Neighbourhoods of Espoo

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Helsinki's western neighbour, Espoo, is the second largest Finnish city in terms of population, and the very largest city in size. Espoo is rich in special locales: the vibrant nature of the archipelago, world-renowned architecture, state-of-the-art shopping and entertainment centers, diverse sports facilities, nostalgic village landscapes, model suburbs, university campuses, national parks, medieval churches... The region is growing quickly, but the city is doing everything it can to do so sustainably; Espoo was chosen as the world's most intelligent community and a pioneer of sustainable European development in 2018 by the global Intelligent Community Forum initiative.

A curious fact about Finland is that the two largest cities in the whole country are located side by side. The only thing separating the two is a small municipal signpost, which the new Western Metro extension has all but hidden. It costs the same to visit many of Espoo's suburbs as it does to travel within the capital — so why not go for a ride?

Instead of having a fixed city center like Helsinki does, Espoo has more than one. Many of the central spots used to be historic manors, which is why the city is so spread out in its design. Espoo's most famous locations are found in the Tapiola and Otaniemi areas. These suburbs were built mostly in the 1950s and 60s, offering architecture buffs some eye-catching facades.

Tapiola, named after the ancient Finnish god of the forest, is a prime international example of the "garden city" principle, while the swiftly developing Otaniemi campus is a sprawling masterpiece designed by national treasure Alvar Aalto. Otaniemi and nearby Keilaniemi are some of the most important hubs of Finnish education, research, and commerce, housing conglomerate headquarters as well as the most ambitious of start-ups and laboratories where the innovations of the future are created.

Since Espoo is so large — a total of 312 km2 — it is well worth delving deeper into the city. Leppävaara by the train tracks features an old villa as well as versatile shopping and cultural services, such as the largest library by selection in the capital region. The so-called center of Espoo is home to the city's decision-making institutions as well as the Espoo Cathedral, built in the 15th century. The Espoonlahti bay area is another briskly growing place, pegged to be the terminus of the Western Metro extension in the future. The housing in Matinkylä and Olari is 1970s Espoo to a T — Olari was prized in its day as a perfect model suburb, with many features ahead of their time.

These larger urban focal points are contrasted by smaller areas with a more human touch. For instance, the neighbourhood of Kauklahti was chosen as Finland's best suburb in 2018.

If you ask the inhabitants themselves about their choice spots in the city, they will likely cite the gorgeous collection of islands chock-full of nature and history — and of course the vast Nuuksio national park in northern Espoo, which is a member of the EU's Natura 2000 network of nature reserves. Here you can learn about the natural world by hiking the paths and routes, or by visiting the Finnish Nature Center, Haltia, located right next to the park.

The waterways and forests of Laajalahti, Bodom, Kalajärvi, and Laaksolahti are also places of natural wonder. Espoo is a city where nature is never far away.

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Teaser text
Helsinki's western neighbour, Espoo, is the second largest Finnish city in terms of population, and the very largest city in size.