Getting around Helsinki in a sustainable way

Cyclist on a bridge.
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The best activity from a viewpoint of sustainability is one completed using only one's body. Take a bike trip along the Helsinki shoreline, take off on a guided walking tour, or enjoy the city at sea in a canoe or rowboat.

"From a viewpoint of climate and sustainability, the best activities are always the ones you can do using your own muscle power rather than motorised gadgets", Senior Expert Satu Lähteenoja from the think tank Demos Helsinki says.

When considering the sustainability of different activities, it is important to focus on how the activity is performed in practice and how the venue where the activity occurs is reached.

Different types of nature outings by bike, foot or public transportation are all good activities. According to Lähteenoja, excursion organisers and participants should take into account how one gets to the location.

"Do you need your own car or is there perhaps shared transport? If you can reach a venue using public transport, you also have to take timetables into account. The Nuuksio National Park near Helsinki can be reached by bus only once an hour, so it is important to plan an excursion with the bus schedule in mind."

An important topic in planning excursions and activities is to consider how far away from your home they take place.

"I encourage people to travel locally. You can have experiences that you might never have tried", Satu Lähteenoja advises.

Pyörällä pääsee helposti Keskuspuistoon
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Nature is always nearby in Helsinki   

For a large number of Helsinkians, a forest suitable for a picnic can be found very close to home Close to 40 percent of the Helsinki area consists of green areas managed by the city. Many can even take a short walk to a beach for a swim in their bathing suit: Helsinki has 123 kilometres of shoreline and 25 public beaches.

Helsinki has easy access to nature – whether for a long hike or a quick pitstop. A popular spot for forest fans is the city’s Central Park – also known as the "Lungs of Helsinki" – a stretch of green cutting through the city on a south-north axis. It offers oxygen-rich experiences for people of all ages and in all seasons. A very popular recent favourite has been running on the paths in groups. Birdwatchers will find great enjoyment at the nature reserves of Vanhankaupunginlahti and Vuosaari.

Helsinki's beaches are popular in the summer, but it’s also pleasant to spend time by the sea in the winter. Winter swimming is a sustainable form of recreation, and the city offers plenty of options for it. Swimmers often complete their icy dips with the help of a sauna, but also without. In the latter case you just have a simple dressing room by the ice hole. If the idea of cold water doesn’t thrill you, there are many islands that offer a beautiful scenery for a wintertime walk.

Half a dozen Lupins stand on a grassy bank in the foreground, while a metro train passes by on the left of the picture under a sunny, blue sky.
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The journey is already an experience  

Sailors like to say that when they’re in a boat, they have already arrived. The saying has a certain wisdom – the journey itself can be the greatest experience.

The same idea can be applied to other forms of travel, too – and most importantly sustainable ones. Helsinki is a very easy city for urban adventures using public transportation. Trains, trams, ferries, buses and the metro take passengers to the airport, nature reserves and, for example, the Suomenlinna sea fortress. The mobile route planner app helps you find the best way to get to wherever you wish to go.

Helsinki's city bike system is extremely popular, and its user rate is the highest in the whole world. The easy and practical system is continuously being extended and you can ride the easy-to-spot yellow bikes almost anywhere. Some routes worth trying out include the Baana, a former railroad track turned bike pathway. It runs from the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum to the Ruoholahti district. Another pleasant route is the seaside bike lane from the Market Square to the former powerplant Suvilahti and the adjacent cultural hub, the Abattoir, behind it. In addition to these, there are plenty more routes to cycle in the city: some 1,200 kilometres of bike lanes in total.   

Melontaa Vuosaaressa
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Guided tours take visitors to the parks and the sea

A guided tour is great in finding a new perspective on the city. Helsinki has many opportunities for inspiring and sustainable excursions in both urban and natural landscapes. Lovers of urban exploration will enjoy, for instance, the guided design walks through the Helsinki Design District.

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Examples of guided activities in Helsinki
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The best activity from a viewpoint of sustainability is one completed using only one's body. Take a bike trip along the Helsinki shoreline, take off on a guided walking tour, or enjoy the city at sea in a canoe or rowboat.