Central Park is a nearly ten-kilometre-long forested green space running the length of Helsinki from south to north, starting near the city centre in Laakso and ending at the city’s northern border in Haltiala and the river Vantaanjoki.
Central Park, Keskuspuisto, is a very popular recreational area with a diverse range of environments and also serves as a peaceful commuter cycling route. The habitats of the Central Park are varied, consisting of numerous old, spruce-dominated forests, herb-rich forests, meadows and fields. The various habitats of Central Park also house several rare species of plants, and in the summer the park is filled with a variety of colourful flowers. The old forests provide excellent living conditions for a diverse range of polypores. One indication of the diversity of the park’s forests is the fact that they are home to Siberian flying squirrels. The area also houses a broad range of bird species.
The northern part of the park includes several conservation areas: the hillside herb-rich forest of Pitkäkoski, Haltiala primeval forest area, Niskala arboretum, the coastal herb-rich forest of Ruutinkoski and the Vantaanjoki riverbank. Planning is currently underway for the establishment of two new conservation areas in Haltiala: the Haltiala herb-rich forest and the Paloheinä wooded mire.
Central Park has a number of nature trails.
The Haltiala trail takes you from Haltiala Farm to the cabin at Pitkäkoski, or vice versa. The trail is approximately 4.6 kilometres long. The route is easy to navigate. You can find buses that take you near the trail’s start and end points in the Journey Planner.
Maunulan nature trail is centred around the theme of natural diversity and the cycle of life. The trail is 3.3-kilometre long. There are 11 information boards along the trail. The information board texts are in Finnish and Swedish, but they also include QR codes through which you can access English versions. The nature trail is primarily easy to navigate, but also includes a somewhat difficult rocky section that can be bypassed along other paths if necessary.
Right near the city centre, on a tram ride away, is a forest dominated by large spruces that is also home to Siberian flying squirrels. The trail also runs by some horse stables. The Laakso tour is easy to navigate and 2.5 kilometres long. It can be walked in any order or only partially.
The origins of Helsinki’s Central Park lie in a plan drawn up by architect Bertel Jung in 1911, which also included Töölönlahti Bay and its surroundings. The surroundings of Töölönlahti are often considered part of Central Park, but officially the Park starts at Laakso and continues northward all the way to the city border, terminating at the river Vantaanjoki.
The construction of the Ruskeasuo Equestrian Hall, also called the Olympic Manège, began in the late 1930s, when Finland was chosen as the host of the 1940 Summer Olympics. However, it wasn’t until 1952 when the games were finally held in Helsinki that the horses taking part in the Olympics finally arrived at the stables. Nowadays the stables next to the equestrian hall house Finland’s oldest horse riding school, Keskustalli, as well as Helsinki’s only police horses.
There are a number of fortifications built by Russians during the First World War littered around different parts of Central Park. They were part of the chain of fortifications built around Helsinki in 1914–1918, which was in turn a part of the defence system meant to protect Russia’s capital, St Petersburg. Since 1971, the fortifications have been considered fixed antiquities and thus protected by the Antiquities Act.
In the north, Central Park opens up, encompassing the old forests and fields of Haltiala Manor. Here you can also find Niskala arboretum, a collection of exotic tree species established in 1905 by the lord of Tuomarinkylä Manor, Jacob Kavaleff. Parallel to the Vantaanjoki river valley runs Kuninkaantammentie, an important route to the church of the parish of Helsinki dating back to the 16th century. The river Vantaanjoki itself also used to be an important transport route between inland areas and the coast.
Learn more about the nature of Central Park at citynature.eu.
How to get there
You can reach Central Park from the Helsinki Railway Station by foot in 15 minutes. The park begins from the Töölönlahti Bay, from where the walking and cycling trails and the winding paths continue to Vantaa and Espoo.
Travel times to different parts of the Central Park
- Laakso: 25 min by tram. Get directions.
- Maunula hiking lodge: 30 min by bus. Get directions.
- Paloheinä hiking lodge: 45 min by bus. Get directions.
- Haltiala farm: 45 min by bus. Get directions.
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