Finland,  Travel

Porvoo Old Town, a trip from Helsinki

A little town called Porvoo, about 40 minutes east of Helsinki, makes for a nice day trip from the capital. In any season, Porvoo old town is the ideal quick getaway from Helsinki. Tallinn would be ideal too but it’s in another country :). Helsinki doesn’t really have an old town but Porvoo does! You need less than a day to explore it, that’s the beauty of small towns.

Upon arrival, it’s most likely you will already see the Old Town houses and church. The Porvoo river offers good views of these colourful wooden houses, and along the riverside is a good place to take a stroll. The first time I visited Porvoo was in summer 2014 – I boarded a bus from Helsinki (Kamppi or Viikki stop) and then rented a bike to explore the town.

Not much has changed since then. Over several trips we usually just like to walk around or sit in some cafes. We have stayed overnight only once (at Porvoo Hostel) but it’s not necessary if you just want to explore the town.

This sunny July day it was bustling with tourists. Local tourism has exploded in these times and Porvoo has long since been a popular destination for domestic tourists.

View the scenic sights along the riverside, walk the cobblestone streets and you will soon reach the Porvoo Cathedral, situated on a small hill.

Other notable buildings and sights include the Town hall Museum, which we haven’t ever entered. You can also find the house museum of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg at Aleksanterinkatu 3. We have visited this one – and it’s interesting to see the interiors and old house of the poet. The entrance is free on Runeberg’s day, celebrated nationwide on the 5th of February.

The best part of this day – we get to have the traditional Runeberg’s cake [Runebergintorttu]. It’s a rum-almond pastry with berry jam on top and simply one of my favourite cakes ever. Apparently you can find these in Porvoo all year round – the rest of Finland sells them only in the month of February. I didn’t come across any vegan ones either this time otherwise I’d have surely grabbed one.

We love the cafes of Porvoo and would recommend the obvious: Porvoon Paahtimo Bar & Café, to grab a drink. It’s the pretty brick building next to the wooden houses, by the bridge and consists of several floors and outdoor seating on a river platform. It’s very cosy interiors make for a great stop to relax and have a cup of their fresh roasted coffee.

Where did we eat? Ani’s cafe shows up as the first option for vegan food. This lunch restaurant in the old town serves only vege [kasvis] food. This means vegetarian, which unfortunately and weirdly still includes milk and eggs. Their summer menu came with options for salad buffet, warm meal and lunch bowls. The warm meal that day was lasagna and it wasn’t vegan. The salad buffet was too pricey by itself (20€).

So we went for the Jackfruit bowl and spinach pancake (in pic below). The bowls were around 12 – 17€. We waited some time for the order and developed some hunger. The pancakes and jackfruit bowl tasted good but the portions served were quite small considering the price. There was no side dish or salad included.

It was a bit of a disappointing experience. The cafe shares a wall with the rather unpleasant ‘The Meat District’ restaurant and we accidentally walked into their space while looking for seating. I heard they have vegan options but we’re not interested in any place that thinks serving chopped up animals on a plate is a good idea. Sadly, there are close to no fully vegan restaurants in Porvoo yet, but you will find a vegan option in most restaurants. Well, let’s hope Ani’s Cafe [or the Meat District] goes vegan soon.

Get some fresh air, find a lovely forest and more good views when you hike up Iso Linnamäki, just a few minutes away from the old town. A medieval Swedish castle once stood on this hill but there are no remains visible.

If you want to see how Porvoo looks in winter I’ll leave you with some of my old photos from when we visited in winter:

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