By walking: Natural attractions in the heart of the city
Töölönlahti is super easy to walk to from all directions in the city centre – from Kamppi, Kallio and Töölö. The bay behind the Central Railway Station is impressively big but also small enough to walk around. On the eastern side of the bay is the charming Linnunlaulu “Birdsong” district with natural trees and wooden villas, while on the western side there is a large park with lawns and leafy trees to provide shade. From the edge of the bay you can enjoy beautiful views through the tall reeds.
Kaisaniemi Park is the green heart of the city that you can reach in just a few minutes from the shopping streets in the city centre. In the park you can admire the landscape garden envisioned by Helsinki’s original architect Carl Ludvig Engel and formed by the winding paths. You can also find more exotic nature in the Botanic Garden.
Katajanokka and especially the tip of the peninsula is a hidden gem for walkers. Considering its proximity to the city centre, it’s a remarkably tranquil place that you can’t really stumble upon by accident since the peninsula is obviously a dead end. If you do walk to the end of the peninsula, you will find a thin strip of nature between the city and the sea. Across the water you can see the zoo island of Korkeasaari and the forested shores of the Laajasalo district in East Helsinki.
By train or bus
Just a five-minute walk from the Pitäjänmäki and Valimo train stations awaits one of the biggest surprises among Helsinki’s natural attractions: the biggest waterfall in the entire metropolitan area. You can find it hidden away inside Strömberg Park. You can also sit under the trees by the pretty pond in the middle of the park and admire the ducks.
Veräjämäki and Veräjälaakso can be reached on foot in just over five minutes from the Oulunkylä train station. You will find majestic granite rocks, deep spruce forests and walking paths along the river. If you climb the rocks behind the swimming beach by the Pikkukoski rapids, it’s easy to forget that you are still in the biggest city in Finland. From the top of the hill you can see a long way up and down the Vantaanjoki river.
Rhododendron Park in Haaga has become one of the most popular green areas in Helsinki. Alppiruusupuisto (also known as “Rhodopuisto”) attracts a lot of visitors, especially around the middle of June when the rhododendrons in the eight-hectare park explode into blossom. It really is a sight to behold, but you can also enjoy a lovely walk through the park at any other time of the summer too.
Lauttasaari is a real treasure trove of nature just five minutes by metro from the city centre. This otherwise populated island has a delightful shoreline with views in all directions. You can also find surprising forested areas, such as the Myllykallio hill that rises in the centre of the island and even has a birdwatching tower, the Länsiulapanniemi peninsula, which conceals a giant’s kettle, and the Särkiniemi–Vattuniemi peninsula on the southern tip of the island, where you can even walk to the island of Sisä-Hattu when the tide is low. On the northern side of the island you can cross bridges to get to the islands of Mustasaari and Lehtisaari, which have delightful shoreline walking paths that are perfect for summer evenings.
Katri Vala Park in the Kallio district between the streets Käenkuja and Vilhovuorenkuja is very close to the busy Sörnäinen metro station, but to get there you have to head off the main road. Situated beside a high hill, this park is a small and peaceful oasis in an otherwise urban setting. Benches are scattered around the park where you can sit and admire the abundance of flowers.
Kivinokka is a natural headland on the southern side of the Old Town Bay where you can enjoy the forest nature, an old manor house, and lots of allotment gardens full of gardeners. Just a short walk from the Kulosaari metro station, you will first come across the manor house and its gardens, followed by a natural forest and nature trail, then a birdwatching platform, and then a swimming beach. Further along the peninsula you will come across the allotment gardens and their tiny summer cottages.
By bicycle or city bike
Hietaniemi is a green area in the Etu-Töölö district that is easy to get to by bike. It also has the most popular swimming beach in Helsinki, popularly referred to as “Hietsu”. Even if you don’t plan on swimming, cycling along the shoreline road Hiekkarannantie is a great way to enjoy the seaside atmosphere, not to mention all the picnic places along the way!
Uunisaari is a small but very beautiful recreational island just off the mainland in front of Kaivopuisto Park. In fact, it comprises two islands that are divided by a narrow channel. In wintertime you can walk to Uunisaari from the mainland across a pontoon bridge, and in summertime a small ferry operates back and forth. The twin islands are popular destinations for sitting on the rocks and staring out to sea, and there is also a nice sandy swimming beach – perfect for relaxing and enjoying picnics!
Mustikkamaa to the east of the Kalasatama district has been one of the most popular recreational areas in Helsinki since 1921, when it was made into a public park. The rocky island is covered with pine forest, and the shoreline is one of the best fishing spots in town.
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