3 Easy & Fun Day Trips From Helsinki

The adorable village of Porvoo, Nuuksio National Park, and the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress are easy and fun day trips that are possible from Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki is a Nordic gem that is often overlooked by travelers, admittedly, me. However, if you are looking for a change of pace from the bustling capital city, take the time to explore these great options.

With Helsinki’s top-notch public transportation system, these gems are within an hour away from the humming city center. The cruise ships also make the mistake of spending just a few hours in Finland’s busiest port town, resulting in fewer crowds. So, wander outside amazing Helsinki, and visit these 3 easy and fun day trips from Helsinki.

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Porvoo, Wood Houses, Helsinki, Side-Trips
Old Wood Houses lining the streets of Old Porvo

I was so smitten by the cuteness of Old Porvoo that it is my number one recommended day-trip from Helsinki. This adorable part of town offers cobblestone streets and traditional old wood houses. It truly feels like stepping back in time. Walking the streets offers a plethora of little restaurants, quaint cafes, artisan shops, museums, chocolate shops, and even a few art galleries. Merchants sell goods in the main square, and just “climb” to the top of the hill to find a simple, yet beautiful cathedral. It’s easy to walk around town, and I loved the easy to follow self-guided tour brochure that was placed in multiple locations throughout town.

Old Porvoo, Porvoo, Finland, Viewpoint
View from the bridge

There is also a great place to enjoy the beautiful parks surrounding old town. Grab a snack or pack a lunch, and sit with a beautiful view of the old red market houses. I personally loved the view from the bridge. Take advantage of the Finnish lunch buffets if you don’t feel like a picnic. I couldn’t stop dreaming about the salad bar and cheap price tag at Bistro Gustaf. Don’t miss it!

Bisto Gustaf, Finnish Lunch Buffet, Porvoo
Don’t miss the Finnish Lunch Buffet at Bistro Gustaf!

Porvoo is easy to reach from Helsinki. The buses run from multiple locations and usually twice an hour. Expect to arrive in just about an hours time. It has a lot of day-trippers, so if you really want to absorb this quaint little village, spend the night.

Espoo and Nuuksio National Park

Nuuksio National Park, Finland, Espoo
Natural Beauty at Nuuksio National Park

There are some amazing green spaces in Helsinki, but if you are craving some tranquility check out Nuuksio National Park. Not only is it serene, but it is easy to reach by public transit. City Trains Y, U, L, and E all transport you to Espoo Station from downtown in about a half hours time. From here, hop on any 245 bus heading to Kattila. I hopped on the 245A and arrived at my stop in about 30 minutes. Check with the driver to make sure the bus will stop where you want.

I suggest stops:

  • Punjomossen
  • Haukkalampi

Punjomossen Bus Stop

Stopping at Punjomossen has its perks. Exit the bus and head to the left searching for the path with the yellow triangle. This puts you on a trail to reach some of the best hiking trails, and honestly, it was one of my favorite sections. After some beautiful stairs, and a tad more hiking, you will see this sign.

Nuuksio National Park, Signage
Visitor Info to the right, or start with one of the loop trails to the left!

This will loop you to the easily marked trails, and if you want a map, stop at the less busy information center in Haukkalampi. I completed the yellow loop trail (my favorite) and the blue loop in under four hours. Don’t worry! Like I said before, these are looped trails and heavily marked.

Nuuksio Reindeer Park

There is also the Nuuksio Reindeer Park at the Punjomossen bus stop. I am putting this information in as just this: information. I stopped at the Reindeer Park because I saw that they had a “free-day” open to the Public. You can only access this park as a “walk-in” on days open to the Public. I had this idea that you walk around this lush open space with the reindeer running freely on a large plot of land. I will say that my mom and I ventured here, and we both left feeling highly disappointed. There are reindeer, and you get to feed them, but I felt like it was a glorified petting zoo.

