You don't need to own land to access nature, everyone in Finland has equal rights to the outdoors. The omnipresent everyman's right, 'freedom to roam', allows you for example to boat, swim and to move around in nature, pick berries and mushrooms, provided that one does not disturb anyone by trespassing or harm plants and animals.
Nature is always near in Helsinki. You can feel the sea wind blowing, walk through a forest or stop for coffee in a park, all on your way to work. The city has 123 kilometres of shoreline, 27 beaches and 13 winter swimming locations. Close to 40 percent of the land area is green space maintained by the city. The Central Park cuts through Helsinki in a north-south line over nearly 10 kilometres.
Many islands can be accessed quickly by ferry or foot and they are popular destinations for day trips. Visitors can take a dip in the sea from the sauna on Lonna and pat the free-roaming sheep at Kuusiluoto. The former fortress islands of Suomenlinna and Vallisaari have interesting layers of history to discover.
In addition to numerous parks, Helsinki region also has two national parks, both easily accessed by public transportation. Nuuksio has over 30 kilometres of official tracks, suitable for day trip visitors and entry-level trekkers. In the national park one can hike, pick berries, visit a sauna or enjoy a coffee prepared over an open fire. Sipoonkorpi features beautiful landscapes as well as many activities, from geocaching to climbing. The traditional smoke sauna found at the lake Kuusijärvi is open year round with a few footsteps to the lake.
Clean water and air
Helsinki's tap water is good to drink straight from the tap, and the air quality is also good. A new British study evaluated Helsinki as the fourth best city of European capitals in terms of health. The Finnish capital was ranked the best in water quality and second best in air quality.
The Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY tracks air quality in real time on their website. Air quality in the city centre was good or adequate for 91 percent of the time last year. You can breathe fresh air everywhere, even outside the parks and forests.
Airvisual.com listed Helsinki as having the world's fifth-cleanest air in 2018. The study (pdf) examined 62 capital cities.
Silence is always present
One can easily find peace and quiet amongst the bustle of the city. A moment spent in the forest, by the sea or in a park can bring calm even during a work day.
A resident study conducted in 2019 asked respondents to mark places on a map that they thought of as quiet or calm. The study collected 1022 such places. The areas with the biggest density of quiet zones were Viikki and the Vanhankaupunginlahti bay area, the Central Park, the surroundings of the Malmi airport, Uutela and Kivinokka. Most of the quiet areas are located by the sea or other bodies of water.
Silence lowers stress, according to the study. Most Helsinkians also felt that quiet zones are crucial for mental and physical wellbeing. Many people reported visiting their quiet spots to enjoy nature, to get exercise and to calm down.
A fully walkable city
A study by the University of Jyväskylä suggested that daily exercise and visiting nature enhance wellbeing at the workplace and reduce grumpiness. Helsinki makes it easy to turn spending time outdoors into a habit. Distances are fairly short, walking routes are functional and the air is clean. The city centre is compact and walkable, making it easy to get from any point to another on foot.
According to statistics, some 36 percent of trips taken within city limits are made by foot and 11 percent by bike. Helsinki has a network of 3450 city bikes and 238 city bike stations. The public transport network is also extensive. Schedules are reliable, and you don't need to learn them by heart. You can easily purchase a ticket on the digital route planner and check which connection serves you best to reach your destination.
Helsinki is a city that allows residents to enjoy clean nature and a lively cultural life all in one. Perhaps this is the underlying reason why Helsinkians are on average healthier than other Finns.
Grid card list
Finland is the most forested country in Europe, thus ensuring that you can reach greenery and the calm of nature within minutes without venturing too far even from the Helsinki centre. Even though Helsinki is the biggest city in the country if you wish to go down to the woods there are plenty of places you can easily reach where you can experience the Finnish forest at its peaceful best.
In Finland we believe that 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.