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9 Reasons Why Helsinki Is The Nature Capital of the Entire World

1) It’s never more than a 10-minute walk to the nature

In Helsinki, you are literally in the middle of nature. Helsinki is the only capital in the world where you can wake up in a good state, go to the Opera and go to the forest to pick mushrooms during the same day. No matter where you are, a piece of nature is always just a short walk away. Even in the very heart of the city centre. There are three arboretums, historic mansion parks, dozens of other parks and wild nature areas.

2) Central Park is the green livingroom of Helsinki

Central park is the green city centre of Helsinki. It is the most popular park of the entire country. Central park is visited annually by nearly as many people as in all Finnish national parks in total, almost 2.5 million. Just lift the packpack at the yard of the Helsinki Opera House and walk through the park to the wilderness. As far as you want. The green space continues all the way to Lapland.

3) It’s the capital of the land of 40 national parks

Helsinki is the capital of Finland, the land of national parks. There are 40 national parks, and they are visited more than 2.8 million times a year. The country’s most stunning nature can be found in these parks, that are open to public around the year.

4) There are 7 national parks within 1,5 hour drive

There two national parks in the Helsinki metropolitan area: Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi. In addition there are 5 more national parks less than 1.5 hours away. In any Finnish national park you get to experience silence very easily. You can be in touch with nature without any filter in between. At the same time, you get directly into your own private space where nobody comes to disturb. Visit a national park during the day and in the evening you can still enjoy a concert, go clubbing, dine in a restaurant or go see a movie.

Nuuksio national park

5) There are dozens of recretion forests

There is no other capital region of over a million inhabitants in the world with so much surrounding nature. In addition to national parks and parks, there are dozens of recreation forests, routes and areas. Their purpose is to provide an easily accessible place for everyone to relax in the middle of pure nature. Try one of those.

6) The city has green, softly breathing lungs

The nature areas surrounding the city clean the air and bind impurities. The vegetation also reduces noise impact. Finland is one of the world’s top countries in the purity of air and quietness. And you really can feel this in the capital area.

Haltiala forest. Photo by Emilia M, read more here.

7) The Viherkehä Green Ring

Cities all around the world are surrounded by the ring roads. So is Helsinki. But this capital city is also surrounded by a green ring. The Viherkehä (Green Ring) combines different natural reserves in an unbroken chain around Helsinki: parks, recreation areas and national parks.

These hundreds of conservation and recreation areas surround Helsinki in about a 40-mile radius. From Sipoonkorpi national park you can walk or ski even over 40 miles to the beautiful cape of Porkkala along the Viherkehä area. You only have to pass underneath big roads via underpasses.

8) It’s called the Daughter of the Baltic Sea

That’s how they call Helsinki. Helsinki was built where land and sea meet. Nature is present in many forms, sea included. The Helsinki metropolitan area has its own archipelago. Many of the most spectacular places are located just in the islands.

9) The inhabitants are nature addicts

Finnish nature relationship is unique. In the summer, on the fairways it feels, that the whole city is leaving for the weekend and heading into the wild. And the Midsummer’s Eve it is also absolutely true. The city centre is practically deserted. Everybody is in the nature.

Attract on a Walk or Bike Tour Along Vantaanjoki

Helsinki is full of small gems for short getaways on foot or by bike. One of them is a walk or a bicycle route along Vantaanjoki river that takes you from the oldest of Helsinki to the newest one. Along the way there is plenty; fast rapid and a calm riverside, fields and urban gardening sites, and silence of the woods.
Helsinki was established already in 1550 by the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapid, where the Vantaanjoki (river Vantaa) meets the sea. The centre has later moved to where it is today, but the area still carries its historical charm in the middle of the new residential areas growing on both sides of the river and the Arabianranta arts and design district. From the last stop of the trams 6 and 8, there is only a stone’s throw to the path that takes you along the bayside to the pedestrian bridge nearby the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapid. On a lazy day, the time goes by watching the rapid, the beautiful bay view and locals trying their luck fishing. A stroll along the wooden path takes you to Lammassaari through a small jungle of sea reed. A small island with tiny summer cottages during the summer season is a peaceful hideaway and walkabout during autumn and winter.

On a more active day, take a bike or put your best walking shoes on and save some time. From the rapid, a pedestrian path takes you north towards the direction of Vantaa and Kerava. The path goes on most parts on both side of the river, with small detours to the residential areas of Käpylä, Veräjälaakso and Tapaninvainio among others.

The next pit stop along the path from the Vanhakaupunki is Pikkukoski, a small public beach hiding within Veräjälaakso residential blocks, resting in a small, quiet valley by the Pirunkallio (‘devil’s rock’). In the summer time, Pikkukoski (‘small rapid’) is a small public beach to swim in the Vantaanjoki river. It gathers local residents to picnic, swim, rest in the sun, play basketball or just stop, enjoy and stretch your legs for a while. The Pirunkallio cliffs by the river create an illusion of being much further away in the woods than you actually are. The cranes of the very new Viikinmäki residential area in the background do however remind you of the rapidly growing Helsinki around us.

In the winter time, Pikkukoski transforms into a small, hidden winter activity corner. The steep Pirunkallio cliff offers a rare opportunity in Helsinki to try out ice climbing, if the winter conditions are favourable in the Helsinki latitude for the ice to form – and stay for few months. Pikkukoski offers also an opportunity to try the winter swimming, if you are brave enough.

The pump keeps the hole in the river open throughout the year and dipping into the icy water is easy thanks to the path and stairs installed for the winter swimmers. The small change cubicle on the beach gives a little shelter for changing clothes. If you don’t dare to try the icy bath with all the health benefits, it is a funny marriage to watch: few evenings a week the climbers in their full gore-tex gear and winter swimmers only in their bathing suits share happily the same small lot. During the snowy season, ski tracks are also available in the area.

Continuing towards upstream, the forest view changes to the fields and parks of Tapaninvainio and Tuomarinkylän Kartano Mansion. The path takes you through the area where urban gardeners nurture their small lots in the summer time. You can also hire canoes in the area for further exploration of the river.

The old farm and mansion Tuomarinkylän Kartano mansion and farm area makes a nice stop as it is in the middle of the oldest park in Helsinki. It also offers a place for a lunch or coffee if you forgot to take lunch with you. Depending how much time you have, you can continue towards Vantaa, even Kerava along the river side, but the bridges across the river make it easy to decide to change direction.

Overall, the route along the river is a nice ride, with bike you can explore more during the day. As the path goes along the riverside, it is mostly an easy ride, too. Map or GPS is a nice companion if you are not familiar with the neighbourhood, as the route does take you every now and then off the riverside.
How to get there:

Take a tram to the final stop of 6 or 8 to Arabianranta, and start the walk along the seaside of Arabianranta. Buses 68 and 71 take you directly to the rapid, in the end of Hämeentie. Local trains to Oulunkylä take you directly close to Pikkukoski. There are also several buses directly to Tuomarinkylän kartano direction.

Text: Siru Nori
Photos: Antti Huttunen