeing and traditional medicinal plants. The garden is maintained by Hyötykasviyhdistys, the Association of Useful Plants, which can be found in the yellow J-building (Hämeentie 154). The association’s skilled instructors are happy to share useful gardening tips. This summer, courses are being held outdoors on topics ranging from no-dig gardening to old oaks. You can even practice tai chi in the garden! 

Can you identify a hundred birds?  

A few years ago, Birdlife Finland introduced its clever “Identify One Hundred Bird Species” challenge. As a result, many more people have become interested in birdwatching and now do it regularly as a hobby. Tringa, the Helsinki Region Ornithological Society, regularly organises birdwatching tours in different parts of the city. For example, Hietalahti Cemetery and Lapinlahti are very abundant in birdlife. Many of the tours are open to all and free of charge, while some are for members only. All tours are led by one or more experienced guides who can help you observe birds that might otherwise go unnoticed. Tours start and end at the Kiasma bus stop.

Coffees at the manor

You can get a glimpse of Helsinki’s past at its handsome manor houses and villas. Many manor houses now have a café or restaurant and are surrounded by green gardens. Café Monami (Karavaanikatu 4) at Rastila Manor is a charming summer destination where you can taste home-cooked food. Next door is the Rastila swimming beach and seaside jogging trails. Lauttasaari Manor is home to the Kone Foundation and an environmental art installation in the garden that presents the slow decay of a tree that is fascinating, even poetic, to observe. The vegan café Puhuri (Kauppaneuvoksentie 18) inside the red cottage is open until 28 August.

Ride the trails on horseback

Helsinki looks different on horseback. The best way to experience the summer atmosphere is with a trail riding class. Beginners get a guide to lead the horse, while more experienced riders can navigate the trails with the others. The Ruskeasuo stables offer direct access to the forest paths through Central Park (Keskuspuisto). In northern Helsinki, around Tuomarinkylä, there are large fields, the Vantaanjoki embankment and hilly forest trails. At the Husö stables, lucky trail riders will be able to ride their horses into the water on hot days. When the instructor riding at the head of the line raises the pace to a gallop, all your worries will disappear. 
Keskustalli, Ratsastie 10
Tuomarinkartanon Ratsastusopisto, Kavaleffintie 8
Tuomarinkylän ratsastuskoulu, Ratsukkopolku 5 and Ratsastie 10
Husön Ratsastuskeskus, Talosaarentie 283

 

To find out more about Helsinki's gorgeous nature click here!

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Now is the best time to get out into nature. We picked ten nature experiences in Helsinki, including some that even the locals may not know about. Try mindfulness in a forest, a nature singing tour or deep breathing in a garden!