The reality of the situation and my expectations were very contradicting. I know that the animals are cared for and walked, but I couldn’t help but think: if there were no tourists here, the reindeer would be out on a farm up north in their natural habitat. It’s a complicated process, but all of the reindeer in Lapland are “owned” by someone to help maintain and conserve the land. I couldn’t get past the thought that these reindeer could be “free-ranged,” even with a sad end result.

I was full of mixed emotions, and asked the caretaker questions, because I think it’s important to travel as a responsible tourist. In my humble opinion, this experience didn’t align with my travel values. If I had to do this over, I would not stop at the reindeer farm.

Haukkalampi Bus Stop

You can also exit the bus at this station. Keep in mind this is where all the big tour buses drop people to visit the park for an hour. When I was there, three buses of large groups were doing their hour “tour”, making it seem like a tourist attraction rather than a natural park. It is a little bit of a walk to the trail head, which is why I suggest the above stop Punjomossen.

Nuuksio National Park, Finland, Espoo
Nothing better than sunny skies in Nuuksio National Park

The main parking area also has restrooms, a cafe, information center, and tons outdoor space to grill out and cook. I have to admit the cooking areas were really incredible and one of lakes is right there when you walk up. It loops up to the three main hiking trails(yellow,blue,and red).

Want to stick to the main areas? You should be fine with this map!

Map of Nuuksio National Park. © Metsähallitus 2014
Map of Nuuksio National Park. © Metsähallitus 2014

I stayed on the Yellow and Blue loops. Keep in mind there are many options to hike depending on your fitness level. I saw people camping here as well, so it is possible to make this a multi-day trip.

Want to know more? Check out the official website here.

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

Suomenlinna, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki, day trips from Helsinki, UNESCO, trees, sky
Welcome to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress!

I loved the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, and yes it is only a 15 minute ferry ride from Market Square Helsinki, but I included it as a side trip for the large scale of activities it offers. From the Market Square in Helsinki, you can use your daily metro pass to have access to the Sea Fortress. The views to and from by boat are gorgeous no matter what the weather. Although Helsinki has no “skyline” per say, it was nice to get another perspective of the city.

The islands have a supermarket, brewery, library (which has a free selection of books in English to take!), museums, parks, cafes, squares, and military barracks. The showpiece of the fortress has to be King’s Gate. The blue route is only a mile long, but there are so many things to see and do. Note that there are multiple islands, but it is impossible to travel to the current military base and some private residences. 800 people still call this special place their home, making it a working community. No surprise, this only adds to its charm.

Kings Gate, Suomenlinna, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki, side trips
Relaxing in front of King’s Gate

Walk the “Blue Route”

It is easy to follow the “blue route” along the islands and stop at various points of interests. The path is clearly marked and the Tourist Information center offers a free brochure to follow along. During the summer months there is a free daily tour. I think with all the wonderful information provided, it is best enjoyed at your own pace.

Suomenlinna, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Great Courtyard, Helsinki
Great Courtyard

The pretty pastel buildings, sleek use of green space, and the fortress make this UNESCO World Heritage a must visit! When the weather is nice, people come to walk their dogs, run, and picnic. I could have spent all day on this little gem, only a short trip from the city.

Insider Tip

Want to sleep on this special island. There’s one hostel on the island! Recharge at the end of the night at the cozy little Hostel Suomenlinna to really soak in all this adorable island offers!

Check their availability here.

3 Easy & Fun Day Trips from Helsinki

These side-trips from Helsinki were some of my favorite days, and with the slick public transportation system, they are easily accessible from Helsinki. Looking for more great things to do in the actual city? There are libraries to explore, neighborhoods to visit, and excellent places to eat!

Check my local guide for more things to do in Helsinki.

The best way to really feel like a local is to participate in the sauna culture.

Check out these recommendations to experience sauna culture in Helsinki here.

Have you been to Helsinki and the surrounding area? Would you agree with this list of day trips from Helsinki, or feel like I’m missing something important? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: There’s a chance this post contains affiliate links, and I receive a small (but grateful) portion of the sale. There’s no extra cost to you, and I only promote things that I use and love.

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